Yumy

Readers, please don’t worry – there is not a rare mis-spelling or typo in my title today. This is indeed the interesting spelling of a particular cafe in my town which I visited recently. The more traditional spelling of the word would have double ‘m’, granted, but I will forgive the cafe owners this mistake as they were VERY kind to me.

Why was I visiting a cafe in town during Lockdown, I hear you ask? Well, it was a Sunday morning and She and her good friend Loadsakids often meet up for a coffee and to put the world to rights on Sundays – usually after the Andrew Marr show so they can discuss highbrow things – but because we are in National Lockdown yet again, they could not meet in Costalotta. Instead they came up with a brilliant idea – of walking their respective dogs into town and standing outside a cafe that was open for takeaway coffee. There is an awning, luckily, so one can stand there drinking takeaway coffee and not get wet if the weather is inclement. I’m not convinced that this counts as an ‘essential journey’ or even ‘exercise’ but doubtless She would argue otherwise and mutter something about mental health.

Anyway, the other dog and I were extremely well-behaved and patient whilst 45 minutes of dull conversation took place over a cappucino and Americano. I felt we did very well as in all honesty there was nothing to do and not much to look at, once we’d sniffed each other’s backsides.

The thing is, even though our Pack Leaders were taking no notice of us, Friends, the cafe owner was far more observant and could see how dreary this was for a pedigree Spaniel and Beagle. Imagine our surprise when he came outside with two foil dishes of roast beef trimmings and bacon pieces!! The cafe owner asked our Pack Leaders if we were allowed to have them – She of course snapped ‘no, he’s too fat already’ (pot, kettle) – but then in a moment of conscience realised how rude this looked when a nice man had gone to the trouble of providing food for us. So with a sigh and reluctant “oh all right then,” the foil containers of meat were put on the ground. Loadsakids’ dog gently chewed and licked her portion as she has very genteel manners , whereas I snarled and grabbed mine, gulping the whole lot down in three mouthfuls like a demented wolf. Passers-by laughed and found this entertaining. She told me off for showing her up and marched me straight home.

I have not been taken back to Yumy since, even though I know for a fact that She has met Loadsakids there again. Loadsakids took her dog because of course her dog doesn’t show her up. I was left at home. I feel this is unfair.

Lockdown is very wearing, Friends, as I’m sure you will agree. Everyone is a little fed up of having nowhere to go, so even though it is still November for several more days yet many people have put up their Christmas decorations in an attempt to cheer everyone up. Not in my household, of course. The decorations will be staying in the loft until well into December as we don’t do festive cheer very well here. That said, last year’s Christmas tree from Lidl has been mentioned by several people lately, as they remember it with great affection. Our tree from Lidl became something of a cause celebre locally last year, as Regular Readers might remember, and I doubt very much we will find one quite like it this year. Here it is.

Unique, wasn’t it. That’s the middle of Lidl for you.

Anyway, She says it’s far too early for bldy Christmas decorations and there will be no pine needles left on the tree if we put one up now. Far be it from me to mention all the neighbours out in their front gardens today, cheerily hanging lights from guttering and waving at each other. To be fair though, Pack Leader did get the screwdrivers out and I thought for a moment She had given in to the early Yuletisde spirit and that Michael Buble would be playing any minute, but no. The good thing is that She decided to fix the light cord pull in the bathroom at long last – Regular Readers will know this broke several months ago and has been tentatively repaired with some thin string – so it looked like the afternoon would be productive after all. Alas no, Friends, as it took so long to unscrew the light fitting due to the awkward angle and not being able to see whether a Phillips or flathead screwdriver was needed, that it was nearly dark by the time it had been successfully unscrewed and then She realised She had no clue what to do next. So, with some bad language the unit was screwed back to the ceiling again and we are no further forward.

