Another New Normal

True Love

Eilish is gone. No, she’s not dead. She’s just gone home. We are learning to live in this new normal. How many new normals will there be?

A friend reminded me that Darwin’s theory was not about survival of the fittest but survival of the adaptable and we are learning to adapt. Denis is adapting well to my nagging. Didn’t Darwin talk about supporting your wife’s adaptability? Yes, I definitely remembering hearing something about that.

Before she left Eilish made us a Victoria Sandwich. It’s ok there’s no bread in it…

Anyway, the garden will never be the same, which is a blessing but now I have to adapt to doing the gardening on my own. So far I have fixed the compost heap with a bungie cord, pulled more than six weeds and watered Denis’ basil plants. Not entirely sure but I may need to increase my efforts.

We tried to kidnap Sadie…

The house also will never be the same, Denis emptied the dishwasher on the first morning AE (after Eilish) so that either means he’s going to keep doing it or next time it’s my turn. I would like to include optimism in my adaptability so I think he’s going to keep doing it.

These lovely things popped up in our front wasteland

We have a grocery delivery today and in the spirit of adaptability I added a game of chance to keep our spirits up. There’s a window of two hours during which the groceries will arrive. Today, if they arrive in the first hour I will get them and unpack them and put them away, all on my own. But if they arrive in the second hour Denis will do it on his own. We’re halfway through the first hour, anyone want to get involved in a side bet?

The old road…

Oh, the dog is gone too. Eilish took Sadie, with her. Yes we are grieving. Ok she was very annoying when she barked but she only barked when someone came to the door (not a lot of that lately) or when we kissed (also, not a lot of that lately) because kissing is like attacking someone with your teeth to Sadie… Or when any of us picked up the door keys or when the seagulls made seagull noise or when a cat sauntered through the back garden. Or when she heard an unusual noise or… actually, she barked a lot. But in the evening when we all sat down to watch Downton Abbey (family show, no violence, no bad language, no sex scenes, nice costumes, perfect for Sadie) she sat on my lap and fell asleep. Awww. Making it impossible for me to get anything from the kitchen so Denis had to serve me. Awww. .

Look! The strawberries are nearly here!

We’ve been in contact and unfortunately Eilish is very happy at home and not interested in coming back so we’ll have to carry on without her. Maybe DoneDeal.ie have a mother-in-law section?

May you be well, Mairead.

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We have a flour mountain…

Sadie’s favourite place to watch the neighbour’s cat

We seem to be settling into a bit of a rut here at the moment, one day is very like the rest with spikes of excitement on grocery days and 5km walk day but last week there was a huge spike.

Sadie’s “well, any chance of a walk?” face

We now have roadmap of the proposed situation for the next four months and in celebration Denis and I walked to the petrol station to buy a newspaper. It’s less than 2km but this was Saturday morning and the new 5km walking limit didn’t start until Tuesday. Anyways, it was a beautiful sunny day. When we arrived I waited outside, Denis went in with his makeshift mask.

Flour Hero!

Ten minutes later from my seat on the curb, I am speechless, Denis is standing in front of me with two bags of precious flour. They have a small shop in the petrol station and I did tell him to keep an eye out for flour but I never thought there would be any. Oh the excitement. We have been eating Eilish’s creations ever since.

(This is the only picture of the Curney Cake, you’re lucky to get it, normally there no time to take a picture before I eat it)

But now I think I might have a problem. I am secretly cutting slices from the Curney Cake (an absolutely delicious crusty scone cake with sultanas and orange zest) and slathering it in butter. No one knows why the cake is getting smaller and smaller, except me. Also, on an unrelated matter, no one knows why my cheeks are getting chubbier, I might be allergic to one of the plants in the garden? When Tuesday (the start of the 5km walking) finally arrived Eilish and I set out for the sea and we brought a picnic and the dog. Another beautiful day. Another Curney Cake, this time as well as butter there was Rhubarb Jam. Yes Eilish has made three and a half pots of Rhubarb and Ginger Jam. Yes I’m eating that too. But at least we are walking everyday.

View from our picnic

Oh, full disclosure, we drove to the beach and had a little walk, no need to over do it on our first day. Must rush, there’s an emergency in the kitchen – the Curney Cake is all gone, I need to tell Eilish. Only two and a half kilos of flour to go.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Travel

New Normal Gifting

Eilish modeling my scarf

I could hear Eilish rustling papers in the larder and wanted to know what she was up to, she told me to stop being so curious. Next thing she arrives out with a brown paper parcel tied with yarn. It was for me! The scarf she’s been crocheting for two weeks is mine! I have been eyeing it up since the day she started and she must have noticed. A note fell out as I was opening it. A very funny note about these strange times and our little community.

