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XX Notes: ‘Stuff To Do’ to Avoid Doing Stuff I Need To Do

Published on: 5 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 23 Jul, 2020

Maria Rayner

Maria Rayner‘s observational, fortnightly column from a woman’s perspective…

Just had one of those Farty moments.

Anyone remember Guildford’s own Man From Auntie sketch where Ben Elton has “stuff to do” and rushes round his studio set flat, finding other things to do rather than sit down and work? He even empties his notoriously overfilled swing bin.

In my case, it was cleaning the coffee machine. Not just a quick swill under the tap while rubbing the obvious stains with a finger – no, this was taking it apart, a cloth between the ridges and deep into the corners. It’s sparkling now.

You’d think that’s enough procrastination. But not a bit of it, what a great opportunity to Google the half-remembered sketch. Another happy hour rushed by, chuckling at Elton’s 80s show.

Did you catch him at G Live last year? He’d lost a lot of his sparkle (mainly from his suit!) but the observational humour was undimmed – loved the gag about his son living in a squat but having his dinner delivered by taxi.

I wonder what he finds to lampoon in lockdown? At the start of the pandemic, an old Uni friend evoked some wartime spirit, urging us to Dig For Victory.

One prepared vegetable bed

I’m no stranger to growing vegetables, preferring this sort of practical gardening to digging flowerbeds, but my veggie patch has lain fallow for a couple of years while the twin distractions of work and sailing have taken over. Consequently, I had a bit of pre-knowledge of what grows well and what is eaten by the resident pigeons.

Potatoes, rocket, broad beans and spinach are good for my sandy soil and casual agricultural neglect while peas, carrots, or anything root, suffer from late staking or lazily prepared soil.

Not this year, confined to the garden in March there was plenty of time to prepare the beds and provide the correct supports. Despite warnings of late frosts from more experienced gardeners, the weather has been dry and warm, and my risky early planting paid off with early harvests of rocket and spinach – in fact, it’s been so dry that the rocket has run to seed.

Insta ready broad bean flowers

I’m most proud of my peas, which are the tallest I’ve ever grown, even though they are a dwarf variety. And the broad bean flowers are insta-ready. Or has the slower pace of life given me time to appreciate them?

I say slower, life has sped up with the easing of lockdown restrictions to allow travel and exercise at the coast. My summer passion is sailing and a few years ago I took my courage in both hands and bought an RS Aero, a modern, single-handed rival to the Laser – but more ‘tippy’.

This was a major step as only the previous year, after a try-out, I declared I’d never get in one again, so traumatic was the experience. But never say never.

My sailing skills have improved, but I need a light wind. RYA guidelines state that boating is possible, but to keep well within your comfort zone. How irresponsible to have to be rescued by the harbour master during a pandemic!

Fortunately, the wind has been great for my level – even without safety boat cover. We’ve been down to Chichester Harbour a few times now and being at the coast is a great way to raise your spirits.

Chatting with the friendly, cycle-mounted police, it’s their opinion that Hayling Island beaches don’t get too crowded as they cover such a large stretch of coastline. If you’re put off by pictures of the crowds at Brighton then head down the A3 for some socially distant sea air.

The other great thing about a trip to the sailing club is the opportunity to be reunited with my daughter. Hayling Island is pretty much equidistant from Guildford and Southampton so it’s a great outdoor family meeting place.

She’s spent the last few summers (and one winter) working abroad so her choosing to socially isolate at Uni hasn’t been a totally unfamiliar experience.

That’s not too say that I haven’t been missing female company. Being shut in with three “blokes” for 10 weeks is okay if you accept that you have to either do all the cooking and cleaning or spend four days cajoling them into doing their share. A symptom of this was the weekend’s Spa Day. While my sister, with three girls, has been pampered with a domestic nail bar and hair salon, we’ve had buzzcuts and woodwork.

I had a breakthrough this week when I persuaded one of the blokes to have a homemade facial. The lucky chap will remain anonymous. But when he was lying in the sunshine with six tablespoons of honey smeared across his face, all I could think was: hope he doesn’t get stung by a bee!

Facial ingredients

For those “new blokes” interested here’s the recipe: Edible Face Mask (FancyNancy website): 1 cup oatmeal, 6 tbsp honey, 6 tbsp yoghurt, 1 sliced cucumber, face towels – cook oatmeal, mix all ingredients, cool and apply to face for up to 15 mins.

Oh and Ben Elton? I’ve done the hard work for you. Here’s the link: Series 1 Episode 3 part 2:

See also 2013 article: Ben Elton Recounts His Guildford Childhood As He Helps Celebrate Institute’s Refurbishment

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