Lockdown: Aunties, buns and doggerel by Sandra Horn
What with lockdown and the weather, it’s been hard going these last weeks! On the plus side, I have been slowly mutating into my aunties, beloved bakers and knitters and stitchers, joys of my childhood. They were limited in their aspirations by time and circumstance, but content with their lots, so it seemed. I was the only girl born for many years, so was the happy recipient of beautiful clothes – smocked dresses, knitted cardigans… and oodles of pocket money for doing little errands for them. Now, with no need to be striving to be ‘someone’ outside the house, I’ve been learning the contentment of housewifery. I don’t mean dusting or hoovering,by the way, nothing so drastic, just making. Supplies of cheese straws (recipe courtesy of Auntie Sheila) go out to a friend in a nursing home. We are growing fat on home-made scones and biscuits and buns.
Then there’s the knitting. I make things for Knit for Peace and CRIBS. I’m not a natural and often have to start again a couple of times before it’s right, but it is pleasing when something useful emerges.
Being confined by the virus makes me think in particular of Auntie Jean. Family legend had it that Jean ‘didn’t go out.’ Not that she was agoraphobic, but her world encompassed her house, husband, three boys, beautiful garden, and the family house just over the road from the twitten they lived in. Everybody, then, lived within walking distance of that house and hardly a day went by when we didn’t meet there. It didn’t have a bathroom for years, so bathnight was at Jean’s. There would be a strung-out procession of folk with towels crossing the road and coming back looking dampish. Jean, always with a twinkle in her eye and a liking for mischief, had what would be called a ‘dirty chuckle’, often heard. Once, she came into the house clutching a letter and looking utterly devastated. Everyone clustered round asking what the matter was, and finally, in a broken voice, she said, ‘They’ve put the rent up.’ ‘Don’t worry, we’ll help,’ said the others, ‘How much is it?’ ‘A shilling a week,’ said, Jean, as her turned-down mouth changed to a grin. We’d all been had again.
She couldn’t keep a secret to save her life, so if there was something in the wind that was being kept from the children for some reason, the answer was to ask Auntie Jean. She would writhe a bit and say she wasn’t supposed to tell – but she always gave in.
So, is that it? Am I as contented? Not entirely. The auntification has only been partly successful. The hours still stretch away and one must fill them somehow and not just with homecrafts – there are only so many buns to be consumed and only so much knitting to be sweated over. There is some sense of satisfaction, but they don’t fill the fizzing, demanding bit of the brain, whichever bit it is. So I have signed up to another Live Canon poetry course called Writing Science. So far, Maths, Physics, Sci-fi, Geology, Chemistry and Medicine tutorials have been more than enough to meet the demand – especially Chemistry and the periodic table. I panicked and could only manage a regressive bit of doggerel:
The naming of elements
Immaterium: has it been found? Is it of use? Who cares?
Hyperbolium: looks bigger than it is – it’s prone to put on airs.
Fabricatium: its properties are simply unbelievable
Antimatterium: is brain-taxingly inconceivable!
Unobtanium and mythium are the subjects of irate
Exchanges between scientists. Bloxham and Smithson state
That they are non-identical, a rancorous debate
With Parsonage and Wilkins-Spore, supported by the late
Arch-alchemist of Walsingham that well-known addlepate
Who posited, based on the colour of the flame with which they burned
That they were the same thing, but both ideas were spurned
When mass spectrometry was used on samples of the pair
And found that there was nothing but the thinnest of thin air.
I’ll get me coat – or maybe get back to the kitchen.