At 11:30 in the evening I take out my overflowing recycling – I’ve been cooking all afternoon and opened a lot of cans – and something feels just faintly off. I stand on the lawn outside my house for a few seconds before realising that what I was noticing was the absence of sound.
This has been the first full day of the lockdown: I live Camden, in central London, next to one of the biggest areas of pubs and clubs and restaurants, which attracts millions of tourists every year. There is always a low-level thrum of traffic, interspersed with horns blaring, brakes squealing, and the occasional shouts of strangers.
Now there is… Nothing.
I think this absence of sound is the strangest side-effect of the situation so far. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about throwing my clattering bottles and jars and boxes into the bin but somehow the noise is obscene, as it echoes down the completely empty street.
Lettice could not care less that we are in lockdown. She wakes me with he tried and tested combination of standing on my head and breathing on me.
Most of the day has been spent cooking. My sister has a deeply aggravating habit of buying boxes of special offer meat when she’s doing her Ocado orders. (It’s a British online delivery-only grocery store.) She neither cooks anything with them, nor gives them to me to make meals for her. So they either sit gathering ice crystals for months in the freezer, or they end up in the bin when someone accidentally switches off the freezer and the whole lot goes off.
I am thrilled that the lockdown means she has to give them all to me to cook so that she has ample supplies. Although horrified at the teetering pile of packages she points out to me when I go round to collect them over the weekend. There is boned pork leg, and steak cubes, and mince, AND meatballs. I resist the temptation for a lecture, because I know she fully intends to cook with them when she buys them, but her MS means she just can’t find the energy.
She’s getting pork, chorizo, and butter bean stew, and the beef, carrot, barley and mushroom stew from my cookbook, meatballs marinara, and a Bolognese that she can use as as base for lasagne, or just eat with spaghetti.
At lunchtime, whilst I’m tackling my dry stores cupboard, the first official government SMS arrives. Shit just got real.
In between stirring pots I start to tackle the fridge which needs a thorough clean – I was away for two weeks and only returned at the weekend so there are definitely things lurking in there. I find this fridge liner under the sink that I bought for a quid at Poundland months ago and think there could be no better time to test it out.
I forgot to order more Nespresso Vertuo capsules last month, and am fast running out. It seems obscenely luxurious to buy more, when I currently have little or no income, so I have taken to using the Alto size I had previously eschewed (500ml!) and quickly inserting a second mug under the spout when the first is brimming. I then heat it up mid afternoon, or even the next morning. It’s not very nice re-heated, but it is caffeine, and that is all that matters.
I spend the rest of the afternoon alternately stirring simmering stews and emptying out boxes of cans and beans from my cellar. I only have one cupboard for dry goods in my kitchen – the rest are filled with a vast collection of china and glass that I use for shoots, so I keep my pantry supplies for catering and recipe developing in a big box in the cellar.
Chastened by the amount of cans I have for one person who isn’t now cooking for anyone else (not hoarded, just the amount I always keep to hand), I message the Chalk Farm Food Bank who have been posting on Twitter to solicit desperately needed food and toiletry donations. (I’d heard that desperate people are thieving donations out of boxes left for the food bank in supermarkets, so I want to be sure I can leave stuff in a safe place.)
Around 5pm we head to Hampstead Heath for our sanity walk, leaving the main Tarmacked paths for the serenity of the woodland tracks where we see and hear no one.
I make a bastardised Pad Thai for supper, with fried tofu and broccoli florets but add in twice the amount of noodles so I can have the leftovers for lunch the next day; consequently it is not a huge success. However washed down with my last can of Camden Town Brewery IPA, it doesn’t seem too bad.