Isolation blues 
Published on: Sunday, March 22, 2020
By: Sylvia Howe
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Well it’s here. We are taking it seriously, and we are self-isolating as much as possible. Not everyone, of course, but we can see the sense behind instructions and doing our best.  My husband and I went to the doc yesterday and had a pneumococcal injection which was thought to be a good thing – my son in Barcelona is letting self-isolation go to his head and is suffering from a tact-failure: ‘you are old, mother, so you must not go out into large gatherings, and you need to…blah blah blah.’  He’s talking sense of course, but liking bossing his parents about too much.

 Anyhow, I had a very jolly birthday dinner last week and am now coming to terms with the likelihood of it being the last party for a while. My guests from the UK have left, and the next lot aren’t coming till later in the year. I am supposed to be going back in May, and very much hope that this will be possible.  

I have bought a plane ticket to France too, and was/am looking forward to 10 days with friends in the countryside south of Toulouse. My sons were planning to join me, and my husband too. 

Now spot all the things wrong with those sentences: join me, 10 days with friends, plane ticket to France ...  Fingers crossed that the much-mentioned peak will have passed by then, but who knows.  The most important thing is not to panic, to listen to those who know better than us, and follow their advice. We will get through this.

 Good things: spending time with partners and family with no distractions gives us a chance to work on ourselves, on accepting what we cannot change, on enjoying a bit of peace. I can write my book, read plenty, paint some pictures, play with my growing kitten, watch a lot of Netflix and do a bit of swimming/gym. 

Birds are flying, the balcony plants are blooming, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and I may have beaten those pesky bagworms soon. Who knows?  We may all come out of this healthier and happier than before. No point in resisting, so let’s give it a go.


WordPower, Mad Hatters Tea Party and other events

Delayed, of course.  Many thanks to all the organisations and people who donated prizes for the auction – we are working on setting this up online perhaps, but if that proves too difficult, the Tea Party etc will definitely take place when the air is clearer.

We are working hard on our website (I am enjoying online conferencing – makes me feel very international and on it) and there will be information on WordPower plans as we know them. We are putting a fantastic programme together, so be ready for a really interesting time once we get started.


As if we needed reminding, books pass the time, and help us think. Make sure you stock up – on paper and Kindle if you can – curl up and enjoy.  I am being lazy at the moment and reading a lot of detective fiction. But try Circe by Madeline Miller, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust, The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw, and get stuck into the enjoyable Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson.  And my friend Virginia Nicholson is one of the best social historians I know – she has written books covering the beginning of the century to the recent past, and every one a winner.

Food glorious food

This is a chance to look up some cookery books and experiment. Try other countries’ cuisine. Supermarkets still have plenty on the shelves, so no panic there. Not sure if markets are a) open and b) wise to go to, but it’s important to support people who need to sell their produce so perhaps there is a way of doing this without getting sick. Ideas?

Use fresh veg as much as possible, and remember that the freezer is your friend. I spent yesterday making food to freeze, and will defrost as we need it.  Puff pastry is also a good standby, and if you chop onions and garlic they too can go into the ice, and be used as you wish. Herbs can be used straight out of the cold, and lots of stock is useful, either in ice cube trays or in plastic bags. When defrosted the liquid can be used as a tasty and nutritious base for soup or stews. You probably know all this, but anyhow, just in case it’s helpful.

Well there you go for this week. I wish you all the best with your isolation, if that’s what you are doing. And if you aren’t, all the best for that too. This too will pass. And on the way it will do the environment a lot of good, as we travel less, use less fuel, and generally slow down. It’s certainly not all good, but it’s not all bad either. Take care of yourselves and others and good luck and blessings to us all.

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