STUFFING UP

In our small town, the streets were very quiet for a Saturday. I had no problem topping up my well used porridge pack with another one, though that has now changed.  I couldn’t find  tomato passata, nor any of the milk we use. So I took a tube of tomato paste’ and as for the milk, I decided to wait and see if there were any deliveries over the next day or two. There weren’t any deliveries  so we bought some other kind of milk.

I do understand people who live out in the wilds where no stores exist doing their regular weekly or fortnightly basket fill-up for themselves. Their shopping habits have never left shelves empty. I have no understanding of others who live a stone’s throw away from food stores stuffing their trolleys sky high, like the gluttony of Christmas was never going to return. That though, is what I have seen.

Carers with their clients’ shopping lists are having a hard time finding things. Time being a factor in the carer’s task, means they either don’t complete the shopping needs and continue to give their clients their amount of face-to-face-time and fewer food supplies, or they spend time searching other stores and greatly reduce the support time they spend in the client’s home.

And in a pharmacy, I met a man who was determined to stand in my space, however much I backed away. He was loudly pronouncing  that ‘the whole pandemic viral thing was a nonsense; it was ‘stirred up’; he didn’t believe it. Compared to annual deaths from flu’ it was nothing’ and he added, ‘it’ wouldn’t come up here!

This vast area I am in, taken as  a whole, is the size of Belgium. It has had one case of Covid 19 confirmed in a busy town. Our locally very deprived hospital does not possess any ventilators. We are a very long way from any major services. So far, fortunately, in our sector of this vast county, we have no confirmd  cases of Covid-19.   Some American students I heard on a radio news programme, who were based in a major city,  have decided not to go back home. They decided instead, to hide away from people in the relatively safer more isolated areas of Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

TODAY – AND BEING VIRTUOUS

Wandered into the kitchen and was hit by the bright light: the blinds were down!   Peeped under the blinds. The combination of a snowfall over night and the morning sun was blindingly seeping through.

There had been a power cut during the night. Set the microwave clock and corrected the central heating timer. The day got relatively milder and the snow disappeared.

Ewes and their lambs came out to play. With the fickle weather we’ve had, there haven’t been many days when lambs could frolic about in the fields.

The grocery store was limiting customers to five packs of pasta. It looked like customers had taken them at their word. I took one pack of Conchigle  from the extremely depleted pasta stock.

Saw a friend  in the store who said she had just returned from India. She looked a picture of blooming, glowing health. She had just discovered The toilet rolls shelves were bare.

I told her the pasta situation. “You wouldn’t buy five pack of pasta would you?”  ….“No, I wouldn’t”, I said, “I’d have nowhere to store them”. (Eating that much pasta would be epic and so would my proportions).

The woman in front of me at the check out must have bought the last pack of a dozen toilet rolls. And I felt quite virtuous with just one packet of pasta amongst my purchases.

 

TOGETHERNESS

Major holidays have passed. The best bit for me will be to see a lot less advertising of the virtues of gluttony. I always feel uncomfortable with the putsch to eat, eat, eat and drink by way of celebrating the advertisers’ idea of what our tradition and enjoyment ought to be. These holidays mean different things to different people. I like the thought of togetherness with whosoever you choose to be and where you choose to be. I can’t be doing with the pressure to spend your way into emptying your purse and filling up the cupboards to overflowing with rich foodstuffs and excessive amounts of booze you would never usually upset your digestive system with the rest of the year….all because we are told it is expected, it is what to do.

I have warm memories of holidays past where, in one case it was insisted I stay and join in with a family in their togetherness. They wouldn’t hear of me returning home. Never mind that my oven was on gas mark number one ever so slowly cooking my meal. (Fortuitously as it turned out).  

Another memory, I was in a hostel in isolated splendour, not a soul in sight.  Over the road was the police station. The boys in blue, mostly single men, were working, but their canteen was closed for two days. The civilian staff were on holiday.  I offered to cook Christmas Day and Boxing Day meals for them.  A kitty soon built up, enough to buy a chicken or three and sufficient veggies. I am not sure they really believed I could give them a hot meal. But, a hot meal is what they got,  at whatever time they arrived to eat.  It was all very friendly with everyone helping out with the washing up and drying dishes in shifts, then leaving the kitchen as it should be at the end of each day.

HOT SPOONING AND HAGGIS

It was so cold this morning, I knew we were going to have a bright day. In January, any year, brightness for the shorter daylight hours we have, is very welcome.

But…..

