Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) is in the second of her twice-annual gap between garden guiding and packing hampers in a warehouse. We failed to maximise use of this gap to get away on holiday this year. However, the weather has continued to be great and we have managed some lovely, long, local walks together – usually with rest and relaxation in a pub at the end of them.
Despite sustaining these walking expeditions, I’ve slowed down overall as autumn has drawn in and the days have got shorter. I’m not getting as much done as I did in the summer. It’s nice that I have the ‘slow down’ option but it doesn’t feel right; indeed, it’s not. I should be trying to get more done in a shorter daylight period and shifting to tasks that don’t need daylight.
I recall that I went through a similar period or relative sloth last year after the early glow of not having to go to work every day had started to wear off. Then, I needed to structure my days a bit more and the main response was to set out layered to-do lists – for the long term, the medium term and for the immediate. Those to-do lists worked then and so I have resurrected them in the last week. They hadn’t entirely lapsed but I haven’t been maintaining them religiously enough to drive activity. Now I am, I’m already feeling the benefit and the quiet satisfaction of ticking things off.
To be fair to myself, I do have an excuse for recent relative inactivity. I strained something deep in my right side while digging up a particularly long-rooted and recalcitrant dock plant in the meadow. I didn’t think much of it at the time but getting old means longer recovery times and, three weeks on, I’m still struggling with it.
After a couple of weeks I started looking up possible other causes for the nagging ache. Predictably (for those who know me), I ‘Googled’ liver disease, kidney failure, pancreatic cancer and other disasters. More rationally, LSW rubbished that as catastrophist, ‘Googled’ side strain and confirmed that such muscle pulls can take 1 to 2 months to repair. She’s right and avoiding bending and sharp movement is the only treatment.
That has been my excurse for reducing the amount of gardening I have been doing and for stepping up my investment in sitting on the sofa reading fiction. I have just finished the excellent Before the Fall by Noah Hawley and am now half way through the remarkable Milkman, the Booker Prize Winner by Anna Burns. Unfortunately even the high quality of the prose is usually insufficient to prevent inadvertent siestas. It is those little sofa dozes I most want to cut out.
One way of sustaining activity has been to increase cooking of meals. I have had some unexpected success with some (admittedly straightforward) Yotam Ottolenghi evening meal recipes. Also, as we have moved from summer to colder weather, I have swapped out the salad lunches which I used to make for LSW (ready for her return from her mornings’ work) for soups.
These soups take longer to make than the simple salads I made routinely earlier in the year. However, there is a greater sense of achievement (and better aromas) in cooking combinations of celeriac, leeks, beetroot, apples and so on than there is in simply slicing lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes into a bowl. Also, I can make quantities that last us for days so the cooking doesn’t need to be daily. Anyway, I’ve got the time, vegetable soup fits with our aim to reduce meat consumption (and our impact on the planet), it just feels better that the ingredients are in season, and the warmth of the soup feels in tune with the chillier temperatures outside.
One other achievement not requiring much movement of my side has been that LSW and I were in a Quiz team that won a charity quiz event. This was at the nearby and beautiful Westonbirt School which I had not been to before. I had a good time being supportive of other team members who knew far more answers than I, and LSW and I took away a bottle of Prosecco each for our efforts.
Earlier that same week, LSW had also won her end of season quiz at her place of work. She is on a roll! I can’t make our local pub quiz next week (due to a clash with football – Forest Green Rovers are doing well since you ask!) but I expect to hear of more of her quiz team’s success at that.
Hopefully, by then, I will be fully operational and firing on all cylinders again.