Diary of the Plague Year: Day 35 19 April 2020: the Hobbit house under the hill

Afterwards went to my friend J’s to get some veg.

J lives in a magical spot in what I always think of as a Hobbit house under the hill.  It is very protected from the wind so moss and ferns grow in profusion.

Depending on the season I get lettuce, leeks, chard, tomatoes, courgettes, parsley, kale or  mixed leaves. I can honestly say it’s the most delicious veg I have ever tasted and all organically produced.

Today it was chard and mixed leaves.



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 35 19 April 2020:

I can hardly believe we have been self-isolating for all this time. It has certainly worked though because the death-rate so far is a fraction of the UK’s. Leo & Co seem to be doing the right thing and he is himself has gone back to working as a doc for one day a week during the lock-down.

Had a leisurely breakfast, pottered. Flipped though some art books and, most unlikely,  in “The Triumph of American Painting” by Irving Sandler, found a cutting with a recipe for some rustic bread.

The cutting is from The Times (which I never buy) and is dated 24th March 2006. The recipe is for “very seedy bread” and sounds easy-peasy. It calls for sunflower seeds and, as I bought about a hundredweight in a moment of enthusiasm which are still sitting in the cupboard, it would be a good way of using those up.

I still have memories of the first time I bought a three-seed loaf from the bakery in Neal’s Yard all those years ago …. it was on a day out to London when I was on my art foundation course. Covent Garden was still extremely hip, way before it became a mecca for tourists, Neal’s Yard was the place to go and in front of me in the queue was a beautiful creature all dressed in black with Victorian button-up boots and long peacock blue hair (this was light years before hair-colouring became such a craze).

Paradoxically, for ever after the earthy, country taste of that bread was synonymous with the colour blue, quirky urban glamour and the possibility that life is full of the most unexpected and unlikely juxtapositions. And why not?

Just finished a Zoom chat with R in London. Speaking to friends on the front line is very sobering. London sounds quite frightening with idiots simply not observing the distancing rules which, if you are in one of the vulnerable groups, is too dangerous to risk. My friends are all staying at home as are the fam.  We agreed that when we emerge, blinking, from our sequestration the landscape is going to look very different.

Have another Zoom with the fam this afternoon so had better have some lunch and perhaps a fortifying glass of Bordeaux ….



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 34 18 April 2020: A bottle of Bordeaux to keep out the chill

IMG_3802A photograph from the kitchen window.

It has turned extremely dreary; wind, rain and fog. The news from England is not good – now they are desperately short of protective gear.

There is now no earthly (or unearthly for that matter) excuse for not working so spent some time drawing in the shed.

In the afternoon decided to give “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk another go. I bought it years ago and never managed to get into it. Scoured my bookshelves for it and suddenly remembered I had taken it to Mum’s cottage (where Aidan now lives) to make room on my shelves. Texted him to see if he could find it and he was kind enough to drop it down (left it on the gate-post). I have three books on the go at the mo then, that one, “Wilding” and Keats’ letters to Fanny Brawne.

As it is the weekend decided to go a bust and cook the duck that has been lurking in the fridge for about a week.

For two duck breasts.

First of all a marinade:

1 tsp fivespice
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
soy sauce
1 tsp honey

Then left them in the fridge all afternoon.

To cook:

Brown in a frying pan.
De-glaze with red wine.
Slosh the de-glazed juices on the duck.

Roast at 220 for 10mins then turn down to 160 for 15 mins.

For some reason, whether it was the miserable weather outside also decided to crack open a bottle of wine I have had since 2013. I don’t normally enjoy drinking alone but for some reason tonight was the night. There is nothing I like better than having dinner with friends and sharing a bottle of wine. It seems to underline the loneliness of our present existence to be drinking alone. It is a good bottle of wine too, one that I have been keeping. Thinking about life here – and not just in the lockdown – one of the few drawbacks is that if you go out it is practically impossible to have a drink because we are all driving everywhere. It’s not like London, where if I was having dinner with friends, I could just jump on the bus or take a taxi home. A taxi here would cost an exorbitant amount and it not like you can just ring a car service and be sure of getting one. I suppose, though, that drinking less is only a good thing. I know that some of the cancer docs at Guy’s didn’t touch a drop. Anyway, the wine was delicious even if there wasn’t good company to share it.


Didn’t drink the whole thing so there is some left for tomorrow.

Duck delicious served with basmati rice, to mop up the juices, and red cabbage cooked with onions, sultanas, garlic and apple cider vinegar.

As a treat put on the latest Catherine Deneuve film “The Truth” from Curzon Home Cinema but for some reason it cut out into a grey fuzz a quarter of the way through – Bah. Put on “Brexit” from Netflix with Benedict Cumberbatch all about Dominic Cummings which, for some reason, portrayed him as a quite a sympathetic character.  Why? He is a weasel. It was a very depressing watch.

After all this self-indulgence tottered off to bed.