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Saturday 21st March 2020

Day one of unemployment

I must be in the denial phase because rather than freaking out about my loss of income and all the dire consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m actually a bit excited about the possibilities opening up ahead of me.

Maybe it’s Spring Fever. I’ve just been out for a long bike ride and spring is bursting out all over. The songline, ‘It’s all too beautiful’, from ‘Itchycoo Park’ by the Small Faces suddenly started playing in my head. It was the first record I ever owned and I still love it. And today, along the Thames, it was the right song for the natural high I was experiencing simply from riding my bike, breathing the air, listening to the birds, and observing the glowing new growth. It was the kind of perfect, sunny, breezy, fresh spring day that sweeps out the cobwebs in my mind and leaves me refreshed.

As well as being filled up with beauty – the weeping willows were particularly magical and I can’t believe they could possibly look any more amazing than they did today – as I rode, I was considering my new circumstances.

I realise that for a while I am still going to be quite occupied in various ways, but then the days might get emptier and I want to be prepared for that, and have a strategy to keep up my momentum and make the most of being ‘time-rich’ for a change.

I think it will be important to maintain a rhythm to my life, getting up and going to sleep at fairly regular times. I will try and make a plan for each day, so that I have things to accomplish each morning, afternoon and evening, to prevent myself from drifting into stagnation. I’ve been thinking about the things that I’ve often wished I had more time for during all these busy years of my life. The first three that come to mind are:

Spending more time outdoors in Nature every day and observing the seasonal changes.

Foraging. At the moment for nettles and hawthorn leaves and wild garlic.

Dancing. I can put music on in my bedroom and dance like noone’s watching. And when it’s warmer I can put music on in the garden and dance barefoot on the grass and close my eyes and pretend I’m at a festival.

 

Sunday  22nd March 2020

Day two of the coronapocalypse

I awoke at 5.30 to the sound of glorious birdsong and remembered a book I read recently, ‘The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence’ by Neil Ansell. It’s an account of hiking and wild camping in the Scottish Highlands. The author loves birds and knows a great deal about them and their songs and calls and cries, but he is ‘journeying into silence’ and losing the ability to hear them. I listened to the dawn chorus, feeling gratitude, and got up and made a cup of tea.

I’m not running my yoga classes online as I don’t have the tech, but I am continuing to plan them just as if I were going to turn up and teach as usual. It’s another way of keeping some structure and rhythm in this new life. I take great pleasure in preparing my classes, and it has a very positive effect on my own daily yoga practice. I will type up and send these lesson plans to anyone who is interested and ok to work from a printed sheet rather than video or audio.

I’m so glad the Archers is a corona-virus-free zone and hope that continues to be the case. It’s comforting to know there is one safe place where I can get away from it. But wow, I’m intrigued about the developing new story line, and I don’t mean the controversy about when to sow spring barley!

I went for another bike ride along the Thames, but in a different direction. The water shimmered and dazzled in the sunlight. I found myself taking little detours, and even explored an industrial estate! I’ve taken a shortcut through it from time to time, but today I cycled right round it, reading the names of all the different small businesses based there. It occurred to me that normally when I’m riding my bike I’m always going somewhere. But this new situation is a game-changer. Yesterday and today my motivation for going out on the bike was purely to exercise a freedom that may soon be taken away. I had no destination. Up in one corner of the industrial estate there was a stile giving onto a muddy path and I decided to park my bike and follow it. As I am not blessed with a good sense of direction, despite living in this town for so many years I had no idea where it might lead and that was quite intriguing. After a few minutes I came to a village and, thanks to a blue plaque on a house with a connection to John Ruskin, was able to work out my location. I retraced my steps to my bike as the temperature was starting to drop, and decided to return soon and explore the other paths I’d seen leading off from the one I’d taken today. Travel on public transport is out of the question and I don’t drive, so I want to explore more deeply the places that are accessible on foot or by bike.

