The Lockdown Diaries 6: No Time To Be Bored

London

Selfish joggers are now the target of national hatred.

It’s not all intellectual wordplay and learning new juggling skills up here in Fowler Towers, you know.

I’ve decided that supine entertainment is far more enjoyable than going for a walk. Preferably curled up with as many cushions as one owns. We’re British, we’re thinking; who needs to go out ever again?

Besides, around the centre of the city walking means squeezing past them. The spitting, gasping, utterly selfish Gen X joggers, the most hated group in the country.

But Lockdown has its advantages. It’s proven to be the perfect time to catch up on all the TV shows I’d promised to watch. The advantage is that the charlatan shows have been exposed and dumped by the public, and we late arrivals only have to see the proven successes. No-one will ever need to watch a single frame of ‘Lost’ again. Likewise generic superhero series cobbled together on American streaming platforms, all of them seemingly aimed at dimwitted sugar-addicted children, and po-faced dramas about people who look like robots or vice versa.

Instead I finally got around to seven seasons of ‘Veep’, a less filthy version of ‘The Thick of It’. Selina, the titular VP, is vacuous, bullying, selfish and without a redeeming feature, but of course this is not a series about characters. Like all of Armando Ianucci’s work it’s about the panic of losing control. The difference in ‘Veep’ is that there can only be limited loss of control because over them all hangs the invisible presence of the POTUS, the ultimate out-of-control zone. On balance I preferred the madness of the sadly cancelled ‘Brain Dead’, in which brain-eating aliens take over Republicans, the joke being that nobody notices. The single remaining series is well worth checking out.

‘Friday Night Dinner’ somehow got to seven seasons without me noticing. What I had lightly dismissed as a traditional Jewish sitcom turns out to be well, that certainly, but also an offbeat mashup of ‘Green Wing’ and ‘The In-Betweeners’. I especially like Jim, played with the right degree of disturbing eerieness by Mark Heap.

For serious viewing I’m addicted to ‘The Looming Tower’, set in 1998, with Peter Sarsgaard (CIA) facing off against Jeff Daniels (FBI) in the run-up to 9/11, as their internecine war allows for crucial intel to fall through the cracks. Written by Dan Futterman and Lawrence Wright (the book’s author), it hurtles about the Middle East visiting cells on both sides and demands close attention, which is well rewarded. While the dialogue is not quite up to the Aaron Sorkin gold standard it’s powerful – and damning – viewing. but the self-contained series got lost in the last glut of US entertainment.

The other fun home activity, now that the Husband and I are on separate dining schedules, is cooking my own random meals. Last night I knocked out an easy favourite, Anchovy Lemon Pasta.

1 Sicilion lemon

1 large clove garlic

6 anchovies

1 shallot

1 fistful of breadcrumbs

Anchovy oil and olive oil

Spaghetti

Heat the oil mix and fry the anchovies, garlic, shallot and several pieces of lemon peel until soft, then set aside. Fry the breadcrumbs. Boil the pasta. Into a large bowl toss the anchovy mix with half the lemon, add spaghetti and finally the breadcrumbs.

With no lockdown end in sight for us and the PM urging caution while he tries to locate all the seasoned professionals he fired from the cabinet and replaced with inexperienced sycophants, we remain patient, but with much to amuse ourselves. And if I had to find a bright side, I’d say that getting sick in lockdown certainly reduces one’s FOMO.

40 comments on “The Lockdown Diaries 6: No Time To Be Bored”

  1. My problem, as a gen 00 runner, is all the people that have suddenly taken up walking. Near my home, pre-lockdown, footpaths, along roads and through fields, were largely deserted, even on sunny Sundays. Now, there are people every 20 metres, often 3 or 4 abreast. Distancing of 2 inches is impossible, never mind 2 metres. I’m sure daylight is a novelty to most of them, as is walking further than the bus stop. Though I enjoy it and it’s important for my health, I’ve suspended my running programme. I hope that I can start again before my fitness is reduced to the gasping, spitting jogger level.

  2. Jan says:

    Here Mr F. that’s much the of sort of old mash together menu that I have been producing for ages just by reaching into the back of my food cupboard which is so.high I can’t even see up there and dragging out things I haven’t seen for years since I pitched them up there in the 1st place.
    (When hopefully they were in date cos they ain’t any longer many of them that’s for sure)

    However my mashups go perfectly well with the grub I am harvesting from potential land drains. – this tasty gear that taints cows milk that’s really very flavoursome.

