The Dishwasher Diaries: an update from Crystal Palace

Where the hell is Merlin right now, eh?

I have vague notion that I should do a session of yoga at midday every day at the moment but more often than not, I’m still sitting on my bed in a dressing gown by that point, as I am now. Although I do have an excuse (kind of): I had the usual 93 pieces of toast for breakfast this morning before sloping back upstairs and, in a strange fit of enthusiasm, decided to start properly writing my fourth book. Ideas have been batting around in my head for a couple of months now but it’s very easy to think ‘Good GOD, this is going to be brilliant, my best yet. Award-winning, perhaps?’ until you sit down and actually start writing the thing. How can I possible get to 100,000 sensible words again? Yesterday, my seven-year-old niece wrote a piece of homeschooling about the red squirrels in Scotland and quite honestly that was more gripping than the 600 words I’ve managed this morning. Still, a start.

Also this week, a lovely chap called Simon Worrall interviewed me from my bed-desk as part of a series he’s doing with various writers. You can watch it HERE and my Sunday Tel column is below.

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What’s an acceptable hobby right now? Reading, obviously. Walking and running, ditto. Is ‘eating biscuits’ a hobby? If so, I’m smashing it. Near black belt, probably, so long as it’s a very large black belt. Same with ‘drinking sauvignon blanc’. Bread making is continuing its incredible renaissance (little public service announcement: you can still buy bread in the shops), and my sister is churning out fresh pasta like an Italian nonna, draping her tagliatelle over the back of a kitchen chair.

I ask because a scuba diver was arrested in Brighton last weekend. The coastguard received reports of ‘lights in the water’ under the pier at 10pm so hurried to the scene to find a diver out for a spot of night fishing. ‘Strong words of advice relating to Covid-19 rules’ were doled out and the RNLI later issued a statement declaring that the public ‘should not take part in any water-based activity in or on the sea.’

I’m torn between admiration for this plucky soul, pulling on his flippers and googles and determinedly marching into the April sea, and vague irritation at the stupidity. On the one hand, night diving is a fairly isolated hobby; on the other, it’s hardly an ‘essential’ form of exercise. I wouldn’t snitch myself, we covered snitches here a couple of weeks ago. But I can still disprove from a haughty distance in the manner of Lady Bracknell. I’m quite good at disproving from a haughty distance. You could say it’s another hobby of mine.

I’m feeling my most Lady Bracknell about the Hampstead thespians who shouted Romeo and Juliet at one another through their windows this week. This is an entirely unacceptable hobby because it’s inflicting what you consider entertainment on other people. If screaming the balcony scene wasn’t unbearable enough, a further neighbour provided a ‘funky score’ using a saxophone, a flute and a cymbal. Our homes should be sanctuaries at the moment, safe from amateur dramatics and the crashing of percussion instruments. Imagine you were trying to put down a baby and some berk in the flat beneath you started hollering about the ‘envious moon’. Not right now, thank you very much.

If I’d had time, I would have bossily yelled the same at the three teenagers who whizzed past me on electric scooters this week, forcing me off the pavement. That is not exercise. Go for a walk, you idle tykes.

‘Coming up with inventive excuses’ is a new hobby for others. Last weekend, West Midlands Police came across someone rifling through a hedgerow who claimed they were ‘looking for wild rocket’. They later accosted a family loitering in a Coventry park, only to be told the family was ‘playing Pokemon Go.’ There’s a fine line between feeling aggrieved and amused at some of these stories. I’d love to go wild rocket hunting. Instead, I started ironing my pants this week, simply to drag the process out a bit.

On which subject, if your household is anything like ours, the men might like to try their hand at a couple of new indoor hobbies. There’s an exciting activity called ‘hoovering’ and another jolly good one called ‘hanging the washing out’. My brother-in-law somehow spent half an hour transferring a load of sheets from the washing machine into the tumble dryer yesterday which wasn’t a great time but, on the upside, it does leave plenty of room for improvement in the weeks (potentially months?) ahead.

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Talking of chores, how many times have you unloaded the dishwasher in the past few weeks? It’s a rough estimate but I’m up to about 28bn. How do we manage it? There are six of us in this house but we’re hardly feasting like Romans. Cereal or toast for breakfast, lunchtime sandwiches, a plate of pasta for supper. A few biscuits in-between, a few glasses of wine. Why do I unload 482 plates and 900 mugs a day? Are the teaspoons mating in there? Why so many side plates? Are my small nieces running a restaurant out the back? It seems to defy all mathematical laws. Then I read an interview with Dame Helena Morrissey. She and her husband are isolating with eight of their children, plus two grandchildren. Thirteen in total. Imagine all those mugs, and the cutlery basket with soggy bits of potato at the bottom. Makes me feel quite weak.

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I’m sorry to report that a competitive new craze has sprung up during lockdown and I’m not talking about looking for wild rocket or Pokemon Go. It’s isolation presents for godchildren. Several friends have reported sending these via Amazon – ‘Dear Orangina, here’s a little something that should keep you busy at the moment. Lots of love and can’t wait to see you when this is over, Competitive Godmother So-and-so.’ My gripe is that I’m already a terrifically poor godparent and this is another thing for those of us in this category to feel guilty about. Also, is sending several copies of ‘How to Draw Horses for Kids – Volume One’ across the country really necessary at this time? I’m not sure. My idea, which I’m sure you’ll agree is much more practical, is to email all my godchildren instead, attaching a fun instruction manual called ‘How to Unload The Dishwasher – Volume One’. You’re never too young to learn.

 

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