Sunday, April 19

Cycling, corona virus, and decorating....

I have been meaning to write a post for weeks - I think the longer I go without writing the harder it is to get back into it, but I don't intend giving up. From the beginning of November until the last week of February, every spare minute was taken up with decorating our kitchen, but more of that later.

Over the winter I have kept cycling, but mostly just for transport, as the weather was not exactly conducive to pleasure rides.... It was so wet that several of our club rides were cancelled. Many local roads were flooded enough to prevent passage by bicycle. Even when the rides were on I confess I chickened out a couple of times as I just didn't fancy riding in wind and rain, and I do have the excuse that I have to ride nearly 6 miles to the start. I wasn't always the only one who chickened out either!

In fact the last ride I had with our local CUK group was way back in February, when I rode with the 2* group - the next one up from my normal 1* - on a ride to and round Oxford, led by one of the group who knows lots of interesting routes through Oxford. I've done two of these before and they are very interesting. This time we actually rode to Oxford, rather than going there by car and starting from a car park.

As the leader is also bursar of one of the colleges, we were able to have our refreshments within the college. It was an exceptionally warm and sunny day, but also very windy, and on the way back, into the wind, I really struggled to keep going. I ended up having to leave the ride early, for the first time, although in fact it was only about 2 miles earlier than I would have done anyway.  Total mileage for the ride was about 47 miles, over about 6 1/2 hours for me. I know, I know - nothing compared to what some people do. I was only riding a Trek hybrid though, and I am not exactly a spring chicken.... I had worked out from the times advertised before the ride that there wouldn't be very long for lunch, but I was a bit shocked when the call came to set off on the return journey as I had only just managed to finish my sandwiches, and later I simply ran out of the energy to fight the headwind. I hated having to give up, but I told myself that sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and not be ashamed of the fact.

At the end of February, as the corona virus was creeping into the UK, I went by train to Devon to visit Elder Daughter and middle granddaughter, while her Royal Marines husband was away. It was a good job I went when I did, as had I left it any later the travel restrictions would have been brought in, preventing me from going. While I was there I managed a couple of train rides, combined with walks, on the Exe Estuary Trail, otherwise known as NCN Route 2. One day I visited Topsham, a village on the route, and found Route 2 Cafe, and an excellent little bike shop round the corner. I would recommend both. I also found a lovely secondhand bookshop - a house basically, with each room full of books, and all very well organised. There I found a real gem, published in the 1970s, called "England by Bicycle", by Frederick Alderson. I have since discovered that he wrote several other bicycling-related books but I have not been able to find out much about the man himself. Here's an extract -

Methinks that the likes of Strava has taken over from the chart!

As I was walking the Route, I planned to return on my bike, either by cycling all the way down there, or by putting my bike on the train and getting off at Exeter, whence I could cycle the last 10 miles or so of my journey on the Trail. I haven't put my bike on a train since my early twenties (quite a long time ago...) and the tales I read of people who do it nowadays aren't always encouraging, so it remains to be seen whether that will happen.

However, we all know what has happened to our plans this year..... they have all gone awry! We are not used to our lives being disrupted as they have been in the last few weeks. I must admit that whenever in the past I have seen people on the news at airports moaning that their flight has been delayed, cancelled or whatever, and their holiday plans have been ruined, I think - yes, it is disappointing for you but worse things have happened. Life on the whole runs pretty smoothly, especially here in the West, and we should not be surprised that sometimes it doesn't; we can't always have what we want, whether that's a packet of loo rolls (or yeast, at the time of writing!!) or a holiday....

On my return from Devon I came down with what I thought was going to be flu, but wasn't. I know that because I was tested for it in hospital the next day. I had come over hot, sweaty and nauseous and then fainted in front of Husband, he'd called 999 when he couldn't get me to respond, and after I had come round they told me to go to our nearest walk-in centre. I was a bit surprised that they were telling me to do that, as even then (end of February) people were being advised NOT to go to such places if they thought they had the corona virus. I didn't think I had but was clearly infectious with something. I also thought it was a bit over the top, but did what I was told and allowed Husband to take me to hospital in Swindon. They swabbed me - or rather they got me to swab myself  - for flu, and put a mask on me, and then I waited in the waiting room. They also checked my temperature, blood pressure, did a chest x-ray, and did blood tests. My temperature was normal when I got there but I wondered if the paracetamol I had taken had affected this, as later it had risen, but still wasn't high, although I know that my normal temperature is on the low side. The flu test came back negative, and the nurse who told me this also said -

"And you haven't got corona virus either."