 

Monday 23rd March 2020

Day 3

I’m waiting to hear whether I am covered by my professional insurance to teach yoga classes outdoors. However it seems that we will soon go into lockdown, making my question irrelevant.

I really don’t want to go into lockdown. It will be horrendous. But if that’s what it takes to halt the spread of Covid 19, then bring it on soon, because too many people have not yet grasped the gravity of the pandemic. The longer it keeps on spreading and the greater number of people who become infectious, the more we are delaying the time when we will be safely able to see each other again and get back to work and rebuilding our lives.

Today I was quite shaken after a difficult conversation with a member of the older generation who continues to go out and about, even while their partner, who has a severe respiratory condition, is staying home. It’s hard (if you’re me) to tell someone in no uncertain terms, ‘If (your spouse) gets coronavirus they are 100% definitely going to die. And if they get it, they will definitely 100% have caught it from you, because you are the only person they’ve been in contact with. And you will die too!’

And then I went for a bike ride. The last one for a while? And met, separately, a couple of people I know who were doing exactly the same as me, simply riding their bikes around because they still can. And we stood in the sunshine, at a safe distance from each other, beside the River Thames, and spoke of the things we appreciate about the new circumstances we find ourselves in. Not because any of it is easy for us, but because we were of the same mind, to focus on the silver linings.

I’m looking forward to the distraction of listening to the Archers this evening! This new storyline is moving quite fast and I certainly didn’t see it coming!

 

Tuesday 24th March 2020

Day 4

Another gorgeous spring day to be grateful for! It’s a bit warmer today too.

Unlike most of my yoga teacher colleagues I am unable to give online classes, as I don’t have the tech, no webcam or microphone. Neither am I on any form of social media. This means I can only reach out to my students via email.

I’ve been asking myself whether I’m OK with this situation. There are implications, such as people might forget about me and it might be harder to re-establish my classes when this is all over. Also, running online classes would generate some income. At present the self-employed are not entitled to much in the way of state benefits. I think almost all of us ask ourselves sometimes, ‘Am I being lazy? Should I be doing more?’

Often when I ask questions of myself I ask my body rather than my mind, because it gives more reliable answers. There’s a simple exercise where you tune inwards and tell yourself something that is positive and true, e.g. ‘I love flowers.’ And you focus on how that makes you feel. Then you tell yourself an untruth, e.g. ‘I hate nature.’ And notice how that feels. The body knows what’s true and what isn’t, and responds accordingly. It’s a matter of learning to listen.

I don’t know (anything really!) but I get the sense from my body to trust, not to worry what anybody else is doing, to follow my own path in life, to do what makes me feel peaceful and makes my heart smile.

Last night, like the rest of the country, I was waiting at 8.30pm for the Prime Minister’s announcement about the latest measures to tackle Public Enemy Number 1. I was prepared to be told we were going straight into lockdown and had to stay at home for the foreseeable future. Maybe that would have been the wisest and most effective policy. But in the event it was an anti-climax and won’t affect my current life-style at all. We are not permitted to gather in groups, which means I won’t be able to teach yoga outdoors, but I’d pretty much assumed that would be the case.

We can still go out for food shopping and exercise, which is much more freedom than I expected to still have today. I celebrated by riding up to Shotover Hill and walking through the woods. I felt exultant just to be out and about. The fast-growing busy-ness of Spring was in the air and it was energising to be immersed in it. I thought I heard a jay in the trees above me. I looked up and couldn’t see it, but there was a red kite circling gracefully overhead.

A tree called out to me to come over for a hug, so I did. I wrapped my arms around it and rested my cheek on the mossy bark. Trees are such wise beings. I’ve been missing hugs! I reckon I’d be able to recognise most of my friends by their hugs even if I couldn’t see or smell them. It’s going to be a long, long time before I can give and receive human hugs, but that tree showed me the way forward. Tree hugging!