    But it ain’t pastries or cakes Chris. I need to hear more about things you can find in bakeries send pictures and photographs of this food porn. it’s just not the same googling them some silly sod keeps wanting to show you how to cook them then. This is not what’s required. Would you post that lovely short story with Nigella in It that made me laugh and send pictures of eclairs, choux buns, strawberry tarts and similar.

    Hope u r having a good day.

  3. Interesting recipe: I’d try it if we and our supermarkets hadn’t run out of decent gluten free pasta. We semi-binged Harry Bosch on Amazon.

  4. bill051 says:

    Did you catch up with UK cop series “McDonald and Dodds”? Very clever idea . A policeman who should have retired years ago solves crimes by disappearing into the library and reading old books of local history. Hates modern technology. Wears a long scarf. Big boss hates him. Where do these writers get their ideas?

  5. Mike says:

    Peter, we binged on Bosch and have now run out.
    Trying to ration The Last Kingdom but it’s difficult.
    Have to start looking for a new series.
    I’ll investigate Admin’s list and hope the Fuehrer finds one she likes.
    We seem to be eating some strange mixes as well and I’ve noticed the jar and tin cupboard is shrinking rapidly.
    Cheese sarnies with 3 year out of date chutney turned up for lunch.

  6. admin says:

    I’ve just checked the reviews of McDonald and Dodds…they’re generally horrible. And it’s set in Somerset, a perfectly lovely place to visit for Sunday lunch, so long as you leave before five (traffic).

  7. We enjoyed “McDonald and Dodds” and also noticed the similarities to some of our favourites. I put some of that down to the show recognising the general anti-old, anti-expert, anti-non-social attitudes that are prevalent. The sound track was a touch marginal.

  8. Brooke says:

    @Peter T: I feel your pain. I moved near river so that I could bike w.o encountering people who recently discovered they have legs. Well, that didn’t work; must they walk 3 abreast, which given obesity rate means at least 3 metres across the path. So I retreated indoors to stationary bike; exercise rooms are now closed–arghhhh#!
    Pastry? Pasta? No can do.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Our neighbourhood is good for walking. It’s mostly people walking their dogs and there’s lots of space. I remember when the cows who supplied our milk got into the new leaves on the wild cherry. I think mother got her milk money back. I can imagine that garlic mustard thing would be at least as bad.

  10. snowy says:

    Wait… What? Now we are doing recipes?

    Wild Garlic Pesto

    Note this recipe has been adapted from the original to use up household ingredients likely to be found during lockdown.

    Ingredients:
    4oz Wild Garlic leaves [pulled out of a local ditch]
    2oz Peanut Butter
    3 Dairylea Triangles [foil removed]
    1 squirt from a Jif lemon
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Preparation:

    Rinse the garlic leaves under running water, preferably at home and not in the actual ditch, taking care to remove any sheep droppings. Shred with a knife.

    Place the shredded leaves in a pudding bowl with the rest of the ingredients and pound with the end of a rolling pin, discover after 2 minutes that this is a bloody stupid way to make anything and tip the whole lot into a large jug and go at it with a stick blender. If it seems too dry add a little splash of ‘Crisp and Dry’.

    [If suitable pasta is not available, Gnocchi can be made by mixing together mashed potato and that bag of tapioca you bought because you couldn’t find a wallpaper paste.]

  11. Andrew Holme says:

    ‘The Looming Tower’ was excellent, superb acting especially Tahar Rahim. Always a pleasure to watch him. Have you seen his audition for ‘A Prophet’? Quite extraordinary. One of the lesser known stories from 9/11 is that John O’Neil who did so much to try and stop it, died in the WTC. He was starting his new job as Head of Security. I’m reading Laurie Garrett’s account of 9/11 called ‘I Heard the Sirens Scream’. Does anyone remember the anthrax attacks immediately after 9/11? I’d completely forgotten. An interesting synchronicity; during the threat and panic of possible bioterrorism, a biology lecturer was interviewed and gave the advice that drinking bleach would alleviate any attack. Ring any bells?!

