Trying Not To Shout About The Sprouts

City Jackdaw followers may have seen my recent post about how, even in the midst of a national pandemic, the sprouts that we’d had for tea turned out to be the most disappointing thing, so far, of 2020.

Well today was the day of redemption. Or, to put it more accurately, today should have been the day of redemption.

For what day is it today?

Sunday.

And what do we eat on Sunday?

Why, Sunday lunch, of course.

It just so happened that this afternoon my wife’s mother was being discharged after a couple of days in hospital, and Jen was going with her father to pick her up.

“Keep an eye on those pans,” was her departing instruction to me, “when they start to boil turn them down.”

I think you know where this is going, don’t you? But there were mitigating circumstances.

Nine days ago Peter Sutcliffe, the man better known as The Yorkshire Ripper, died, having caught Covid-19 whilst still incarcerated for his crimes and refusing treatment. People of a certain age and geography will remember how his reign of terror paralysed the North of England as he struck in Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Halifax, Huddersfield, Keighley and Silsden, before being finally caught in Sheffield.

And, coincidentally, as the news of his death broke (and was mostly celebrated), this book was already on its way to me:

And I was reading it while I was also on pan duty.

When they start to boil, turn them down

Well I remembered that much, and after putting my book down a couple of times to venture into the kitchen, found that both pans (one containing sprouts and the other mixed veg), were indeed starting to boil and so did as instructed.

Because the kitchen windows were steaming up, I opened the back door to let the air in, and then, to keep the cold draught out, closed the joining door behind me when I returned to the lounge.

It also kept out the smell of burning. Though Jen detected it as soon as she came home. Fancy that.

“What’s burning?”

“How do you mean?”

“Did you turn the pans down?”

“Yes,” I replied, thinking myself on safe ground.

We both went into the kitchen. Then it became a question of semantics.

“There’s no water in them!”

“They look okay.”

“They’re burnt.”

I peered in at the sprouts, picking up a fork to stir them around a little. “They’re not. Not all of them. Just the ones touching the bottom.”

“I gave you one job to do.”

“You told me to turn them down when they were boiling, which I did do.”

“And keep an eye on them.”

“You said to keep an eye on them before turning them down. I thought you’d be back sooner.”

“I thought you’d top them up with water when you checked them.”

She hadn’t mentioned anything about checking them after I’d turned them down, though I guess that sounded reasonable.

“You did check them again?”

I decided it best not to go down the verbatim route.

“Well . . . “

“Well what?”

“Every time I got to the end of a chapter the Ripper struck again.”

She looked like she was going to strike again, too.

“I should have known. You were reading . . . ”

Anyway, I didn’t think they were too bad. The sprouts were smaller than the ones of my last post, and so were softer, just how I like them. They just tasted a little . . . smoked.

Could barbecued sprouts be a thing? I’m not sure, but I think when Jen asks me what I want for Christmas this year I’d better say “Pans.”

Now the pots are all stacked up by the sink, and to get back into her good books I should make a start on them. But, speaking of books, you see, the Ripper is about to get caught . . .

Turn On Your Lights And Be Damned

Guys, 2020 . . .

This Halloween I didn’t see a single trick or treater. Not one. In fact, for wont of a phrase, you could say that where I lived that night it was a ghost town.

My family are supporters of a local non-League club. This season started two months late, and we have managed to get to four matches before it has been suspended again. On Tuesday we had the chance of one final match before this pause, fighting the elements to get the game on, but then we received the message that we’d lost the other fight:

one of the player’s family members had tested positive for Covid-19 and now some of the players and coaching staff were also showing symptoms.

Everyone that attended last Saturday’s game were advised that if they’d had any contact with any players or staff members and began to experience symptoms then they should isolate and take a test. Straight off I remembered that one of the players had shook my hand before kick off, and also my lad James had his photograph taken with his favourite player.

With all of the publicity about distancing measures and the like I should have known better, but, being the social animals that we are, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid our long-established instinctive acts when greeting each other.

At the moment everything is fine, we all appear symptom free.

Tomorrow we enter our second national lockdown, provisionally set for a month. On the cancellation of our game I bid my fellow fans farewell until December, possibly even 2021, as our club was mothballed again.

The lights are going out:

Regular City Jackdaw followers may recall that every Remembrance Sunday I attend a service and place a cross at the foot of a memorial on which family members are named, and also another on the site of my Gt Grandfather’s unmarked grave. Well, I’ve just heard that the services are beginning to be cancelled for this year. You could have put money on it.

I will remember in my own individual way this year.

We lost Easter and now Christmas is under threat. Normally I’m not an advocate of Christmas decorations going up before December, but this year is not a normal year. I think if people need to then they should put up their trees and decorations whenever they want. Whatever it takes to lift their spirits.

This year more than ever, though it will be a different kind of Christmas, it is still the light in the darkness, the hope in despair.

And I do think that by then that the end will be in sight.

(Oh For) Peace In Our Time

My daughter, Millie, jumped out of the car, excitedly waving a piece of paper in the air without even closing the door.

“Dad, guess what?” She looked like Chamberlain brandishing his treaty.

“We have peace in our time?” I replied, shouting equally as loud across the leaf-covered garden.

“What? No-I’ve got to isolate! School have given me a letter saying I’ve been in contact with someone who has Coronavirus!” She was beaming.

I looked to my wife, playing Millie’s personal home-time chauffeur, who nodded in confirmation.

“Who?”

“They can’t say, but I DON’T HAVE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL UNTIL THE 3RD OF NOVEMBER!!!” She was almost maniacal in her glee.

“The third . . . of . . . November?”

NOVEMBER!”

It turned out that there was indeed a confirmed case in Millie’s year, someone who she’d been in close contact with, and, taking in account the half term holiday, that’s another twenty one days off school. It has only been five minutes since the kids had had six months off.

Three of Millie’s close friends also received copies of this letter. Tonight, by phone, they’d form a quartet of sleuths wrapped up in their very own whodunnit.

It had only been a matter of time, with different years in different schools being forced into similar action over the last month. James’ school was surely overdue, too.

Later, for our Drama Queen, would come the expectant angst, but for now it was only holiday fever that Millie had.

It doesn’t affect the rest of us, yet. She has to isolate for fourteen days, the rest of us can continue as before unless Millie starts with symptoms and it’s at that point we would be impacted, having to also isolate and be tested.

A difficult winter has been predicted by the experts. Now, I’m no member of SAGE, but I’m predicting a difficult three weeks ahead for the Murray household. What with a housebound, paranoid, over-dramatic adolescent with a tendency to hit hyper-speed in 0.5 seconds, I may need to hold my own COBRA meeting.

In the meantime, little Miss Millie is on lockdown. For the rest of us – I’ll let you know.

Mr Chamberlain, where’s your face mask?