I think most of us are experiencing sleep issues during lockdown. For me, it’s a mix of wakefulness, wild dreams, dozing instead of non REM, sensitivity to the early dawn, and so on. One aspect is that I wake up, frequently, singing. Many tunes wash through my cerebral cortex, I would love to say that each one is a celestial aria, worthy of the greats, but in fact they are usually monotonous three note riffs which would not occasion any loss of sleep for a Novello nominee. You may experience something similar.
However, I defy anyone to tell me that they also sprang to wakefulness today at 03:15, singing “Hey, hey! I’m a bicuspid!” * Takes that dream about all your teeth falling out to a whole new level.
I was laughing so hard I had to decant to the spare room.
My liking for train travel is well documented, I have been reminded of this during lockdown by two separate emails, both from subscriber lists.
The National Railway Museum in York is a fascinating destination for normal times, I have mentioned before the thrill of sharing the same space as these leviathans of steam power. I am always delighted to see large reproductions of the classic rail travel posters, deliberately evocative and romantic. Whilst neither term would describe train travel just now, I was none the less intrigued to see a re-imagination of these artworks, on the Museum’s website. Sample below gives a flavour of this.
From Waterstone’s bookshop (other bookshops are available) came news of a new train travel opus, which looks like a grand way to escape the current everyday for a few hours. Review here – no prizes for originality in the article title, but oh, how different it must be from the 07:09 to Edinburgh Waverley.
Yesterday we had a zoom call with family for Mum’s 100th. We raised a glass, and had cake. Elspeth made pancakes. The commemorative whisky which was my father’s, from the Russian Consulate, was finally broached. It being the 75th anniversary of VE Day, it was deemed appropriate.
Some of the whisky will be decanted into the Arctic Convoy hip flask, and shared with family once this lockdown business is resolved.
In the process of filing away my birthday cards for 2020, each one is unique and special, thank you to everyone who took the time to draw, paint or send their good wishes. As I said on the day, this one couldn’t have been more different from the last, but there are very precious memories to be saved. If I were to upload all the cards I’d be way over my bandwidth for the page, so you’ll just have to come and see them when all this is over.
Update 14.05.2020 – Was NO-ONE going to point out the grammatical error in the title?
Biggest surprise of this week though was the delivery of advance vegetables, in advance that is by about a week of when they were expected.
Nothing daunted*, I have been farming out chunks of cabbage and leek, with some lovely recipes (and cakes) passed back in exchange. To date we have had steamed cabbage, pickled cabbage, it’s going in the Scotch Broth, there’s coleslaw en route – and there’s still some left. One chum has passed me a rumbledethumps recipe, another made turkey, leek & cabbage soup, then bubble and squeak. The roast cabbage was a total failure and stank out the house for 24 hours. A bay leaf was added to the steamed version, which successfully contained the odour. There have been roasted carrots, leek mornay, banana breakfasts and clementine conferences.
*I think those who had to listen to me squawking about those vegetables would detect the lie here….
Cabbage (Brassicaoleracea) from the French caboche – head, Latin caput.
“The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’
Extract from The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll.
Flying Crooked – Poem by Robert Graves
The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.
Well, here’s a thing, I thought that the discovery of flat wine bottles was going to be the most amazing find in my week, but no! Scotrail has come to the rescue of those of us who are missing a daily commute, by posting real time films of various journeys. Admittedly there’s a difference since it’s been filmed out the back of the cab (not for anyone who can’t sit with their back to the engine) but strangely welcome all the same. One can either have a journey where it feels like one knows every blade of grass or the rails less travelled. Apart from the timing and the overcrowding issues, I am a massive fan of rail travel, and this is the longest I have gone in my life without an orange and yellow ticket in my pocket.
04:50 a.m., been awake since 02:40, nothing new there and I may manage to go back to sleep yet. A year ago I had just retired, and was hosting a birthday party in our room at the Kenmore hotel, with Paul, the band, and the folk club. This one couldn’t be more different but hopefully the weather will be decent and the cake will be edible.
Went for my daily walk earlier. The express bus to Edinburgh (empty except for the driver) passed me by, and I noticed that it now shows a scrolling message thanking all the key workers. Walking down a deserted suburban street in early spring, trees in leaf and growing daily, birds shouting for all they’re worth, sun in the sky and just enough heat in the day to make one think that winter has finally gone, it’s difficult to relate to the sheer awfulness of what’s taking place. But the fact that the first thing which crosses my mind on seeing anyone else is, “How quickly can I cross the road?”, or “Can I walk on the grass?” reminds me of the new normal. Everyone is very keen to acknowledge each other, since social distancing is frightfully un-British and counter intuitive. If I smile at the person I’ve just literally crossed the road to avoid, that makes it all right, karma wise?
I don’t have any words of wisdom on this one. I just keep thinking of the old maps where the centres of continents such as Africa were left blank, because no-one in the western world had explored them yet. Here be dragons.
Thank goodness for all the video calls, they fair cheer me up.
Some pictures from yesterday and this week. I have very little to say about the increased craziness that is the 21st century. Ali and I had a lovely walk round the Pentlands reservoirs yesterday, and yes, there were dogs.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?