These strange times are certainly testing us, forcing us to think about things differently, doing things maybe we’ve never done before or dislike doing or have forgotten to do … in my case it’s cooking! I’ve done more cooking these past 3 months during lockdown than I probably have done in the past 3 decades! It’s not that I don’t like cooking, I sort of do … I just prefer the sociability of eating out in restaurants and someone else (preferably a chef!) doing the hard work … rock on 8 June; life is about to restart … in Belgium anyway! I have to say though that one of the things I do have to be grateful for is that I’m in lockdown with, of all people, a chef!! … more about him later!
During the lockdown we’ve also had to re-adjust our rule book in many unimaginable ways and in the spirit of total irreverence and humour, here are some of my new commandments, coveting my old life in a covid world! Although they are written on my tablet they certainly are not set in stone and Holy Moses, please don’t take them too seriously … just some fun while waiting for the exodus to the Promised Land (i.e. anywhere beyond my doorstep)!
1. First, I am Storm thy goddess, thou shalt not have strange cats before Me … especially not that ginger fleabag, Nutmeg
Yip! The felines don’t know what to be feelin’ these days, co-confined with the humans! They are happy to see you in the morning for their breakfast and then by elevenses after their Catisfactions, a scowl that would turn you to stone (sorry about yet another biblical reference but it is the ten commandments after all – also it’s good to see my Religious Education ‘A’ level hasn’t gone to waste, even, if my morals have!! ). One thing is for sure in lockdown though, Storm is the boss of the house even though I ought to be! Tomek, the Michelin restaurant chef and tenant, ‘thinks’ he is, and poor little Nutmeg just knows his place … at the bottom of the cat ladder! During lockdown Storm has definitely shown leadership and to a large extent dictatorship, using claws and fangs when she isn’t getting what she wants! She even seems to think she can write better than me (and dear reader, you may agree!), regularly checking what’s on my computer screen, showing her ass on Zoom calls and editing as she sashays along my keyboard! Like the first commandment is intended to demonstrate, it’s best just accepting who is boss and bowing to their will.
2. Thou shalt not venture beyond the front door for fear of pestilence
Imagine, my Promised Land is the end of my street (which, as it happens, leads to my local bar and some of the best restaurants in Brussels!). As I write, I have not been further than a metre from my front door since 15 March (that ’s over 11 weeks!). I’ve been conscientious in respecting the ‘Stay in’ mantra to protect others … and even more importantly myself! It’s never much fun being a diabetic but these days when it carries a high risk of contracting the plague, I’d rather be safe than sorry, or even worse, dead! But the house is becoming something akin to CS’s Lewis’ wardrobe with Storm doing an Aslan and I guess I can be some sort of cross bitch/witch! Every time I open a door I find something new and magical … I’ve been into cupboards (and wardrobes) and have unearthed and triaged clothes, stuff, stuff and more stuff, including a mobile phone without a camera!! I ’d forgotten those good old days! And opening my living room door I see my messy old garden being gradually transformed into the perfect place for my staycation – complete with blossoming flowers, a newly planted vegetable patch, a BBQ, and newly purchased mini pool for those long, summer evenings… the perfect place for a party … if only! But our day will come! CHUCKY OUR LA as they say … In the meantime I’m staying safe … and HOPEFULLY sane!
3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
… Yes my favourite commandment, indulging in a day of rest …. but, hey, six other days too now! Wtf … I am now restless while resting!! Mindless more than mindful. Becoming boring more than bored!!! I think it ’s time for my closet introvert to come out and take centre stage! Maybe a soliloquy … will the cats listen in while diligently cleaning themselves from top to bottom? And the tenant? Certainly not! He ’s a man and listening is certainly not included in the package!!
4. Thou shalt become a domestic goddess
I mentioned the cooking in the intro! Though why I should have to cook while there is a chef in the house I really don’t know! But I’m actually enjoying it! I have ventured beyond my comfort zone of tajines, curries and stir-fries to trying a whole range of new gastronomic delights getting inspiration from my hundreds of previous untouched recipe books and, believe it or not, the BBC food channel (yeah, like the Brits are so well known for their culinary skills!!). And of course, being true to character, I can’t just follow the rules, I have to rebel a bit, veer my own way and add a bit of spice (literally and metaphorically) to the mix, so most dishes end up as a tasty Frankenstein’s monster and dear reader (and guests to be), sorry to disappoint but no recipe so impossible to replicate!
