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– as the supposed old Chinese curse goes…

We’re certainly doing that with first the Brexit shambles and now the panic over the pandemic! The picture seems to change almost hourly as there’s a new development or story reported in the mainstream media or fed by social media.

For Dawn and I, yesterday seemed perfectly normal, although how long this will continue I have no idea. The pair of us went out for brunch in Halifax, visiting the wonderful Piece Hall to eat at ‘Elder’, a cosy café on the ground floor of the historic building. With what’s going on we’d expected Halifax to be quite but in fact it was teeming and we had to wait to get a table at the café! We both ordered the same brunch, a delicious mushroom Benedict, poached eggs and a béarnaise sauce served on potato rostis, accompanied by fried mushrooms.

Dawn had a coffee whilst I washed mine down with a bottle of Pale Ale from the Saltaire Brewery.

Suitably fed and watered we went off to do a spot of shopping to make a few strategic purchases rather than panic buying! Yorkshire being Yorkshire, we didn’t encounter a single person sporting a facemask. Having completed our chores we popped into one of the new bars in town. ‘Kobenhavn’, which is situated in the Westgate Arcade. It’s a modern bar on three levels which has an excellent selection of craft beers and real ales. They also cater for wine drinkers, have tea/coffee and a range of non/low alcohol drinks. Dawn was taken by some of the beers and enjoyed one of the Veltins whilst I went for “Pride and Joy”, a Pale Ale on handpump from local company Vocation Brewery which was very well kept. The bar was almost empty when we arrived but half an hour later it was teeming with beer aficionados of all ages and sexes.

It was a pleasant interlude, knowing that it might be the last time we were doing something like this for a while. The entertainment wasn’t over yet as this critter and some of his friends were on display outside in the arcade.

We’re fortunate that where we live the surrounding woods are home to many owls, who you often hear in the evening – although none are as majestic as this beastie, the Eurasian eagle-owl

Before heading we had one last chore to do which was to pop into the Tesco’s in Sowerby Bridge to pick up some supplies. Oddly, it’s the only Tesco’s in the area that sells their own-brand alcohol free Presecco. We’ve been sampling different brands and this is without doubt the best we’ve found. Whilst we were there we couldn’t miss the shelves which has been stripped bare of bog-roll and all the other stuff that’s on the list of essentials for those who’ve joined in the panic-buying jamboree…

Seriously?

Returning home to dump our purchases and change the fun was far from over as the rest of the evening was spent at a friend’s house, where the ‘6 from the 6’ were getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of our number, Tony Allan (of Phoenix Brewery fame). We were hosted by Fran and Aubrey, who’d cooked up a fantastic array of Caribbean recipes which catered for all tastes as we had vegetarian, chicken and lamb dishes. It was a lovely sociable evening. One only hopes the coming Coronavirus circus doesn’t mean we won’t be able to do such things for a while…

Today (Sunday) things have been a little more relaxed. We’ve been observing the unfolding world chaos via the social and mainstream media and thinking “the world really has gone mad”. At the same time we’re trying to make sense of it all and consider what we might need to do as it’s looking increasingly likely that many European countries, including the UK, are going into various degrees of shutdown.

So, we’ve been doing some strategic shopping ourselves. And no – I don’t mean panic buying bloody toilet rolls! Instead we’ve stocked up on a few everyday provisions that mean we don’t have to visit shops that often. We’ve been buying slabs of cooking staples like tins of chick-peas and chopped tomatoes just in case the Government, which doesn’t seem to know its arse from its elbow – decides to do something really daft. Oh, and I’ve stocked up on the wines and beers, so if nothing else I can always drown my sorrows at the stupidity of it all.

We did have a wonderfully light hearted moment when we were out. Whilst we were stood in the checkout queue I noticed the woman behind me had a large bottle of vodka in her shopping so I mentioned to Dawn that – if we run out of hand sanitizer you can always make some up using alcohol. Dawn (at the end of her tether) decided to count to 10 in a theatrical fashion. The elderly couple ahead of in the queue obviously overhead this and the woman turned around and laughed, saying “I’ll have to try that!”. Looking back at her more doddery husband who was slowly packing the shopping she observed “we couldn’t self-isolate for four months. I’d end up killing him!” I couldn’t help but sympathise…

These times are about to get a lot more ‘interesting’. Over the rest of the month I have several jobs lined up on the railways that include a fair bit of travel. Will any of them be cancelled? Who knows? I think next week could prove to be very fluid with things changing day by day. On the bright side, I have a home office, several articles and blogs to write and a large collection of old slides to scan, so I’ve plenty to keep me occupied in the case of an enforced stay at home. The difficulty at the moment is the uncertainty and the inability to plan – and I’m one of the lucky ones! I’m not living hand to mouth, I’m not on a zero-hours contract and I have the ability to ‘cut my cloth’. I feel for those who don’t, and I can’t help but wonder how all this is going to pan out. I’ve been a resident of this planet for 60 years now and I’ve never seen such strange times. At least it’ll give me plenty to write about…