Today’s post is all about life under lockdown. I’ve really noticed how everyone copes in completely different ways. My tactic is to keep busy and have some structure in my days, but I know that’s not for everyone and there’s no reason why it should be. I still have some work and I try to sit at my desk for at least part of each day. I also walk or run, I draw and paint, I’m trying to write a book, I do a couple of Zoom Pilates classes each week, I WhatsApp my friends and family, and I spend a lot of time in my small garden. I don’t go shopping, or visit any public places – my husband and youngest son take care of that as they’re the ones with the more robust immune systems. On the positive side, we have discovered some beautiful walks that we can do from the house. I can’t believe that we lived here for 18 months without realising exactly what we have on our doorstep. I’m really enjoying walking the same regular routes, and noticing the changes that are happening almost day to day. I look for wildflowers, birds’ egg shells, blossom, wildlife – and I listen to the bird song and the rush of the river Gwash.
I have three regular walks. This incredible green barn is along one of them, in the village of Little Casterton. Close by is Tolethorpe Hall, where there is an Open Air Shakespeare Theatre season in normal years. Part of the walk takes me along the banks of the River Gwash (or Guash). Last week, I spotted these cowslips by the water.
On another one of my routes, I saw this entire meadow of cowslips. It’s on private land, so this is as close as I could get, but it was really special…
The countryside around us is gentle and rolling. It is not spectacularly beautiful, but there are still wild and lovely parts to be found, and shallow valleys full of butterflies, bees, wildflowers, budding hedges and trees. If I walk early, I don’t see anyone at all. I can go out with my heart in my boots, and return home feeling genuinely uplifted. I’m definitely looking at things more closely, and it’s a richer experience for that. This helps with my paintings, too, of course, and I’ve really been enjoying making collages and studies of wildflowers and plants.
I started these paintings out of frustration really. One morning, I had an overwhelming urge to go to a garden centre, and of course, I couldn’t, so I painted all the flowers I’d like to grow in my garden (if it was four times as big). I posted the results on Twitter and had a huge reaction, with over 1000 likes. I am not really a Twitter fan, and pre-lockdown, I didn’t use it much, but I did get a boost from this reaction, and I even ended up selling one of the paintings. I gave permission for a copy to be used to teach prisoners about horticulture and someone else said she had been using it as part of her child’s home schooling. So that was very satisfying. I have also made an allotment painting in a similar style.
Painting and drawing is completely immersive. I can spend hours doing it, and lose myself. Collage is even more addictive, and I stay up late snipping and sticking….
Here’s my cherry blossom collage, inspired by the tree in the park opposite our house. Is it my imagination, or is the blossom better than it has ever been this year?
Both of these collages sold on Instagram. I’m going to be making a lot more of these….if you see anything you like, please contact me through my form on this website, and I will reply straight away. Prices start at £30.
Then of course, there’s the garden. Our tiny garden is a complete joy.
I have managed to find a local nursery to deliver some bedding plants and compost, but I’ve also planted more seeds this year than ever before. Our window ledges are currently stacked with tomatoes, zinnias, sage, basil, oregano, parsley, nasturtiums, salad leaves, french beans and cosmos. I have ordered a tiny greenhouse (more of a cupboard than a house) but it’s stuck somewhere with Hermes, and until it arrives, I’m making do with sills and cling filmed pots for now.
I do love herbs, and they’re perfect for a courtyard garden. I’m using lemon balm to make a soothing tea, and also chocolate mint, which is just the most delicious digestif, steeped in a cup of hot water.
Some of my plants have brought huge joy. This clematis ‘Avalanche’ is a beauty.
And my tulips have put on an amazing show this year.
Then there is baking. I had stopped as we were all cutting down on sugar and carbs, but it’s just so comforting! I have made scones, lemon drizzle, macaroons, shortbread….
Scones are the top choice….
But who can resist a flower-bedecked drizzle?
Or a macaroon?
To make the macaroons:
Whisk two egg whites until stiff. Add 175g caster sugar, 125g ground almonds and 25g ground rice. Fold together to make a paste. Add teaspoons of the mixture to a parchment-lined tray. Bake for 20 minutes at 150C or gas 2. Allow to cool. Sandwich together with either buttercream (crush in a couple of raspberries to make it pink), or some crushed, unsweetened fresh raspberries for a less sweet filling.
It is just as well that we’re all cycling, running and walking more than usual….
However you are getting through these weird weeks, I hope you are finding solace in something.
Next time, I’ll review some of the beautiful gardening books that I’ve been sent recently.