Week Number 13: Hubby vs. the girls, dog folk and the “floret”

You must be wondering how long can she go on for. If you know me you wouldn’t even entertain that thought, I would just see it as a challenge. Anyway as it is out of my control I continue to do and watch with amusement and at other times with incredulity the world around me. I am on furlough till end July so need to engage the grey cells by doing something a bit more , have yet to decide what that could be.But no worries on the exercise front as the watch still hounds me when needed.

Leave me alone watch

The garden story continues to write itself thanks to this glorious weather.

The bloody non existent cauliflowers that bolted decided amongst themselves, the few that I hadn’t pulled out that is, to tease me. They had nominated one to produce a “floret”. That could really provide Cauliflower three ways for a doll perhaps!

If you look hard enough

The courgettes are like triffids; I feel like telling them to calm down and stop hogging my small veg area. The sugar snaps are starting to get comfortable and I reckon will be climbing up those poles any day.The beetroots (grown from seed) have been planted out; here we go again. I will watch with baited breath and report on their progress.

Lettuce , kale, courgettes, beetroot and tomatoes

There was a time when I used to grow a lot of beetroots and once I nearly called the surgery for an appointment because I ate so many that my wee turned red! Too much information but I consider that a public health information service. The tomatoes are popping up everywhere. Did I tell you that I actually hate fresh tomatoes (weird texture and taste), along with celery; devil’s foods, both of them. I’m sure student and hubby will be snuffling them down unless I use them in a curry or pasta sauce first. It must be my age but I am now starting to share cuttings with friends.

Indoor plants gifted

I thought it was only my mother in law who did that sort of thing. The rose that I’ve coveted is here , blooming and fragrant.If you are interested it is thornless too, clever rose, Zephyr Druid.

The rose

My longing for a larger garden continues and I gaze at my plot and wonder what else I can squeeze in without upsetting the student and the hubby.

Because the weather has been so good it has meant less time in the kitchen. There is a definite correlation. Since last week I’ve baked and cooked a few things. On Monday I made what I can only call something between a pie, a quiche and a tart? A peiche perhaps. The contents were spinach, feta, ricotta, pine nuts and sultanas. Those observant ones will say that is a spanakopita, ok so you got me! But there was no filo pastry so is it really?

The pieche

Then on Tuesday I rustled up a quick pasta bake, which was one of the best ever. Left over asparagus which was limp as anything, sliced courgettes, diced aubergine, red onion and plenty of mozzarella and parmesan with good old tube pasta.

Best pasta bake

When the weather was bad on Wednesday I decide to cook a feast for a friend’s birthday bash. For starters I made Banana and Fenugreek bhajiyas (pakoras) with a coriander/chillies/mango/tomato/apple chutney. I know what you’re thinking, what’s fenugreek and what are you doing putting bananas in a pakoras, surely it’s for banana bread! For mains it was okra, cauliflower & peas and lentils. I really enjoyed making all the food and it was well received, thankfully.

Home cooked not takeaway

I baked a carrot and walnut cake which was yummy, and I did put more sugar in the cream cheese this time (I take on feedback, it’s a gift I’ve been told). And some of you may be wondering if I baked that cake for the ex, well I couldn’t say no to the student. I did the Lisa Faulkner Fantasy cake, which is essentially a Strawberry and Almond creation.

Carrot & Walnut
Strawberry & Almond

Then on Sunday I recreated mummy’s mooli (radish) parathas. Perfect Sunday treat, comfort food at its best and served with yoghurt and pickle and washes down with mug of tea.

Mooli parathas

The bike came back from the bike hospital in quick time. I couldn’t wait to join the MAWIL (middle aged women in lycra)gang again. Actually it’s more MAWICC (middle aged women in comfortable clothing). One of the group now has Strava. I know right. We just need to learn how to use it and actually read the route as we are cycling. So I wore my new bike gloves on my last long bike ride and I can certainly confirm that they are a great addition.

Hand modelling

Below I just wanted to compare the differences between my bike rides with hubby (few as he keeps leaving me for his biking buddy) and the one with the ladies. Work out which is which?

Speed of ride : ok or bloody fast

Length of ride : 20km or how far do you want to go?

Problem : forget it or good chance of resolution

Photo taking: mandatory or only if you push it

Stops: Several or None – unless you’re crossing a road !

Food: Carrots & houmous/cake/dates/popcorn/sandwiches/hobnobs or Energy bar

Conversation: Flowing or Minimal

Feedback on your cycling: None or Plenty (apparently I am better and faster – my speed was like a walker before 🤨)

Bike fun
Selfie !! Ofcourse

I’m not going to say which one is more fun at this stage, perhaps you can work it out. I need to keep hubby on side as I am working upto him giving us a tutorial on cycle maintenance. I haven’t actually agreed this yet but with my negotiation skills I’m sure it will be soon; perhaps I can ask the student to intervene.

I have realised that a lot of people around me are dog owners. I am not quite sure how it happened but it just has. I am now going on doggy/pooch walks with a certain Raffa and Betsy.

Raffa on the left and Betsy on the right . Gorgeous

I have nothing against dog owners, some of them are my good friends and family. But I know that they are a sensitive lot. A walk in the park is never easy. The ‘stay alert’ mantra comes in handy. You never know when your “baby” (the dog) will encounter some rude and unfriendly dog or even owner. It’s best to keep them on the lead. I love the small dogs with attitude, coming up close to the big boys and almost saying, “come on then”. A friend said recently, “I think I would really like a dog but I don’t think I could cope with the “pooh” pick ups”. The dog owners jump straight in, “well you did it for the babies”. Yes, but we stopped after a while! And god forbid if you’ve got a big dog, the maxi size bags needed for sure. Also you just get used to it.

However, I love going for dog walks. They are more a series of mini walks with lots of stops; calling for the dog, admonishing the dog for trying to eat something; stopping the dog from getting into any altercation with another dog and then making sure they are ok when another dog doesn’t want to play. It’s a mine field, they are just like children and can make or break your day or your bank balance. Like anything they come with a host of opportunities to accessorize, my favourite of the moment is Betsy’s bassinet. I defy you not to make cooing sounds when you see it.

Betsy cosy

We actually have a talented neighbour who creates images of your pet.It is a winner, no pet owner is going to say no to these wonderful images.

Local business creations

So, if I ever ever talk about owning a dog, you will know that aliens have taken over. I can barely look after myself ! Don’t hate me you dog lovers and I know some of you know that dogs are better than humans.

On the summer solstice a small group of us met to practice yoga outdoors under the sun on grass by the River Ouse. Yes we gave the passerbys some entertainment but as I had my eyes shut for quite a lot of the time I am not sure what they made of it all. I’m sure that’s nothing compared to what else is on offer in Bedford town.

Beautiful Bedford

So a few weeks ago we came to an asana called The Plough, where you essentially flip your legs over your head as you lie down on your back. Sort of thing kids are always doing, god bless them. I don’t think explained that well.

The plough

This image will show it better. I would like to announce that I completed it on Sunday, thanks to our teacher.

The social diary is getting busy now that everyone seems to be opening up their gardens for small groups. I may have to go back to using a diary. We even played bingo on zoom recently; feel free to try. The tension was there and it was actually good fun. Not quite Bongo Bingo.

Concentration for bingo

I leave you with my most important purchase this week . to ensure my credentials as Mrs Mop don’t wane. Yes a new mop. I bought it at the local Sainsburys and I was suckered in by one of the brands! All these years around marketers and still haven’t learnt. Hubby can now really call me Mrs Mop. I may even use it this coming week.



NB: I wonder when we will go to 1m. A new dance in town, the one meter shuffle. Kerching for all those sign makers. Out with the 2 and in with the 1. So much for being green !!

NNB: Marcus Rashford (note correct name) we salute you ! Next time I need anything doing I am going message you and not my MP. So impressed !

NNNB: I was telling someone (you know who you are) that the hubby and I have been watching Celebrity Gogglebox. She said , “so you are watching famous people watching their televisions.” There was a silence…. and then they came. “ Oh, the student introduced us to it a while back. It’s really good downtime tele on a Friday night. I like looking at the houses of the rich and semi famous.” Think I did enough to recover my credibility.

NNNNB: So am keeping an eye on the business news and the following two cliches caught me eye ;

“Pent up demand”: cos we just can’t wait to shop. Some of us have been doing it already don’t you know!! No penting upping going on here. “Kicking the can down the road “: this can be applied to anything at all. All it requires is deciding on indecision I’m sure.

NNNNNB: I did a good deed this week. I was very proud of myself. It was difficult but I worked at it and shared my mango box with a friend! Those who love mangoes will understand what a sacrifice that was, especially towards the end of the season.

Week 12: No more 5.30am get ups, bike talk and the anniversary walk

Hello, yes I’m still here. Hubby and I should have flown to the Amalfi coast on Saturday 13th June for our walking holiday. Oh well,that’s another week ticked off in sunny Bedford. Not sure what was happening with the stars last week but the spirit of “dippyness” had entered our house. You’ll understand later. The week was again filled with walks, a bike ride, a little bit of cooking, some baking, selling face masks and some social distanced gatherings. No chance of having my own support bubble as the hubby is still here ! I think that’s a positive; I think he’s my support.

There are days when I over commit (those that know me will be rolling their eyes, I can see you) and Tuesday seemed to become that day. It starts with the feeling I now have the whole day ahead and no meetings or schedules; what can go wrong. So I start off with 6am yoga. I do my Mrs Mop routine. Can someone please tell me how a house that has only two adults manages to get so dirty! Mystery of domesticity. And why is the shoe cupboard in chaos now, who did that ? I cleaned it in week 1 or 2. Back to the day, I then went for a long walk, more chat than walk. One can’t walk in Bedford now without bumping into (not literally as we’re all still doing the 2m shuffle). This add extra minutes to your planned day but it’s a good thing. Then I race back home as had agreed to go for a bike ride at 1.30pm.


