Adrift In The Doldrums

Are you in the doldrums? I am, metaphorically speaking because although also a shorthand term for inaction and stagnation, the doldrums are an actual place. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (apparently also known as “the itch”) is a belt round the Earth extending approximately five degrees north and south of the equator.

According to the US National Ocean Service, whose website I am plundering for this, the northern and southern hemisphere’s trade winds collide there. The way the air circulates means there’s little surface wind, so sailing ships can be becalmed for weeks. Thank goodness for the internal combustion engine.

Unfortunately my engine is running out of fuel. This lock-down is so much harder than the first one when many of us embraced, however forcibly, the opportunity to explore time-consuming projects like mastering the art of sourdough. Then, it was spring-into-summer and those of us lucky enough to have gardens could go and grub in our borders and veg patches or just bask on the lawn, and everyone could at least take a walk in the sunshine.

Now it’s winter, our gardens and parks are probably seas of mud or frozen solid, and we’re all thoroughly fed up. Our hopes are mostly pinned on the vaccines which have been rushed out but here in the UK it seems to be a postcode lottery and not all of us have had our tickets yet. 

I am still beating this week’s recipe into submission, hence it will be next week’s. I feel a moral obligation to entertain you with something amusing in lieu but it’s hard to be funny to order. It’s perhaps no coincidence that many famous comedians have suffered from depression, not that I’m famous, a comedian or clinically depressed. It feels like Groundhog Day but without the weird American rodent. Or Bill Murray. Can’t say I miss Andie McDowell though, the only thing I liked her in was Sex, Lies and Videotape.

It has been a hard year for all of us and the light at the end of the tunnel feels like a pinprick sometimes. It’s the little things that make me happy at the moment – the promise of spring with the emergence of garden bulbs, a glimpse of blue sky, the antics of our cats, being able to hug my husband (not necessarily in that order).

Another pleasure has been my introduction, via Nigella Lawson’s Twitter feed, to the amusing Dreyer’s English desk diary. Anyone who has ever edited a book, subbed copy or is simply a grammar fiend will love it. I am moved to misquote Dorothy Parker: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of [Dreyer’s English]. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

And as Dorothy also said, in one of her less mordant moments, “living well is the best revenge”. Live well, my friends, see you next week. 

32 thoughts on “Adrift In The Doldrums

  1. January can be a tough month at the best of times. I have 2 tiny new grandsons I LONG to see and it can be so difficult.
    Keeping busy, reading, walking (and hugging my ever patient husband!!) all help.
    You help too! Your beef and blue cheese dumplings are on the menu here tonight. Looking forward to making this and I already know it will go down well.

  2. Oh Linda, you’ve said it so well. Doldrums it is, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Simple pleasures – the first snowdrops say, light a spark – but the reality is dreariness, day after day, and then compounded by feeling guilty about feeling dreary. I’m well, my family is well, my friends are well (well, they haven’t got Covid anyway).Nevertheless, late in the day as it is, and frankly, who needs a diary anyway this year?- I’m going to source your recommendation ASAP. There, I’ve hung on your every word. That should cheer you up.

    • It does! Thank you, Margaret. I know what you mean about feeling guilty for feeling dreary when one is healthy and has a roof over one’s head … but it can be a struggle nonetheless as lockdown drags on. Take good care, keep your chin up and sharing your photos and enjoy Dreyer’s! Linda x

  3. I began following you, sounds a bit sketchy….last year. I thought, here is someone I can relate to interest wise. Whether it’s the cats or a walk through the garden. Recipes for sure. I’m a Nigel Slater fan myself. Can I say you’ve been a lifeline for me? This virus has definitely changed the way folks interact with one another. When I mention to my husband that I, “chatted with Linda”, he knows it’s not his cousin but, the lady from the UK. Seriously, this is a big boat we’re all in sharing together. So….pet the cats, hug the hubby and please keep writing. (Did that sound too needy?)

    • No, not at all! I enjoy our chats, too and I love that social media brings together people with shared interests from all over the globe. I’m truly honoured that you’ve found Mrs P to be a lifeline during this horrendous pandemic. We are, as you say, all in the same boat (it must be an ocean-going liner) and it’s a comfort and a pleasure to be able to share parts of our lives. Take good care. Linda x

  4. Shoot them while they’re happy??!!!! Oh my god that’s hysterical. Winter probably isn’t helping us northern hemisphere folks endure the pandemic. I have no complaints about my winters here, except for the occasional ice storm and loss of electricity and water, but it has been bitterly cold. But you’re right, at least in the summer we could enjoy our gardens and get out of the damn house. I wonder if suicides and drug use and divorces have increased in numbers during this time? I don’t watch the news at all so I have no idea, but very likely, which is horrible. Well, I’m not being very upbeat here, so I’ll sign off. Take care and keep hugging those cats and husband!