Today it was announced that the Archers is going to be rationed, in order to eke out the programmes that are already recorded.

 

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Day 5

Another gorgeous sunny day – it really helps!

This morning I did my first 30 minute phone session with a client who comes to me for regular acupuncture treatment. It went really well. I was able to provide her with a confidential space to discuss anything that was bothering her, and to support her in finding ways to take care of herself during this time. We will speak again next week. I hope more people will take up this option.

I ate lunch out in the garden again, oh bliss. I’ve been decorating my meals with a few primrose flowers. They don’t add much in the way of flavour, but they enhance the appearance no end. Just gorgeous. I only discovered last year that primrose flowers are edible so it’s still quite a novelty.

In the afternoon I set off for another bike ride. When I left the house I thought I was headed for Shotover again but ended up somewhere else completely. Early on in the ride I chose to take a left instead of a right and then continued to randomly turn left or right as the mood took me.

Once again I found myself in unfamiliar parts of town. I turned into Cuckoo Lane, a quiet path where I stopped to pick nettles, undisturbed by passersby. When I got home I discovered that it’s an ancient footpath, possibly over a thousand years old. It seems it was quite busy back in the 1700’s. I roamed quite widely, discovering more unfamiliar green bits of Oxford and gathering nettles on my way.

I plan to pick more nettles tomorrow and then make a batch of my favourite nettle dish, which is a bit like a spinach bhaji, and freezes well. I fry a load of garlic, ginger, fresh chilli, and cumin seeds and then chuck in a large amount of nettles (just like spinach they cook down to a fraction of the amount you started with). I give it a stir and put the lid on the pan and leave them to cook for a long time. I only used to cook it until the leaves were well softened. But one time a friend phoned while I was making it. We ended up chatting for ages and I completely forgot I had a pan on the stove. It must have been cooking for about 45 minutes. When I remembered I ran back into the kitchen expecting to find the food ruined, but it tasted better than ever before!

 

Thursday 26th March

Day 6

It’s another gorgeous sunny spring day. I feel so blessed!

One of the bonuses of this fine weather is being able to hang the washing out to dry in the sun and wind, instead of having a kitchen full of damp laundry on clotheshorses.

Where does the time go? I wasn’t expecting to be asking myself that question during a spell of ‘unemployment’. I got up at 5.30am, but still found myself needing to crack on and do stuff efficiently (mostly admin) in order to go for a bike ride in the afternoons. It does take me quite a lot of time to prepare, type up and send out the yoga lesson plans, but it definitely feels worth it when I receive feedback like this, which made my day:

‘I must thank you for all your fantastic yoga which is a great resource to me now. I was amazed to discover the amount of tension caused by this situation that the yoga was able to release.’

Today, thanks to the help of a dear friend ‘stranded’ in India, this blog has gone up on my website. Up till now it’s only been seen by myself and a few friends. It’s an odd feeling to have ‘gone public’ and I’m well out of my comfort zone. I’ve always preferred to keep a low profile and have never participated in social media. I used to neglect my site for months on end, but suddenly the last few days, because of coronavirus, it’s been necessary to make regular updates. Another slightly scary innovation is that from today there is now a photo of me on my home page!

The times they are a changin’.

 

Friday 27th March

Day 7

Viva the NHS!

Last night at 8pm there was a big, heart-warming, national round of applause for the NHS staff working so hard to save lives, as they always do, but who are under such extreme pressure during this pandemic. Round my way it was fantastic. Loud, enthusiastic, lots of whooping! It sounded like everyone had heeded the call, and during these days of isolation for those few minutes it felt like our neighbourhood was united.

I hope our appreciation gave a boost to those it was intended for. It certainly lifted my spirits. And I even dared to hope for once, that when this is finally over, instead of continuing to dismantle our precious NHS and introduce creeping privatisation and profiteering, whoever is in government will rebuild our health service. We already had a staffing crisis, even before the pandemic, because since the Brexit referendum there has been an exodus of E.U. staff, and it’s also been very difficult to recruit new people from the continent.