Young Lad has been at home all week – how often I seem to write these words – as his school had to close due to the number of positive coronavirus cases. Young Lad has been doing online lessons for the last ten days. This appears to consist of signing into the lesson and saying hello to the tutor so they think he is paying attention, then the entire class messaging each other on their phones and playing games for the rest of the lesson. Young Lad will be sad when school re-opens next Wednesday but I’m sure there will be some more positive cases in Year 10 before long and they’ll all be sent home again.

It’s been a busy week in some ways – I have had lovely walks every day thanks to dear, dear Ebony and dear, dear Pippa and other than that I’ve needed an awful lot of sleep. She has been working of course, but somehow managed to fit in the various medical appointments that are part and parcel of my family’s life. Young Lad had to have some vaccinations on Thursday night – these were called ‘School Leaver vaccinations’ and Young Lad missed them earlier in the year as he was having a small operation and therefore more medical goings on at the time. Readers I do find it ironic that Young Lad has had School Leaver vaccinations. In order to leave school, you would think one would actually have to attend occasionally. Anyway, Young Lad had injections in both arms and didn’t turn a hair – afterwards he asked if he could have a treat and She snarled “you’re 14 not 6” so that was that. Poor Young Lad. He had been very brave – if the Evil Vet comes near me with a needle I have to be muzzled and held down by eight veterinary nurses. And I ALWAYS get a treat afterwards. (From the Evil Vet, not She).

Then there was a phone consultation with Young Lad’s specialist at the hospital – Regular Readers will know that Lad and Young Lad have about ten specialists between them – and that was quite tricky as it’s not always easy to understand what Dr Mohammed is saying when face to face with him, let alone over the phone with no chance of lip reading. Anyway, I think we got the gist of it.

Friday night saw the sighing and tutting of the regular trip to the pharmacy to collect everyone’s prescriptions – of course in these golden times this means queuing outside in the cold as only one person at a time is allowed in. The mood was not improved on arriving home and unpacking the huge bag of medication, as they have only given Young Lad one month’s supply of his to last until the New Year, whereas Lad got two months’ supply – so now there will have to be ANOTHER email for a repeat prescription and ANOTHER night of standing in the queue at the pharmacy in the dark after work. I know Readers. There are far worse things happening in the world.

I felt that last weekend held a more positive note here, though, as someone actually got round to tidying up the back patio a bit, and cutting the grass. This was a very difficult job indeed as it was like a bog, and turned into thick mud the minute the mower got near it. It took a very long time to do as someone had to keep emptying and scraping mud off the mower, but by the end of the afternoon the garden did look a little better. The good thing is that all the bldy leaves have now fallen off the bldy fruit trees so there are no more to come down and cover the grass – this makes picking up my comfort breaks much easier as they can be spotted against the green grass, whereas it was hard to find them amongst the leaves and a bit of a gamble to be honest.

I needed a comfort break at 2.23am the other morning and boy was I moaned at.

Young Lad has almost caught up with his Food Technology practicals – I think he is only a couple of weeks behind now. He has written up his samosa evaluation, you’ll be glad to know, and last week had to make arancini balls. This, I gather, is basically risotto rolled into balls and coated with flour, egg and breadcrumbs then fried. It sounded nice but She said we’re not frying anything else as we did the samosas last week and we Don’t Have Frying in this house, so the arancini balls were baked in the oven instead. You are right, Readers. Dry as. They weren’t exactly balls either, as this would imply a sphere, and rolling wet soggy risotto into round shapes isn’t as easy as it sounds, so they were lumps. Dry lumps. I had one, though, and they tasted nice.

This week Young Lad needs to make puff pastry. Enough said.

Lad is still busy at university and is looking forward to coming home when the authorities finally release hundreds of thousands of young people back into the general community which won’t affect the coronavirus rate at all. He was supposed to register with the university GP back in September and has been ‘reminded’ every week to bldy hurry up and do it, but Lad has been very busy and just hasn’t had time. Lad will try to fit it in this coming week but don’t hold your breath, Readers. There is a surprise in store for Lad on Monday as he will be receiving a parcel in the post from us – we have sent him a Lindt chocolate advent calendar and a Cadbury’s selection box to cheer him up. Lad is 19, Friends, but you are never too old for a Cadbury’s selection box or an advent calendar. At least She’s stopped buying them religious ones now.

