Sunday, 18 April 2021

Explosions ... of porridge ... and puppies. Technology. Side effects of the pandemic.

Making porridge in the microwave usually reduces the washing up. There is no pan with semi-congealed porridge stuck to the bottom. The microwave avoids all that: porridge oats in bowl, add milk, stir, pop in the microwave, ping, stir again and eat. But every so often, thankfully quite rarely, I must accidentally set the time for just a little too long - it only needs to be microseconds too long - and you have a porridge explosion in the microwave. Okay! An explosion is a slight exaggeration. The porridge boils over and dribbles down the outside of the porridge bowl! Today was one of those explosive days!

Making porridge is almost the sole justification I have for owning a microwave. Very occasionally I use it to reheat left-overs but in fact I prefer more old-fashioned ways of reheating food. The household next door appear to use their microwave much more frequently, judging by the “ping!” you can hear at intervals through the wall. I am assuming, perhaps wrongly, that the “pingers” are mostly the younger members of the family. 

I was about to say that relying on the microwave is a generational thing but way back in the 1980s a friend of mine used to make herself a cup of coffee in the morning, forget about it as she dealt with two toddlers, and then pop her cup of by now cold coffee in the microwave. Again and again! She was one of the first people I knew to have a microwave, but then, her husband was an IT expert (wizard) and they also had a home computer long before the rest of us. Along with the computer, he liked them to have the latest technological gadgets around the home. 

And now almost every household is equipped with all sorts of gadgets. We just need to have Alexa learn how to get stuff out of the freezer and pop it in the microwave. That will come!

One of the odd side-effects of the pandemic is that Phil and I have stopped listening to The Archers. It’s quite odd. I don’t remember when we started listening. It certainly was never a longstanding habit but some time in the last twenty years we slipped into the habit of regular listening. When we went away for long periods we would sometimes read summaries of what had gone on in Ambridge. Even without that, provided you were familiar with the cast of characters you could quickly catch up with what was going on, making reasonably well-informed guesses. 

Then along came the pandemic, and lockdown, and social-distancing, and with it the difficulty of recording a bunch of people all in the same studio at the same time. So the BBC started recording individual characters’ stream of consciousness commentary on events, keeping the storyline limping along. And somehow we lost interest altogether. I hear that they have solved the recording issues one way or another but we have never taken up the old habit, and now we switch over to Radio 3 after the 7.00 pm news, as soon as the dum-de-dum, de-dum, de-dum starts up. 

Through the grapevine I hear that Ambridge is the only place in the world which remains Covid-free. No social distancing, no masks, no restrictions. It has always been a fictional place but usually it kept time with the world. Christmas and Easter occurred at the correct time. The Grundys named their son William after the royal prince. But now, do they even know that Prince Philip has died? 

Anyway,  yesterday, or maybe the day before, I read a review of radio programmes on the newspaper. And there was this bit about The Archers:

“Entrenched in a reputation for snugness – and smugness – The Archers can supply disturbing storylines. It is the gradual human unravellings that shake a regular listener. Who would have thought that Alice Carter (played with edgy musicality by Hollie Chapman) was becoming an alcoholic? She rarely slurs but is – convincingly – nasty when under the influence. The corrosive effects of her illness are touching for those who, having listened to her growing up as the brainy pet of her family, thought she was for ever protected. The signs were there, planted over years, but you would have to be a golden age detective to have spotted them.”

Well, I reflected on reading that, I must be one of those detectives because, before we stopped listening, I was heard to comment on more than one occasion that that young lady was clearly turning into an alcoholic. I have known a couple of very functioning alcoholics and she certainly reminded me of them.  

Another odd consequence of the lockdown is dog bites, apparently! It’s all to do with the pandemic puppy explosion.  

Anyone who has had anything to do with dogs knows that they are sociable animals, pack animals. We’ve all heard stories of the dogs who believe they are the pack leader and rule the roost in the household, refusing to let their person sit on certain chairs and so on. Or they only recognise one person as boss of the household and will only respond to commands from that person. Like children, they need to learn how to behave. 

Much has been said and written about the troubling effects of being isolated from social contact on children’s behaviour. There’s a whole host of babies born in lockdown who have barely seen anyone other than their parents. They’ve not been able to go to mother and baby groups and learn to play with other babies. They aren’t used to being passed to grandparents and aunts and uncles for cuddles. They’re lacking baby social skills.

Well, from what I have read, the same applies to many of the puppies bought for companionship during lockdown. And there have been loads of those. They have not had the chance to grow used to strangers (to them) coming into their home (their territory) and regard it as a kind of invasion. Even out and about there are problems. The newly acquired dogs have been taken for walks but they have not had to get used to being in crowded places. And it seems that hospitals have seen an increase in cases of dog bites. Goodness knows what will happen if the owners of these dogs have to go back to working in the office, leaving their pampered pup at home!

I suspect that dog psychologists will have a field day.  

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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