It was one the longest ride my friend Susan and I had done, 24km, possibly a little more. My bike had started to make a funny noise a couple of days earlier and it seemed harder to pedal but I just put it down to me being tired and my yoga thighs and quads. We decided to come back via roads that included a couple of hills . It seemed like a good idea. We both needed more time on the roads. Those lorry and van drivers race by intentionally just to give cyclists a little scare …Anyway I spent most of the journey saying , “you go ahead , you’re much fitter than me, I’m tired.” We manage to get back in one piece , the second hill did defeat us though. Roll on 24 hours and hubby just does a quick check on the bike. He asks if I have been riding the bike in this condition. Bloody stupid question, he knows I’ve been out. He tells me that there is something wrong with the gears which effectively meant that I had been riding with some brakes on. So much for Susan being fitter and my tired thighs. Don’t say anything at all !! Yes I’ve already been told, “know your bike”. On a positive note my trendy new padded shorts are pretty awesome, it feels like I’m wearing a nappy and it looks like I’m wearing a nappy too. The bike went into bike hospital on Friday to make it better. The hubby had to come with me. Because you know that I couldn’t deal with it !! Another one banked for future disagreements.

Damn that hill

So let me introduce you to the world of bike talk. Basically take a word , affix some letters and digits to it, pretend you’re on a space mission you’re nearly there. Hubby was suitably embarrassed by me and accused me of behaving as if I was in a clothes shop when we went to drop it into Flame Rouge, trendy name don’t you think?

The amazing Flame Rouge

It was as if he was talking a foreign language. I felt like an out of place uncool kid. As we walk out he says you need to up your bike speak. So over the following day or so I’ve been pulling together a few;

⁃ Do you strava ?

⁃ Do you go padded or au natural ?

⁃ Do you stop for tea and cake when you go out?

⁃ What do you think of hybrid tyres?

⁃ Do you go out when it’s raining?

⁃ How many gears have you got?

I’ll keep exploring my new inner cyclist.There has been tentative talk of a second bike, again that may be me just getting ahead of myself. I really do like the idea of an EBike. I just need to conquer my fear of busy roads , high speed and a sore bottom. But they really do look supersmart. I also need to add that to the list of wants #firstworldgreed.

Onto Wednesday, the day after the mammoth bike ride (remember it’s relative) I moved from bed to sofa to kitchen without having brushed my teeth. You’ve all done it ! I can’t really remember much more of that day.

Thursday June 11th, the great day arrived . Our 9th wedding anniversary. At our age these single digit anniversary dates are also important. The year known for gifts of pottery. Our annual trip to Brighton was obviously impossible. I didn’t want to be on the BBC news.So we scratched our heads and decided to go to a place called Grafham Water for a walk. When I say a walk, you might think a romantic walk. Not this one. Walking boots, layers (don’t forget your layers), waterproofs, no shades (schoolgirl error) and we were prepared. But in the end the sun came out , the cafe was open and more importantly so were the toilets! We broke for our anniversary lunch on a bench. Sandwiches and tea from the cafe accompanied by some crisps. Followed by some of my home made banana bread. We watched some birds, fishermen and other folks enjoying the great outdoors.I was jolly and sprightly and I promise the whining and whinging only started around 12km. Hubby reminded me it was around the same place last time we walked. Well at least I’m consistent. The whole walk was just over 15km and I can’t think of a better way to spend the day. Well actually if I tried hard I possibly could; a spa day , a day in Brighton, Delhi, Rome, you get the drift.


Back home the garden is doing me proud. So lush and green. We are starting to reap the rewards. We’ve had lots of lettuce, some spinach, coriander, a handful of strawberries and two spring onions.

My lone okra plant doesn’t seem to be enjoying its time in the garden, I wonder if hubby had fed it something! Have cleared half the cauliflowers, now we know why they bolted (pm me if you would really like to know). Will be planting my beetroot seedlings there shortly and perhaps the carrots if they are ok.

The runner beans and the courgettes are flourishing and I’ve just added some sugar snaps to replace the spinach.

I’ve even erected little teepee for them. And onto the show offs in the garden, they are all going well. We have the pinks/purples and whites clambering for attention .

Pinks and whites
Greens and yellows

On the other side it’s a more sedate greens and yellows. All colours are welcome in my garden. I did scare the hubby again by saying wouldn’t it be great if we had a greenhouse. I really should give you an idea of how small our garden is; it’s a garden or greenhouse scenario. It really would save a lot of money. Perhaps I can get one of those plastic pretend ones, you know the ones that look like a wardrobe and if the wind picks up so do they. What I’ve learnt about gardening is that one gets anxious, excited, disappointed, wowed and overly involved but it’s buffered by lots of joy. A little like a child.

We have come to the conclusion that since the student left us we have become lazy on the food front but our shopping bill is considerably lower. Although I cleaned the fridge and the contents are rather excessive for two.

Need to get cooking

I actually haven’t said we are missing her! One day, infact it was on the overcommitted day I decided to make a quick pilau.

Note to self for the nth time, be careful when you start using a new batch of chillies. So instead of having pilau with a bit of yoghurt it became yoghurt with a bit of pilau. Having said that hubby loved it.


We had a incident of too many bananas due to miscommunication and there was nothing else to do but make some Mary Berry Banana Bread. It just so happened that this was on the same day as I made rhubarb crumble (Greg Wallace’s recipe). I have never cooked rhubarb before, another bucket list item don. Taste feedback, it was bloody delicious with custard.

Rhubarb crumble and banana bread

Home grown spinach and coriander allowed me to make some pakoras and chutney and I felt pretty smug.

Pakoras and chutney
The prep mess

I continue to cook okra and spinach & paneer. It makes me happy.

Spinach and paneer another way and okra

We are also eating the home grown lettuce and we added the two spring onions to our salad. Let’s just say that Sainsbury’s has nothing to fear from us lockdown gardeners.

The student calls when she has time or wants something . So I get a call from the student. She starts by asking for some Indian recipes . She’s going to be cooking for some friends. Then she drops in, “don’t suppose you can post if mum, just joking, it won’t be as good as yours.” And I leave you with the gem from the student this week

⁃ Could I post some Bala samosas????. They do have shops and restaurants in Nottingham I say.

The final outcome was that her dishes turned out great and she sent me the photo to prove it.

Student’s offering

Are you ready for the list of things that we have been involved in this last week. Much of it is related to me, so I may need to get my brain working a little harder going forward. I can’t speak for the hubby !!

⁃ one set of car keys lost (accidentally slipped into an open bag)

⁃ hubby lost his watch (found within the motorbike cover!! I lost 20 minutes of my life for this)

⁃ I turned up a day early for a birthday celebrations (at least it wasn’t a day late!)

⁃ After chasing a number of people to pay our mango man, turns out it was actually yours truly who hadn’t paid.

Perhaps I need to get my list making back to full force.

The 12 week Yoga programme has finished. No more 5.30am get ups four times a week. But damn that body clock, I’m getting up then anyway. What to do ? I am more flexible, stronger and actually calmer (more eye rolling). Will be repeating it but 6am has now been replaced by 7am. I still have some purpose. I am strong .. what’s your affirmation in these tricky times.

As I leave you remember to shop shop shop to get our economy back into shape.



NB: Papa’s tip of the week was how to get mint chutney right. Don’t use lemons. Thanks papa!

NNB: At a recent gathering someone said, “my BA Gold card, won’t be gold anymore.” #firstworldproblems

NNNB: What do you call a group of furloughed people …. I’ll let you know when I’ve worked out something 🤷🏽‍♀️.

Week 11:More Mangoes , our summer holiday and #blacklivesmatter

Hello there !! Yes I’m still here and carrying on and staying calm and trying to be productive. Are you back to socially distanced work or still home going square eyed with the lovely Teams/Zoom/Skype or WebEx. Have you noticed the downturn in the zoom parties and quizzes? So all those people that you rarely saw over the year but were meeting virtually and weekly can go back to a sensible level. It’s hard to describe your weekly update and make it sound interesting… oh dear, stop now Seema, it’s exactly what you do!!

Standing strong

Just as a side thing the hubby said,”do you have to share everything in your blog”. If only be knew how little I share. I’ll let you decide if I share too much .

I’ve made it known that we need to move house . I haven’t really understood that we can’t afford it. All this cooking and gardening has meant that I want more space #firstworldproblems. I have had to stop watching Gardener’s World and the Chelsea Flower Show reruns on IPlayer (god, how middle class do I sound but am not, girl from Southall, said Soufall). This leads me onto the start of my teachings on basics of couple strategies. Start talking up your wants, keep repeating and just wait. You’ll understand this shortly.

So this was the first full week without the student amidst us; so much of my material lost. She’s gone back to the student house in Nottingham with her housemate. I think 10 weeks with the oldies was enough. There could have been a murder. She’s doing well and has now officially finished her degree. We hear from her and have catch-ups;especially when something is needed from Amazon Prime.This time it was sports socks; yes she is still on the keep fit routine. The piece de resistance from her yesterday was her thanking me for helping my ex, her dad, with honey sales and would I be up for baking his birthday cake shortly ? I’ll leave that one with you. Answers on a postcard, sorry on text/WhatsApp/messenger or simply call me.

Kitchen action has been pitiful this week. It went from a cheat meal, for the second time ever I used a pasta sauce (don’t hate me) but I can’t help tweaking it. So actually I should have just made my own !

I made a quick strawberry tart for a friend’s birthday.


We had pizza a la Sainsbury’s but again with added mushrooms and something! I returned to baking on Wednesday, my day of mooching. I made a raspberry & almond cake and a sort of apple upside down cake (psssst it only became an upside down cake because I over baked very slightly). I really should not be left at home too long.

Cake anyone ?

