The great thing about my house is that the front door opens onto the pavement (sidewalk, you Americans) on the busy village high street, and so as people walk past to the shop or the market, or walking their dogs, they can open the door and walk in, unannounced. Everyone who knows, really knows me, will not knock first. I love the idea of an open door, of a constant welcome, of a quick ‘pop in’ or a more leisurely coffee and chat. I have a much loved neighbour who will occasionally come swinging through the porch to enjoy a minor rant, and -on one occasion- to roar with frustration, but more usually to bring me a song (he’s a musician) or a story, or a cake from the Farmer’s Market. That’s maybe why the lockdown was particularly hard for this singleton, having to close that door, put the snib on, knowing that no one would be coming through it. That’s why, on the very first day that bubbles were suggested in Parliament I was so delighted to hear feet on the pavement and a rat-tat-tat on the pink wooden door, and to see Anne and Helen, excited and happy, saying ‘Shall we bubble with you?’
Since then, once a week we have had a weekly supper together, followed by a game of Scrabble. For some of the lockdown I’ve had my granddaughter living with me, but they saved my failing sanity in the months when I was alone. Restrictions have eased now and it’s almost as if we’re back to normal, but social life has been slow to return; I’ve been out for a few meals in restaurants, and pals have popped by for catch-ups, but apart from my bubble friends I haven’t invited anyone for ‘proper’ dinner when, pre Covid, I had people over at least twice a week. Tonight, for the first time in 18 months, we are having a grown-up ‘guests for dinner’ evening and I find that I am all fingers and thumbs.
When should the chicken go on? What will accompany it – is a bowl of new potatoes and a salad enough? Or should I roast some tomatoes? And if I roast tomatoes does that turn it into a gravy and sprouts kind of dish? If so, how many sprouts per person? And why have I got only one bottle of wine in the whole damn house? And what about pudding? How come there are ice crystals on the ice cream and does it matter? Shall I start on the apple turn-over now or this afternoon? Maybe I should do a bread and butter pudding instead? Flip me, I can’t remember how to make custard.
Where once it all came without really thinking, now it’s all a bit daunting and frantic. “For goodness sake, Luce,” my inner sane voice says “bung the chicken in the oven, bung some lettuce in a. bowl, whisk a dressing, boil some spuds, cut some basil… job done. They’re friends, not Michelin judges.”
Today my thoughts are with a new friend, someone who can’t be here because she’s in hospital. When I give thanks tonight, before we dig in, I will be thinking of this absent pal. And I’ll be thinking of others too, people who have moved away in the last lock-down period, and of a friend who has died, and I’ll be thanking God for the years when our doors could be open and our evenings full of laughter. And I’ll be thanking him especially that those days are slowly returning – Oh! Oh! Oh! As I wrote that look what happened –
The days of family and friends are indeed returning. That’s how it’s meant to be. Church has never gone away, fellowship has survived, but now meetings are again possible, and we can once again enjoy each other’s company.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Today I’m thanking God for those who are around to help if and when I fall down. And I’m thanking God for chicken and salad and laughter. Oh, and wine.