[Thursday 30th April 2020]
The previous night Erika had some difficulty getting to sleep and I theorised it might be in part down to a lack of activity. Although her school's PE teacher makes workout videos for the kids, and we try to supplement this with our own bits of PE where we can (we've been having occasional games of football in our tiny back garden), the daily home schooling routine is still a lot less active than a normal day at school would be for her. Now and again exercise seems to fall by the wayside a bit and yesterday had definitely been one of those days.
I could see Chie was in need of a break as well, so I took some time out of work this morning to take Erika off to Hampstead Heath for some fresh air and exercise. She sometimes goes to the heath with school, so this seemed to me like an entirely legitimate part of the school day. We went to Erika's usual favourite spots, the "mudslide of doom" (which wasn't particularly muddy today, despite the recent rain), and the den building area. From there, while looking for a place to build a new den, Erika was intrigued by a little path leading off into the thicket, and in following this we embarked on some impromptu jungle exploration. We did eeny meeny miny moe to choose our route at each fork of the path, and in the middle of those dense trees and bushes we could have been hundreds of miles away from London, which feels a bit like an urban prison at the moment.
Of course, our adventure in the rainforests of North London only lasted a few minutes before we ran out of thicket, and emerged back onto the wide open plains of Parliament Hill, but it was lovely, and I think what we both needed. We wandered slowly back down the hill, picking buttercups and dandelions. We bumped into a friend of Erika's (but of course maintained our distance in line with the current ridiculousness) out with his little brother and his Mum. Oddly he and his brother had socks pinned to their hoods. I think this was more a fashion statement than anything practical.
We got back home a bit before lunchtime and I resumed working. Took delivery of some more wine in the afternoon, including another couple of bottles of the fascinatingly weird Monnow Valley Brut 2004 which I had last had at the Welsh sparkling wine tasting I organised last summer.
Quite mixed weather today, and it's good that we got out for our walk in the morning, as it was raining for much of the afternoon - quite hard at times. Clear skies later on though, and I had another go at taking pictures of the moon in the evening, which were unsuccessful as always. I think mobile phone cameras just aren't really capable of this sort of thing - you need a proper zoom.
[Wednesday 29th April 2020]
While I was out for my evening stroll yesterday Erika (with a bit of help from Chie) had used the giant roll of paper we have to draw a big sort of wall frieze to cheer me up as I've really been missing the countryside over the past few weeks. I took a couple of picture of it this morning for posterity. I particularly like the "our house and vineyard" on the left hand side, and the details like the mushrooms and the flowers (including forget me nots, which I'd recently been pointing out to Erika) are really sweet.
Chie made Gyoza for dinner. This is a Russian roulette sort of a meal, as now and again given the highly variable performance of our supposedly non-stick frying pan they go wrong, stick to the pan, and fall apart - causing Chie to be in a very bad mood. Thankfully tonight was not one of those occasions, and they came out very well.
[Tuesday 28th April 2020]
I made a lazy / unimaginative pasta bake for dinner. Although I did think it was quite nice.
After dinner, following some prompting from the other members of my household, I went for an early evening walk to Hampstead Heath. Much gloomier weather than either of last week's forays to the heath, but oddly I rather liked it for that. Perhaps mainly because it meant there were fewer people and I had a much greater sense of an escape from the sense of immuration which has become particularly exacerbated in the current situation.
[Saturday 25th April 2020]
A much more successful barbecue than the previous one this evening! The main reason of course being that I actually used charcoal this time.
So dinner was (from the barbecue) burgers, halloumi, peppers, a grilled leek in soy sauce (nicer than it sounds), a grilled onion, then later baked potatoes and I even cooked a bit of pasta in the kettle pot which came with my Biolite campstove on the residual charcoals for fun.
[Friday 24th April 2020]
Joined in an online tasting of Welsh wines this evening. I felt like I was already an expert on the subject having conducted a tour of the vineyards of Monmouthshire last May/June followed by organising probably the most comprehensive tasting of Welsh sparkling wines ever held last summer... but of course the wine world is a rather cliquey environment, and nobody "in the industry" seems particularly interested in the opinions of amateurs like me. Still I set that ego to one side, and listened in to the talks online as a quiet bystander, and enjoyed the event regardless. I have been really appreciating this series of WineGB online events (starting with the Big English Wine Good Friday two weeks ago), as it has given me something to look forward to in these strange times, where otherwise one day would feel very much like the previous one...
Spaghetti bolognese for dinner - which sounds like an unimaginative lazy cop out - but it was actually quite an involved sauce cooked for a long time with more ingredients than usual, as we happened to have a well stocked fridge: onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, Quorn mince, a bit of tomato stock cube, and a bay leaf from the garden. I thought the end result was very tasty.
[Wednesday 22nd April 2020]
Our weekly veg box arrived this morning, including a large amount of leeks (which to us is any number of leeks greater than one). So I decided to do the obvious thing make leek and potato soup for lunch. I put a lot of effort into preparing all the vegetables (so much peeling and chopping), and yet neither of the other members of my household seemed to like it. I vowed not to make soup again for the forseeable future, observing that essentially most people don't actually like healthy home made soup, they only seem to like the vaguely vegetable flavoured hot brine you buy in shops.
