A (hot) day in the life


It’s Sunday. Yesterday Darla and I had a market stall at the Hustle and Scout Twilight Markets, which was fun but exhausting.

Of course there were a couple of down sides. The freak gust of wind that blew over one of our racks, depositing all the lovely clothes on the floor and (oh, my broken heart!) ripping one of our most gorgeous frocks nearly in half. Yes, I’m still grieving. But about a hundred men suddenly appeared out of nowhere, picking up our rack and helping us to get it back in order, proving that chivalry is alive and well and living among Canberra’s stall holders.

And there was the occasional ‘retail WTF moment’, known by absolutely everybody who works in retail. This is where you wonder if you are actually still living in reality, or whether you and your shop have somehow been transported to Planet Zorg, which is occupied by completely, utterly bizarre humanoids who are perfectly adapted to a lifestyle of asking incredibly odd and irritating questions.

Sample (from some time ago): ‘I bought this dress from you four months ago. I’ve only worn it a few times, to several parties … oh, and to work. I love it, but I lost weight and it doesn’t fit me anymore. I kept the receipt. Can I have a full refund?’ *

Of course, my spine was on fire the entire time, and when I got home I was hit by a gigantic wall of Fatigue. (Oh dear, if I only just managed to drive home safely yesterday at 9 pm, how will I be after next Saturday’s gig getting home after 11?)

On the other hand, I got to spend hours in Darla’s company and that always, always makes me really really happy. And we had some utterly lovely customers, who definitely make up for the occasional Zorgian, and a few friends dropped by to say hello.

Woke up late this morning, stiff as a board and still in the grip of Fatigue. But I now understand what to do about the dreaded F – don’t give in to the temptation to stay in bed and languish! My poor old spine Would Not Like. So I dragged myself up.

Today was forecast to be horrifically hot (but it’s only Spring!) with a revolting pressure change in the afternoon bringing rain.

In other words, exactly the worst possible weather for me. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that by the evening I will feel like eight shades of sh … er, feel really bad. Joints on fire, fever, headache, that sort of thing. So I drag myself out of bed knowing that I have a few hours in which to move my body and do my best to weather the weather, before the really bad stuff sets in.

Darling Dog does not like the heat, so the Captain takes her straight out for a walk while it’s still reasonably cool. I dart directly outside into the garden.

I water my herbs and vegetables, looking anxiously at my poor snow peas, which are showing a distinct tendency to go crunchy in the heat. I hope I don’t lose them: today we need to buy some shadecloth to protect them from the worst of the sun. Oddly enough, the tomatoes, celery, basil, tarragon, zucchini, lettuce and parsley seem to love it. Especially the zucchini plants, which look very much as though they are quietly biding their time before suddenly going nuts and taking over the entire bed.

I go and check on my Wormies. They are having a ball, wriggling and eating as fast as their little wormy stomachs will allow. They are also reproducing rapidly. They have almost finished their last lot of food: I will need to feed them again tomorrow. The little darlings. They can have my best organic veggie scraps: they also seem to love eggshells, paper and cotton fabric scraps as long as they are cut up small enough.

I tenderly water them with collected rainwater to keep them cool. They seem to enjoy it. (You can just tell, okay?) They live in permanent shade so I think they will cope okay with the heat.

Next I feed and water Darling Cockatoo and Darling Budgie. They are both well-adapted to coping with heat and they are thrilled with the weather. They are super-active and demanding my full attention. Darling Budgie wants kisses – but I have to be careful because her version of giving affection goes: kissy-kissy-kissy-kissy-BITE-kissy-kiss. Today I manage to avoid her attempts to pierce my lip with her beak. She is so happy with the weather that she takes a luxurious bath in her water dish, which I then have to refill.

Darling Cockatoo wants to dance. He is very musical and his favourite thing in the world is to dance while you sing. (He has excellent rhythm: most cockatoos do.) His preferred song for dancing is I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door by Eddie Hodges – but only when my mother is singing it. Today he makes do with my rendition of Enter Sandman by Metallica ** Usually he prefers to dance when the singing is live, but I’ve caught him several times bopping along to the radio when he thinks nobody is looking. He seems to really like The Cure. He has excellent taste.

After the birds have been fed and watered I pop outside again, to empty the kitchen scrap bin into the Compost Bin No. 2, and pick ripe redcurrants from the rampant bush that has been in the garden since before we moved in.

Redcurrant bush

Rampant redcurrants

I used to tenderly nurture that bush. Then I lost interest and decided to neglect it instead, at which point it went hurrah and grew like billy-o. Every year it over-produces huge amounts of fruit. Most of the time I can’t keep up with it. This year, however, I have decided I can’t bear not to make the most of it.