With a number of warm layers on, yet not really feeling cosy at my core, Madame M felt the desire for comfort food for breakfast. Not so good. I treated myself to a complete half pint pack of a hot spooning ‘drink’ in a glass called Salep.

Tonight we are digging into a haggis with clapshot. (More comfort food, if it grabs your fancy).  It will be accompanied  by some carrots from the garden.

Tomorrow is another day…one where M must gain the upper hand on foodie temptations and offset what will have been digested today!

MISSION-ROOM 41

The deep coloured greenery swelled out and spilled over the top of the plastic carrier bag, which had been handed to me. Hidden beneath the massive aromatic foliage were more interesting items. There were three Pak Choi and one splendid white Mooli.   It was lunchtime when I made my visit to the care home, carrying this abundantly overflowing bag.  In my spare hand I held a pack of raspberries, a treat.  I got curious looks from the care staff and some polite smiles.   I was on a visiting mission. I knocked on the door of room 41.

© Elegant Veg

She immediately wanted to know what I was carrying. I got her to feel through the foliage and the thin stalks. Still not sure, I encouraged her to nibble at a little of a leaf. Yes, it tasted of something but what?  She sniffed the green bunch and stroked the stalks.  Realisation; her mother used to grow this and use it in soups, make soup with it and put it with meat and gravy.  She couldn’t remember how long ago, but it made for a good flavour.   Did the Mooli have a sharp and hot radish flavour, she wanted to know and could it be boiled or steamed.  What about the other one, the Pak Choi?  She was thinking and asking questions while I gave my ideas for preparing the two vegetables.

© Our Yellow Beetroot.  Pak Choi it is not.

We shared savoury and sweet  recipe ideas  for the best part of an hour, and the time passed pleasantly and quickly. The raspberries, which all got eaten, evoked thoughts of home made cakes; puddings; jam; outings with an enamel bucket used for collecting and cooking the raspberries, in times long past.

On my way out, staff asked me about the greenery I was carrying.  One, a Bulgarian lady did not know Pak Choi, but bemoaned the fate of her garden back home without her.  A local carer had no idea about any of it.  A Chinese carer squealed with delight when she saw the Mooli and was thrilled to hear we called the other little vegetable (the Pak Choi) the same name she knew it by.

 

WHAT AN IMPUTATION.

Certainly unexpected, but, as I was only the messenger, I put the originator into the line of fire, so-to-speak. As the recipients were out, a gift of two  cheese truckles were left by the originator for the recipients to find upon their return home. The cheeses were bought at a specialist counter, a rather special one at that too. The originator was not one to shop at the best of times.

Recipient 1. I found some cheeses here, were there a lot lying around the house.…….

Me. What?……… I will pass you on.

I repeat what has been said. Originator’s expression changes from bemusement to realisation, to irritation.

Airy Fairy Wonderland Alice…Bouncy Clown-ess and LED LADY

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The woman in the red coat adorned with bright LED fairy lights, looked at the bakery goods displayed in the glass covered counter in  front of her, every -so- often checking her mobile phone.   Like her, I waited too.  We continued to wait…and wait.  LED lady  looked up at me and we exchanged smiles.  Two other women, dressed up for the local fun day, were serving at the far end of the counter, which provided for the Baker shop café customers.  At our end of the counter- sales – a young girl dressed up as Alice In Wonderland,(AIW) had her back to us; she studiously ignored everyone. The high visibility lady covered with sparkly LED lights glanced at her phone once more and then left the shop.  Alice in Wonderland looked round, glanced at me, then turned back to whatever it was she was doing, writing, I think.

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I conjected that if I waited a few more moments I just might be served. I knew what I wanted to buy, it was pre-wrapped, so, it was just a question of selling it to me.  I thought my patience was being rewarded when a clown-ess, (one of the duo of staff attending to the café) bouncily arrived opposite me……. My mistake, she was involved in playing a game of choices for someone in the café, who, incidentally, arrived in the shop the same time as I did.

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Excuse me, can the assistant over there serve me? I pointedly asked.  Clown-ess raised herself on tip-toes to peer over AIW’s shoulder.

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Clown-ess -said, She’s busy doing shop admin”. With that she rushed away and with a smile called out Someone will be with you soon”.  

Me – Looking directly at Clown-ess at the far end………I’m going; that’s two customers you have just lost”.  And I went.

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This is not the first time me and other customers have walked from this shop.  There are two other similar business in the same vicinity that have gained from the chaotic customer service. Goodwill is fading fast.

