Mud, a greenhouse and 35mm film.

This month I’ve been going full steam trying to get my allotment plot to the point where I can plant. The plot was in pretty good condition when I got it, especially compared to other available plots. The previous owner had used the site to grow a field of african maize for five years. The earth is flat and has had manure and other materials put on it to keep it in good condition. I’ve had to clear a lot of junk, leaflitter and weeds but on the whole I feel lucky with my starting point.

I’ve mostly replaced my two hour daily walks with 3-5 hour stints at the allotment. I was offered a second-hand greenhouse for free by a family friend so I spent two weeks preparing the ground to lay paving slabs, laying the paving slabs, dismantling and transporting the greenhouse, washing the glass and frame, then putting the whole thing together again. But it’s done! I only have two panes missing (one which broke enroute and one that was already missing) which I’ll replace with polycarbonate sheeting.

I’ve started to plant seeds indoors and I’m waiting for potatoes to chit. The squash, silverskin onions and wildflowers have already germinated, and I’m now waiting on tomatoes and sunflowers to show life. As soon as I can I want to get my onion sets and silverskin seedlings in the ground, but after that everything else will be a month yet at least before being planted out.

I managed to see friends that I haven’t seen since before the pandemic which was really lovely. I’ve made a few tentitive plans for visiting people late spring/summer but I need to properly sit down and work out what I want to do. It’s a lot better for my mental health to have fixed plans that I can anticipate and look forward to so I’m going to set myself a few things up over the next six months that are concrete to give myself that reassuring boost.

I’ve overall been pretty steady mood-wise this month when compared to a year ago, but this second half of the month I’ve definitely had days where I’m struggling more due to doing too much. Once I dip it’s hard to recover. The day I dismantled and transported the greenhouse was a very long day for me, and I completely crashed the following day. And three weeks on I’m still trying to ease my mood up to a more comfortable level. I booked myself a couple of daytime cinema trips over the past couple of weeks to give myself days where I didn’t do much so I could rest but could still focus in on something I enjoy. The next week is forecast with rain and snow so I’m going to have an easy week catching up with stuff at home which will help me feel better.

Things I watched

I’ve been watching the current series of Great British Menu. It’s on every year but I’ve never made time to watch it before. Each year the BBC conducts a competion to find the best chefs from all regions of the UK to cook a four course banquet. I think the first series/banquet in the 2000s was for the Queen’s birthday. Each year since it’s been a banquet themed to celebrate a prestigious national event – this year being the 100 year aniversary of the BBC’s first radio broadcast. It’s a relaxing thing to watch, and it’s interesting to see all the amazing produce from around the UK.

I’ve also been watching series three of Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club which is always good for the soul. It started in the first UK pandemic lockdown and is presented by Grayson Perry and Philla Perry. At the beginning of each episode Grayson says:

“I believe that art can help get us through this crisis. It can help us explore our creativity, inspire and console us, and tell us some truths about who we really are. Each week, I’ll be joined by celebrity guests who share a passion for art. They’ll each make an artwork, and I’ll make a few of my own. Most important of all, I want you, the great British public, to get involved, and send me your art on a theme I’ve chosen for the week. I’ll pick some of the works that you send me to create an exhibition in the real world, once this crisis is over. Our Art Club exhibition will be a lasting artistic record of how we’ve all felt about these strange times we’ve been through together.”

So far the themes for this series have been: Love, Heroes and Heroines, and ‘normal life’. Each week they also have a VT from a UK-based contemporary artist talking about why they make the art they do and what it means to them – so far this series including Ai Wei Wei and Cornelia Parker. The show not only provides a kind of art therapy week to week but a beautiful form of open art education. It promotes the idea that anyone can make art and what makes good art is for you the artist to be able to express that which is important to you.

I watched 13 films this month. I met up with friends a couple of times for film nights. The first film night we watched Q – The Winged Serpent (1982) and Prisoners of The Lost Universe (1983). Q was really fun, written and directed by Larry Cohen who also did The Stuff (1985) which I love. Prisoners was a fun watch for a b-movie but very low budget incoherent nonsense with the same three scenerary props appearing in every scene. The second movie night we watched a bunch of films including Armour of God (1986), a Hong Kong release made by Jackie Chan. Very goofy schlock but enjoyably bad.

First Cow (2019)

I watched a strong selection of films on streaming this month: The Reflecting Skin (1990), The Power of The Dog (2021), First Cow (2019), Ghost World (2001) and Molly’s Game (2017). The weakest of which was The Power of The Dog (recenly up for lots of nominations) which I thought was too prescriptive in it’s storytelling. I watched First Cow (2019) within a week of The Power of The Dog and enjoyed it much more – they’re different types of films and with the latter having 20 times more budget than the former, but they feel somewhat comparable for being period character studies. First Cow had much richer visual story telling which made me emersed in the world and the characters’ life. First Cow is set on the Oregon frontier in the 1820s, features the first cow to arrive in Oregon and follows the main characters as they try to survive a hand-to-mouth existence. Beautifully researched with depth of detail and heartful characters, I really enjoyed it.

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

I hadn’t heard of The Reflecting Skin or Ghost World before so they snuck up on me. I truly loved every second of how Ghost World portrayed teenage angst. Philip Ridley’s The Reflecting Skin is a stunningly beautiful creeping american gothic horror that weaves together lived and imagined nightmares. For sure now in my disorganised unbounded pantheon of favourite films. And I just remembered I didn’t stream Molly’s Game, it was randomly on tv one evening so I watched it not expecting to like it as much as I did. I have zero interest in rich people playing with money but I was captivated by its depiction of mysogny which is rarely represented in it’s death by a thousand cuts brutality in the way that it was here.

I also treated myself to see Taxi Driver (1976) and Barry Lyndon (1975) on 35mm at The Electric. People have been surprised when I mentioned it was my first time watching either – Taxi Driver in particular being so embedded in the cultural psyche it probably seems weird not to have seen it. It felt particularly special to watch Taxi Driver as I feel lucky to not have known anything really about the plot before seeing it, and it was beautiful to watch on a big sceen. The same for Barry Lyndon which is just gorgeous with its iconic long shots, framing and natural lighting.

Things I cooked that made me happy

  • Fajitas
  • Chocolate walnut brownies
  • Paneer curry
  • Chickpea curry
  • Fancy japanese food including with gyozas, udon soup and crispy seaweed rolls
  • Hungarian mushroom soup with the ever lovely #ds106radio cook-along gang
  • Pizza 👌
  • Pesto pasta
  • Cheese and beetroot salad
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pea and mint soup

Things I didn’t cook that made me happy

  • Mum’s lentil curry
  • David and Eri’s picnic of open sandwiches and strawberries
  • Apple turnover
  • Every hot cross bun
  • Mum’s lasagna
  • Mum’s green soup
  • Sharing walnut brownie and cheesecake over coffee
  • Black satay tofu

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