Gail-Nina writes ...


The sentiment above is not my own but from that well-loved emporium of stuff in pastry, Greggs. Their new advertising campaign also includes a poster showing two sausage rolls with the legend "Unimproved recipe - They're back and they're the same - Look at them. So delicious. So same. It's time to enjoy a big bite of normal." I find this a highly amusing innovation in the world of advertising where, well, innovation has more usually been the bye-word. Suddenly we really (apparently) crave something that hasn't moved on to a shiny new updated form. How comforting!

Not that I've actually visited a Greggs shop since they re-opened, but this did bring back a pleasant memory of a long-past exhibition (at the Lit & Phil) of original art work for another proud local product, Viz. The Greggs pasty was pretty much the official food of the characters in Viz - Geordie mums were said to wean their offspring on the chicken version, than which there are quite probably worse fates. So of course, who provided the catering for the Private View but Greggs? They even managed to supply hot snacks, and I dare not tell you just how many beef pasties I managed to consume (not that I can actually remember - they do rather have that effect on one.) So it is a real relief to know that, should the freezer pixies ever default from filling my kitchen with liver, orange stuff and olive ciabatta loaves, I can now just nip down Acorn Road and guzzle something crispy, savoury and curiously gooey without having to think about cooking.

Otherwise shopping has lost something of its appeal, alas, with the obligation to don a face-mask. I'm not arguing against the sound good sense of this, nor the way it may allay fears and make folk more confident about leaving their houses - it's just that I can't bear the sensation. I've always hated having nose and mouth covered, my skin is very prone to irritation, I've had various respiratory problems over the years and as I wear glasses (hardly having bothered with contact lenses over lock-down) I also get the dreaded steaming up effect. Never have I shopped so swiftly as during the past few days - which it has been kindly pointed out might not be an altogether bad thing, since lingering over unnecessary but unmissable bargains can corrupt a large part of my household economy. I shall try a posher version of maskage - or make my own - but I fear the basic discomfort will remain. I feel oddly confused when wearing one, no doubt because it impedes my contact with the outside world, and as I instinctively reach up the tweak the damned thing about ten times a minute, its hygienic effect in the no-hand-on-face area tends to be severely compromised. However, I shall persevere, and possibly shop less, but I mention this just in case anyone else is having the same problem. You are not alone in your nostalgic desire for a bare-faced approach to the world!

Mercifully Tynemouth Market (hi, Barbara!) being outdoors, doesn't demand masks, and getting around the restrictions of spacing seemed slightly easier this week. Of course, I really didn't need that very pretty Chinese bowl, but hey - buying it brought the warm glow due to one whose mad purchasing policy is surely helping keep the economy afloat. Also a small glass dome, cherries, greengages and a sizeable bag of baby courgettes. I find it heartening that I can so effortlessly get Greggs pasties and baby courgettes into the same letter. When it comes to taste, we're just a global village (or in my case, a pig.)

Also enjoyed a mega-magnificent day out on Friday when, urged equally by longings for the coast, fish'n'chips and charity shopping, Christine and I went on a scenic/culinary/retail adventure to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. My purchases were quite restrained, hers less so, but we both crowned the occasion (alas, our last day out before her return to the US this week - please keep fingers crossed for good transport connections with no flight cancellations) by eating delicious Scottish Hake in Tynemouth's Longsands Fish Kitchen. There was a looong queue for the take-out but the restaurant was almost empty, so we got excellent service and no sense of crowding. Christine also opted to drink an alcohol free gin. Of this concept I shall say no more, though it did look magnificent.

And in sober truth, I really don't have much more to say anyway, the week having otherwise been without notable happenings. I was kindly given some blinds to strip down for the fabric, but this simple task half-killed me because of the fibres/dust/who-knows-what that it released onto every possible surface and into my nose (is blind-fabric-pneumaconiosis a medical thing?) And no - it didn't occur to me until after the event that this was one occasion on which wearing a mask really would have been a good idea. Sigh. I do have a deeply conflicted relationship with dust in that my body (skin, eyes, nose, throat) really doesn't like it, but as trying to get rid of it moves it around and releases the dust devils, I tend to just let it lie undisturbed. Having vacuumed up after the deconstruction of the blinds I also took the long-neglected chance (i.e. completely unavoidable necessity) to empty the dust compartment on the cleaner. Hmmm - it came out as a sort of solid grey felt which would probably have been quite useful for craft projects. Indeed, this then made me think of a work by conceptual/installation artist Cornelia Parker, The Negative of Whispers 1997: Earplugs made with fluff gathered in the Whispering Gallery, St Paul's Cathedral. Mercifully the dust was in the bin before any notion of trying to recreate this popped into my mind! I do now have a few nice pieces of reclaimed (and washed) furnishing fabric, so when we finally meet up again for classes I shall enjoy precipitating a free-for-all amongst my handier ladies to see who gets them.

Otherwise, watched the National Theatre's "Amadeus" and admired Lucian Msamati's performance as Salieri even more than the first time, although I must also admit to a certain fondness for Lisa Simpson's interpretation of that role in The Simpsons' version of the story - extract here:

Alas, this was the last National Theatre freebie, but the Met continues to offer free screenings of selected operas for 24 hours at a time, plus Glyndebourne will be streaming Verdi's "Falstaff" for a week, starting this evening.

And for those who might think I dwell too much on opera, here's an antidote in the form of a song from Patricia Routledge, whose singing talents you might not have been aware of:

And then just because I can, here's Patricia again in a wonderful comic persona from the Victoria Wood show where, rather worryingly, she's sitting in a chair exactly like the one in which I am currently seated to type this. Conclusions should not be drawn:

These youtube extracts do come with a warning, though - for pity's sake try to avoid accessing all the other related clips available, because they are utterly addictive.

And just to remind us that art history is still somewhere on the agenda, I found rather an interesting article that could cast the colour scheme of some favourite paintings in a new light. And a silly one.

And I shall end this saga of domestic trivia with a family anecdote: my brother Roy's grandson Colby, a smart and self-possessed infant who, like all sensible children, is obsessed with dinosaurs and has quite a collection of the small plastic versions, has now announced that while he likes dinosaurs, he's frightened of ammonites. Yes, those extinct marine molluscs whose spiral shells are so frequently found in fossilised form (as opposed to the Biblical people who were usually at odds with the Israelites - he's a bright child but not that sophisticated.) However he can't stop drawing them, and when recently asked, during a thunderstorm, whether he was frightened he thoughtfully announced that, well - he didn't like the thunder because he thought there might be ammonites in it.

'Thessaurus' as a species of dinosaur

I include this not just as a feeble excuse to attach an dinosaur cartoon (with due apologies to any Creationists among my correspondents) but also to prompt the conclusion that I have no idea how the imagination works or why we make the connections we do, but let's just keep on making them.

Stay well, all you masked bandits,
Gail-Nina xx