Went for an evening walk to Hampstead Heath.
[Saturday 18th April 2020]
I went for a morning walk to Hampstead Heath, and found it quite envigorating. Lots of flowers blooming at the moment. Some of the remainder of the day spent cleaning.
[Friday 10th April 2020]
Actually ventured out into a shop in the morning, for the first time in nearly three weeks. Spent much of the afternoon out in the garden, then in the evening joined in with an online English wine tasting event.
[Saturday 4th April 2020]
Predicting that we might run out of coffee at some point, and wanting to keep trips to the shops to a bare minimum, I'd bought some green coffee beans a while back. These seemed like a good idea because they last longer (after roasting the beans will eventually dry out and go stale, but prior to roasting presumably they last for years...?). I'd read that roasting is a smokey process, and best done outside, so thought having a go over my campstove in the garden would make for a fun activity.
I made a video of it:
Peter Hall from Breaky Bottom called while I was out in the garden, which was a nice surprise - I think he'd just wanted to clear up a confusion over some misdirected emails, but we ended up talking for 45 minutes, one of those lovely rambling conversations like we have when I go to visit BB. Sometimes wine, sometimes viticulture, sometimes Hilaire Belloc, sometimes anecdotes from Peter's fascinating life history.
Erika attended a friend's birthday party over Zoom, where they just about managed to play a game of Harry Potter Top Trumps remotely. This partly spanned lunch, so Erika had her lunch sat in front of the laptop while talking to her friends.
We hadn't left home since last weekend, and that had just been a quick walk around the block, so we decided in the early evening we ought to make a concerted effort to get to some green space. By 6pm Hampstead Heath was relatively quiet, it was a warm spring day and under normal circumstances it would have been lovely, but the people dodging and the sense that we might be told off if we lingered too long in any one spot rather marred the experience.
Had a late dinner (pasta with bolognese sauce) when we got home, after which we all seemed to be worn out, so we all went to bed at the same time.
[Friday 3rd April 2020]
Today was Erika's last day of term, so her two weeks of home schooling had come to an end. Slightly daunted at the prospect of 16 consecutive days ahead of us without that bit of structure, and with very limited scope to leave home to help fill the time. Probably best not to think about it, and just take one day at a time.
Had a couple of food deliveries this morning, although a passing ne'er-do-well attempted to run off with one while the delivery driver was going back to the van. The driver valiantly grabbed in back off him, and the miscreant (accompanied by a lady friend who was holding his beer for him so he could pick up the box - it was 11am) made out he thought it was for him, as he lived at number 34. There is no number 34 on our street.
Lunch was some of the vegan schintzels we'd taken delivery of, served on tagliatelle (tossed in butter and parmesan) with the rest of the kale buds from yesterday. I was quite pleased with that as a simple but relatively rounded lunch dish.
For dinner Chie made a Japanese "cream stew" using soy milk and some more of the fake meat from today's delivery.
Took delivery of a box of Heck's Kingston Black cider this afternoon. I'd found myself craving cider the past few days, in the hope it would magically transport me out to the countryside. I spent some of the evening out in the garden attempting to teleport via fermented apple juice. It was a pleasant spring evening and I suppose the Kingston Black did help lift the mood a bit.
[Saturday 28th March 2020]
Attempted to keep ourselves amused while stuck at h ome. It was hard work at times. Although highlights include the sofa cushion fortresss / Nerf battle Erika and I had, and the girls made me a belated birthday cake.
[Sunday 22nd March 2020]
Finally discovered how to set up the washing line in our back garden - there had been a coiled up line attached to one wall since we moved in, but I had never figured out where to hook the other end of the line to until now - I was standing and looking at the fence at the back and saw a nail sticking out of the top of the fence post. It was just the right distance.
Spent much of the day out in the garden, inventing new games to play with Erika. Most successful of these was "blind fishing". You have to close your eyes and catch as many balls / frogs as you can from the paddling pool with a fishing net. We then made a more complicated version of the rules in which you get points for the frogs, but points taken away for the balls. Erika was suspiciously good at it.
Later on opened the bottle of Sugrue Cuvee Dr Brendan o'Regan. I had been saving it for a Sugrue themed tasting session with friends, but who knows when that might be able to happen now? So I thought I'd just drink the bloody thing. The cork was moudly, but I read that as long as it's only on the exterior, the wine inside would be fine. I decided it best to sabrage it to be on the safe side, and this led to a particularly satisfying video:
Tasting notes here, on Twitter:
The @DermotSugrue Dr Brendan O'Regan: A fantastic, complex wine, filled with notes of Japanese cuisine. Bitter citrus (yuzu?) on the nose, honeysuckle veering towards mirin, so much umami on the palate (kombu, wakame), and succulent (rice vinegar?) acidity. #EnglishSparklingWinepic.twitter.com/8IgHML8aov