You see? There IS some Christmas spirit here, after all. Not much, but let’s take what we can.

Golly, that was quite an epic blog tonight and as a wise man once said, I really am quite the wordsmith. I do hope I have managed to bring you all some cheer and taken your mind off things as it really is a strange old world at the moment, but chin up everyone – Costalotta is open again from Wednesday as we’re in Tier 2, but you just can’t meet any friends there.

I‘ll let you know if there is a change of heart tomorrow and the Michael Buble CD is dusted off. I wouldn’t put money on it.

Keep safe everyone,

Russell

Mothers In Need

Look at the beautiful Autumn colours I saw on my walk today, Readers – the stunning golds, reds and bronzes of the leaves on the dew-covered grass. And look at all the cack on my back where I rolled in something. Nobody shouted at me though, as I was out with dear, dear Ebony and her Pack Leader so they just laughed whimsically and told me I’m a little rascal. Obviously if I had been with my Pack Leader things would have been different and I would have been screamed at and dragged home with non-stop scolding all the way.

Today, Readers, it is something called “Children in Need” which is an annual national fundraising event that brings the country together in the spirit of goodwill and charity. Correction, most of the country. Regular Readers will know that in previous years She and her good friend Loadsakids always go out for a few drinks on Children In Need night as they feel that Mothers In Need is sadly overlooked and frankly just as important. Loadsakids and She discuss things like their bldy teenagers and bldy dogs over a glass or two of lemonade and then sit in a dark cinema for the rest of the evening, not having to be sociable or indeed charitable. I know, Friends. What an attitude.

However, due to coronavirus we are in another National Lockdown which means that She and Loadsakids cannot go out to celebrate Mothers In Need in their usual style. This has vexed them both greatly and they are having to come up with a plan B. I suspect this will involve drinking glasses of lemonade at home in their pyjamas and discussing their bldy teenagers and bldy dogs over Whatsapp. I ask you.

I’ve had scant attention at home this week, Friends, due to an Extended Working Schedule which has involved Extra Long Days and A Heavy Workload. Thankfully dear, dear Ebony and Pippa’s Pack Leaders have picked up the slack so I’ve had some company of a day, but really it’s not good enough. Then at night I sprawl across the bed hoping for a small crumb of comfort but no, I am shoved and moaned at and I have to fight back quite aggressively to stand my ground in the middle of the bed. I will NOT be moved on this, Readers, and refuse to surrender to the foot or side of the bed or even, God forbid, my own dog bed. One has to make a stance at times.

There has been the usual palaver of Year 10 schoolwork all week as Young Lad is still just a smidgeon behind with some tasks. The chicken madras that he made for Food Tech quite a while ago still hadn’t been given a written evaluation, plus he was now a week late in making vegetable samosas. And so it was that one evening there was an emergency trip to Tesco Express at the top of the road to buy garlic (if you remember, Young Lad was a little heavy-handed with this in the chicken madras) and vegetable oil – we never fry in this house, Readers, and so vegetable oil is never in our pantry – and Young Lad was told to get on with the bldy samosas. She acted as sous chef doing lots of chopping and prepping, to speed up the whole bldy process, while Young Lad did the more interesting aspects of the task such as making the pastry. This had to be rolled out very, very thinly and there followed a very amusing half hour Friends, as they tried to work out how to make triangles from a semi-circle. The recipe said “cut a 20cm circle of thinly-rolled pastry in half, and then roll it round your finger to make a cone, add the samosa filling, and close into a triangle shape.” Neither of them had the faintest idea what they were doing and I did think, Readers, that perhaps if She had been the sort of Mother to do lots of art and craft with Young Lad at home when he was little, they would know how to turn a cone into a triangle. Unfortunately the attitude used to be “that’s what I pay nursery fees for,” and so not much cutting and sticking ever happened here in the halcyon days of childhood.