There is a petition to get me back to work (thankyou Lindsey Hoyle and Debbie Acquaye) and I’m happy to sign it too. And on Wednesday night I asked the hubby to make dinner as I was busy with yoga. We had a plethora of veg in the fridge and wondered what we would be feasting on. I enter the kitchen and he’s watching Killing Eve on the IPad and I casually ask what’s for dinner and he points to the hob. Oh! He has simply taken out the Indian food from the freezer!! There are two daals and the spinach & paneer curry. Thankyou to me for dinner then. This will form another part of the couple strategies. Just bank it. Is it only me who thinks this was wrong !! On a grey Sunday afternoon I returned to an old favourite, Veg by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall to try the recipe for Aubergine Parmigiana. Comfort food at its best.

Comfort food

The garden is lush, thriving in the sun and occasional rain. My new babies the beetroot seem to be doing well. I’m going to have to pull out the cauliflower; I need to be strong and not be too attached.

Green is good
Pot for the rose
Runner beans

My strawberry crop is light but then I only have 5 plants.

One each

I treated myself recently and purchased an okra plant, although it looks a bit pathetic. The runner beans are literally running away with themselves. The courgettes are spreading out and the tomatoes are the steady Eddies of the group. I’m trying not to be impatient but need to pick something pretty soon! Think the lettuce is virtually there …great . 🤦🏽‍♀️

My 12 week yoga program is coming to an end. Will this mean that I no longer get up at 5.30am. I know I will need to develop my own practice, perhaps starting a little later. We are now at the stage of connecting our mind and body to work as one; complete awareness through breath work to achieve physical and inner consciousness (that’s a quick summary, but will surely be sending a blog your way).

The hubby finds it tres amusing that I have started cycling after so many years of rolling my eyes at his obsession. I now think it’s ok to leave my bike in the dining room and off like a child given the chance.

Rest time

I have a new gadget that holds my phone just Incase I go somewhere new. I decide I need another pair of padded shorts, those seats weren’t designed for comfort as I found out on bumpy country fields. So I start googling and end up ordering some ladies Castelli padded shorts, let’s just say that I will never live that down. I’m not and don’t think will ever get to the bib stage … hope everyone knows what I’m talking about. So all these years I’ve been teasing hubby over his expenditure on his biking gear, now I am working my way to his thinking. I may even want another bike, no really I’m not joking(again, one for the couple strategies).

Gadget alert !
Dry bumpy land

The watch and I are friends again as I have walked lots this week and made sure to report that to the watch authorities!

Walking everywhere

We had a day’s holiday to Oxford to see some friends. It was whole day out with eating , walking and chatting and being somewhere different. It was such a relief, we imagined we were in the Lake District or Italy. We did a 12km walk through beautiful Oxfordshire villages. We tried to get into Blenheim but with no booking during a pandemic is a no no. So we skirted the edge and sneaked into Woodstock where all the coffee shops and food stores were open for takeaways. I sipped my tea and tucked into a vegetarian pastie as I sat on the doorstep of the Aga shop!Then we got on a bus home.

Summer holiday
It’s not sinking I promise

This week I was the mango distribution centre (ok it was only 18 boxes). Wonder what the neighbours make of it all. People arriving at the doorstep and walking away with honey or mangoes . I’m hoping next week brings something just as nice as mango season is coming to an end and no more honey for me. Whilst I gorge on mangoes I need to remember it’s the fruit with the highest sugar content;why wouldn’t it be, I love them, that’s why!! Life is cruel.


So if you remember I had managed to get a slot at the tip on Friday morning. The best till last. The hubby had managed to squeeze a tonne of cardboard and numerous bin liners filled with who knows what. I’m rarely late so was in plenty of time arriving at 9.00am for my 9.15 slot. Can you believe it there was a bloody queue. No panic needed, there is a nice man with a clipboard . Oh how my life has changed . Normally I’m the support team for tip visits or not even invited. It’s a bit of macho thing to go to the tip. I just let him believe that, so don’t ruin it. I was home within 40 minutes. No drama , no traumas, no rejection of my rubbish.

Meet my new friends

You may be wondering, what is this couple strategies you kept mentioning. Well it goes something like this. Your hubby mentions only a few days ago,”darling I’m thinking of upgrading my motorbike”. I roll my eyes, but know that this has been in the planning for sometime. He rides off towards Northampton on Friday afternoon and comes back a few hours later with an even shinier machine. I can see that it’s beautiful but it’s a motorbike. This is where the couple strategies come in. I make no fuss but know that I can ask for anything …. well at least for a while. I know it’s not cricket but I hate bikes. Oh, and look what arrived in an oversized box a day later!! What else do I need !? My list is getting longer.

The old
The new
Wonder what this is for ?

So as we enter the summer, schools open with social distancing in place, Easy Jet are playing around with flights, Ryan Air are full steam ahead, or are they, I’m waiting to get back to work. I hear hairdressers may open soon and the MK John Lewis too. What else do we need ?

The school wall

Who knew I could sink this low? Oh and then the Lockdown is loosening… but we still need to stay alert.🙏🏽

How can I finish this week’s blog without mentioning #blacklivesmatter .We are in 2020 and are still talking about equal rights. As a woman of Indian origin, and of relative privilege it is important to stand shoulder to shoulder and call out all that is wrong. I did attend the Bedford protest, which was peaceful and conducted with the pandemic in mind. Everyone wore masks and stayed 2m apart. I am proud to live in a multicultural town like Bedford. I am super proud of the student who is teaching us so much more about her world and the views of the youth. It gives me hope for the future but we cannot be complacent whatever your background. I would like to leave with the following poem

First They Came for the Jews

by Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left

to speak out for me.




Weeks 9 & 10: My baby has arrived, the veg trug, oh it’s runner beans 😂 and yeast anyone?

Hello, sorry I’m late. Well actually a whole week too late; what’s a day, a week, a month these days anyway. Between feeling a little flat after being told that I was to be furloughed till end June (yes I know it is an extended holiday and I am grateful but I actually enjoy working, well sometimes anyway) and the warm weather, it was all too much for me. I felt I needed to keep busy and perhaps overdid it… judge for yourself !

The weeks of waiting and the anticipation were at an end; the bits of wood that would eventually make up the veg trug arrived.

It’s here !

In true childlike excitement I ran to tell the hubby that his weekend project was here. I’m not sure I can pen that expression. Anyway roll onto Friday evening, he didn’t even wait until the weekend. I now understand it wasn’t enthusiasm it was purely “need to get this off my list” behaviour. As with any diy task my approach is to watch from a distance, perhaps with a cuppa and a slice of cake. One doesn’t want to be rude and stare. So I watched casually and watched a bit more. And then it came, the call for help. Understandably a second pair of hands is much needed sometimes and I would be churlish to refuse. I do as I’m told and then retreat again. And then it comes again and we stand there, walk around it, look at the photo on the box, checking and rechecking (note to Veg trug – take a leaf out of John Lewis assembly instructions manual, see further down). We establish that he’s built it back to front and after a little adjustment (undoing basically) it seemed prudent to stay. It is my baby after all. I’m being showered with “you are more logical” and “you have a better eye for this sort of thing”. Anyway it was made and looks beautiful and the following day I introduced it into the rest of the veg family. If nothing else it’s a nice bit of furniture in the garden. A very expensive bed to grow some lettuce , kale, courgette and perhaps a handful of strawberries; don’t judge me!

The prep
Support team
And voila

Some things have started to grow and as we had experienced confusion over the seeds in the earlier weeks we finally realised it was runner beans growing so frantically in my fabric raised beds … who knew that these things existed ? The tomatoes are storming ahead; did I tell you that fresh tomatoes are the devil’s food? Yuk and super yuk. As is celery. Glad I’ve got that off my chest. The cauliflowers have unfortunately bolted – again who knew there was such a thing. I am pretending it’s my ornamental garden. The sunflowers are rising upwards , although hubby had killed one of the eight. Everything else is hanging in there and I look forward to perhaps having enough spinach to make a spanakopita. I don’t think I will ever add up how much I have spent to grow a few veg but the pleasure it’s giving me is immense. The sheer relief when the shoots of green appear from a seed tray is huge , try it for yourself.

The veg patch

The student had decided some time ago that she was too big for a single bad but I had conveniently ignored it. It would mean disposing of the beautiful single bed . Anyway it was agreed and during this lockdown/relaxed lockdown it’s impossible to hide from a job and within a few minutes a double bed and mattress were ordered. Who can remember waiting weeks for furniture. The mattress and the bed were to be delivered within 3 days ! And incidentally on the same day as the veg trug. Note to self , must make an appointment at the tip for an annual supply of cardboard, but I’m sure you can understand my reluctance. If it’s a choice between walking , cycling, gardening , cooking or going to the tip, which one would you choose ??? Actually I’ll book the appointment now. My 5 friends will not be able to get to the garden if I don’t clear that passage. Will let you know how I get on.

So the bed construction was the second diy job thrown at the hubby in one weekend. A bit mean perhaps you may think but he approached it with a calm manner and headed upstairs. I stayed firmly seated in the lounge. The student thought that she would be the support on this project ; too bloody right. I stayed away but couldn’t resist a little check. Why do these company do this people … how many pieces and how many screws and of different sizes . But don’t worry the twenty page booklet will save the day. The Hubby did good; he didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t throw all the bits and storm off .. no not this time. The single bed is tidily packed away into the spare bedroom, aka our tip.

OMG they did it

The kitchen adventure continues .The great weather has meant that we have been eating alfresco occasionally and also not too much Indian. But one day I did make okra again much to hubby’s disappointment. I’m determined to make the hubby like them and also I was following student’s mantra and working through all the fresh veg we had in the fridge. New okra recipe found that involved them being shallow fried beforehand ; and voila he likes it. Frying is the answer my friends. His exact words were, “you should add this to your repertoire”.

Bhindi, daal and roti

I decided one day to have an Indian cookathon. There is a method to my madness. Done and dusted for a few days and some for the freezer. Not so silly.