The fruit ripens a few at a time, not all at once, so I am picking the ripest currants then popping them into a container in the freezer, to keep until I have enough. Then I will attempt to make redcurrant jelly, which we quite like as a condiment with meats – I might also have enough this year for some redcurrant gin, which is lovely.

Ripe redcurrants

The spoils

While I pick currants, the Captain and Darling Dog return. Darling Dog races into the back garden to help me with the redcurrants (by shoving her cold nose into my leg while I work).

I sustain two large mosquito bites, and curse the culprits unto the eighth generation. I go inside with my currants, pop them into the freezer, then put tea tree oil directly onto the bites.

Happy to report that ten minutes later they have completely stopped itching. Magic!

I stand in the kitchen and wonder who else needs to be fed, watered and attended to.

Oh, yes. Time for my own breakfast.

As usual, it is based around eggs. Soft-boiled on a weekday, but on the weekends I have started to enjoy an omelette. Today’s is made with Asian greens and a small amount of goat’s cheese. Served with a cup of bone broth, and fruit – the last of the honeydew melon. And a cup of coffee with a teaspoon of honey and some cashew nut milk.

Okay: cashew milk. I don’t drink moocow milk and decided to start making my own nut milk after making the decision to avoid preservatives and thickeners. My lovely, lovely boss at work introduced me to the glories of homemade cashew milk.

The best thing about it is that you don’t need to faff about with nutmilk bags and filters and the like. It’s very easy to make.

Buy raw cashews: the fresher the better. I bought a big bag from the markets, and have kept them in the fridge. Soak a cup or so of nuts overnight in water, or for at least 6 hours.

The next day, drain the nuts, and chuck them in your zoozer. I added a couple of seeded dates and a bit of pure vanilla extract. That’s because I love a sweetish milk: but you don’t need to add anything if you don’t fancy it.

Add ‘some’ water. This is what my boss said. My zoozer holds about three cupfuls so that’s what I add. More if you like it thinner, less if you like it thicker. Mine is rich and creamy-tasting, oh yum.

Zooz the whole lot thoroughly. No need to filter it: once you’ve blended the nuts with the water it’s ready to go. Decant it into a glass or ceramic bottle (I use an old Grolsch bottle. Hmm, could use a few more of those. Must drink more Grolsch.) Try not to drink all the milk right now, because it is sooo nice fresh.

It keeps for about a week in the fridge: just shake it a bit before using it. I think it is lovely in coffee but it’s also delicious on its own.

Breakfast over, I have a think about the rest of the day. I need to clean the bird room and also need to get some shadecloth to try and save my poor snow peas. Shadecloth is more urgent. I also need to make sure I pace myself more carefully than usual: I know it’s a risky day.

Off we go to get shadecloth and a few other garden accoutrements. I also pop into the shop for some smoked salmon to have for dinner, with plenty of salad. No Grolsch, sadly. It is already 34°C. Appalling. Christmas fever has well-and-truly hit the shops and we see cars with bits of tinsel attached. The heat combined with the droning cricket on the radio *** has gone to people’s heads and we are forgetting that it’s only November.

We tenderly erect the shadecloth over the veggies but the snow peas are already looking crispy. Oh, dear. Perhaps they were Not To Be.

I am already feeling guilty because I haven’t done my usual bit of exercise. Then I manage to remember (with some prompting from my thumb and finger joints) that I am having a Fatigue Day. This is good: I caught myself just in time. It’s a bad habit. If I feel exhausted and a bit ill I often push myself harder, thinking ‘If I can just get this all done then I can rest properly.’ Bad, bad idea. Pushing through fatigue just makes everything worse and leads to flares and painstorms. It’s this boom-or-bust mentality that got me into this pickle in the first place.

Rather than push myself to exertion, I decide to have a bit of a rest before lunch. I can do some light housework afterwards, if I still have the energy.

The resting is tricky too. I want to throw myself on the bed in a state of utter collapse. But I know it won’t really help. Fatigue is not the same thing as tiredness and it doesn’t respond well to total inertia.

I have been darting over to the computer in short bursts to write this, so I do another two minutes – drat, a bit too much. Pain starts up again much more quickly than usual. Danger, Will Robinson!

I settle on a few yoga stretches and a carefully-timed 10-minute reading break on the bed. Ten minutes won’t hurt.

It doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t help much either. Fatigue goes away when fatigue goes away. It cares not about a mere nana nap. In a lethargic way I pick a few lettuce leaves for lunch and we have some salad. It’s too hot to eat much. Funnily enough, though, it’s never too hot for tea …

The Darling birds, sensible creatures, are dozing comfortably on their perches. They know how to wait out a hot day.