By the end of Young Lad’s Food Tech practical, there was thinly rolled pastry hanging off the working surface and washing machine, and samosa filling everywhere. I have never seen so much mess from a simple task that a fourteen-year old was meant to be doing unaided.

The samosas were oblong.

They tasted nice, though, to be fair to Young Lad. Young Lad has watched Masterchef The Professionals AND the Great British Bake Off over the last couple of nights as he knows he needs to up his game.

I am missing Lad, Friends, as he is busy at university doing his laundry. The last we heard from Lad was that the university tumble dryers are still shxt and still don’t dry his brushed cotton duvet cover so he has damp bedding hanging everywhere. Obviously this causes me great concern about Lad’s health and I do hope he is eating properly. Steak and the such like. Lad is facing Lockdown at university just like the rest of us and is most upset that the gym is closed, so has to workout in his very small room. Poor Lad. These really are challenging times for everyone.

I saw on the news that universities will send students back home in the first week of December so I haven’t got long to wait now until Lad is back, and not taking me for walks as usual.

She was feeling quite chipper this morning, Friends, as it was the end of a long week and was laughing gaily with her colleagues at work, when the mood was changed quite dramatically by Young Lad phoning to say that Year 10 had another positive case and were being sent home immediately. Yes indeed, Young Lad now has another ten days off school but he must be due for a rest as has just managed seven whole days in school without much of a break.

And so, Friends, Gingercat and I face another week of Young Lad not doing his home schooling whilst home alone, choosing instead to look at more interesting websites, and the row that will ensue when She gets home from work. Every night. Sometimes Gingercat and I think about moving out.

It’s meant to be wet and windy this weekend – no doubt I will be dragged out for long walks through the sodden countryside but I hope the rest of you batten down the hatches and enjoy Lockdown once again.

Someone here is already enjoying Lockdown as I can hear that tell-tale clink of ice.

Stay safe,

See you soon,

Russell

Here We Go Again

Readers, I’m sure many of you have a similar expression on your face today following last night’s announcement that we are going into another National Lockdown. Now, nobody wears a depressed face quite like me but I would imagine some of you are not far off today. All I can say is that I will do my best to distract you from the current situation for a short while, as I narrate the banal minutiae of life in my home. With everything that’s going on in the world at the moment you would think that daily life here might step up a little, but no, Friends, it isn’t to be.

Take today for example. Young Lad has been at home for three weeks – yes, three! – due to Year 10 having to self-isolate followed by half term. In the space of that three weeks there has been ample time for him to carry out the next GCSE Food Practical, but no: it had to be left to the last minute today. To start with there was a fierce argument with Young Lad about what ‘Food Miles’ actually means; Young Lad wanted to cook a curry as this is from India, which is a long way away, but She insisted the point of Food Miles is to source ingredients from as close to home as possible. Young Lad didn’t agree and put his foot down. In Young Lad’s mind, the more miles the better and he would not be dissuaded from this line of thought. Eventually She gave in and there was a bad-tempered march round Sainsburys whilst Young Lad found all the ingredients. All the joy was sucked out of this experience by making Young Lad write down the origin of each product – the tin of tomatoes, for example, was from Italy and the basmati rice was from Pakistan. Surprisingly pretty much everything else Young Lad needed for his chicken madras was produced in the UK, but then even more joy was sucked out by forcing him to research how far away Pakistan and Italy are from the UK, and record this in boring detail.

For goodness sake! How to stifle creativity.

Finally Young Lad was actually allowed into the kitchen to prepare his meal. It smelled fantastic, Readers, due to the large quantities of garlic that went into it (I’m not sure Young Lad knows what a ‘clove’ is) and the carefully measured teaspoons of cumin, coriander, chilli and the like. The aroma improved even more once the expensive Free Range It Had A Nice Life Before The Processing Plant chicken was added – my mouth watered at this point. Young Lad served his chicken madras with basmati rice and naan bread, and even chucked some fresh coriander on top as decoration. Well done, Young Lad. There was plenty left, so Lovelydor down the road was offered an Indian takeway and not really given any choice in the matter – on my walk this afternoon we deposited foil containers of Young Lad’s curry with her.