Spinach and feta pie was made again and again a quick shower in between meant that I left the pastry too long ..so actually what appears to be a rustic pie is the pastry falling apart. Perhaps I should stop being so honest? I made another quiche (it’s part of my repertoire don’t you know!) made with home made pastry (will I never learn)… where I egg washed the baking parchment after the blind baking and wondered why it wasn’t soft. It’s ok it was spotted before I filled. Then due to popular demand I made another Bakewell Tart. Note to self – focus and don’t try to multi -task and rush and don’t try and bake the wooden chopping board along with the tart. I am only grateful it was the 10minute bake before adding jam. Lesson learnt I think. Anyway one Friday the hubby and student had sushi. The student’s friend kindly delivered. It was like watching people eat for the first time … they savoured every mouthful. They both used chopsticks and discussed each mouthful and how delicious everything was. The hubby has a jumpy moment with too much wasabi.The student then proclaimed how lovely the salmon was but can’t have salmon too often !! I may have to rename her. Did I tell you she’s gone all healthy on us and is creating her own food She gave me a list and I finally went to Sainsbury’s after 2 weeks. It was an exciting trip as I was looking for plantain, black rice, hard tofu (easy). miso paste and much more. I also came home with YEAST! Yes yeast from Sainsbury’s. The pandemic is over This is a sign. Interestingly I also received the yeast I ordered from Amazon, it’s come from bloody Taipei! I can read the weight and morning else. Now to use all this yeast .

Rustic pie
Yeast from the East

The student ordered the bits I couldn’t find on Amazon as I refused to go to Waitrose. A few days later we received these .. they accidentally sent us an extra pack of Rude Health granola. Another mound of cardboard was added to my pile. No we are not returning them!

Breakfast for a student 🤦🏽‍♀️

So I became a saleswoman for a few days for my ex husband.. yes you read that correctly. He’s known as the Honey Man in the village with his two new hives . I just happen to mention on five Whatsapp groups that he was selling the most recent crop and before you know it I had a spread sheet with names /orders and was delivering or arranging collections. And did I get anything for that … just the student getting her cut as the very initial idea for him to get a hobby years ago was hers . She keeps mentioning this, she’s going to make a good negotiator. She said she was doing me a favour because she knows I love sales and knew I’d have a spreadsheet going. Well, I do love excel but it has proved to be an interesting project.

Honey orders

The hubby called me Mrs Mop again. I’m seriously going to have to have stern words. It was the day I started a deep clean of our bedroom. I’m not sure what possessed me, spring rolls all over again. When was the last time you moved your bed and vacuumed there! Oh , it’s just us then. Some time later, I’ve cleared all the crates under the beds and shoved them on the landing, refusing re entry. Why do we have so much stuff? #firstworldproblem. I even went to the bottle bank finally and seemed to stand there for ages ! And I don’t even drink any of this. Go figure. It kept me entertained for a while matching white, green and brown bottles into the right slots. It felt like a game show but with no prize at the end other than a tidier passage.

Is that a laptop case from the 80s?

Meeting friends for walks and cycle rides (socially distanced) continues – we now have a budding cycling group Cyclotron. Sounds good . My ambition is always to get back home without falling and without any incidents. A puncture would be an incident as I don’t know how to fix one . That is my next challenge, a mini course how to maintain and fix my bike . I may go in house and see if the hubby wants to barter. I continue with the yoga as it gets more challenging but satisfying.

Wendover Woods
My bike



Question 1: would you queue for hours for a McDonalds? If the answer is yes .. please Unfriend me now x

Question 2: Your eyes are not quite right ? Would you

a) get into your car and drive.

b) make and appointment with an optician

c) get your partner to drive instead

d) call in a favour and get a private taxi.

Question 3: Have you decided who your first 5 people will be? Don’t stress and just spread the love over the week.

NB: I had to go hunting for compost last week . My life is now complete.

NNB I did bake but didn’t want to promote unhealthy eating so sneaking them here ..don’t tell anyone.

Week 8: ROI on spring rolls, the road trip and too much exercise

Hello to you all again. Yes I’m still here at week 8. Hope you are all keeping well and continuing to make the best of this situation, whether you are working long hours, part-time,furloughed and any other status. Hope you are still friends with everyone that is with you? No? Oh well. Try harder. This is the week I put up two fingers to my Apple Watch after last week’s accusation that I wasn’t exercising enough. Rude! I have photo evidence to boot.

Every day this week I’ve either walked, cycled or done yoga or a combination of the three. Everything aches, especially my dodgy ankle/foot but I keep getting told it’s good for me and need to do if I want to continue to eat the amount I am indulging in. I am also sleeping like a log; bed at 10pm, no small talk and the book stays unread. The latter will not make any difference to my attendance at the virtual Book Club.After yoga one morning I asked hubby to do a photo shoot much to his horror. I is a yoga model, in my furloughed world!! It was bloody cold at 7am in the garden. I remain committed to the cause much to everyone’s surprise and wonderment. Well boo hoo to you all and have more faith! And to the hubby, I am not obsessed. It may appear that I am but I am not obsessed. I am on the quest for the sloth pose and when the teacher says, “if you want a little more” ,that will be the cue for the duvet.

Each of the my three bike rides provided plenty of material for you. The first one was with a friend (we’re allowed now, socially distanced). “Don’t worry about the route” she says, “I know my way around the village” she says, “I’ve lived here for years” she says . We definitely got lost and were skirting a local golf course. It was the first day they were open and they were all out in their gear getting away from the families. We ask for direction to Biddenham and the dog walker asks, “where have you come from”. “Biddenham”, we say! He smiles and laughs as I shout, “have only lived here for 22years”. Even the student seemed concerned on my return,”you’ve been gone three hours, it was meant to be 1.5”. Parents please feel free to giggle.

Social distance cycling

During the second ride, my fellow rider manages to fall and times it for when there was an audience. It’s ok she’s not hurt, and the nettle leaves only stung for six hours. Our ride was like a scene from those old Enid Blyton books….. Two (not seven) go on an adventure. The third ride was with the hubby, who has made it his mission to improve my confidence and cycling skills and create adventure . But I’m like the queen when we go out. Hubby carries everything so I can concentrate on the cycling.He rides ahead warning me of enemies and foul hills and narrow paths. Bless him, he knows I’m a fair weather cyclist; it must be dry, sunny, flat, all off road ideally (I hate the roads) a drink stop and ideally a food stop. Other than that I’m happy to go anywhere, anytime and ideally be lied to about how long we are going riding which he does admirably and I know he’s doing it. Not sure how all that works.

Mr Cool

The walks vary and I’ve discovered new parts of Bedfordshire countryside.

I did double denim for one walk as it was so chilly.. I know it’s not a fashion show and I’m nearly 55 but the body was craving something other than leggings.

Double Denim

I’ve been better behaved and have worn leisure gear at all other times . We have even taken to carrying a mini rucksack, a 2.5 hour walk needs a tea break. This increase in exercise (all relative remember) means less time in the kitchen. But you know that whatever I will have cooked will have caused some drama.

Nelly the elephant

So let’s start with the family favourite; the vegetable quiche which nearly didn’t get made. In regular style I get all the ingredients ready and realise there are no eggs. Not really a problem as I was going for my favourite social activity later that day; Sainsbury’s. I meandered towards the eggs aisle and look in horror as it is bare. Did I miss something? When did we move from toilet rolls to eggs ?? Stay calm Seema there are other shops. I see my till friend and moan about the eggs and she sympathises. I make a dash for the smaller Sainsbury’s. Have to queue outside. Grrrr… the quiche is slipping away . I finally get in and go straight to the right aisle and there they are, eggs! Lots of them. Quiche is back on. I am on track the pastry is blind baked with baking paper and beans. The beans are removed. I egg wash the pastry , and bake for another few minutes. Did you spot the fact that I didn’t remove the baking paper 🤦🏽‍♀️! Anyway spotted it just before filling with vegetables. No quiche next week and perhaps for a while.

The quiche has arrived

Later in the week I decided, not sure quite sure what possessed me to make vegetarian spring rolls from the Prashad cookbook. I can’t explain what made me do it. I had all the ingredients and happen to buy the pastry sheets on my last trip to the indian shop. As you know I’m trying to become a 10/10 housewife and that requires that you must have all random ingredients in your store cupboard. A little like the Domestic Goddess Nigella . You many only use an ingredient once and then in next clearout out it goes. So the gazillion ingredients were prepped for this recipe. I got out the pastry sheets and as required kept them in the damp towel. I painstakingly filled and rolled 20 of the sheets. At 10 I wondered why had I started this? Perhaps we can just make toasted sandwiches with the filling? But I finished the 20 and even baked some of them. They were delicious but the ROI (return on investment) of my time I think is poor even with home made coriander chutney. Perhaps I’m using the wrong equation?

Spring roll ? Go to London Sweet Centre

And then on Friday I decided to make Bakewell Tart. Only because Mark Avery teased me with his efforts and it looked so tempting and not to mention the fact that it had been at least a week since I had baked. Standards were slipping. So I measured out everything on Friday morning to get to it after my walk and our road trip . I didn’t get to it until dinner time and I was so busy talking that I didn’t add all the flour I had weighed. Then I wondered why the pastry didn’t work. Both student and hubby rolled their eyes and questioned my sanity as to why I would attempt this at 9pm on a Friday. I cleared up and went to watch Gogglebox. Energised after my 6am yoga class on Saturday I started again with the sweet pastry . I now had 2 egg whites waiting for me for brekkie . Anyway the pastry would not roll, kept cracking. So I decided to put it in fridge. Sent an SOS to my baking helpline (no response). Had my breakfast and tried again. A little better but still didn’t roll. Stay calm, seems to be the week 8 Mantra. You can do this. What to do! So I just rolled as much as I could and then just pushed the pastry around the tin with my fingers. Hey ho! Whatever it takes. Anyway it tasted blooming marvellous , I know so because it was for 12. There are 3 here. One is not eating cake. That leaves 2. So being a feeder , I shared. Who knew that Bakewell Tart was so many people’s favourite and would be the cause of PRST (pastry rolling stress disorder).