Brown paper parcel

On Sunday my FenceChat neighbour Aileen put on her angel wings and sent some self-raising flour over the fence. In case you don’t know, flour, of any variety has been impossible to get in the online supermarket delivery. That’s ok I don’t need the extra calories but we were missing the creative possibilities. Eilish’s hidden break-the-rules tendency comes to the fore when she thinks about baking. She’s been scouring the cook books looking for a recipe to break. The contents of our larder has constrained her a bit but in spite of that yesterday she made apple and clove queen cakes and tomorrow she has promised raspberry buns. I will need to increase the number of 2km walks and I’m searching Youtube to find out how to let out my jeans.

We’re nearly finished the most difficult jigsaw on the planet

In other news, my mother told me a story that made me cry. There’s a school near her nursing home and this week lots of letters arrived from the children. My mother got one from a ten year old boy and she read it to me. It was adorable and as newsy as a ten year old boy can be but the line that got me was, “everyday on our way to school we wave at your home” I’m tearing up again now, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shared the story with Eilish and I couldn’t get past this line and again with Denis. It just doesn’t get old for me. I’m imaging the boy and his mother or it could be his granny driving him to school, maybe there’s a brother or sister and the adult is kind and she says, look here we are, start waving! Of course they’re not going to school at the moment so he waves in a letter. Isn’t that beautiful? I’m dribbling on the keypad. Oh and my mother has written back to him. She used her last stamp! Holy god, I’m in bits.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in gratitude, regular | Tagged , , , ,

The TO DO List exploded…

My porridge sends you a heart!

We are still working away in the garden but we have slowed down. Thankfully. My back was starting to ache and Eilish was getting better at being the boss of me. She has a very productive way of getting me off a chair, she goes out into the garden and leaves the back door open. Did you know the east wind is still blowing? The east wind is very cold when you’re sitting in a chair. Fortunately she’s ready for a break now too and I’m encouraging her to take one, she really needs to slow down… I’m not getting any younger. Where would we go if we took a break, though? We’re already on a break, aren’t we? What kind of un-magical rethinking made this seem like work?

The cherry blossom on our route turned to confetti

I blame the TO DO list. We were moseying along from weed to hedge, to seedlings, to shed, cutting and picking and shredding and painting. Happily doing just one thing at a time and getting loads done. Then I thought I might be missing something, forgetting something. I came up with a great idea (not) to make a TO DO list. I was thrilled. I wrote down all the jobs we were doing and every time we had a good idea I added that to the list. When it came to two pages I felt very productive. Well I was productive, I had produced two pages of words. That’s great, isn’t it? No, it’s not.

The shed disguised as a beach hut

I could have sat looking at that productive list for a long time, if it wasn’t for the open door and the east wind blowing. Instead I got to work. Every time we stopped for a drink or a meal I would return to the TO DO list to scratch off something and I soon realised a mistake. It was only the first mistake. I had made the items on the list too broad, not detailed enough. Each item could easily cover twenty steps. Some steps needed two lines. Two days in I decided we needed a more detailed TO DO list. It took me an hour and more paper but I had a great list. I took a drink break and then went back to the garden.

Bluebells turned up in the front garden

Today I looked at the list. The ginormous list. I am overwhelmed. My overwhelm is slowing me down, I am doing less. I have slowly increased the number of drink breaks and even added a sit-quietly-in-a-dark-room break. I no longer care about the east wind. I wrap my blanket around my legs to keep warm now when Eilish goes outside. We will never, I repeat, never finish the TO DO list…

Our prize rootball… we celebrate every success

I’m starting to mumble to myself here in my dark room and just now I heard myself ask, Would it be ok to tear up the TO DO list? No! It would not be ok, I heard the garden police reply. Do the garden police even exist? They might not. I’m tearing up the TO Do list.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , ,

Community Spirit

 

(There was rain, beautiful rain)

I want to tell you a story about something that happened before I started writing about the new normal journey. The day after Eilish arrived in Greystones, Denis began feeling unwell. He rang the doctor and spoke to the receptionist who explained the procedure. He went on to the HSE (Irish health service) website to fill in a form for a test and then he went into self-isolation in our bedroom. I moved into the box room and we all lived happily ever after…

(The rain fell on the farmyard manure)

The next day I got up early to go to the supermarket. I wanted to do the shopping at a time when it would be quiet but when I got a text message from my sister-in-law, Helen, wishing me a happy St. Patrick’s Day I realised… it was St. Patrick’s Day. The supermarket wouldn’t be open early. Something cracked inside and I realised there were some things from now on that I couldn’t control and shopping in a quiet supermarket was one of them. Later that day I looked at the click and collect options and I booked a slot for the following week. Ok, I can do this, I’ll go to the supermarket early tomorrow instead but in the meantime I know we will have food next week no matter what.