Better news last night for the self-employed. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced parity for the self-employed with the employed, meaning we are also entitled to receive 80% of what we would have earned if we’d been able to continue to work. The sting in the tail – we won’t get paid till June! I don’t think there’s any cause for celebration yet as we don’t know the details.

I would have gone to Birmingham this afternoon to stay overnight with friends, and meet their little boy for the first time, before attending a conference there the following day. We were excited about meeting up after a long gap but our reunion, like so many things, will have to be postponed indefinitely. The title of the conference, which has of course been cancelled, was, ‘Supervision on the Edge: World in Crisis, World in Trauma’. Unfortunately the world is in too much of a crisis for me to leave home!

I went to the supermarket instead. There was a long queue stretching up the road. I waited in the sunshine for 25 minutes, exchanging the odd word with the guy next to me. A friend of his went by, brandishing a can of beer. He said, “I ‘ad to fuckin’ walk all the way into town to get this, and I fuckin’ nicked it”. Then a lovely ex-neighbour stopped for a chat. I haven’t seen him for ages but I’d suddenly thought about him this morning,  It’s funny how that happens. When he used to live next door he endeared himself to us by bringing round yummy cakes he’d baked. Shame he moved!

It’s a new experience for us westerners to queue outside the shops. It reminded me of the tales I’ve heard from people who lived in the old Soviet Union. Except there’s a huge difference as they’d sometimes queue for hours for a loaf of bread, with no guarantee there’d be any left when they reached the counter. Whereas when I got inside Tesco there was a vast range of goods on the shelves, and I found everything I was looking for. Toilet roll and eggs had sold out, but luckily I didn’t need either. I do wonder though, how long before the supply chains start to break down?

No Archers tonight!

Well, that’s the end of my first week off work.

 

Blog Week Two

Saturday 28th March

Day 8

Last night I introduced my housemate to eating stinging nettles for the first time. Like many people he was a bit trepidatious till he’d chewed his first mouthful without being stung.

I am very sensitive to others’ dietary choices, allergies, intolerances, or hang-ups about food. But I did once feed nettles to some friends and omitted to tell them until afterwards, but only because I thought it would put them off unnecessarily.

I was living in Cornwall at the time, in a house with quite a big living room, and I’d invited a few people over for dinner. I produced an enormous lasagne, substituting cooked nettles for spinach on the bottom layer. The middle layer consisted of aubergines cooked in a tomato sauce, and it was all topped off with a cheesy béchamel.

It came out of the oven looking and smelling good. Everyone tucked in heartily and praised the food. They were very surprised to learn they’d been eating nettles! But everybody was totally fine with it.

I’m surprised at how pleased I am that it’s the weekend! But I am. And I’m giving myself permission to ease back, slow down and mostly just do what I feel like. So far that’s meant an extra long yoga session which involved staying in poses longer than usual.

Today I have also watched a video of a fabulous and entertaining talk by Leah Penniman entitled, ‘Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice’. It’s from the 2020 Oxford Real Farming Conference archive. I usually volunteer at this amazing event, but missed it this year. One of my lockdown projects is to work my way through the videos.

I am absolutely blown away by the lovely people who have been in touch to say they are thinking of me and hope I’m getting by because of being self-employed. I’m deeply grateful and also a bit embarrassed by the offers and even gifts of money, because I know I’ll be fine and so many others won’t.

And I’m even prouder than usual of my brother. He works at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and was already up to his eyes in caseloads and tribunals since the rollout of the big mess that is Universal Credit, but now he’s also having to deal with the fallout from Covid 19 on top of everything else, whilst working from home.

