Got an allotment. Travelled about. Made Jambalaya!

I’m a little bit late posting this (or last) month’s post. But here we go…

At the beginning of the month I got the keys for my own allotment plot which I was frankly estatic about. I’ve always wanted an allotment but with work life balance being difficult in the past it always seemed impossible. I was on the waiting list about six weeks. So I was very surprised to hear back so soon as waiting times have sky rocketed during the pandemic with people wanting their own green spaces. My friend Mandy is sharing the plot with me – we’ve drawn up a plan of how we want to use the space and have already made good progress getting up and running. Mandy has managed to source a bunch of pallets and other useful freebies to help us get building and growing. I made a big compost bin out of pallets so we have somewhere to clear green waste to. I have a wormery on order to make compost from food waste. We both have many, many seeds. And we have lots of lovely allotment neighbours offering equipment and just generally being kind and supportive. So all in all feel very lucky!

Compost bin

I spent a week in London flat sitting and looking after a house rabbit. This was a big moment for me. Last month I mentioned I travelled on my own for the first time since being seriously ill – this trip to London was another milestone in my recovery as it was my first time hanging out on my own and travelling about for an extended period of time. And strangely, it felt pretty normal. I didn’t anticipate feeling overly stressed or not being able to cope – but living through the reality of not only coping but enjoying myself has made me feel much more confident in myself. For the longest time with depression I got overwhelmed by sensory and information overload from ordinary everyday things. I would struggle to organise my thoughts. The moments I was capable of articulating myself I would slur my words if I needed to ask for help. Even without feeling overwhelmed I would struggle to recall information like place names or times, and amongst other things my mood would plummet at any moment of stress. So being in a nosiy busy city where I had to navigate TfL on my own, make decisions about every part of my day on my own, it would have been impossible for the longest time. And yet I travelled about London catching up with people, seeing art exhibitons, and exploring places I haven’t been to before. I was staying in New Cross which I’ve only travelled to maybe twice, so it was nice to get to know that area of London a bit better too.

Roger Hiorns at the CCA’s Testament exhibition
Jeremy Deller at the CCA’s Testament exhibition

Despite the storms the UK faced this month I managed to travel up to see family in the High Peak. We drove up as soon as the wind had dipped below 80mph. The weather was mixed with heavy rain some days and snow and hail others, but I still managed to get about for walks and visiting loved ones. I met up with a good friend of mine who currently lives in Manchester – we hadn’t seen each other in person since before the pandemic so it was lovely to finally do so. The day we met it ended up snowing quite heavily so we had to swap our plans from going a long walk in the Hope Valley to a less dramatic but beautiful walk from the door of where I was staying. I also got to visit my Grandma at her carehome for the first time since the pandemic began. She was in good spirits so we managed to talk for a long while and share stories which was great.

Feels weird not to mention events in Ukraine. I have family friends who are living through their sons being conscripted to fight, one of which has sent his wife and child to the Polish border for evacuation. Everyday I look at the news trying to work out who is safe. The grave seriousness is a dull hum of stress. And then if I venture on to twitter.com or Reddit I get hit in the face with the bizarre narcism of people mostly in North America talking about how they are scared of nuclear war or reducing events down into bizarre hollywood tropes. The efficacy these people have to turn this situation into their own personal melodrama is breathtaking. So I’ve taken to muting and unfollowing people.

A very lovely soul-enriching thing that did come out of twitter.com and #ds106radio this month was Joe Murphy‘s jambalaya cook along on 26th Feb! Chahira Nouira, Tim Clarke and me followed Joe’s radio show with I think Jim Groom, Anne-Marie Scott and others listening in from the side. Ohio, Germany, Pensylvania and the UK joining together for syncronised jambalaya. This followed Chahira’s show the month previous where she shared how to make Tunisian vegetable cous cous which inspired Joe to do his own show leading up to Mardi Gras. We’re planning to work on a submission for Alan Levine’s Stories of Openness to share how this global cooking event took place and what it means to us. And both Tim and I have plans in the works to host our own cooking shows to share dishes near and dear to our hearts. #ds106radio people are just the kindest and loveliest people around. I’ve done less on the radio as of late and certainly less listening than I wish too, but they are always there sharing weird and truly wonderful music and stories to anyone (often no one) who will listen.