    • I know, it’s not a uniquely British problem, just writing about it from my own point of view, which is particularly narrow at the moment as I rarely venture out. It does seem endless, doesn’t it? Imagine what it was like during WW2 when it went on for years ….

      • It’s funny you said that Linda. I was talking to my granddaughter the other day, and I said much the same thing. We talked about the blitz in London and how long it went on, the seemingly endless days of bombing and food and medical shortages, uncertainty and fear, while so much of Europe was devastated as well. It puts Stay Home Stay Safe in perspective, to a point. It still gets pretty difficult.

      • It does. We had the same conversation over Christmas. Hopefully our crisis won’t last six years with rationing for years afterwards! Look after yourself. Lx

  5. Hi, I think it’s time to give you a great big armful of virtual spring flowers. Just because I invented them, these spring flowers won’t wither away to nothingness and won’t make the water green and slimy either. You have delivered posts, sent me down to the butchers for belly pork and gave me the best recipe for pear chutney I have ever had. Don’t feel doldrumatic everything is fine. It’s just taking an awfully long time to get through a day, a week or a lockdown with an uncertain end date. Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, it’s hard to celebrate anything at all at the moment but we do have a wonderful chip shop nearby that is still open. We drove there at lunchtime, took two forks with us and sat in the car with the steaming packets of fish and chips on our knees.It was fantastic, it wasn’t quite a party but gosh did it feel good to be out of the house. We had a bottle of chilled white in the fridge and yes, we drank it when we got home. I once saw a most beautiful pair of shoes in a shop window. They stood alone with nothing else on display except a small card which said, A day is a step ,a year is a tango. I will put the music on and you start dancing. Chris

    Sent from my iPad


    • Chris, what a lovely and heart-warming response, thank you. You’ve made my day. Your fish and chip treat sounds perfect, I may have to drag my husband to a good chippy when it’s my birthday. Thank you for the flowers, they’re lovely. I’m dancing. Linda x

  6. Much, much love from Australia ! From our current situation we can but say we understand and so wish the composite circumstances you are experiencing will slowly but surely ameliorate. Being highly active in medical circles I have to state the obvious that the vaccines per se will make a difference but very, very slowly . . .Patience – here the severe lockdowns, oft nighttime curfews, successful mask campaigns and heavy, heavy fines . . . with many families totally apart for 6-9 months, has worked with bells on. Daily sewage tests are amongst our best friends – oft overnight up to 40 suburbs may be in the orange or red zones with all required to undertake immediate testing and self-isolation until a negative result. If we had not had 14-day hotel quarantines at 3K a pop we would not be in a situation of not a SINGLE death over the last 4-odd weeks across the whole Continent. Annoying but it works and the main word at the moment used here is ‘gratitude’ ! Be patient . . . has the Govt and the theaters not put on endless gratis virtual opera, symphony, plays and your wondrous art galleries extra virtual tours and all the bookstores such fabulous discussions etc . . . best . . .

    • Thanks very much, Eha, much appreciated. I’m very aware of the need to continue self-isolating and wish our government was as astringent as yours. I’m sure we’ll all cheer up somewhat when winter’s over but at the moment many of us in the northern hemisphere are finding it a grind. Take care. Linda x

  7. wishing you all the best. We have been so lucky in Australia with a tough government doing their thing against covid. Things can only get better – as the song goes…

  8. Having scrolled backwards through my reader this morning, I am glad to see you are fighting the funk. It is really difficult at present. I am lucky to have the bike to prevent being bitten too hard by “the black dog”. Though, I can hear him scratching at the door….
    Stay well. Stay positive Mrs. P.

    • Thanks, Conor. I find my walks help, although Suffolk is uncharacteristically sodden at the moment and it’s usually more of a slip and slide. But then they’re predicting 6-8 feet of snow on Sunday night so my next lockdown project may be making snow shoes. xxx

  9. You’ve put into words how I am feeling as well. Everything has been on hold for way too long. But I am so happy to have the ‘grownups’ in charge of the country, finally. Although the roll out of the vaccine has been slow and sloppy and unorganized, it is here. I get my first dose this coming Monday.

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