An extremely late adopter (actually I’m still using the mobile without the camera!! LOL), it took me about six of week s of confinement to unleash the desire to clean my house from top to bottom … and then a mad frenzy of clearing (rather than cleaning). It all started with the cubby hole and clearing it to transform it from a junk haven to a vestiaire for all the coats that fell close to where they were taken off (not ideal when there are fur-losing kitties always in search of a new place to snuggle)! Then the guest room … 20 odd bags of clothes destined for charity shops and refugees. Next the booze cupboard, which was home to around 150 bottles, mostly of curious coloured alcoholic liquids I’ve acquired throughout the years and that I’d never drink. About 50 were donated to the homeless drunks who hang out at the bottle bank! Extreme generosity or irresponsible cruelty?
5. Thou shalt not covet thine neighbour’s wife —Oops a typo – I mean wine!
I know it doesn’t happen until the New Testament, but if I could master the art of turning water into wine, I’d be a much happier camper (and significantly richer) and wouldn’t be constantly coveting my uber organised German neighbour’s wine which she has been collecting since the sniff of a potential lockdown!! And no doubt she has a stack of toilet rolls too!! It’s almost embarrassing now how often the local wine merchant is ringing my doorbell with a new delivery … but what can I say???? Slainté probably!!
6. Thou shalt not covet thine tenant (or never shit in your own back yard)
Having lived under the same roof for almost a year and having spent max 2 hours in each other’s company prior to lockdown, my tenant and I have spent a lot of time together in the past 11 weeks, and in the process have got to know each other pretty well (‘warts and all’).
With the familiarity, contempt is never far behind and sometimes it feels like we’re an old married couple who’ve gone straight from a first meeting to pending divorce, without all the fun stuff in between! But that’s OK … with the 15 years that separate us, we are too old for the other!!
7. Thou shalt be grateful for all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Lockdown, for some inexplicable reason, has coaxed me out of bed to appreciate the morning! As a hardened night owl this was previously anathema, but there is something about the pale light and the dawn chorus that rouses me from my pit and makes me want to embrace the new day. The blackbird family that has moved into my neighbour’s tree make me smile … the dad-to-be with his yellow beak is a regular visitor to my garden, much to the delight of Nutmeg my little ginger, who comes meowing to alert me to the fact that there is an intruder on his patch!
Another unexpected development … as someone who resents her houseplants just by virtue of needing water occasionally, to my complete disbelief I have been fascinated watching the progress of the newly planted herbs and vegetables in the back garden of my downtown Brussels home! I am mesmerised by each centimetre of growth of the coriander, mint, chives, basil and I wonder impatiently what’s going on underground with the spuds, carrots and squash!! The blackbird is also keeping his eye on the horticultural developments and not far behind him Storm and Nutmeg are crouching in wait … ready to pounce and ready to test the hunting acumen of their forefathers … a rattle of the Catisfactio ns packet soon kills the killer instinct in both of them! (Does anyone else keep singing in their head, Kit Jaguar’s ‘I can’ get no Catisfaction’?)
8. Thou shalt keep up appearances
It’s not because you can’t leave the house, that you can’t look good … or at least try to! I’ve set up my home office in the dining room overlooking my street … so see the world and his wife go by on a daily basis, rarely I might add respecting the 1.5 metre social distancing requirements so washed hair, decent clothes and a bit of lippy are the order of the day! But even more than that; it’s important to feel normal in this abnormal world … check out my previous journal post on red lipstick and red nails!
Thou shalt not steal … a glance at your colleague’s home on Zoom calls
“Zoom, just one look and then my heart went boom” … but unlike Fat Larry and his band, rather than screaming ‘love’ from the rooftops I want to throw my screen from the rooftops! Now that’s what I would really call a computer crashing! I’m not sure if these are side effects of corona but I have definitely some type of computer virus with varying side effects, ranging from phonephobia and tablet-intolerance to screen fatigue and a bad case of zoomitis!
It is interesting though checking out where people live, their choice of artwork, the books on their shelves (post-Millen nials only!!). Does anyone else wonder if they’re sitting in their underwear from the waist down?? No? OK so maybe that’s just me!!
10. Thou shalt follow like a sheep and get Netflix … and then not watch it
I used to pride myself on two things that most people do that I don’t! Until the lockdown I had neither Netflix, nor had I seen a single episode of Game of Thrones (despite being born and reared in “Westeros”!). I finally gave in and accepted the tenant’s kind offer to share his Netflix access with me, but don’t worry I haven’t got the GOT bug yet! So now I’m no longer a Netflix virgin … though like many a virgin I’ve been disappointed by my first few experiences … but hopeful that it’s just been the wrong movie, the wrong time or it was too soon, or just maybe I should have gone for Amazon Prime as my first love instead!! Let’s see!! But in the meantime ‘Ciao bella, ciao bella, ciao, ciao, ciao’ (if you haven’t watched it yet, do! Thanks to ‘Money Heist’ I haven’t totally regretted losing my Netflix virginity!!)
So stick to the rules and the Promised Land is coming soon!