  12. If you live in an area subject to invasion by moles, growing garlic (wild or other) and onions is the most effective (and kindest and economical) way of keeping the little devils out of your garden. Growing it yourself rather than collecting from the wild also avoids exposure to the nasties that go into agricultural drainage.

  13. Brooke says:

    Snowy–dairylea and peanut butter? !

  14. snowy says:

    I refer my learned friend to the rubric that proceeds the list of ingredients.

  15. snowy says:

    [If we wish to compare cuisines, I could make a comparison with Chitlins.]

    [Oh, podcast tip if you are not completely busy with webinars, RiskyTalk with Michael Blastland and Professor David Spiegelhalter.]

  16. John Williams says:

    I’m coping quite well as per previous posts. A plus with the current situation is that there appears to be less mobile use and more family time, especially dads out and about with their offspring. I’ve actually been out cycling, following the path of the local river. Nice to see if there’s any samphire; whether the lady swan has laid eggs and met a stranger for a chat.

    Looking to the future, I think that I will be going out earlier for a social drink, rather than later. I’ve got into bad habits.

    I keep reading about reports of businesses going bust. It may sound rather selfish, but why should I worry about other peoples problems? Somebody else will replace them and if not, so what. They’ve had a good run charging £10 for ‘gourmet’ burgers and £20 for a bottle of plonk. Good businesses will survive.

  17. admin says:

    Snowy – what Brooke said. Peanut butter is not for eating, it is used for caulking coracles.

  18. snowy says:

    Like you have never had Satay…

    [I personally can’t stand the stuff, only fit for mousetraps.]

  19. Brooke says:

    back at you, Snowy. Chitlins are definitely not among the household ingredients likely to be found among during lockdown in any US home I know of–maybe lime jello, marshmellows and stale potato chips for a tuna surprise casserole.

  20. Wayne Mook says:

    Watched a few episodes of the new Van der Valk, I found it a bit underwhelming like the new theme tune. Nothing wrong with it, I like Marc Warren, but it’s a bit empty. They are also not some small obscure team or working in some backwater so the lack of uniform police is a mystery, and after 2 episodes I’m seeing some of the same plot dynamics which is not a good thing when they give the game away. I hope it’s just two similar episodes but I get the feeling it’s not.

    Wayne.

  21. snowy says:

    Jello and Marshmallow kebabs coated in a batter made from potato flour with just a hint of salt, deep fried to a golden brown. [I’m sure I’ve eaten less healthy fare!]

  22. Ed DesCamp says:

    @ Helen – did you say “apple dumpling monkey bread”? Can you share your recipe? She Who Must Be Obeyed has a sweet tooth…

  23. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I went off Van der Valk when someone on my corridor in my uni halls of residence played the theme tune turned up to 11 at 3 am for several weeks.
    I like Marc Warren, but I haven’t risked it so far. If the new theme tune is underwhelming, I might give it a try.

  24. Obviously you have watched Schitt’s Creek more than once. In spite of the awful title it’s a work of genius. Funny, with heart. And gay romance.

  25. Helen Martin says:

    Ed, it’s rather strange but here goes from a booklet of monkey bread recipes:
    Filling:
    1/4 c butter 3 lb apples peeled & sliced 1/4 inch thick
    1/4 c. granulated sugar 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
    1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp allspice 1/4 c cider (they don’t say hard or soft)
    1 tsp vanilla
    Melt butter, add everything but the vanilla, stir and cook until apples have softened (10 – 12 min). Remove apples to 15 x 10 baking pan, spread to single layer. Add cider to original pot.(There’s a problem because you’re told to stir/cook until it reduces to 1//2 c. so possibly that should say 3/4 c up there?) Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour over apple slices. Cool completely. (Can make day before & refrig.)

    Dough
    1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast 3/4 c warm water
    3/4 c warm whole milk 1/4 c gran. sugar
    3T canola oil 2 tsp salt
    3 3/4 to 4 1/4 c. plain flour
    Dissolve yeast in water then add everything but flour. Add 1 1/2 c flour and beat until smooth. Add flour and beat until you have a soft dough. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth & elastic. Put in bowl, cover & let rise in warm place about 1 hour.
    Punch down dough. On lightly floured surface roll dough into 18 x12 inch rectangle. Spread cold apple mixture evenly to within 1/2 inch of edges. Cut into 24 3 x3 inch squares. Make 4 stacks of 6 squares each. Place stacks on edge in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise till double – about 45 min.
    Preheat oven to 350 F (don’t know C or gas mark)
    Bake till well browned 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour
    Cider sauce
    Bring 3 1/2 c cider and 1/2 c brown sugar to a boil Cook to reduce to 1 c. Add1/4 c butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla Cook and stir until thickened.
    Glaze
    Beat 1 c confectioners sugar, 4 oz cream cheese, 1/4 c butter, 1 tsp vanilla and enough cider to achieve spreading consistency

    Use either sauce or glaze or both to top loaf. Pull off sections of loaf to enjoy.