(And it fell on the wire that will hold up the climbers)

Next morning, I delivered Denis’ breakfast and got dressed up to go to the supermarket. I hadn’t realised I was so tense, after all it’s just a supermarket trip, what’s so scary? When I opened the front door there was a leaflet on the porch floor.

(The leaflet, I’ve covered the personal details)

It read,
If you are self-isolating, I can help. My name is Orla… I’m part of a local volunteer network and live in…. My phone number is…
There was a list of things she could help with including talking on the phone. There were phone numbers for the HSE and Alone (charity for older people) and there were guidelines about the virus. At the bottom of the note there was a note saying how she and her neighbour had used hand sanitiser before preparing the leaflets and how they had used it again between visiting each house.

(Sun came out and painting moved to the fence)

I don’t know Orla but in that moment I loved her. I’d never heard of a local volunteer group. Did someone see the same news reports as me and instead of getting anxious, got organised? Orla was somewhere out there with kindness in her heart and a bundle of notes under her arm and if she was doing that then I could do this. I could be organised too.

(One down only 12 more to go…)

I got the groceries, it was very quiet in the supermarket. I went to the chemist, there was a small queue. All was well. Later that day I sent Orla a text to thank her, she said it was happening all over Greystones. She said she lived on the next green to me. I said I was really grateful for her note and we were fine for food but if there was anything I could do to please let me know. I made her a card and when I took Sadie for a walk I posted it in her post box. First, I laminated it and wiped it down with hard sanitiser.

(One and a half done… more to do)

While I was delivering the card I noticed there were children in Orla’s house (no I was not staking out her house…) Can you imagine the stories those children will tell their grandchildren about this time? They will say that their mother printed and cut up leaflets for nearly two hundred houses and that she sanitised her hands every time she popped one in a letter box. That she walked to every one of those houses letting people know they were not alone. That she went to the supermarket for her neighbours who couldn’t. That she chatted on the phone to strangers, reassuring them. I can imagine memories like that having the ability to sustain communities long after this is over. There’s a bigger prize than normality waiting for us on the other side of this.

May you be well, Mairead.

Posted in Life Story | Tagged , , , ,

Hidden Shed Treasures

(I suppose white is bright…)

And now we’re painting. Not art, no, the shed. Well it was bound to happen. I blame Eilish. She saw the old paint tins that I was storing until next year or the year after when I’d get the date right and take them to the town council car park for the toxic dump day. I never got the day right and here we are with a hidden stash of rusted paint tins. I’d never have opened them. I might have started burying them but I’d never have opened them. Eilish opened them.

(My shine a light on Easter Saturday night… Christmas angel from Sally)

The first surprise for me was that they are not rusted on the inside. Nope, not even a little bit. The second surprise was that even though we bought them for one purpose they can be used for something else… like a shed. I know, crazy right?

(We found this in the larder… yes, we ate it… at Easter. The rule book has been burned)

Eilish painted the shed door on a day in the recent past, as I no longer know what day today is it could have been Thursday or Friday or Saturday? Then yesterday I painted one side, we are very grateful that there are only two sides accessible therefore we are more than halfway finished already.

(Long life custard… I’m not sure it means you will have a long life if you eat it but I’m willing to experiment)

I have secretly dreamed of painting the shed for years. I have. I’d see brightly coloured little sheds on Pinterest or in the paint catalogue at Woodies and I’d think, some day…the day came. If only I had been buying the paint in Woodies, a brightly coloured shed might be in my future but no, our rusting tins of paint contain only white.

We like finished.

And therein hides a dilemma. Did I mention we got some jigsaws from the Cork art and craft shop that delivers? It’s called VibesandScribes.ie it’s well known in Cork so of course Eilish knew about it but when her daughter-in-law, Helen, suggested we might get some project supplies, Eilish and I did something we’d never done before.