If anyone is reading this and you agree with his petition please sign and share!

https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-student-nurses-graduate-with-54k-of-debt-shouldn-t-we-pay-them-a-wage-instead?recruiter=30800338&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=Search%3ESAP%3EUS%3ENonBrand%3EExact&recruited_by_id=95b916b0-f2e4-012f-78f9-4040ea65fa16&utm_content=starter_fb_share_content_en-us%3Av1

 

Sunday 29th March

Day 9

In a parallel, coronavirus-free, universe I’d be spending today at a yoga teacher training day run by the marvellous Prison Phoenix Trust, a charity who do sterling work taking yoga and meditation into prisons, secure hospitals and bail hostels throughout the UK and Ireland. Part of the workshop is being conducted this morning on zoom, for those who have access, which is probably everyone except me! I’m optimistic though that the full day will be rescheduled at some point

Today’s theme, ‘Race and Prison’, was about deepening our understanding of race and prison and exploring questions like: What is it about our society and criminal justice systems that means a disproportionate number of people of colour wind up in prison? What kinds of issues around ethnicity do we need to be aware of so we are most effective in our teaching?

I love attending these training days for lots of reasons; meeting great people, learning interesting and useful stuff, but also – the food! For lunch everyone brings a vegetarian dish to share and a veritable feast is always guaranteed. A lot of yoga teachers are also great cooks!

Monday 30th

Day 10

The clocks went forward over the weekend; meaning that from yesterday evening it stays light later. Usually that feels like a big cause for celebration, and admittedly it was nice, but under lockdown it didn’t feel as momentous as all the other years.

A couple of days or so ago I looked at the application forms for Universal Credit. That’s as far as I got, looking at them. They were scary. I have an education, a lot of patience and a good broadband connection, but I was seriously daunted and closed the window, intending to try another time.

An ex called me yesterday. I’m very fond of him, but we’re rarely in touch these days. Well, it’s been over two decades since we split up. I always remember the date, because it was my fortieth birthday!

He was checking if I was OK, bless him, and it was great to have a proper long catch-up, especially as he had his brother with him and put me on speakerphone so we could also interact. The last time I’d spoken to them both was a few months ago when they were devastated by their dad dying. I was pleased to hear they were doing better.

We got onto the subject of U.C. Danny, who is also self-employed, had sweated a long, long time over the forms, only to find himself in an impasse. Of course you can’t get through to speak to anyone. I was thoroughly discouraged!

But then I went onto the British Acupuncture Council website where of course all this stuff is now the hot topic on the forum, especially as none of us are treating patients anymore. From what I read there it looked like we don’t need to apply for Universal Credit after all, but will be hearing in due course from HRMC. Coincidentally I then switched on Radio 4 just in time to hear Moneybox Live and learn that yes, if you are self-employed and have been submitting self-assessment tax returns it’s a case of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’, or rather write to you. My initial relief was quickly followed by the realisation that it would probably still involve onerous form-filling. And will we even have a functioning mail delivery service for much longer?

I guess ‘social-distancing’ will be a contender for ‘word of the year 2020′. A friend wrote, ‘I read somewhere that what we are doing is not social distancing but physical distancing.’ It makes sense to me. We are distancing ourselves physically, but in some ways becoming more social. My phone has never rung so much! Even people who I thought didn’t realise you could actually use a phone to speak to people are discovering that function.

 

Tuesday 31st March

Day 11

It occurs to me that we are one quarter of the way through the year.

Someone shared this poem with me and it resonated deeply.

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

She’s also written another very zeitgeisty poem called , ‘Toilet Paper’.

Wednesday 1st April

Day 12

September 15th 1990. I was living in Antigua, Guatemala. It was my birthday and the whole country was out celebrating! Not because I’d attained ‘la edad de Cristo’ (‘the age of Christ’), which were the first words on everyone’s lips when they heard that I’d turned thirty-three, but because it was Guatemala’s Independence Day.

Attaining Christ’s age and being present at the festivities held to mark liberation from Spain are not the only reasons that day is so memorable to me.