 

 

FUN DAY

Fun day is when the festive lights are switched on. It is the day that most of the local shops put out treats for both little and big kids.  A number of shops will give shopping discounts. A raffle ticket may be on offer for something connected with the business, for no more than stepping over the threshold of the shop. I was offered a cup of coffee  and a sweet in an outdoor sports shop.

Reindeers were in a  pen with lots of straw at one end of the precinct. Children could have pictures taken with them. Encircling the pen were  very happy families in an orderly queue.

Cartoon_Reindeer_Vector_Clipart_Illustration_111123-091923-188001

Many of the shop staff dress up to a theme. I didn’t guess the Strictly Come (acrobatic ballroom) Dancing  ‘competitors’ in the hardware store, even though one lady looked drop dead gorgeous in a sleek evening dress.

Cinderella-cinderella-1647900-800-600

Cinderella, The Ugly Sisters, Prince Charming and The Fairy Godmother, appeared behind the baker shop counter.

“What can I get you?” asked the fairy godmother.

Me -“A glass slipper please“.

FG -looking  quite perplexed…….”What?”

Me- “A glass slipper please“.

FG -“You’ll have to get Cinderella over  for that…anything else?”

I pointed to a round wholemeal loaf, which FG wrapped in a small paper bag- I love bread wrapped in the good old fashioned paper bag -paid my dues and was offered a free raffle ticket for their draw.

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THOUGHTS ON THE BRITISH RESPONSE TO THE REFUGEE CRISIS.

Apart from a rumble of disgust at the British Government’s response to the refugee crisis, I have not heard much discussion about the U.K’s sorting criteria for ‘acceptable’ refugees.  Britain is not open to refugees on the move, irrespective of the reasons why.  What we hear, is that any refugees that Britain accepts will have to be in the official camps  They will include the most vulnerable, (whatever that means) and likely, orphan children.  Alarmist voices quickly channeled all the resources arguments against giving refuge to unaccompanied children. The same arguments have been raised in respect of the trickle of ‘acceptable’ refugees over five years that Britain may give refuge too, 4000 per year.  In this instance the Westminster Government response was to offer time-limited assistance in areas where any refugees may be settled.

Funding the needs of extra people is a consideration, it has to be.  While that discussion is being resolved both domestically and internationally, it is worth remembering history shows that  previous waves of refugees who arrived in Britain have and still do substantially contribute to the wealth of this country.

Britain has not been mean with aid on the ground, far from it.  A major slice of basic aid in forming the camps, in particular, in Lebanon, has been given through the generosity of the British people.   But, not all refugees are in camps, there are a large number eking out an existence in  sub-standard conditions in countries like Jordan.  That said, their need to  be fed is no different from the refugees in the other camps.   Like many  in camps, (including camps in Turkey) they are now being forced to move on because the United Nations (U.N) which has been supporting these camps with food aid, has run out of money for food aid for  the refugees. The U.N has been reliant on international financial donations to support vast numbers of people with food.  Starkly put, the refugees, whether in camps or shacks, can no longer be fed.  Their choices for survival – the basic human instinct – are limited to moving on, to attempt to survive.  Life becomes a lottery. In trying to survive many die.

Communities around the U.K have spontaneously been taking practical steps; there have been collections of warm clothing for people stuck at Calais and other ports, who have arrived  at these places wearing their sandals and lightweight clothing, none of which is suitable for surviving Northern European Winters. In Vienna,  clothing donated from many sources  is given to the refugees as they arrive in the city. I expect the same scenario will have been enacted throughout other refugee arrival points, where refugees are being treated  with dignity.  Sad to say, treating the refugees with dignity  is not universal.

I was appalled to hear the rhetoric of Fascism by the Hungarian Government and from other Eastern European States. The Balkan Wars and the Hungarian uprising against Russian suppression  are all still within living memory.  They created refugees who were desperate for help.  Some of my faith in humanity was restored when I saw and heard the reports of the Hungarian people individually helping refugees, irrespective of their Government’s distasteful stance.

The UK has no need to swell its population with young and intelligent people from elsewhere to support an ageing population as much as some of our neighbour countries do, (like France and Germany, for example).   So, to minimise our responsibility to what the world has now accepted is a true refugee crisis, (as opposed to economic migrants) from Africa and the Middle East,  this is what the British Government says it is going to do over five years.  Britain will consider taking  a total of 20,000 ‘acceptable’ Refugees, (4000 per year) who are in official refugee camps.  Perhaps, from those selected  there will be orphan children.  You are definitely not going to be offered refuge in the U.K if you are a refugee with the many thousands on the move,  who are  risking life and limb to survive.