Thankfully we have ducted evaporative cooling. It isn’t too drying and although it isn’t as cold as the refrigerated variety, the very pleasant fresh airflow makes up for it. Nicer for your skin, better for your lungs. Inside the house it is dark, with a soft, cool breeze blowing through every room. I vastly prefer it to a shop or office with harsh aircon. The air is lightly scented with hot eucalyptus from outside, too.

It is unusually quiet outdoors. Everybody is holed up inside to escape the heat. All I can hear are birds and, very faintly, the cricket from the neighbours’ radio. No lawns being mowed today!

In the afternoon I can feel myself fighting off the usual Sunday afternoon anxiety. It tends to build up after lunch. My body is used to seeing Sundays as the last respite before a week of mounting pain, and it fights it hard. Tomorrow evening I have a rehearsal and it looms large in my head as a commitment I cannot avoid. I am so frightened of pain and fatigue that something which should be a pleasure has turned into a source of misery!

Darla’s words of wisdom come to mind. In life, she says, there are some things we must do and cannot avoid. Just get them done, one at a time. Just face them, get them done and then they’re in the past and you can get on with the good stuff.

I’ll enjoy the rehearsal once I’m there. It’s just forcing myself to get there.

I try to distract myself by cleaning the bird room. It is a light job but afterwards I am exhausted. It doesn’t look like rain today after all, but we may be courting a thunderstorm tomorrow, or even tonight. My joints throb and my skin is prickling. There is a tightness in my head. I look in the mirror and sure enough, my cheeks, nose and throat are glowing red.

Here we go …

I don’t know what to do next. I’d had vague thoughts of sewing or knitting but my small hand joints are not in agreement. I can write a little if I recline, well propped up with my neck supported and the keyboard on my lap, so I do for a while. I might just get this blog finished today after all! Then my hands conk out and so do I.

It’s over 37 outside now! More like 24 or 25 indoors but even with the light breeze from the cooler it’s warmer than I prefer.

There is only so long you can ignore your own body. Housewiffery is out for the time being and the thought of exercise is hilarious. I come to, and realise that for the last hour I’ve been sprawled on the couch, staring vaguely at the wall and breathing.

Regretfully, and with a pounding headache, I catalogue all the useful things I could have been doing. So much for ‘always something, never nothing’! In the meantime the Captain has done all our washing. I try to think of something useful to achieve and settle on paracetamol and a cool shower. That’s useful, right? ****

As it turns out, yes. I don’t know whether it was the shower or the painkillers, but my head clears after a while and I even manage to sit quietly and hand-stitch a hem or two. The messiest of my life, but as it’s only pieces of an old pillowcase, for use in the kitchen, it hardly matters. I stick on some mellow jazz while I sew. It’s the sort of stuff people hate: all wandering, rambling vague chords and bass solos. I love it. It’s the sort of music that says nothing bad can ever exist in the world, plus I know how much fun those players are having.

The Captain drifts in to inform me that the temperature reached 39! My poor plants …

After a while my fingers and spine want me to stop again so stuff it: I curl up with a novel. It’s too hot to eat for a while yet and I’ve decided it’s not a crime to rest on a hot Sunday after all.

The rest of the evening progresses. The heat is persistent and when we remove the shade cloth and give the plants an evening drink, it’s fairly clear that all the snow peas (and two celery plants, oh sob) have given up the ghost. Even the vigorous tomatoes and zucchini are looking crunchy around the edges. I feel so guilty. The peas were not meant to be, in this unusually hot spring. Any suggestions for what I can put in that might be more hardy? Perhaps just some more of those lively zucchinis.

Dead peas

It was alive this morning …

Crunchy zucchini

Slightly crunchy

We have more salad (more salad!) with smoked salmon for a late evening meal, and manage a quiet, well-behaved evening and an early night. During the evening I am plagued with sudden, random ‘zinging’ electrical pains in my limbs. The pain is exactly like that nasty feeling of banging your funny-bone, but it happens in my arms, legs, hands, feet, hips and jaw.

I think I manage not to curse too badly. Little avian ears are listening, and both Darling parrots are more than capable of learning and loudly repeating any interesting phrases they hear. I recommend parrots as pets if you are keen on maintaining good language!

It’s been an unusually hot-day-in-the-life. I suspect one of many over the next few months. As I retire with my flushed face and zinging limbs I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to function at work tomorrow. Let’s see what Monday brings.


* This was a real situation. I wish I could say otherwise.

** What? Don’t you always cheerily hum Metallica in the morning?

*** Evil, seagull-killing sport.

**** For the record, I do feel a bit bad about two showers in one day, I won’t make a habit of using so much water! But it is a short shower.


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