The kitchen, after Young Lad’s efforts, was disgusting. I had to clean up loads of sauce that had spilled on the floor and it was all over the cooker too. I couldn’t reach that.

In amongst the somewhat fraught Year 10 Home Learning that has gone on, and on, and on, there have been some pleasant moments. She seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time going out for coffee with friends – it’s important to get as many of these opportunities in before National Lockdown as possible – and one day last week I was taken along too! We met some lovely friends and drove to a local area of natural beauty – however, several thousand other people had the same idea and we couldn’t get in the car park so had to give up and think of a plan B. Plan B turned out to be a lovely long walk through public footpaths and round a golf course – nobody seemed to have the slightest idea where we were going and more than once Serious Golfers had to wait for us to wander across the fairway, but She and her friends always had a smile and a cheery wave for the Serious Golfers who found the whole thing amusing rather than annoying. Eventually we made our way out of the golf course and to a pub, which was much happier all round. I sat very nicely with my bowl of water and only barked once when the food was brought out. She told me crossly to be quiet, but one of her friends, who is considerably nicer, gave me some crisps. I then had to put up with an hour and a half of idle gossip – bear in mind they hadn’t paused for breath round the golf course and public footpaths – really it was exhausting and hardly profound.

Even this afternoon, really quite late in terms of socialising opportunity, She met her good friends Loadsakids and Madame for an outside coffee. I wasn’t taken along this time, but I know for a fact there was a lot of staring bleakly into their cappucinos and shaking their heads. This was interspersed with bursts of raucous laughter as they told tales of their bldy kids or bldy dogs. Readers, I’m quite glad I stayed in my armchair for this one.

Down at the river this afternoon we saw Oscar the border terrier, who always jumps up at She’s legs and smothers her jeans in mud. I like Oscar. He’s funny. True to form he has plastered her jeans in thick black cack. Well done, Oscar. I haven’t seen any deer for a while in the woods, but there are plenty of squirrels and I feel sure that I am coming close to catching one of them.

There was a sweet small child by the river today, who stroked my ears and said, “I like your dog!” She replied that I am very naughty and can’t be trusted, which was rather unnecessary and spoiled the moment.

Anyway I haven’t been naughty for ages. I haven’t had the chance. However. tomorrow everyone is back to school and work so I am coming up with some ideas.

Readers, I can hear you asking for news of Lad. Well, Lad was allowed out of isolation at his university last weekend, and so She and Young Lad drove all the way down there to take Lad out for lunch and to buy him some food. This meant a visit to Express Pizza as they haven’t used their Tesco vouchers for a while and the points are mounting up – and then a trip to Asda for Lad to stock up on food for life at university. Lad put quite a lot of steak and mince in the trolley, which I applaud, but She made disparaging remarks about students should be eating tuna pasta not steak. This shows a total lack of regard for Lad’s iron levels and overall health, and I’m glad that Lad stood firm and wouldn’t put the steak back. Lad did comment, however, that Aldi is much cheaper and compared the prices of everything in the trolley at Asda to its equivalent at Aldi – She said Lad is becoming boring and what on earth has happened to him. Poor Lad.

Well, Friends, I am worn out from my walk this afternoon and ready for a sleep. There will be some frantic Whatsapping this evening to sort out doggy daycare for me this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing my good friends Pippa and Ebony again. I know for a fact that they have missed me a lot. Another of my dear friends, Delilah the Basset Hound, is experiencing problems with her anal glands at the moment and I do hope they clear soon for her. I know how they feel (and smell).

Chin up Readers – we will all manage to come out the other side if we keep each other’s spirits up. Talking of which, I can hear the clink of an ice cube and the shwoosh of the tonic being opened.

See you soon,

Russell