(Jigsaws are fun…)

We went online shopping. Now there’s pyjamas and unmentionables (Eilish doesn’t like when I call them knickers) arriving tomorrow, the jigsaws arrived on Friday and there was a crochet kit too. We started the jigsaw and pretty soon just wanted it finished. Jigsaws are very frustrating. You get one piece to fit and you think, I can do this, this is great. Then the next 64 pieces you try won’t fit, I can’t do this, this is soooooo frustrating. In the midst of the frustration it’s really hard to notice that you got that jigsaw to have a jigsaw experience. And jigsaw experiences contain both highs and lows. Like life. Wishing for it to be finished is like wishing your life away.

(Seen on our 2km walk. There’s a lot of beauty out on our street that I hadn’t noticed before)

I’ve know about this dilemma for a while now but I forget… like in the middle of the jigsaw or painting the shed or when we can’t get flour in our supermarket delivery or when the lockdown is extended. So today I’m going to remember that gratitude is the cure for wishing my life away. I am grateful that the people in Vibes and Scribes are working. I’m grateful that my Mam taught me to bake scones when I was a child and that baking them still brings me joy. I am grateful that Eilish will never let a half empty rusty tin of paint be wasted. I am grateful that I am here and now and safe and well.

May you be well, Mairead.

PS. Eilish has just uncovered a rusty tin of blue paint, we haven’t opened it yet… I am beyond excited!

Posted in Travel

The shredder is all mine…

(Growing baby daisy’s in the maternity ward)

The gardening continues. I’ve just realised this might be why my dabbling in the garden previously didn’t bear fruit (pun intended.) It’s a continuous game, gardening. Persistence is rewarded and popping in and out once a month is very much discouraged. Maybe that’s why a team of gardeners is a good thing. We have a team here at the moment one of us is part-time but we’re getting the most out of him. In spite of his protests about being too busy I’ve seen him secretly checking out the growth of our seeds in the maternity ward.

(Here we are in prenatal… with little Rose)

So last weekend was the first weekend Denis was able to get into the garden. Eilish had a list of jobs ready for him and I learned a thing or two about keeping him on point and not wandering off to do something he liked better. The phrase, oh no you’re not finished here yet! stops him in his tracks. Let me just write that down for future use.

(FenceChat location)

He fixed the fence between our house and my friend Aileen and now I’m not worried about falling over it during our weekly FenceChat. It’s a new app like zoom but no one freezes, except from the cold.

He also hammer-actioned some screws into some wood and fixed the shed door. It seems lifting the door with one foot while undoing the bolt was not the intended way to get into the shed. We are saving a ton of time without all the gymnastics.

(Can you see those fabulous hammer-action screws?)

Then Eilish found my new favourite tool – a shredder. It was at the back of the shed and one of the things I didn’t know I was grateful for… I woke up on Friday morning with a brilliant idea. With all our enthusiasm in the first weeks we had filled three huge garden bags and numerous smaller black bags with garden debris. Then we had run out of bags and no way of getting more so we were at a tipping point… On the one hand neatly cut plants and pulled weeds, on the other, towering piles of plant cuttings and weeds. I have to be very particular when taking photos for you, one centimeter too far to the right or left and you will be horrified.

(Denis was a little too wide angle on this shot… but there’s me and my shredder)

I started using my shredder (it’s mine) on Saturday. By the way, I’m the only one allowed to use the shredder, safety issues, you understand. Stay well back now. (Don’t tell them but it’s nothing to do with safety, it’s all about the optics, I look like I’m doing a lot but the machine is doing it all. Kinda like how I used to think about ironing before I realised no one was noticing my neat piles of ironed clothes left lying around the house for weeks. The noise of the shredder ensures everyone knows I’m hard at work…)

(Here’s Denis working on the fence or maybe he’s doing a little dance?)

So now I’m shredding (well ok the machine is shredding) the contents of the garden debris bags. On top of that we can use the shredded material for mulch (impressed? that’s a new word in my vocabulary, maybe I will become a gardening app next?) on the front garden. It works best with woody material so the weeds will have to turn themselves into compost on their own. For that purpose we have found a good spot and they are hard at work.

(Even with that big pile of rubbish, this is still my favourite spot to sit and do nothing)

Well to be honest they are slow at work, very slow but that’s ok, slow is acceptable too. I can feel myself slowing down too, is it time to sit and enjoy the garden yet?

May you be well, Mairead.

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