How many times in the last week have you heard the word 'exponential' mentioned in the media? Last week, I proudly placed my peel off permit on my garden waste bin, proud not because I was doing my civic duty and had paid the £25 fee for the year, but because this was the third of three such permits I was placing and I now had the entire set adorning my brown bin. You see I am, like many a person, a bit of a collector.
I have heard it said many times that the world of the collector tends to be a male thing, but I do not wish to step into the hazardous world of sexual politics, so shall refrain from going down that path. Anyway, my wife is known to be an avid collector of things, her current interest being plants, an increasing or 'growing' number of which adorn our house. Also, given that her collections tend to be inclusive and bring benefit to our home, whereas mine are mainly exclusive to myself, it would be wrong of me to even think about claiming primacy on this.
My collections could best be described as whimsy. As a boy, it was mainly around football cards and comics. A few years ago, I was delighted to be reunited with my collection of Scorcher and Score
and Tiger and Scorcher
magazines I had been amassing from the early 1970s, due to the salvaging efforts of my brother, rescuing them from the attic of our parents' former house. They now sit in their splendour within my rarely used garage, located within a massive brown cardboard box, the classic collector's cabinet.
I have recently noticed a potential collectors market in the exponential increase in estate agents 'for sale' signs and can envisage a growing enthusiasm among specialists, similar to the approach taken by trainspotters. Notes being compared and bragging rights claimed depending on the rarity of the sign spotted and best locations for the most obscure and rare sightings.
I would love to say that my current main interest is in collecting vinyl, for which my enthusiasm has recently been rekindled. However, I suspect I am more invested in these current times in amassing a decent-sized collection of days, weeks, months and years.
Hard times indeed with Europe virtually a no-go area, the country under different regimes and as I write we don't know whether it will be the last Trump or not. Like everyone else, my life has changed because of COVID-19. For many, it has been difficult and unpleasant, but so far, despite being in the vulnerable section of society, for me it has turned out rather differently. Things in London are not too bad – not eating out is no hardship nor is not going to the pub. I was tested last week as part of a research programme being carried out by Imperial College and told seven days later that I did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing – which is really neither here nor there when you come to think of it.
Life goes on but with differences. The most irksome one is that I am reluctant to face my local large supermarket and have tired of the stock in the corner shop at the end of my road. As a result, I signed up to receive a weekly fruit and veg box from a company which 'rescues' its stock from growers who have lost customers because the social and corporate events they used to supply no longer take place. It also takes the deformed fruit and vegetables supermarkets reject. Cucumbers and carrots come in the most peculiar shapes and I now know what a mango looks like.
It is arguably expensive, but the contents are varied and on delivery day – it lands on the doorstep in the middle of the night – one wakes to a surprise. One such was the arrival into my life of the aubergine. What do you do with an aubergine? It is not a vegetable I grew up with in Lanark and I doubt if mother ever saw one in her life let alone either of my grannies. I was 27 before I discovered what an avocado pear was.
I did think of putting the aubergine on top of my green bin with a message inviting passersby to take it. In my street, it is common practice for unwanted but useful things to be left there for the greater good. I could add apples as my boxes contain some every week and now there are more than enough to keep the doctor away even if home visits existed. Inspired by a friend who proudly posted his very first apple pie on Facebook having made the pastry, I thought I would make one too. I am tired of stewed apples even with cinnamon or added raisins. But my local shop does not stock ready-made pastry so, as always, I went online.
Unfortunately, I did not read carefully what I had ordered and four very large bags of plain flour are now sitting in my kitchen. When I grew up, we had a flour barrel in the larder – it was actually made in my father's mill as was the oatmeal for the porridge. But there is no room for a barrel in my kitchen, and the barrel was one of the things I did not take when we sold the house. But there is always Google so two large plastic storage jars have been ordered to add to the seven jars I had to acquire when I decided to bake a cake and had to find somewhere for the raisins, the currants, the mixed fruit and the self-raising flour.
As for the aubergine, Google has been no help. Every recipe requires ingredients the corner shop does not stock and which come in jumbo-size amounts online. As a result, it is face off time with my latest egg plant. As Mona Lott said when we were involved in a different war – it is being so cheerful what keeps me going.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com