Master Paul Worsley

Master Paul Worsley is a former Judge and Barrister. He both prosecuted and defended criminal cases, including the successful prosecution of Wearside Jack, who had pretended to be the Yorkshire Ripper. He later went on to sit as a Judge and heard cases at the Old Bailey.

You chaps and chapesses in the city probably think you are having it hard in these extraordinary times. Perhaps an idea of how we in the country have to spend our days during Lockdown will open your eyes as to how the other half lives and make you more sympathetic – or at least better informed.

First you need a regime.

I always rise early to make Mrs W (‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’) her cup of tea in bed at 08:00, then again at 09:00 and again at 10:00, by which time she actually needs to get up: I use the same tea bag so it’s not as extravagant as you might assume.

The first job is to take the dog out and go up to the greenhouse to check on the green zebras and Brandywine pinks (tomato varieties). Next I see how the Black Hamburg is sprouting. It’s doing very nicely at the moment with all this sunshine. Soon I’ll no longer have to be reliant on Lidl’s weekly Montrachet delivery. Though come to think of it, they have not delivered recently. And they are supposed to prioritise essentials for the over 70s. I may stop my STO.

Once a day I check the fruit frames to see how Glasgin’s Perpetual is coming on. Mrs W prefers the Champagne variety of rhubarb – but she would. Anyhow, it is very reassuring and regularising to see the way it grows so fast overnight. I doubt if we will ever go short of this essential fruit. It is indeed surprising – as Mrs W says – how many exciting dishes you can make with rhubarb: rhubarb crumble, rhubarb upside down tart, bread & rhubarb pudding, and – when mixed with ginger – rhubarb rice pudding, rhubarb arctic roll (a Northern dessert) and of course rhubarb surprise…

Being in Lockdown, I like to have a little challenge each day. Today’s job was to unblock the Gardener’s Loo. What he does when he’s here, I have no idea. He promised to leave instructions for me on how to use the sit-on mower, but Mrs W’s torn them up. She says she does not want the lawn ruined as well. I must say I thought my pruning – though a little late in the season admittedly – would have made a real difference to the way the perennials sprouted. But he does bring his own loo roll: which I have found very useful, with those shiny sheets claiming to be ‘OHMS’. Mrs W snaffles our loo roll at the beginning of each day and rations the sheets, which I think is going a bit far.

Then I go to feed the hens. Of course, I appreciate that we must eat the eggs our splendid little Bluebells and Barred Leghorns produce, but scrambled egg for lunch every day can be a little overwhelming. Of course, Mrs W’s right – she’s better things to do than to make soufflé every day…

I have been trying my hand at culinary skills after going on ‘The One-Pot Wonder’ cookery course at Betty’s in Harrogate. But I agree with Mrs W, it’s not worth both of us being up all night suffering from the effects of me trying to keep my hand in. She reminds me daily that I hardly need to keep up my skills when she can produce, with local free ingredients, dishes such as ‘ground elder and nettle’ soup. Who would have thought those humble components could hold so much nutrition – and that we would be able to sample them so often.

Of course, the handyman cannot come with Lockdown in place. One of the bulbs in the downlighters in the kitchen has blown. It involves putting a short ladder on a table which stands on top of the work surface. I really do not fancy Mrs W’s chances of successfully undertaking that operation, but we shall see. I hold the ladder.

As the man in the house of course I take on all the technical tasks. I go into the garage for half an hour daily. Mrs W says its wholly unnecessary since we are not using the cars, but I do like to know that the electric windows are all in satisfactory working order and the windscreen washer levels are topped up. And I can listen uninterruptedly to Alan Titchmarsh on Classic FM. On second thoughts perhaps half an hour is too long…

Mid-morning, I do enjoy watching ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’: Alec Guinness is amazing. My 14 viewings of it since Lockdown have certainly confirmed that.

Of course, the scammers are out in force now that we are locked down. I had a call this morning from someone who said they were from the fraud department of Yorkshire Bank and wanted my banking details to confirm that a £2,000 debit card transaction to an overseas recipient was authorised. £2,000 out of my dwindling account I said? Fat chance.