The scrummy Bakewell Tart

I was late to the party in finding out about the opening of our my favourite Indian takeout in Bedford . On Thursday , I got whiff off it and and within a few minutes I had passed on the intelligence.It was the most rewarding task of my week.So those that live in Bedford or have known me for a while will know that Bala is place I get the samosas and our Friday night takeouts. In return for my news I heard back about another takeout place being open (god damn it had been open all the while 😂). I get spring rolls from there – you can see how cruel this timing was for me. By 5pm I had ordered . By 6pm I was collecting for 4 people and was the dealer for Bala and London Sweet Centre takeaways. Home cooking is good but takeaways are in another league.

So when you dream of a road trip, you imagine being in a convertible zooming along a lovely long road far far away with music drowning the wind and the sound of the engine. Perhaps a scarf keeping your hair in tact. Back to reality …this road trip was with my hubby on Friday, in a VW Golf down the M1! We get into the car and then don’t turn around within 10minutes – Bedford isn’t that big so the car must have realised something was either wrong or lockdown is over. The last time I saw my beloved M1 was on the 16th March. Well it was all just normal, nothing special , nothing has changed, same cars , just no jams. And it was the same on the M25 and M4. Not sure how I thought I would feel but it was just meh ? We collected mail and some bits from the flat, including two bowls and a cake stand; you can never have enough bowls 😉. Then onto Southall to Papa’s house to collect mail and check the house. We rescued his supply of beer and snacks. What an anticlimax that road trip was.

The student handed in her dissertation earlier this week, much relief and celebration. She surprised me again by arriving downstairs by 10.30am on some days. She has become so motivated by fitness and healthy eating. She keeps sending me recipe ideas.I wonder if I’ve influenced her? The whiteboard has been re-created for abs and full body workouts. Her runs are getting longer. No junk is being eaten, more for us and no need to hide anymore. Student has been creating some rather colorful salads and interesting recipes ; she just hadn’t learnt the art of bowlage (the creative and practical use of bowls to prepare ingredients for a recipe).

Prawn Salad ans Corn Fritter Ingredients

And in general news some entrepreneurial girls in the neighborhood have started a car cleaning racket. They are so good that we’ve booked them for a monthly slot. The smell of money to the young is so appealing that lie ins are a thing of the past- well that’s the rumor going round.

Girls hard at work

The Bedford tip has re-opened. Hoorah. But hold on you need to book an appointment. I can imagine the conversations, “Yes madam what do you have …. ummm bottles and cardboard. Does Thursday at 4.20pm suit? But we will need the bay back at 4.40pm.” The Garden Centres are open – I wish we had a bigger garden (#first world problem). But either way we are going, one day soon I hope, one can never have enough compost especially as we await the arrival of the Veg Trug during week 9.

As more of you go back to work in a safe manner. I wish you well. At least it will stop all those people who just come and loiter at your desk without invitation. Make enough room for a personal tea station as you won’t be allowed to go into the kitchens. Please don’t ruin your street cred by taking a flask!!


Seema -staying alert !!

NB1 Has anyone seen Boris recently ?

NB2: Rishi Sunak are you sure you’re a Tory

NB3:Good luck today anyone working in London trying to social distance.

Week 7: The 999 call, size isn’t everything and afternoon tea anyone ?

Can’t go wrong with mangoes

Helllooooo…… this was the week that lethargy was starting to set in and had to be addressed quickly ! My watch told me at the end of Monday how disappointed it was in my progress during various points during the day. Try harder and it’s not too late!! What are you my PT or my growing belly ? Anyway annoyingly it worked … I just don’t want to engage further with a watch. It’s bad enough that I’m talking to the student and the hubby more than normal.

Leave me alone

On a similar note are we all quizzed out and running out of responses for, “how are you” and “what’s new”? Responses such as “I’m fine” and “nothing” works I find. The fact that I have taken to enjoying my outings to Sainsbury’s and actively search out one particular till lady….we have our weekly catch-ups and discuss my food choices and our families. I can even scan my own Nectar card now. She’s very nice. This reminds me to tell you about the biggest compliment I’ve had this week from a friend (well, she says it was a compliment). Apparently I make an ‘event out of everything’ (© Debbie Acquaye). Is that me being a drama queen ? I would also like add that I attempt making the ordinary extraordinary. Has someone already said that? I bet they have and if not why not? Enough about me. All very self indulgent this week.Let’s move onto the student.

I’ve saved this from last week for you as my word count was too high ! The student provided additional entertainment on 1st May. So she left for her run, returns and is very happy to have done her PB for 5k. She’s not a runner by choice you see. As we were getting a breakdown her dad calls in a panic asking if she is ok. Of course she is ok. The police are at his house as they’ve had an abandoned 999 call from her number – they can hear heavy breathing on the message. He tells them she’s not there and happy for them to search the house!! The police then go back to Bedford Park, origin of the call and then they come here. The student is mortified and hugely embarrassed and very apologetic about wasting their time. She had accidentally dialled the emergency number with her sweaty palm whilst running and the noises were just her panting !Thankyou police for your vigilance in these times. I so love having the student here; never a dull moment. And to be honest we need her here to stop us losing on the weekly quiz. She did leave us for a week because we were so bad; we were holding her back apparently. She did better on her own the following week but a bit of bribery always works and we are united once again. Competitive, us ?

Shall we venture into the kitchen which I have had to share this week. Not saying that I mind but I am feeling a little territorial. I made the Mary Berry deconstructed Apple Crumble. Don’t you know what that is? You cook the apple and the topping separately? Two lots of washing you say. But worth that extra space in the dishwasher. I haven’t made apple crumble since I was about 12 when I forgot to peel the apples !! The trauma has obviously scarred me.

Apple and mango&strawberry crumble

I’ve supplied various curries this week and used kale and Thai basil. I’ve changed !

Curry corner

The student made us the healthiest meal of the lockdown. I wonder if you can guess what it involved? Ofcourse it’s couscous. But to her credit it looked beautiful and tasted good: couscous with mint, cucumber and tomatoes with aubergine with a tahini based dressing ( Waitrose recipe 😳)and roast veg. I don’t recall eating like this as a student?

The heathy couscous

Then hubby promised us a cauliflower cheese because there was a cauliflower in the fridge ! Good start. But after he had cleaned it he came looking bewildered and shouting what is this? It was the size of a grapefruit! Our expectations were lowered, lots of kale was added (Pret we miss you) and meal for three was created. He’s good at cauliflower cheese!! Again a solid 8/10 for that meal and surprisingly there were no leftovers.

Spot the cauliflower

I had been good and not baked for two days and then remembered we had a team Afternoon Tea on Wednesday. Who doesn’t love a theme – or it just me? The venue was to be Zoom, well at least you don’t have to book months in advance. I was so excited to see the whole team again. I made savoury muffins, the pineapple cake again and a cucumber sandwich.

The BHETA team
Sweet or savoury ?

Teapot with cup and saucer and not a mug. Hair straightened instead of being bunched up, one has to make an effort. It didn’t look strange at all as I sat in the lounge by myself with this array of food. The event reminded us all I think how we miss seeing each other in person. But the cake and the tea helped lessen the pain.

Come on down

Staying with themes . We were trapped on Sunday as the rain gods came upon us and turned me to food and the kitchen again. The Gujarati snack station evolved. Now I have everything one could need to create a mini feast. Fried Mogo – Cassava in the freezer ! Patra tins. Fenugreek leaves and banana bhajiyas (pakoras). But I have no sesame seed or mint chutney; I have hung my head in shame. But I substitute with a homemade coriander chutney. I was tempted to make spring rolls but the damn pastry was in the freezer. Roll on week 8!

Snack attack

The hubby was on good form this week. He had decided to order some wine from France. I don’t actually drink wine myself, just saying. The student only drinks Sauvignon Blanc . Where have the days of Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch gone? She did however like the taste of a rose …so he ordered 15 bottles (white & rose)I ask why so many especially as he is trying the Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday only drinking. Wouldn’t it be easier to say which days you won’t drink? He proudly announced that it was free delivery for 15 bottles.I raise an approving glance.

Drink ?

I then made him watch a Bollywood film with subtitles. I think he’s not grasped our love of high drama otherwise he would not have said … “that’s a real coincidence those lost brothers meeting”!! Those that know Bollywood will know that people separate as children, find each other again as adults supported by some fab songs and dances along the way. Anyway I think he seemed happy enough choosing his favourite leading lady from the three glamorous heroines.

To get him back I made him move some pots around in the garden and do some more planting as I remained creative director. The seeds are out and the sunflowers are now in the ground, my babies.

Coriander and sunflowers

We did have two glorious days over the Bank Holiday which allowed us to be outdoors and again realised how lucky we were to have a small garden and be near a river, park and country walks. Bedford is beautiful as I keep telling you.

Beautiful Bedford

Did anyone else get confused over Friday, which felt like a Saturday but was meant to be a Monday? Did you all celebrate VE Day? We had a mini gathering on our road. As a neighbour said it took a pandemic for people to come out , the irony. The police van drove by and didn’t stop. They weren’t going to mess with us … socially distanced and not enough alcohol. The joys of town living. I love the community that has been created. The entrepreneurial spirit…car washing , sharing deliveries and supporting local businesses. We even came out at 9pm to sing We’ll meet again badly, but it’s the trying that counts.

VE Day

And I leave you with the long awaited announcement from Boris. He had called in the weather gods again to reenforce the message to stay in or was it go out but be alert ?The graphic department were truly working hard to demonstrate the danger levels …. god help us. I’m sure I saw an equation too; Boris + announcement = 🤷🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🙆🏽‍♀️. We have a new R map! Will we be following this like the accurate weather map daily ? No end to lockdown . So no change then? Unless you work from home , you can carry on working from home. But if you build or construct you can cycle/walk or drive to work but don’t take a bus. But then why are buses running? I have a headache so I’ll stop. But you can exercise for longer . Jeez isn’t one hour enough and I can do that at home?