It was only in later days that I realized that this must have been just her diagnosis as at that time the virus was not being tested for in hospital labs, and anyway test results were taking days to come back.

I was then allowed to remove the mask, but then sat in the waiting room for 4 hours sneezing and blowing my nose.....! Germs, anyone? The x-ray was fine. The blood tests showed everything was OK too except that I had raised levels of something or other, indicating some sort of virus. After about 4 hours there we came home. Altogether my symptoms were runny nose, sneezing, a cough at night, and aches in my back and legs, for which I took ibuprofen to help me sleep. While these are not typical corona virus symptoms, I do of course wonder now whether that "some sort of virus" might have been it. Within about 2 weeks Husband got a sore throat and sore eyes - both possible symptoms of Covid-19. He didn't feel particularly unwell and they were not symptoms we were told to isolate for. He is still at work, in a Tesco distribution warehouse. 

About 4 weeks after the start of my illness, but after I had recovered fully, I woke up one night with a horrible churning in my stomach and my heart was racing and pounding like never before and I thought - this must be it.... This went on for the next few hours, during which time I was glad that we had not run out of loo paper as I had three trips there in that time, but by the next day, although tired, I was better. Husband and I had both eaten the same things so it wasn't food poisoning.

I have included all this because I know that many people are wondering if something they had earlier in the year, or even last year, was Covid-19, and thought it might be useful to share my/our symptoms. I wish that we could both be tested to see if we have indeed had it.

For me, the new restrictions to life aren't really that bad; the fantastic weather has meant that I have been able to do lots of gardening, which I love. Unfortunately Eldest Son and Wife will not be visiting from Austria this month as was planned, we will not be visiting them in June, as was planned, and we cannot see our grandchildren. Having said that, I was out for my daily exercise one lovely sunny day last week and thought I'd cycle up to the end of  Younger Daughter's road, text her and say - "Can I come and wave to you all at your windows?" And just as I came to a halt - there they were, out for their daily exercise too! So we chatted, at a distance of course, and that made my day!

I am not using the bike to go shopping as often as I would normally do, as I have to make sure that I get enough for a week on one trip, to avoid going to shops too often, and that means using the car. Husband and I are not the types to be going out and doing lots of social things, or eating out a lot, enjoying instead our cycling, walking and (him) paragliding, but I really miss my trips to the charity shops, and my free cup of coffee while people-watching in, or outside, Waitrose! My daily exercise now is more often a walk than a cycle as, strange though it may sound, I rarely cycle purely for the exercise. When I cycle I normally do so either because I need to get somewhere and the bike is my mode of transport, or because I have got a whole day to go out exploring, and cycling is the way I love to do that. I take food, and stopping at a cafe for coffee is always part of the pleasure, but of course that's not possible now. I did actually have another reason for my ride last week, which was to return 2 books, which I had had since last year, to a library in a church a few miles away. Unfortunately it wasn't open, so I hung the books on the door. I then sat on a bench in the churchyard enjoying a flask of coffee and cake, which was later pointed out to me is a bit against the restrictions, but it wasn't as if I was in a busy park.....

Not being able to cycle with my group has again made me think about whether I actually do like  cycling with other people......if anyone from the group happens to read this, it's nothing personal! - I do enjoy the social side. It's simply that cycling in a group is a completely different ball game to cycling alone; it's faster than I would go alone, there isn't the same opportunity to look round, and you can't stop whenever you want for rest or refreshment, or the call of nature - this latter has been know to be quite a cause of concern to me on some rides! Some people simply don't seem to need to go very often as even when we are at a cafe, they don't go! I think they are the same ones who don't drink much either, which follows.... And there are weeks when I can't afford the time to go out for a ride of my choice, as well as a group ride and shopping trips etc.

As to the re-decoration of our kitchen, just to remind you, we lived in this house for 3 years after we got married in 1981, and moved back into it after 32 years in another one a mile along the road. I still miss that old draughty cottage but know it was an eminently sensible decision to move back to this smaller one, and we are very happy here.