In late morning we sit briefly in the kitchen together when I wrestle with the coffee making machine. I have counted the beans and we should be okay till early September, if I am careful. We are keeping a diary of all the garden birds we see. Mrs W says she’s seen a rough legged buzzard on the bird feeder, but I think it was more likely to have been a rather bloated female blackbird. And it was after the yardarm had gone somewhere that she made that sighting.

I also have to check the outdoor swimming pool about lunchtime every day, by which hour the ice has usually thawed and the pool is ready for the intrepid swimmers among us.

Now we are locked down Mrs W and I are unable to go for our ‘one to one’ singing lessons. So, I tend to walk round the garden singing Au Fond du Temple Saint from The Pearl Fishers but the tenor’s top G is proving a little elusive. I may have to abandon the tenor part and take on Zurga’s baritone role; though I am generally reckoned to be a better tenor than baritone, by those who have heard me. The dog certainly thinks so, for she joins in. Anyhow, it keeps the neighbours at a respectful distance.

On a good day when we are walking around the dog will catch a pheasant. It’s so good to have meat now and then. I’m feeding the koi twice a day, but Mrs W thinks the Lockdown will long be over before they are of a decent size for the table – but who knows. I certainly don’t trust the politicians’ forecasts.

I do like to accomplish one new chore each day – or I would become complacent. So today I went through my wardrobe. Mrs W is of course right – I don’t need to wear my grey suit every day and could wear my other one – the black one – on alternate days: it does not need to be a Sunday.

In the afternoon I settle down to listen to Radio 4’s Afternoon Play. From when I tune in to the end seems to be only a few minutes. How they can commission these ridiculously short plays I do not understand. I have submitted a short radio play to Radio 4 myself but have had no response. I wonder if I have been given the right address.

When I have woken up from that I always go for a bike ride. I use my daughter’s old bike. I’m sure if you have a pert little b*tt*m the very small, pointed and unpadded saddle can enhance a very satisfying experience, but for someone with an average posterior it does not. I usually limp off the bike and have to rest awhile when I get back.

We do a short daily Zoom session with the grandchildren. I say ‘short’ because although it physically lasts two hours, only 14 minutes is actual face to face. The rest seems to be spent angling the camera, getting proper reception, unmuting the sound and then getting them to concentrate for more than 60 seconds. Anyhow, over the Zoom we have drawn up a design for a mosaic to go in the croquet hut. I shall enjoy looking at it for sadly I fear it will be sometime before we can resume our weekly inter-village croquet matches.

It’s not just that the grass is so long you that cannot hit the balls, it’s that you can’t see where they are. But instead of croquet I have my daily online bridge lesson. I must say my take-out doubles have surprised everyone in the beginner’s class.

We have been so impressed with the old chap Captain Tom that Mrs W now gives me £1 each day and tells me to walk round the garden. she says it doesn’t matter how long it takes and has even offered to double the rate if I stay out longer. I doubt if I will raise £1,000s, but who knows.

Attheendofthedaywedoenjoya little snifter before dinner. Mrs W has rhubarb gin – 1 part rhubarb (yes, more rhubarb) cordial to 8 parts gin. She says it’s very soothing after another day at home with me. I find Tesco’s wine boxes are the answer. Of course, as Mrs W points out, you cannot see how much has been drunk because it’s in a box;’ ‘tant pis’ as the French would say. I find their three litre boxes of Chateau Lafite (premier cru) are not at all bad.

Before I turn in, I always watch one of our 1990s three-hour VHS tapes of our sailing holidays. I find the gentle noise of the breeze and splash of the waves on the hull very therapeutic. And there is always the chance that during the long sessions of blank seascape I might catch sight of the odd dolphin.

And so, to the end of another locked down day. As Mrs W perspicaciously reflects – it cannot last for ever. But she’s been able to teach me so much about household tasks now that we are without staff. So as you can see, life during Lockdown in the country is not all whine and rouses…

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