Label the axis

I look longingly out to our small garden and will be doing the sun dance tomorrow. Please join me via zoom at 5am. PM your email if you are up for that ?

Rain gods at work

I will leave you to work out who asked, “can’t you use turmeric instead of saffron?” and enjoy the lovely peonies I found, actually paid for at Sainsbury’s.


Seema (9/10 Housewife)- do you like my new signature ? I may have slipped to a 7 this week.

Have you noticed that there seems to be less gratitude for the key workers on the tele. More about recriminations. Those who should know what is right seem to be straying and stumbling.

Week 6:The mangoes have landed, part-time housewife and the lightbulb 💡 moment!

Hello …HELLO…. is anyone there? Are you hanging on in there. I’ve read lots on social media, other sources are available!! The mantra this week was to ‘be kind’, not just to yourself but to others, even if they happen to be a student, a husband or someone who has been furloughed. Oh, what a coincidence that happens to be this household.

It felt as if the government had called in the rain gods to stop us from venturing outside and having bbqs and picnics. I remembered little moment of madness or nightmare! This is what I could look like at the end of all this isolation.

Oh dear .. do you like my earrings?

It’s on rainy days that you start to wonder …can we go out , can’t we go out , when will be able to go out, how will be able to go out, will we have a car each going forward, will I ever see my physio again (forget friends) !! Someone please help Boris to decide.

I’ll start with a confession, best to be honest from the start. I broke the rules , I bought pizza on my Monday shopping trip. The student raised her eyebrows when she saw the purchase and directed me to the list of ‘don’ts’. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I hadn’t really digested her unilateral list! Although admittedly I had walked past the crisps and the Indian snack aisle gallantly.😉 And as we sat down to our first pizza in weeks with coleslaw, potato salad, mixed salad and corn-on-the cob, I didn’t hear a single word of complaint.

The evidence

And kitchen adventures, well they are not really adventures are they ? Just a few recipes with nice pics that ensure that my lovely bowls get an airing and cooking times are 20% longer to fill the days. So, who’s made a Spanakopita before ? 1lb of spinach is a lot of spinach let me tell you. Thank goodness there were no limits on spinach buying. Then 2 packets of feta and one of ricotta. Any ridiculous amounts of dill, I bet not many of you have even used dill. Anyway, to push on with the adventures I used half of the filling with shortcrust pastry (don’t tell the purists) basically because the filo was in the freezer ! The second day I used the filo.

Spinach anyone?

Then it was the turn of the ‘not just one small aubergine.’ Look at the number of ingredients and the amazing colours: how could anyone not enjoy doing this! I suggest clearing of diary as you cut and fill the little buggers. It tasted fab but not for anyone with a nut allergy.

Not one small aubergine

I behaved and only baked once this week. It was the Mary Berry Banana (you know the fruit we were running out of early on in lockdown!!) and pecan loaf. Well, actually it was Banana and Walnut, who has pecans hanging around?It was well received but the student did request that I “upped my dessert repertoire, it’s not al about cakes.” Be kind !

No pecan cake

Now that you sitting comfortably … this will help you if you have older children and if you have younger ones it will give you hope. There is always hope. On the 29th April 2020 the student woke up at 10am and ate lunch at lunchtime. That’s all I’m saying. Then on the 30th April she did it again. Don’t look surprised,that’s a trap. Just a casual acceptance at this stage and a teeny approval. She is finishing her dissertation but that was not to blame. She has had a lightbulb moment, an epiphany you might say and explained (may have come as a result of decluttering her life so far) it thus; if I get up earlier I can do more in the day. Hallelujah! 🙏🏽 and FFS and rolling of the eyes all in one. But no ‘about bloody time’ or ‘I told you so’ or ‘all those wasted hours’ from me. But the victory is ours ..inside. She then proceeds to go for a run and make cookies in the same day and announces, “what do you do all day mum?” She then sent me a recipe for Sweet Potato Curry; I’m waiting for it to be made and ofcourse we have sweet potatoes, doesn’t everyone.

I think the yoga may have broken me physically, especially my shoulders. But I was watching SAS Celebrity thingy and Anthea Turner at 59 was so impressive and very inspirational. No don’t worry no chance of me doing anything like that – hate the cold and wet together. Can deal with cold. Can deal with wet but separately. And anyway I would probably cry at the first graze or cut or bump! The exercise schedule has settled into a rhythm at the house . The student started running again and has put together an ab crunch routine!! The hubby is doing something every day; just a keep fit junkie. We go for another bike ride and I manage not to fall. Gears are great aren’t they! We manage to see half of Bedford and experience the lovely people of this town but also the numpties. 2m is this long ! And if you’re on a narrowish path let’s both share the load.I’m not going into the bloody stinging nettles for any Tom, Dick or Harry.

But all else is fine. I finally unpacked my travel bag 😂. Always the optimist. Not sure when I will be getting my travel size bits ready again. Any my car just sits on the drive without the ‘cardrobe’. It must be wondering what on earth is going on, no motorways for weeks. The garden is progressing nicely with some of my flowers now in bloom. The sunflower plants are doing nicely along with the coriander. Some of the seeds are coming up in the trays but the labels got mixed up ?!?! Hmmm… Daisy salad anyone? Exciting news , I have a due date for my veg trug.

In bloom

See you at the end of week 7 and if you need any self raising flour pm me !! And I’ll let you know if there will be another delivery from Mr X from Milton Keynes. Enterprising chap kindly did a group delivery of Indian groceries and ingredients and mangoes (my first love). All done with social distancing in mind but can’t help thinking it may have looked a little dodgy meeting in a car park ? Perhaps he should deliver direct to each customer next time; no let’s stay looking dodgy and get a glimpse of another real life human from another town.

Car full of deliveries

But I leave you with the fact that I got a 9/10 from the hubby as we ate our Sunday morning brunch of home made pakoras and masala tea (him not me, can’t stand it myself). Wow Seema ! But for what I hear you ask ? For being a housewife, cooking cleaning and fridge management (minimal waste). The police may be needed again ….we will be picking this up again!! I take back the “be kind “….



We continue to be grateful to our carers and those people that are rising to the top of the pile… so I must mention Colonel Tom at 100. If anyone needs an injection of inspiration or motivation just take note. And I won’t be churlish and not mention baby Wilfred. It’s not his fault his dad’s a Boris. Just realising my sign offs are becoming ridiculously long !

Week 5: Padded shorts, the new snack rules and the missing raspberries

Hello everyone, how goes it? Zoomed out, TV’d out, Lockdowned out… but hopefully still safe and healthy 😊.

Courtesy of Gabriella Papworth

Apologies for the delay. There has been high drama in the kitchen already this morning. No milk for my morning PG tips tea. No I don’t want almond milk but thank you for asking. I also don’t want a black tea or even a black coffee; you know I don’t drink coffee! You should know that both the hubby and the student use alanine and oat milk so for once I have only myself to blame; I am the official shopper. So toast and water it was. At least my sugar intake for today will be lower. Stop rolling your eyes, yes, I still take sugar. Anyway, moving on to last week.

The student had some fabulous news this week. She got her place to do a Masters in Public Health at Kings College London. How could I not mention this?Jumping on the current bandwagon you say! We think she will certainly be studying Covid 19 so will surely have plenty of study material. There will be a point when the student will earn her own money, but not just yet – a gap year, three year degree and now a masters. The bank of mum & dad and stepdad are ready and waiting, of course we are! The student also decided after many years to declutter her room. Eighth wonder of the world. And then last night, possibly because I had been on a cooking fest again, she declared that because we are getting treats and good home cooked food (that’s a ‘Thank you’ in disguise) there should be no snacks purchased. So check the list. We are allowed carrot sticks & hummus, nuts and home made popcorn. The hubby and I met early this morning and planned to hide some “snacks” in our bedroom and then I declare that as long as we get rid of any evidence we can eat what we want before lunchtime. Phew!! Message me if you need any advice but don’t judge me for eating junk.

Student at work

This leads me nicely into the kitchen adventures for this week. After being in the housewares industry for many years I have a well equipped kitchen. And because I’m Indian, my spice and ingredient cupboard is well stocked; the intention has always been there. Those that know me understand that I am never far from food; preferably cooked by others .I have now developed my favourite bits of kit and one day I will share these. On the menu this week were some old favourites and some new recipes shared by friends. The good old spring veg quiche always goes down a treat. I cooked with frozen okra for the first time; but the hubby still finds them slimy. The student and I look at him as if he’s a lost cause. I made shahi paneer for the first time; this is the calorie laden rich creamy dish; subbing coconut milk may have helped slighted. Aubergine bharta from charring them on the hob for a smoky taste; note open windows. I successfully made bhaturas, which is a type of deep fried Indian bread. Then I made Gulab Jamuns for the first time (mummy will be looking down wondering what has happened to her daughter). These are the sweet dumpling dessert in sugar syrup that are just yummy. One error and I was left with big brown balls. I recall many years ago embarrassing my father in a restaurant and asking for them to be heated and served with icecream. Now this is the norm; I was ahead of the times.