On my birthdays I like to take the opportunity to pause and reflect and ask myself what I want to carry forward with me into the coming year, and what I wish to leave behind.

I’d already been meditating fairly regularly for quite a few years, but on that day I decided to commit to meditating every day for a whole year. When the year was up, after experiencing the benefits of sustained practice, there was no question of me ever stopping!

Thursday 2nd April

Day 13

Over the years I have tried various ways of meditating. It is always interesting when I attend classes or retreats to be introduced to different practices.

So far though I have always returned to that most simple form that I used during my first year of daily practice, i.e. just sitting with attention focussed on the breath.

I prefer to meditate in the early morning. For me it’s the very best form of preparation for the day ahead. I light a candle and sit, usually in half lotus, sometimes kneeling, and close my eyes.

First I check in with myself, observing how I’m feeling. This is important because in the busyness of life I may have overridden feelings that are arising and need to be recognised. I mentally run through my day ahead and make sure I know what I’m doing and in what in order. There’s pen and paper by my side so that if needs be I can make a quick note of anything that comes up that I want to remember, and then safely let go of those thoughts. And then I just sit and wait for my mind to settle. With varying degrees of success. Although now that I actually think about it there has definitely been a lot of progress over the years and it’s been a long, long time since I didn’t settle pretty soon, regardless of whatever concerns I have going on. Even in the past when my mind would continue to chew things over, or a particular thought would keep returning I always, without exception, felt better for having done my ‘sitting practice’ whether or not I’d attained a state of meditation. This poem sums up how I feel about my spiritual practices.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998

Friday April 3rd

Day 14

Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.” And so it is with meditation. You may be sitting in exactly the same place at the same time every day for years but each experience of meditation is unique.

Usually, when my mind settles I become aware of my heart and a sensation within it like a warm glow of calm ‘aliveness’. This is what Chinese medicine refers to as the Shen. Much could be said about something as important as the Shen, but suffice to say it’s an aspect of our eternal soul which connects us into the flow of all life in the whole Universe.

Lately, in these times of physical distancing and isolation, I have found myself spontaneously entering into a visualisation I call ‘Nourishing the Heart’. It’s a practice I came up with years ago to help prepare and fortify participants in some of my workshops before they embarked on intense work around scary emotional stuff like fear or forgiveness.

Essentially, it involves becoming aware of your heart and then entering it to experience and absorb and be nourished by all the love that has flowed through you over the years, all the love you have both given and received. Just the love itself, no stories attached.

At this time of keeping physical distance from other humans, meaning no ‘proper’ socialising, no parties, no gigs, no hugs etc, I find it’s giving me a boost similar to what I usually get from the company of delightful people.

If you are interested in trying the ‘Nourishing the Heart’ visualisation I can email you the script. I also have some spare C.D.s, which I don’t charge for.

Blog week 3

Saturday 4th April

Day 15

This last week went by pretty fast! Suddenly it’s the weekend again.

This morning I was preparing for my first ever yoga video, something which is way out of my comfort zone. But my housemate has kindly offered to set me up tomorrow with his laptop out in the garden. When he suggested we do this my first thought was that I’d like to make the video for a really great group of young people I’ve been teaching at City of Oxford College since November 2018. They attend the Lifeskills course, run by lovely teachers and teaching assistants who are also willing participants and supporters of the yoga.

I do feel utterly unqualified for this though! Teaching, for me, is very much about interacting and responding to what I am picking up from the other people in the room. The thought of talking to a screen feels inhibiting and I suspect I will be self-conscious and awkward. But hey, if it turns out to be watchable and not too cringey I’ll have that high you get when you’re relieved after getting through something you dreaded! And the students will have a resource to use at home. If it’s really terrible I can always get him to delete it.

