Diary report 9 + 10: The Hardiman Diaries

Dear Diary,

Normally weekends would be something to look forward to. A casual lie in… maybe out to mates for a braai later…maybe draw the long straw and make the wife take the kids to any birthday parties that maybe going on; but now? Now Saturday feels like a very underwhelming Tuesday at best! And it’s only been 8 days in lockdown!

Report 9: Day 8

Alcohol units: 95 (worryingly close to triple-figures)
Showers: 4
Facial hair: Rasputin-like
Jogs: 0
Cat: 0 (MIA)
Dog: 1
Wife: 1
Kids alive: 3
Potatoes: 5kg full…5 chopped and diced.
Father-in-laws: 1
Easter Eggs: 12 (may need restocking…)

I remember in the days of BV (Before Virus) the weekend would start Friday morning; Gareth Cliff would scream “It’s the WEEKEND BAAAAABYYYYYY.!” and that was it! Game on.

Now every morning feels like the night after Phuza Thursday…with a bunch of “Zoom” meetings to climb through while still in your ‘jarmies…

Look I am grateful on the one hand to be saving 5 Million bucks a week in kids birthday party gifts (since when did we hit an average R200 a gift?…for 8 year old’s!) but oddly right now I wouldn’t say no to an hour or more at that Rush trampolining spot, surrounded by over-sugared up kids, drinking crap watered down juice from paper cups while I wonder how much birthday cake I can consume while remaining polite.

I have a formula for this BTW:

1 Slice:

Polite and shows the mom that you are impressed with her baking skills…but 1 is never enough is it?

2 Slices:

My average and normally acceptable in polite company but very dependent on size of cake, number of kids…and other parents watching you – a delicate ratio to balance.

3 Slices:

My ideal – but requires skill; there is always the Birthday child’s “Granny” eyeing you suspiciously. The “BG” (Birthday Granny) is nearly always sitting down, due to age, and always to be found somewhere close to the food spread – the oldies love a good graze; She may not be mobile as it’s her “day out” and she is “tired already”, but at the same time she is very, very sentient and incredibly “judgy” on the victuals being eaten and by whom.

My “go to” plan while being watched by the BG, is always to go all-in and confidently so. You cut a third slice on a new plate and say loudly but to nobody in particular…”oh I am sure he would enjoy this…” , then walk meaningfully away from the table in the apparent search of child. Find a quiet corner and job done.

The Dog has officially given up; no matter how much I explain that if she wants a walk she must talk to Ramaphosa (his idea not mine on the “no walk-front”), she just stares me down; I swear when I walk away from her I can hear her saying, ”Okay, bye Felicia”. She is lucky she is not in the shed with Raymond; we don’t need that Kardashian-level of attitude round here right now; especially from pets.

Wife still being overly nice; I know it’s her birthday relatively soon but it’s still a little early to be turning on the charm? Besides, the way we are going with the lockdown (rumors on various WhatsApp groups it might be extended) her birthday maybe spent at home, opening whatever’s left of the Easter Egg stash. (reminder to self to stock up on some fancier chocolates from Woolies just in case – I have no idea when this will end, and I need to look like I was ready for it).

Project Mother Russia update:

Poppie was primed and ready for action; I had written down the first steps of potato instructions for him, and over the next few days will add to the list. I figured I would not overload him with information upfront but rather pass on what needs to be understood at each stage. First step is just peeling, dicing and then adding the chopped bits into the pressure cooker – simple enough but we can’t afford any mistakes…potato rations are thin at best and actual alcohol stocks are thinner; we literally need to “flatten the curve” on the drinking front until we can resupply via the distillery.

I downloaded a one hour “snoring mix” to my phone this morning, to play through the Alexa speaker now installed in Poppies room – its honestly incredible what you can find on the internet when you need it?

Once I had made a show of “checking in on him” to the wife and family, I would sneak Poppie through the backdoor where he will make his way to the “distillery” (shed). I then will turn on the snoring mix, pipe it via bluetooth to the speaker, and proclaim to the litter that everybody should be quiet as poor Poppie is sleeping and he needs his rest.

Gave Poppie one half of number 2 sons “Iron Man” walkie set. I have kept the second unit; this will ensure that we are in constant and secure communication – I would have used WhatsApp but frankly I don’t trust Poppie to mistakenly post messages to family group or worst still the Pinelands Neighborhood watch group…that would end us very quickly.

Poppies call sign is “Starsky”, he was a big fan of the 70’s detective series and I am “Sundance” (he’s also a R. Redford fan); I let him choose and frankly not too disappointed; could have been worse…not sure I would have been comfortable with my father in law calling me “Butch” every 10 minutes.

At 1pm we actioned the plan. Quite nerve wracking to be honest, and as Poppie disappeared into the garden, dressed in slippers and my full-length winter coat, I did question pretty much everything. But 40 seconds later the Iron Man radio squawked with “Starsky” radioing his arrival at the ground zero, Poppie having gone into full military mode.