Cakes , brown balls and restaurant at home
It’s ok we freeze and spread the load

Because of the new baking laws that are now in place I bake one day in the week. Thursday came and the two family favourites- one Lemon Drizzle and one Almond & Raspberry were on the agenda. Oh, and second Gluten Free Almond & Raspberry once I got the GF flour for a friend. All ingredients ready and bowls filled. The lemon drizzle is baked in the morning and then I go off to do the weekly shop. Raspberries are on the list – plans could be ruined if I could not get them. Back in the kitchen a few hours later, I mixed and listened to music. All cakes in the oven just before 8pm, result! Do our clapping and relax. The student is looking forward to her treat as these were for her to celebrate her success. Actually she had asked for banoffee pie but who’d have thought condensed milk would be out of stock? Roll onto 9pm and there is no waiting for cake to cool and hubby cuts into it. I stare at it and then look some more…I then shout, “there’s no raspberries.!” I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry (not a sad sort of cry, don’t worry). The student warms up a few raspberries , places them next to her slice and just carries on….Too traumatised to make the second one that night I left it for Friday morning. And remembered to use GF flour and raspberries.

The DIY efforts form the hubby have been puny this week. He varnished the wooden step at the front door and the one at the back; only to have the student and myself to step on them! I really need to find some other jobs for him. Our small garden is looking lush for April. The sunflower seeds are no longer seeds and embracing the world. The coriander is coming up nicely. I have planted out seeds on trays for broad beans, spinach, daisies and dahlias. A random bunch you may say but you should know me by now. The blackbird has been trying to take over the shed. She is obviously upgrading from a nest. Oh and I’ve ordered a bloody veg trug but there is no delivery date . Like many around the country we have gone garden crazy. I will admit it: I like Garden’s World. I have warned the hubby that the trug will require his handy woodwork skill. Well, he has some time to get used to the idea. I just need to allow for extra time and leave him in complete isolation when the time comes.

All green and yellow

On the keeping healthy front, I continue with my yoga efforts through the free online classes our teacher is running. The phrase “if you want a little more” will haunt me. No thank you, I think, I am happy in this current position and can’t do more. The 5.30am starts four days of the week is the norm now; and it’s not even to beat the traffic on the M1,M25,M3 or the bloody M6. I have had the pleasure of commuting. We are now on number 20 morning Strength and Sculpt class. For those mathematicians amongst you that is 5 months worth of weekly classes 😳 🧘🏽‍♀. The benefit of these early mornings is that there is more time to fill. I won’t mention that on the remaining 3 days we have evening classes (confession I have not made all the Friday evening ones). But then last Friday the hubby took the day as holiday and suggested a bike ride. And for him a bike ride is long and fast, but he knows that he’s going out with me and managed his expectations. So clad in my (all the gear no idea) padded shorts, helmet and sunglasses. But no panic on the hairy legs front with this 2m social distancing! Great result on ride as no injuries, great weather but I will be requesting a gel seat!!

Bedford at its best

Top tips from papa “you must exercise every day and keep to a routine and if a recipe doesn’t come out right first time, you can correct it second time.”

As we head into week 6, stay calm. Learn to carry on and the art of patience. Learn the art of letting go and accepting this time as a gift. I’ve rediscovered some of the music I used to listen to as a student. Hands up for Genesis and Terence Trent D’Arby!!! And not forgetting my love of Bollywood songs. And as some of you assumed I wasn’t a sloth I’m having to prove you right by not sitting in the sun or even having a nap here and there….

Some of my faves

Continue to be grateful and especially on the fact that I am not a US citizen !



Will be clapping extra hard on Thursday as it must be hard to stay focused and energised and protecting and caring for the vulnerable. The country is behind you. 💕

Week 4: The Hero, the Sloth and the Pretend Veg Patch

Hello , how are we all? Whatever your status I hope you are safe and well.

So far I have mused and tried to keep my musings pretty jolly, well I hope I have. However this week I would like to mention the new super heroes.This was starkly demonstrated when a friend sent a photo of her husband . This is him in full PPE in ICU. A true hero amongst many.There was also the sadness of the death of pregnant nurse Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, but the joy of hearing of her newborn that she leaves. I do not know her but wish her family and friends strength and love.

I make sure that I am there with a pan and ladle every Thursday at 8pm- as hubby says your can take a girl out of Southall …”. What is there left to say ….all those that are working in tough conditions need the tools. Simples ! Right ? I will let you watch the debate continuing along with the hours of news updates. Whether it is beneficial to wear or not wear a mask – I was all ready for another accessory in my wardrobe. Just think of all the possibilities; saving on lipsticks, do you match earrings, your shirt or just go all out with a jazzy fabric that was once a tablecloth. I will send you a photo of mine next time.

In Bedford there is huge network of kindness where people are collating material for bags and scrubs, which are then being distributed to those in most need. We are now making friends with hundreds if not thousands of strangers. Community groups are cooking meals everyday for the key workers . Local businesses are trying to find ways of supporting the people so it makes staying at home easier ; yes wine deliveries are available and so is bread and cake. Shopping for some elders in the community gives me a warm feeling and provides plenty of laughs. The elderly lady has now sent me on a mission to find some headbands; she is so used to going to have her hair done weekly that she’s referring to herself as the sheepdog. I admire the fact that she loves cake and flowers. I think we can be friends. I must remember not to buy any hard fruit for her, “as the teeth don’t like it”.

Ok so back to chez Grantham. Firstly I can report that there are still three people living in the house. The student, the hubby and myself. We did however have a day that we hardly saw each other so I was beginning to wonder if someone had escaped. But it was a much needed break. And when we did meet, greetings were short and sharp. Absence makes the heart grow fonder apparently? We are back into the swing of our routine now, each performing to type.

The weekly shopping trips continue and I ventured to our local Asian grocery store as one the Auntijis needed some bits and I was desperate to try Dishoom’s Okra Fries (non essential). I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of people in the store, it’s all about timing and luck. Again I found myself saying to a man, “please keep your distance”. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a line I use normally .He looked at me totally bemused, not realising that he had to wait until I got my head out of the deep freeze. He’s obviously been hibernating. But I got my okra, a very happy girl. Only one cake this week, but what a cake it was. The pineapple upside down cake must be a favourite for many and brings back memories of school. The hunt for flour had started again and finally found some at our local small Sainsbury’s (pm me and I will send you their postcode). I am not encouraging unnecessary driving people. And to support one of our favourite holiday destination in Sicily we decided to order some olive oil. Just a tad excessive but one less thing for me to buy.

My cooking efforts continue with a mixture of own recipes , from friends and my favourite cookbooks Prashad and Dishoom. Perhaps if I mention the latter enough I may get lifetime entry without queuing? Those who know just know. I have surprised myself at the ingredients I already had at home, the intention was always there you see. There is definitely no shortage of equipment for obvious reasons. We ate well again this week, and for that we remain thankful. From Mexican to Italian to Indian as you can tell from the photos. My obsession with bowls gets mixed reactions. Anything from ‘loving it’ to ‘what about all the washing’. To be clear I love my little bowls, from various holidays bringing back happy memories. I’m sure they are feeling loved and useful. The highlights of the week were my Saag Paneer and the pineapple cake. Not a salad in sight. Although the student made a great mezze effort one evening. Is that really cooking though? 🤷🏽‍♀️ And when it came go hubby’s turn to cook last night he made an all day breakfast with the main ingredient being 5 Bean Baked Beans. That was an accidental purchase on my part but never going back to a single bean tin. It was surprisingly good – beans on toast with mushrooms.

The other adventures in the kitchen continued. My OCD has led me to clean the hob till it gleams. I’m working on the oven trays now , armed with Brillo ! The student’s OCD is directed towards the surfaces . The hubby is oblivious still and continues to leave mugs with tea bags, who does that? I suppose people who like strong tea. Salt & vinegar crisps were becoming a point of tension between the hubby and student . Both decided that they would mark the packets to ensure peace and harmony. It has been decided that no more chocolate or biscuits are entering the house; they are not essential!!

The garden project is now in full swing (that’s a relative comment so don’t judge me) with the student making comments about the ridiculous number of pots that are now planted up. If there is still a pot hiding anywhere in our small garden, come and be known. Your garden needs you! Seeds have been ordered and not planted yet except the sunflowers which have begun to come alive. My coriander is having a little think about whether to show it’s face – it just may need more sun. You can’t rush this gardening thing … I might plant some seeds today. Anyway onto our micro veg patch. I see myself as the project manager and the hubby as the “labour”. He was out there with sticks, string, spade and top soil. And would you believe it the neatest ever veg patch was created. I planted out cauliflower (note to self, keep list of cauliflower recipes)and onions. Peppers and tomatoes are in the shallow trugs and in a bag. Need to plant the cabbages, not sure whose bloody idea that was ? I will keep you posted as to how we get on. The Good Life but without the chickens, goats and manure; there is a limit to everything. The garden looks lush and green and I believe we have a flying friend trying to make a nest at the back within the jasmine and tall grass in the planters. Need to restart our bird feed tray; jeez another head to feed.

I made the fatal mistake of tackling the jewellery (not diamonds and pearls, I’m not extravagant or rich) collection. Those who know me well can probably remember the abundance of bracelets and earrings and much more. I shall NOT be buying anymore. How to segregate? Silvers , golds, colours, Indian , bracelets, single earrings looking for their partners and a box for those that need repairs. Expensive presents long forgotten; shame on me. So if we have a zoom call I shall be modelling as many earrings as possible.

And finally back to food, tip from my papa from India was that if you can’t find plain flour sieve chappati flour using a fine cloth (not silk). The sieved flour is what you need. Voila! He’s decided to change his evening exercise routine and switched from the static bike to walking for forty five minutes on the roof. You have to love his dedication to the cause and his discipline. Perhaps some of this has rubbed off and is what makes me get up four times a week at 5.30am for yoga at 6am. I’ll be more than happy to take on more of his traits that can stop be from being a sloth, which creeps up on me.

Sloth – noted for its slowness of movement. That’s me. Slow and deliberate. Spread the load people … there are seven days in the week.🦥🦥🦥🦥🦥🦥🦥

Have a happy, healthy one.



Forever grateful to anyone who is still working to support us.

An unnecessary battle and Payal loses her heart

Who would have thought that amidst all the chaos and the nonsense of these last few months Payal would fall in love. Let me clarify, we think it’s love! She loves her Abba, she loves the Pearls , she loves King Irap and Queen Yana and not forgetting her water people.

