I usually write restaurant and takeaway reviews, but that’s on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, while the wonderful people of Preston are putting themselves at risk in order to make sure we all have food, and that we are well enough to eat it.
Along with many others, I am classed as being extremely vulnerable, so I’m on full lockdown. With that in mind I decided to write a little about my imprisonment, padding out what has basically been three weeks of scrolling forlornly through Netflix and bickering with my youngest daughter who, in tribute to the Tom Hanks film Castaway, I will from now refer to as Wilson.
Wilson came home to visit from university and, after a week of hearing me yell increasingly bizarre instructions at her, ended up quarantined with me. Great for me because I’ve finally been reunited with my baby, Dumbo’s-mum-style. Not so great for poor Wilson who’s in a nightmarish episode of The Crystal Maze, being shrieked at by some dreadful office co-worker until she runs out of time and gets locked in.
After the official lockdown-ish announcement came there seemed to be a fair bit of confusion about what exactly we were allowed to do, as essential to some is non-essential to others. I think we’ve all mostly got the idea except for the few who are magically immune to the virus right up until they get it.
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One low point of the lockdown has been seeing so many wonderful, independent businesses reluctantly close their doors after their owners and workers have put their heart and souls into building their businesses.
A high point, however, has been seeing Prestonians taking care of their own, with many risking their own health to ensure nobody falls through the cracks. The bickering about Brexit, politics and religion has faded into the background. Instead we’re seeing communities working side by side to get us through it, making it clear that we all care, and want everyone to be safe. When this is over, I believe our society will value courage, care and kindness as much as the officially recognised skills and education.
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Wilson and I were unaware of the first round of clapping for the brave people who are on the frontline of the fight against this disease. The second round gave us another chance to show our appreciation, so at 7.58 pm we tentatively opened the front door and stood on the front step of our little terraced house.
There were two young men outside the house across the street, and an older couple another twenty metres along, but apart from them the street was still quiet. We exchanged awkward little waves and Englishly waited for someone to tell us to start clapping.
After a while the waving was getting awkward, so I broke into uncharted territory and went for it with the applause. Thankfully the boys followed and the couple further down joined in. Then a ripple ran along the street as others opened their doors and started clapping and cheering. Car horns were beeping, pans were clanging, dogs were losing their dignity, cats were lazily thinking about which part of me they’d eat first, unaware that I was thinking the same thing right back at them.
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It was surprisingly uplifting, and as the clapping died down we all waved at each other as we shut our doors, feeling a little more connected. No waves to number 9, though, because they’ve been continuously howling Harry Nilsson’s Without You off-key through their karaoke machine since the first day of lockdown and some things are unforgivable.
Other high points include managing to persuade Wilson to start watching Dexter with me, and putting together an unexpectedly excellent salad of cabbage, feta, pineapple, cucumber, spring onions, radishes and iceberg lettuce. We didn’t have any dressing so we mixed the pineapple juice with Sriracha and it was lovely!
Admittedly the presentation could have been better, the chef was disorganised and looked like she’d been living in a wood for the last five years, the waitress was constantly checking her phone and the addition of olives was a dreadful mistake. There was also a Chihuahua constantly underfoot, filling in for Yvonne by being all up in my plate and catching any food before it hit the floor.
For about an hour Wilson and I both enjoyed the smug feeling of our bodies being temples, but then we found a family bag of Chilli Heatwave Doritos and a bottle of red wine and desecrated ourselves horribly.
It’s been a surreal mixed bag so far, with the normalcy of watching TV and chatting juxtaposed with the local news and seeing deserted Preston high streets and huge queues for supermarkets. However, despite restrictions in the time we can spend outside, the energy and connection in our community have never felt so strong. That’s something wonderful that I hope will remain when this crisis is over.
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Have you accidentally discovered an unexpectedly great food combination during the lockdown? Share your tips and hacks in the comments below.