Ever since we moved back here, I have hated the brown kitchen cupboards. When we first lived here there were fewer cupboards (and not brown...) but there was a lovely larder, a sensible double drainer sink (one of the criteria on which I would base my choice of kitchen sink would be - is it big enough to bath a baby in?) and a Rayburn. The house was one of four built in the 1970s for farm workers. About 10-15 years ago,  the metal window frames were swapped for PVC double glazed windows, the Rayburn was ripped out and central heating installed, and new kitchen cupboards and a new sink put in. Admittedly that sink is not as bad as even more modern sinks, which are clearly designed with the assumption that EVERYONE these days has a dishwasher (we haven't) and therefore doesn't do much washing up by hand, but it still annoys me.

Anyway, to return to our brown kitchen cupboards. The wall tiles were also brown. The surfaces were a dark bluish grey. The whole kitchen felt dark, but despite thinking about painting the cupboards soon after we came here, I couldn't get round the fact that even if I did the surfaces would still be what to me was a horrible colour, and we couldn't afford to replace them. And how would I pick a colour for the cupboards that was an improvement on the brown, but also co-ordinated with the horrible colour of the surfaces? In the end, my colour choice was brought about by my sitting and looking at the colours on our calendar, and having an ah ha! moment, and then getting matching paint colour strips and sitting with those for ages to see if they felt right. Plus, and this was the big game changer really, I had read about the use of sticky back plastic for covering work surfaces, which meant we could completely change the look of them.

Dark kitchen with untidy shoe shelves on the right

The pile of cookery books on the table was there because I had recently removed the corner shelf,  to the left of that doorway, where I kept them. Ages ago I had also removed strips that went along the top of the cupboards, and the same underneath them. Those small changes had made a difference, but not enough.

This is how it is now - the worktops on the left are covered in the sticky back plastic, which Husband did. The brand is d-c-fix, and this is the one we used, though we got ours from B and Q. He sent me out of the room while he did it, so he could concentrate properly. You have to be careful not to get air bubbles under the plastic, as although you can remove them, it's just better not to get them in the first place. The worktop to the right I decoupaged, using a 30p charity shop Jamie Oliver cookery book! - I've kept the rest of the book! I put 4 coats of varnish on it, ignoring the fact that some people say do 10!!!!

Here's a few more pics - I repainted the tiles twice before I was happy with the colour, ditto with that kickboard, and ditto with the knobs, which replaced the old metal knobs. You may notice that the carved out bits on the drawers have disappeared too; I didn't like them and stuck mountboard over the top, and then Husband made the wooden strip handles to replace the old metal dangly ones.

Doors being painted

The decoupaged worktop, before varnishing -

Notice that bike bits are already appearing....

After varnishing (4 coats).

I even painted the compost bin - previously green. Actually, because I didn't have any primer specifically for plastic, I glued newspaper all over it first and then painted and varnished it. Originally the lid was joined on and it didn't have an inner liner, so I was always having to wash the whole thing out, lid and all, so I cut the lid off, and made an inner easily-washable liner out of an old 1 gallon plastic container.

Compost bin

The untidy shoe shelves have gone - the shoes are now in the cupboard just inside the back door, where we kept them 39 years ago! The cupboard came from the hall. The new shelf was the side of some shelves that Youngest Son gave us. The brackets are the scaffold plank type.

There's another one down the other end, for my cookery books -

I've found that we have to be very careful about what we plonk down on the newly covered surfaces. I put an old tin opener, blade down, on it, and it caused slight damage. But having to be careful is a small price to pay for something that has made such a difference.

Just about everything downstairs has been changed or moved around! Husband always hates it when I start changing things around; if I don't know exactly what I'm going to do next, e.g. "So where are you going to put the shoes now?!!"then he thinks I shouldn't do it, but I find that even if I don't know how I'm going to achieve what I want, once I have made that initial change the way forward becomes clear.

I also painted the walls, in a shade that was only a little lighter than the original colour, but again  made a big difference. I now like walking into our kitchen! When I came back from Devon after those few days away, I thought - ah, lovely! So glad I did it!

Apologies for such a long post! I hope you have enjoyed it....