Sunday 5th April

Day 16

I started the day with a mild sense of dread. This was partly because I’d committed to making the yoga video this afternoon, but mostly because the Health Secretary had warned that outdoor exercise could be banned if people continue to “flout” the Government’s social distancing rules.

I was doing OK, but definitely feeling less motivated than I wanted to be feeling on such a fine morning when there was so much I could be enjoying. But then I remembered that it often happens at this time of year. After the initial elation of emerging from winter and the joy of seeing everything greening up, as spring progresses I can go into a bit of a slump, accompanied by the skin on my hands getting a bit rough, which they have been the last few days. It was a relief to remember it’s just part of my annual cycle and nothing to worry about.

Making the video was actually fine! To my surprise I even quite enjoyed it. I just imagined that I was talking to the Lifeskills students, trying to make everything really clear so they could follow at home, and that made it easier. Also, I was in out in the garden and there were loads of birds singing, which made me joyful. I didn’t even cringe when I watched it back.

In the late afternoon I visited Shotover with a friend. We were in a completely different part from where I walked the other day, which was right up on the top. Today we were down at the bottom of the hill, in Brasenose Wood. It was so beautiful and peaceful, and abundantly carpeted in wood anemones. Seeing so very many of them I was surprised to learn, ‘as a species it’s surprisingly slow to spread (six feet in a hundred years!), relying on the growth of its root structure rather than the spread of its seed. As such, it is a good indicator of ancient woodland’.

We also saw deer. They were large, with big ears and looked a bit like donkeys, or mule deer (which I’ve come across in the U.S.) rather than the roe deer which are meant to inhabit those woods.

Monday 6th April

Day 17

Boring fact: As I typed the date I realised it’s the start of the new tax year, which is significant to us self-employed people who do our own accounts.

There’s lots of celeriac at my local farmers’ market at the moment, (I’m not sure if it’s sold in supermarkets). Because it’s in season during the cooler months I usually cook it but the weather was quite warm yesterday so I made salad with it instead. I thought it was really tasty so I’ll share the recipe.

The basic ingredients are celeriac, carrots, lemon, Dijon mustard and something to stir the mustard into for a dressing, e.g. yoghurt, oil, mayonnaise.

I suggest about 3 parts grated celeriac to 4 parts grated carrot. (If I’d had an apple I might have grated in a bit of that too).

Quickly stir in some lemon juice to stop the veg from browning.

Then I chucked in some cranberries, hazelnuts and sprouted sunflower seeds, but anything you fancy would do, e.g. dried fruits, toasted or raw nuts and seeds.

I mixed together a generous amount of Dijon mustard with plain, unsweetened, soya yoghurt and stirred that into the salad, but an alternative such as oil, another kind of yoghurt, or mayo would have worked too.

Season to taste, e.g. with salt, pepper, fresh herbs.

Tuesday 7th April

Day 18

I woke at around 3.30am this morning and didn’t manage to get back to sleep. I put it down to the Pink Supermoon, although it doesn’t peak till 3.35am tomorrow morning. There were animal sounds coming from the neighbouring allotments which I couldn’t identify. They sounded vaguely owlish, but when I googled owl calls none of them were similar enough for me to be convinced. I’d love to know what it was.

I don’t have much to say today. All talked out after 3 long phone calls probably. I did make a yummy thick nettle and potato soup for dinner though, from a recipe in Daverick Leggett’s excellent book ‘Recipes for Self-Healing’. I’m happy to share the recipe if anyone wants it.

I’m off now to curl up with my book, ‘Mad about the Mekong’. I picked it out in the library because I have a bit of a thing about the Mekong River, which passes through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma and China. It already cast a bit of a spell on me when I first encountered it years ago in Cambodia, but after spending more time on and beside it during my recent travels in Vietnam and Laos I’ve become quite fascinated.

Lastly today I’d like to share a tune recorded at home under lockdown by the Lovely Louisa Lyne (from Brickwork Lizards).

https://youtu.be/Dxy6BnIle80