    544 cal per serving with 20 gm fat and 88 gm carbs.Perhaps ideal for Chris?

  26. Ian Luck says:

    My all-time favourite sandwich to annoy other people with (and it’s delicious) is peanut butter. And bacon. The salty bacon is cut by the sweeter peanut butter. It’s superb.

  27. snowy says:

    Ian, if you think about what a peanut is, ie. not a ‘nut’ but a legume, what you have created sounds very close to a Pease Pudding and Ham Stottie.

  28. Ian Luck says:

    Oh, Snowy, if only I had invented it – it was a favourite snack of Elvis Presley, who went two steps further: a layer of jam, and then fry the whole thing in butter. Way too far, and possibly among the reasons that I made my 56th birthday – and Elvis didn’t.
    I have made a Monty Python ‘Spam, Egg, Sausage and Spam’ sandwich, as an experiment. It was absolutely delicious, but I had to have a sit down and a serious think about what I had just done afterwards.

  29. Agatha Hamilton says:

    Snowy’s recipes remind me of the occasional recipes in the wonderful ‘Cooking with Fernet Branca’

  30. Bronwen Rowlands says:

    Good god, food gets people talking. But my favorite post is Peter’s mole tips.

  31. Helen Martin says:

    I am assured that the very best sandwich of all time is mayonnaise and Walla Walla onions. Vidalia onions are not an acceptable substitute apparently. I admit to being very fond of these sweet onions myself and wonder if the preference is because only the Walla Wallas will grow in this part of the world. You have to go to the American south to be able to grow vidalias on this continent.

  32. Ed DesCamp says:

    What a Helen said, although my dad always preferred Walla Walla sandwiches with butter. Now I’m thinking I know what lunch tomorrow will be!

  33. Jan says:

    So do you just have onion sandwiches then? Just fried onions and bread and butter? Nowt else? Or cos they are sweet and mild are they raw then these onions? You can’t have been eating a raw onion butty surely? What sort of bread are we talking about here? With MAYONNAISE? That’s very peculiar. They must repeat on you all day well at least till tea time. No cheese? I like cheese and raw onion sandwiches any sort of bread fancy or factory that’s ok.

  34. Ed DesCamp says:

    Admin – this is a great note by Rodrigo Garcia to his father, Gabriel. The pandemic has hit Spain so hard, yet people not only adjust, but will forget in time.
    All the best to you and your partner.

  35. Helen Martin says:

    Walla wallas are best eaten raw. My other half doesn’t have trouble with the onion/mayo combo and even I don’t have trouble with the onions alone. In Britain I think it’s vidalias, but I have forgotten where the various ones will grow. The DesCamp family must have lived in the Seattle area for a long time. Butter and onions sounds better to me.

  36. Ed DesCamp says:

    Jan…my father loved cheese, but I never saw him have it with his onions. Guess he wasn’t a fan of the Rutles…

  37. Ian Luck says:

    My oldest friend used to make a sandwich that he named a ‘Death Row’. It was a layer of raw onions on buttered white bread, then a layer of slivers of really strong, aged cheddar cheese; another layer of onions; a crushed clove of garlic, a good sprinkle of Tabasco, the same of Worcestershire sauce, and closed with another slice of bread. He made me one once, and it made my teeth itch.

  38. Helen Martin says:

    My other half says either Tabasco OR Worcestershire but not both, Ian, and neither if they’re walla wallas or even vidalias because you don’t want to tamper with the sweet flavour.

  39. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – I have long been in the belief that my friend seared all his tastebuds off many, many years ago. He has family in North Carolina, and, on visits, seeks out the hottest food he can. So, Tabasco and Lea & Perrins? Yup.

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