With this unprecedented period of personal lockdown causing us all to find ways to keep ourselves busy, we asked our subscribers to let us know what activity they had taken up. After all, we have shared some of our activities already. What started as a way to offer some stationery as a giveaway prize, quickly turned into a fascinating glimpse into the worlds of some of our readers with so many quirky and interesting stories. Though a winner had to be picked, it seemed a shame not to share some of the tales.
So in no particular order…
Making Glass Beads (From Melted Gin Bottles!)
Joy is making glass beads from melted down gin bottles, specifically the blue Bombay Sapphire variety. Apparently smashing up the bottles is all part of the fun (I’m thinking it certainly would be when you have drunk the contents) after which you need to melt the broken glass with a propane torch and then wrap the molten glass round metal sticks called mandrels. Clearly given the amount of specialist equipment she has in her garage this isn’t a new hobby. However the use of discarded gin bottles is a lockdown-related angle as she usually uses these amazing glass rods that come in a glorious selection of colours and look extremely collectible with their Farrow & Ball style names.
Lewis, along with half the population including me, has taken up sourdough baking which is why there is literally no flour in the shops. As with all good sourdough starter owners, he has named his little gremlin Dmitri (mine is Stripe) and is busy making all manner of lovely treats. He has managed to track down an eBay seller of flour and ordered himself a 16kg bag! In addition to his baking he is also making and drying his own homemade pasta and doing a 24-hour knitathon/crochetathon with his wife to raise funds for the NHS. If you want to read more about this or even sponsor him in his amazing endeavour, check out this link.
Lisa is also baking and has replaced all her shop-bought baked goods for home-made varieties in an effort to combat her husband’s high blood pressure. Her new low-salt creations have led to a noticeable reduction where medication failed to help, a lockdown success story we can all applaud.
Wal has finally got around to recording and uploading his first track to Soundcloud which is called Lockdown IV, a short and eerie instrumental featuring one of his self-made cigar box guitars (a pre-lockdown hobby). The whereabouts of Lockdowns I through to III is unknown but if you fancy a listen then you can hear his work here.
Making 1,000 Cranes
Georgina told us of her hope that her wedding would go ahead as planned in August and of her search for décor ideas. Coming across a beautiful image of hundreds of origami cranes hanging from a ceiling, she decided to make 1,000 herself as legend has it that anyone who makes 1,000 will be granted a wish. Though still working as a teacher she has managed to make 426 at time of writing which she is keeping in a sombrero, obviously.
Russell had recently attended a course in spoon carving (yes, he really did) and has been using the spare time to hone his skills and practise this ancient art. As the beneficiary of a hand carved spoon for my birthday (not from Russell), I can attest to their unique beauty and only marvel at the skill involved.
Enid is doing some investigative work, on the trail of a sailor born 1876 in Kent, who worked as a seaman on a light vessel off the Goodwin Sands. This came about through some records of a demolished street where he once lived. The life of Henry has taken her to a world of maritime activity- the rivers and ports, lighthouses and light ships, inland waterways, and working docklands. The internet has allowed her to explore the subject from her lockdown on the beautiful West Coast of Scotland and taken her out of her home and back in time – how would we be coping without it?
Linda has had a go at making Oak Gall ink, a proper stationery activity. Oak Galls, for those who are not familiar with them, are a large swelling caused when wasps lay their eggs on an oak’s leaf buds and create a sort of incubator for their larvae: the resulting gall can then be used to make ink. Used as far back as Roman times, it was the most popular source of ink for writing throughout the middle ages and up to the early 20th century. Next up she is making ink from coffee grounds, all sourced from Jason Logan’s amazing ink recipe book.
John has his hands full with five children and a teaching job to be managed remotely, but he has still found time to lay network cables to his garden shed, presumably the only place he can work in peace. Plus he has taken up cross-stich and, as the owner of a flock of chickens, he has plenty of eggs for cheesecake making.
Quitting Your Job!
Mickey in the US has quit his job!!! A brave decision, especially since health insurance is generally connected to your work place over there, but he felt the work was killing him. We wish him all the best and hope the space to think about the future is proving useful.
Writing A Detective Novel
Debbie, a life-long fan of Agatha Christie, is having a go at writing her own detective novel. Taking her inspiration from the grand dame of sleuth fiction and incorporating several nods for aficionados, her story is set in 1930’s Cairo and is being written with lovely Diamine ink.
Claire is dancing online with Ballet Rambert and Sadler’s Wells, and has become the ballerina she always wanted to be. Again we wonder how we would/could have coped without the internet there to entertain/train/inform us.
Amanda has an eleven year son old to entertain and has set about teaching him to cook via a whole series of MasterChef (setting her standards fairly high I think we can all agree) and has had some notable success with a Gammon & Egg Pie with Sweet Potato Mash. Her young Padawan is also training in tennis, dancing and singing though the most fun they have had so far has been the illicit drinking of condensed milk. This is achieved by drilling a couple of holes in the top of the tin so as to facilitate sneaky sips from the cupboard store, leaving Amanda’s husband confused by the disappearance of the childhood treat. This out of character subterfuge will surely be something her son remembers with great fondness when he looks back on the strange times.
Liz is a vicar and has had to learn how to livestream her sermons as well as use technology to keep in touch with her congregation. Another skill she has been required to speed learn is hairdressing: she’s had to have a go at cutting hair – her husband’s and her son’s – though sadly not supplied any photos of her efforts, nor any feedback on the reaction. She did say it was great fun, can’t decide if that’s a good sign for them or not.
Hosting A Party
Finally Laura had a Zoom birthday party, something she has never done before and with her great friend Barbara who shares the same birthday and with whom she has been friends for 45 years. Barbara is in the US and they have never managed to meet up before to celebrate their birthday so this year was, despite the crisis, a great treat. Party participants ranged from ages 2-90 and they even managed a treasure hunt. She didn’t say if they all had cake but let’s hope so.
And that’s it, that is how we are all getting through these long and difficult weeks. I remember the three-day week in the 1970’s as a small child, coming home to a dark and cold house to light candles, and shops opening in semi-darkness. I used to tell my children that it could never happen now, that we would never stand for it these days, but we have. It is different to be sure but unprecedented and unbelievable still, a virtual no day week. It would have been so much harder without the incredible resource that the internet provides, so in addition to thanking all the key workers out there keeping us going, we should remember Mr Berners Lee who ensured free access of his invention for all – cheers Tim.
Oh and the winner? So hard but in the end Georgina and her cranes won out with the message of hope and the 1,000 bird wish. Let’s all wish that we get through this as safely and sanely as we can.