Almost everyday the past couple of weeks (weather permitting) I’ve visited the allotment to prune trees, sort out rubbish and get the ground in a fit state to dig over. It’s hard but rewarding work. I’ve found muscles that I’d forgotten existed. But each time I’m there I’m surrounded by bird song. There’s all sorts of finches and tits, robins, black birds, magpies, thrushes, and I’ve seen the odd buzzard fly above. I found a frog. Met the local foxes. Heard stories about the new badger family. The past week bumble bees have been going about the new fruit blossom and early wild flowers.

I’ve found myself in a place where I have more good days than bad. I still struggle with cognitive dysfunction but I’m so much better than I was even a couple of months ago, and my mood is night to day compared to before the new year. Winter sadness took a heavy toll, but as spring sets in building my capacity up slowly for what I’m able to do each day feels like it’s finally working. I have to remind myself of my limits now so I don’t boom and bust, which is a whole new world when compared to constantly being weighed down by the shear magnitude of suffering I have been through for the past two years. Progress is not linear and I don’t expect to suddenly be well any time soon, but I feel grateful to have a longer stretch of relief from severe symptoms.

Things I watched

I watched five films this month. The Price of Coal (1977), Ken Loach and Barry Hines two part film that originally aired on the BBC as part of Play for Today. Set in a small town in South Yorkshire it follows the life of a coal mining community. The first half tells the story of the mine managers and workers preparing for a royal visit, the second of a fatal accident at the mine. The first gently builds the background of penny pinching by those running the mine for all but the cosmetic changes needed to make the mine worthy of a visit from Prince Charles. This then sets up events in the second episode when the concequences of targets and safety shortcuts lead to an explosion resulting in injury and death.

Lamb (2021) is an Icelandic folk horror. Much of the film feels sweet. We’re just watching this farming family live out their lives in a rural valley. But the story is inwoven by characters grappling with strange realities of life and death. You should definitely give it a watch.

Lamb (2021)

I watched all of Pose sometime over this and last month. Really enjoyed it. Characters / writing felt more realistic in the first series and then it became slightly more larger than life to drive character progression as it went on. An enjoyable watch that illuminates important social histories on the lives of trans women, LGBT culture, and the AIDS epidemic in 80s and 90s New York. I cried atleast one happy tear every episode.

I finally watched Midnight Mass which was excellent. I’d been waiting until I felt mood-wise I could enjoy it without getting too sad or distressed as I deliberately went into it knowing nothing. A seven part Neflix limited series. A horror drama – BUT I’ve told friends that don’t like horror it’s not at all a slasher type, rather a gothic tale that explores our human relationship with death, love, faith and community. It feels like a good book. Well written and acted, with great visual story telling.

Food I cooked that made me happy

  • Poached eggs on wholemeal toast
  • Pho with tofu
  • Cheese on toast
  • Beans on toast
  • Tomato and oregano sauce with spaghetti
  • Bok choi stir fry and sticky rice
  • Chilli bean stew
  • Jambalaya!
  • American pancakes with facon, egg and syrup
  • Pasta with aubergine
  • Matar paneer
  • Parsley sauce with fake fish fingers

Food I didn’t cook that made me happy

  • Matt and Karo’s homemade pizza
  • Bibimbap and plum tea at Bibimbap Soho with Charlie
  • Butter paneer with aubergine masala, samosa and naan from Motu
  • Sharing bakewell tart and cookie dough millionaire shortbread in an overly pug themed caf with Eve
  • Tofu panang curry from Yo Yo
  • Mandy’s ramen complete with a perfectly cooked ramen egg
  • Mum’s vegetable lasagna
  • Mum’s farmhouse cake

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