Sheltering in place brings up a lot of the same stuff as living in retirement, which, after all, is sheltering mostly in place, mainly because you have nowhere scheduled to go. And going back to basics as we old geezers know from experience – and a lot of younger people are just now discovering – is a natural reaction. So, bread making, crafts, vegetable gardening – all those things that take a lot of time – become all the rage.  Because money might be tight, but time is certainly loose.  In fact, the whole world seems to have gone back to bread making, as evidenced by the shortage of bread flour and yeast, particularly the rapid-rise variety.  We’ve tried to buy yeast for months now with no success except for a few almost-to-be-expired packets of the slow-acting variety our neighbor gifted us.

Nevertheless, we persisted.   Finally, after a variety of bread failures (flat; scorched; you don’t want to know about it….) and a few notable successes, we were down to one precious packet of rapid-rise yeast.  Preparing to use some of it, I gingerly cut off the top.  Then, no doubt in rebellion to some down-deep command to be careful, I tripped and spilled it all over the counter. (whereupon, I spent the next fifteen minutes sweeping it off the counter and back into the envelope.  No doubt, I will find celery seeds, peppercorns, and other little roly-polies that had hitherto escaped my attention, interspersed in next month’s bread…)

…Parenthetically, this whole thing reminds me of a long time ago – back, back, back in our student days – when my husband and I lived in Hong Kong.  We were living on the proceeds of his minuscule fellowship, eating a lot of dumplings and Chinese cabbage.  We were travelling exclusively by double-decker bus (15 HK cents per ride as I remember) to our Yale-in-China language studies and my twice-weekly tutoring of three Chinese gentlemen who owned a small tobacco company: Mr. Wong, Mr. Ling and Mr. Choy.  (They plied me with local cigarettes – Snowman, not Kool, and Elephant, not Camel – as I engaged them in English small-talk, and, if necessary, even smaller Cantonese small-talk.)

Anyway, in the process, Mort and I scraped together seventy-five Hong Kong dollars (6 to the US dollar in those days) to buy an antique Ming-era ceramic wine pot.  I brought it home in a plastic shopping bag on one of those double-decker buses driven by some cowboy bus driver who careened around corners, threatening to overturn the bus.  (We’d seen evidence of that in the South China Morning Post, but never had it happen to us.  This time was no exception.  The driver careened safely to a stop at Mei Foo Sun Chun, our immense housing complex of high-rise monstrosities set in a sea of concrete, but with a surprisingly lovely view of the harbor and a lively produce market.  As we got up from our seats, squeezed into the aisle and made for the exit door, Mort warned me, “Don’t drop it.”  As if I – with a background in ballet and tennis – I, who was not known for stumbling into walls or furniture, would do such a thing! But, as if on command, I fell on the second stair, tumbled out of the bus, and landed on the wine pot.  (Full disclosure: I only chipped it, and we have it to this day.)

In both cases, I’m convinced that it was some internal nagging voice, warning, “Don’t drop it Don’t drop it Don’t drop it,” that made me do it.

More banalities of the sheltered life to follow in next week’s “As the Blog Turns.”