We can all agree what a dreadful year it has been. As we brace for a second lockdown, with the winter ahead of us, it will no doubt be a rather different kettle of fish. The long sun-kissed days of the spring lockdown gave us avid gardening, doorstep rendezvous and neighbourly support, but being shut inside through winter, without the traditional jollity of the season, how ever can we keep our spirits up?
Rather than muddling through aimlessly, we have come up with a plan to combat this looming dread. Each week we’ll be publishing What We Are Doing Now, a selection of suggestions to make your winter lockdown a more satisfying, cosy and jovial experience.
This is what we are doing now and these are your orders:
We Will Make Soup
Pottering around the kitchen concocting a hearty, nourishing soup really is the ideal way to spend a rainy, autumnal afternoon. Tasty, warming and cheap to make, a good Hodgepodge soup can contain virtually any vegetable you like and will feed you for days. We guarantee your future self will appreciate the gesture when you’re sorted for comforting dinners for nights to come.
A trip to your local greengrocer will provide everything you need (with the bonus of being cheap and plastic free) but if you’ve got dusty tins of lentils, tomatoes or beans in the cupboard this is an excellent way to bulk up the mixture.
Use the biggest pan you can get your hands on and start by frying up lots of chopped onion and garlic. Add the denser vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, then a kettle of hot water and a stock cube. Once they’ve softened a little, you can throw in softer veg like celery, mushrooms, and leeks. For a rich pink hue, we particularly enjoy adding some beetroot! The most fun part of making a Hodgepodge is flavouring your brew. Add chilli, ginger and turmeric for an extra vitamin boost, or go for wild garlic, mustard or basil for a more earthy flavour. When everything has been nicely cooking for a while, chuck in some spinach, the lentils, salt, pepper and tomato puree to suit your taste.
It’s almost impossible to get this recipe wrong, so enjoy the process. Drink big pots of tea or a glass of red, and listen to something relaxing while you cook. Once your delicious Hodgepodge is ready, toast up some chunky bread, slather with butter and serve. Then tell us this wasn’t the most comforting, delicious and simple meal you’ve made in ages.
We Will Dedicate Ourselves To Cosiness
We are heading into chilly times, so being cosy and snug is of utmost importance. Perhaps you’ve got a drawer of favourite jumpers already, or a comforting blanket to crack out, but maybe you need to nip to a charity shop and treat yourself to something that will keep you glowing with toastiness. Crack out the long johns, pile pets onto your knee, light a fire or crank up the heating.
The trick to this one is to acknowledge the cosiness, so make sure to pay thanks to our ancestors for their brilliantly comforting, soft and warming inventions. Pillows, upholstery, big socks and central heating - what pitiful shivering husks we’d be without them!
Once you’ve suitably adorned yourself in a layer of soft, woolly protective garments, say the words ‘Bloody hell I am so cosy right now’ out loud to complete the spell.
We Will Go Foraging
A wander in the wilderness can do wonders for your spirits, but there’s a special kind of satisfaction that comes from venturing out on a mission to fill your basket with wild delicacies. Scour the hedgerows for rosehips to brew up a restorative, immune-boosting syrup, search for sloe berries to infuse your gin with autumnal flavour or embrace your inner squirrel on the hunt for hazelnuts and chestnuts.
Whilst they’re packed with bitter tannins which make them rather unpalatable raw, the abundant acorns scattered on the forest floor can be transformed into a nutty and naturally sweet flour, which might come in rather handy if the nation once more turns its collective hand to baking and the shelves run dry of its commercially made counterparts.
Foraging is a walk with purpose and a reward, a free treasure hunt where you’re never sure what you’ll come away with. If you’re not inclined to get experimental in the kitchen or you find the wilderness less bountiful than expected, set your sights on the biggest, shiniest conker and ready yourself for battle. Beware, fungi forays are best left to those with expertise in the field.
We Will Salute Our Resilience
Whilst we’re all feeling the fatigue that sets in after so many long months living in a world which feels increasingly like dystopian fiction, now is the time to recognise our achievements, rally our spirits, and renew our courage.
The journey has been hard and we have each, to varying extents, faced loss and made sacrifices in ways we scarce could have imagined. We have adapted and adjusted, recalibrated and reimagined our lives.
When worries creep in and things feel bleak take a moment to appreciate all that you’ve achieved and overcome, no matter how insignificant they may feel. Try to focus your attention away from the uncertainty and make a mental inventory of small victories and things to be grateful for. Treat yourself to that extra biscuit, congratulate your past self, and thank your blankets.
We Will Be Neighbourly Again
Remember back in March when we united in common endeavour, shared experience, and a sense of utter bafflement at how quickly and dramatically our lives had changed? Communities came together in unexpected ways; we decorated our windows to provide pleasing views to passersby, talked on doorsteps and over fences, sang from balconies and dropped off care packages to those in need.
The narrative has soured somewhat since then. Now we’re increasingly encouraged to look for people and groups to blame for the hardships we face, to surveil our communities and spy on our neighbours. Things are Orwellian enough without us turning on each other, so let’s strive for small acts of kindness and compassion. Say an appropriately distanced hello as you pass in the street, smile at strangers, look out for those around us who need our support, not our suspicion, and remember we are, in fact, all in this together. Whatever it is you find to distract your mind and enliven your spirit as we approach this darkest of winters, remember it’s perfectly fine to do just whatever is it you need to do to get by until ‘times’ once again become ‘precedented’.