Friday 10 April 2020

Triduum in the Desert

Live from Warrington, it's Holy Thursday!
Yesterday was Holy Thursday which, in my childhood, meant scrambled eggs, bacon and muffins for supper.  Our traditional Good Friday supper was eventually a salmon ring, and naturally there were always supermarket hot cross buns for breakfast.

Hot cross buns to be.
B.A. and I haven't developed a culinary tradition for Holy Thursday, but like other British people we enliven our Good Friday with hot cross buns. Of late I have baked our own hot cross buns. This year's dough is on its second proving.

Yesterday I had a more exciting time in the garden: I raked up the weeded third of the lawn, and then I cut its grass, and then I raked it again. Then I sowed grass seed in a cross-cross pattern as the box instructed and trod it into the ground. Next I got a large jar and poured water on the lawn through a colander. Needs must--we don't have an outdoor faucet. Then I sprinkled another jar's worth of water on it. 

Newly seeded.
While I was engaged in this very lawn-centred activity, our neighbour Sandy came outside to tell me that he had read in "Psychology Today" that a new coronavirus related condition had been discovered, and it was sending people out into their gardens to do the worst jobs, like digging up dandelions: "Anything to get into the fresh air." He found this vastly amusing, and I found it amusing that industriousness can be considered a mental condition. 

"It's a coping mechanism," B.A. suggested when I told him. 

Really, it's a substitute for the gym, plus seasonal shame at the state of the garden. There's a Scottish joke about an auld wifie having palpitations when her husband takes off his shirt outside. "Och, Hughie, the neighbours will see you!" wails the auld wifie, and that's how I feel about the garden once March rolls around. 

I also managed to get the mint planted before work began. My mother warned me that mint spreads like a weed, so I cut out the bottom of a plastic flowerpot, dug a hole in the herb barrel, shoved in the flowerpot, and planted the mint in that.

The thought of my Easter soup preyed on my mind all morning, and suddenly I realised that I belong to an "essential service" because, thank heavens, a free press is still considered essential. So on my lunch break, I put on my press pass and went out to get my kwas, taking notes and photographs for an article for LSN. 

Yesterday morning's dreams of escape did not entirely come true. When B.A. saw me in my smart work clothes, he vehemently vetoed both the Rough Bus and the slum, so I took a nicer bus to the one polski sklep it passes.

My poor little heart fluttered like a clothes moth as I tapped down the street in my best shoes. I told myself that this was ridiculous, as so far this was one of our daily walk routes. There seemed to be many people around, though: families going for their government-mandated exercise, people talking in doorways, shoppers headed for Tesco. I got to my bus stop ten minutes early, so I walked around the corner to the local High Street. A corner shop and a pharmacy were the only businesses open. There was an untidy queue outside the corner shop, but the pharmacy seemed empty until a lone man went in. Car traffic seemed heavy to me, but this may have been because I hadn't been on this street since St. Joseph's Day. 

My bus had a cheerful driver without a mask and half a dozen or so elderly people on the bottom deck. I rushed up the stairs to the comparative emptiness of the top deck: there was just one man in the very front. Later another man came up the stairs, and then another. I held my breath as the third man walked past me. 

Meanwhile, I took photos of familiar places I have not seen in weeks. Unfortunately, I missed a shot of the most apocalyptic sight, which was an earnest long-haired man glue-washing colourful posters to the long hoarding outside a building site. His posters read "PLEASE BELIEVE THESE DAYS WILL PASS."  

The second-most apocalyptic sight was the shopkeeper in the polski sklep because she was wearing a helmet with a thick plastic face-shield. To my surprise and relief, there had been no queue, just a sign directing that only three people could be at the shop at once. There were two young women and then me. I found bottles of zakwas quickly although, to my chagrin, they were stamped 08.04.2020. 

Thank heavens I took a bottle, for when I consulted my friend Ola on Facebook, she told me that this was the start date, not the best before date, and that the zakwas would be good until August. Whew! Meanwhile, I also bought a loaf of rye bread, in case the zealous police didn't think zakwas was an "essential food item", and a packet of instant ┼╝urek, in case the zakwas had gone off. I could have bought any number of things as well, but they clean went out of my mind. So instead I placed my three things before the apocalyptic shopkeeper and muttered, "To wszystko."

A minute later I was back out-of-doors, and I had just missed the bus back, but then I spied the Best Bus of All, the Church-and-Hospital Bus, going my way. It was emptier than the first bus, and I breathed more freely.  Sadly, I forgot all about the apocalyptic posters until long after we had passed them, and there wasn't anything as interesting on the way home. 

I rubbed my hands vigorously with the last of our hand-sanitiser when I alighted from the bus, and upon reaching home I scrubbed both my hands and the bottle of zakwas. The entire adventure had taken me no longer than 75 minutes; I was amazed. 

B.A. stipulated that I was not allowed to freak out about anything that happened on the trip, but there really wasn't anything to freak out about. I sincerely hope the Vile Germ did not leap upon me from one of the young ladies in the polski sklep or from one of the men on the bus, but I suppose we will just have to see. Nobody coughed. Nobody sneezed. Nobody spoke--save for bus-driver greetings* and the shopkeeper and I exchanging mutters about card or cash. 

Post from PM, Speccie and Aged Ps.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in journalistic toil, and then dug up a patch of dandelions before B.A. called me in for dinner. I put on my nice clothes again, and then we watched Holy Thursday Mass in Warrington. Afterwards, B.A. wanted to watch Vespers and the Stripping of the Altar, and I sat along with him and read the pre-1955 Vespers, trying not to fall asleep. My feeling was that for the Catholic faithful of Scotland, the Stripping of the Altar happened after St. Joseph's Day Mass, and this is gong to be one painful Easter. 

However, I cheered up after a cup of cocoa and had a nice chat with my Mum. By the way, Mum's homemade face-masks both arrived in this morning's post, so we are set the next time we make a risky public transit journey.  

We also received a personal letter from the Prime Minister, but I suspect everyone did, too. 

*In Scotland we always greet and thank bus-drivers, just like my Scottish-Canadian grandmother used to do, and now it feels very rude not to . 

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