But the fact is she’s never had this feeling of pure excitement and sheer nerves combined before. Well not until he had arrived. He had spent months here. Why? He was King Irap’s friend. He, too had royal blood in him but didn’t fancy it. He had other things he wanted to do ! Good grief one of those; a bit like her then. All the ladies of the court were whispering about him; his eyes , his hair, his nose, his height , his voice, his presence. It was just sheer nonsense. How could women be so silly and this is the reason why she never wanted to marry and get involved with men; it was all too complicated and drawn out. He was just a man. But she would concede that he was a gentleman, well at least what she saw of him. And yes he was very beautiful but so were a lot of things in life.

She suddenly realised she had lost time with these irrelevant thoughts and felt annoyed. She mustn’t forget her duty. Most of all she reminded herself she cared for the land and the creatures; people just seemed to taken them for granted. They were all so busy farming , fishing , gathering , hunting and just enjoying the bounty that was offered to them that they didn’t seem to notice how tired the earth had become . She could feel her tiredness and the silent cry for help…What could Payal do? It was such a big task; she could not do it by herself. The responsibility was crushing her.

The craziness and misery out in the lands was still continuing. The children were covering their ears. Their ears hurt. The distant battle noises could still be heard. What was the point of it all? She was still trying to understand herself. The Kings had fallen out with each other; each blaming the other for the months of hardship their people had suffered.

Karta had rivers running dry; the sun seemed to be so angry. Trees were bearing virtually no fruit and the harvests were non existent. Toova was so cold that the people were shivering to death and the trees and farmlands looked barren and forlorn. Toova’s animals and birds had disappeared into the jungles for shelter, for they were still intact. The earth was protecting its own. But the people were too scared to go into the jungle themselves. In Julat, floods followed one after each other. Farmlands were drowned and reserves were slowly running out. More and more people were sheltering with family as they lost their homes to the water; mother earth was crying.

It was all very strange and desperately sad. It felt like a bizarre dream but infact it was the worst nightmare anyone had lived through. Diplomats and courtiers had been meeting to no avail. The problem was that no one really knew what to do. The Earth , the Waters and Sky seemed to be on collision course with oblivion. And because they could not find a solution the Kings started to fight each other and increased the vengeful and accusatory remarks towards each other. Each saying the other had mistreated the land and animals and made the Gods angry. So the outcome of all this was that people were scared and the food and resources were slowly running out. If they had talked openly and honestly they could have shared what each had whilst working on an answer that would benefit them all.

Payal walked into the courtroom and saw the King and Queen standing on the side, gazing through the largest window in the room out onto their magnificent garden. It still looked lush and magical; she may have had a hand in that. Then she saw him and stopped. It was too late , the group of three had heard her and looked towards her direction. The queen beckoning her friend over, “Payal, look, isn’t the garden looking wonderful . I think I would die if anything happened to it. It brings so much joy and comfort to everyone. These two are talking of battles and how much longer we can stay out of this nonsense. Isn’t there anything you can do?” Payal was dressed in a simple yellow tunic and black pants. Her long hair was scrunched up in a bun. She didn’t realise how beautiful she looked; always looked. She tried to ignore Ortil’s gaze; was it just an ordinary gaze? She focused on the seriousness of the conversation. So after much debate it was agreed that Payal would accompany the King and Prince Ortil to the next assembly of the Kings of the regions. Or were they accompanying her?.We all know the answer to that. Payal knew that she would have to use all her powers to plead with the Kings to stop fighting. If not she would just have to think of something else.

Payal walked back to her rooms and thought about her beloved Pearls. The Pearls had been ok so far in Toova. Parvati had been looking after Desiree and Sheeba but the supply of woods for the fire were dwindling and rations were drying up. Their village was close to the jungle and bordered Toova. Parvati knew that she would have to take the girls into the jungle by the end of the week. She had no choice. She was brave and confident that no harm would come to the Pearls. They were pure of heart. When the day came the girls packed the last remnants of food and what bedding they could carry comfortably and stood ready waiting for Parvati to show them the way. The village was empty; those that had survived had packed their things and left for somewhere. They walked not very far and entered the edges of the jungle . They held hands and walked in a line into a shadowy dark world. Their faces brushed against branches and twigs and the cuts stung. But the girls did not complain and kept walking and chattering with each other. Tiredness finally set in and they sat against the trunk of a tree. Parvati set down the lamp she had been carrying . They looked around and couldn’t see much at all. They each took out a sheet from their packs and lay down. All trying to be brave and pretend this was just a normal day. They didn’t know but during the night Desiree was wrapped up by the Owl, Parvati by the Bear and Sheeba by the tiger. They kept them warm during the cold nights and disappeared by morning. They had promised Payal that no harm would come to the girls. Food, well, they never seemed to be hungry. Their new home became a little clearing in this vast jungle. Strips of light found their way to give them hope. On the third day Desiree walked a little further and found herself in a clearing with a stream. The water looked cool and as she dropped her hand into the water and gently moved it some fish came along. She said hello but ofcourse they could not hear her. The fish could hear Desiree humming and gently singing above the water. They darted around each other smiling and forgot the recent dark days. Desiree promised she would be back the following day. The girls talked and told stories and sometimes just danced. They just waited to receive a sign to say they could return home; Payal would make sure they would be safe.

The day came for King Irap, Prince Ortil and Payal to leave for the summit. The Queen was anxious and fussed around Irap and Payal. Payal saw the amused look on Ortil’s face; but she was sure he was feeling left out. Yana sensed this and put her arms around Ortil and said, “you are the sensible one brother, I’m trusting you to look after these two and yourself.” He gave an affirmative sort of bow and smiled. Payal made her way to the courtyard and the two men followed. Their horses were ready to go. The three would be accompanied by a small party to ensure they did not want for anything during this important trip. After leaving the palace, they made their way towards the border. Their land was just starting to wither; that’s the only way they could describe it. The green grass was not as lush and vibrant as normal. The trees were less upright. There seemed to be fewer birds in the sky. But the people were still going about their normal business. Payal checked again with Irap and the lead adviser on the location of the meeting. It was to be held on the northern section border between Paanivar and Toova. That seemed to be the easiest for all. It meant the contingent from Karta and Julat had equidistant journeys.No group should feel disadvantaged at this stage. As they rode the three spoke at length about the task ahead and strategies they could utilise. However after hours of discussion they would arrive at no concrete conclusion. Payal and Ortil seemed perfectly normal and Irap treated both their views with equal respect ; he had never acknowledged that Payal was a woman. Payal was his confidant, friend and mentor in one.

The group from Paanivar were the last to arrive at the agreed meeting place. It was a big flattish plain that allowed the tents to be set up easily. The accompanying party had pushed ahead and the accommodation had been prepared for the King, Ortil and Payal. A designated time had been agreed for all four Kings and their advisers to meet; just after sunrise. Needless to say Payal was the only woman at the meeting. They all sat in a circle , thick rugs that had been laid to make them comfortable. Payal looked at their faces, they all looked tired , worried and frightened. Were these the same men that had called war on each other? Were these the men that were going to protect their people; young , old and everyone in between. They looked like little boys in men’s bodies. Irap started, “My old and dear friends let us make a commitment to this soil and our people that we will not leave this place until we can agree to stop these wars. It will be only after that we can address the challenges that the Gods have sent us.” Payal felt proud of her old friend. So the words started coming from all directions. It was impossible to hear anything or anyone. Recriminations, accusations, blame, it just continued.

Ortil glanced towards Payal and she saw he was sad but restraining a scowl. Then he was up. It happened in a flash. The noise gone and all eyes were on him. “Your highnesses and other guests, may I suggest you all take it in turns to speak. Excuse my interruption but it is nearly sunset. We have been here all day without any progress.” The three kings looked affronted and then embarrassed. Ortil sat down and hung his head. Irap gently patted his back and whispered something to his old friend. Payal sat wondering at what point she would need to get involved. When would they realise that all they needed to do was just accept that they had been greedy and abused the lands , the seas and the creatures. So they sat through another three days and nights of talking, all pouring out their hearts and complaining about how their people were suffering because of the weather. At this point Payal who had sat quietly got up and started to walk away towards her tent. Ofcourse everyone present knew who she was, she had helped many of them over the years. They looked confused and worried now. They called out to her, dear Payal, don’t leave us. We need your wisdom more than ever.” Payal heard this and looked back and in her calmest and sweetest of voices spoke to them all. She asked them to think carefully about what had they given to the earth and the seas; they had simply taken. She asked them to think how greedy they had been and how wasteful. She carried on with a list that went on for hours. Their heads hung in shame. They did not think they were bad Kings. They thought they had looked after their people. But as Payal laid out her case signs of acknowledgement and acceptance appeared. She told them to go back and change their ways and wait for the earth and sky to respond. Then there was bemusement; the solution was as simple as that? Surely not. But they had no other answers so they nodded and shook hands. The temporary site was abandoned on day five and all four Kings and their entourage rushed back to their kingdoms.

The Kings finally ordered their soldiers to set down their weapons. Instead they formed teams to go out to all corners of their respective lands and talk to the people. They showed them how to farm the land with care and love. How to store food. How and when to fish. How to grow fruit trees vegetables. The old women in the villages showed the younger women recipes that used the fruits and vegetables in season. The greediness of the people started to dissipate and the earth slowly caught up and found a balance. The waters flowed again across all lands. The grass was lush and green and deserts that had been flooded became vast areas of yellow sand dunes again. Payal knew in her heart that this was temporary and the cycle of greed and excess would rear its ugly head again. But for now she was content. The Pearls were back in their home, safe and sound and were bringing happiness to the people by telling the stories of the change through their dance.

Now back to the romance; one day it would have to take priority but for now Payal was happy just to spend time with Ortil along with all the other people at the palace. She was happy not to be forced into alone time just yet.