“Starsky to Sundance…the eagle has landed…the eagle has landed…over.” I tried to reply but he hadn’t taken his finger off the button (we practiced this!) so there was no way for him to hear me.

What it did mean however was that I was now tuned into what I can only describe as something out of Netflix’s Tiger King.

Despite warning Poppie that Raymond was still in the shed, in his nervousness of getting through the door unseen, it had slipped his mind.

Poppie later told me that as he came through the door, Raymond had seized his chance to escape; reacting with the lightening reflexes of a 70-year-old, Poppie slammed the door before Raymond could through. Raymond for his part had twisted mid-air to avoid slamming into the now closing door and managed to catch the end of his tail in it as it shut. Letting out an intensely loud feline scream (I had to lower the volume of on my Iron Man radio) Raymond had taken this as an act of war against his civil liberties and went into full on attack mode. The sounds were bloodcurdling – Poppies not Raymond’s.

Poppie ended up fighting a clawing Raymond off and only managed to escape the onslaught by opening the door and letting him go. Poppie had suffered a number of scratches to his head, something he said would have been far worse had he not been wearing my full-length winter coat, a positive if you are looking for one.

Once the dust had settled, “Starsky” reported into HQ via the radio all was okay, he was a little beat up but could carry on the mission (dicing potato’s), the cat however was gone; an added complication was that due to Poppies cat allergies he was now sneezing almost uncontrollably and not able to fully see what he was doing, as his eyes were itchy and welling up. He had managed to find a pair of the kids diving goggles which helped somewhat and was now breathing through a snorkel, but conditions were less than ideal.

I recalled “Starsky” back the house and snuck the sneezing septuagenarian back to his room to recover; the wife is now back to worrying about her Father and his potential Corona Virus infection as he has not stopped sneezing (loudly) for the past hour and half; this, despite me smuggling him 3 antihistamines and a half jack of Bells.

No word on Raymond’s disappearance (2nd one in 2 weeks if that is possible!?) but I am hoping he headed straight home; pretty sure we will find out soon via Mrs. B’s daughter.

Poppie is now sleeping (no need for a recorded snoring mix – he is doing just fine live!) and I plan to spend the rest of the evening refining the plan of attack for tomorrow…we have half the potatoes diced but we are one day behind and down a cat!

RH


Report 10: Day 9

Alcohol units: 101 (in Cricket this number would get me a standing ovation)
Showers: 4
Facial hair: Need to do something.
Jogs: 0
Cat: 0 (still MIA)
Dog: 1
Wife: 1
Kids alive: 3
Potatoes: 3kg with complications.
Father-in-laws: 1
Easter Eggs: 11

Dear Diary,

no word of Raymond’s arrival back at number 32. I was tempted to ask the wife to WhatsApp Mrs. B’s daughter if she has heard from the cat, but I made such a fuss of “not caring” when it went missing the first time around I feel my sudden interest and concern in her pets condition wouldn’t go unnoticed; going to have ride this one out. I do hope Raymond was sensible and did go home.

Someone or something set of the outside perimeter alarms last night, twice! I didn’t hear it the first time, having taken two sleeping pills and whizzo or two to get through the night. Also slept through the second one but was then I was awoken by my phone going off; it was ADT to let me know their guys had peered through the front gate and everything seemed okay!? R450 a month to look through my fence? I have a neighbor who does that free on a daily basis!

I questioned their surveillance tactics in this particular case, but the dispatcher then told me they were not allowed to climb over the fence to look as that was illegal and of course may put their staff in danger if there was an actual intruder! I ask you!? What is the bloody point? I pay just under a 6k a year so that two people with cammo flack jackets with a 9 mil can cruise the mean streets of Pinelands in a Bantam bakkie and peer through people’s fences? Sounds like a great job to me – where to I sign up!?

Apparently, the answer to that is the ADT website…the dispatcher told me this before abruptly hanging up.

Now I was wide awake I suggested to the wife that we call the police as two alarms in one night was a bit concerning, especially at the back of the house. She seemed oddly chilled and suggested that it may just be a cat or something…I reminded her the beams were set so animals didn’t set them off to which she replied that the police have better things to do in Lockdown than worry about our back garden. I turned over and tried to go back to sleep…maybe it was Raymond…pretty sure the police aren’t doing anything right now other than checking your till slip to prove you have been out shopping, and def not at 3am…they might welcome a potential burglar case to break the monotony!

Dear diary, a little rant if you will allow me.

One of the biggest gripes about the lockdown for me is playing “hunt the charger”; in the days of BC (before corona) it used to be “hunt the 2-pin plug adapter” but this seems to have morphed into me hunting for my cell phone cable at least twice a day. I had solved the 2-pin adapter problem last November but ordering 25 new adapters on a Takealot black Friday sale; the delivery guy look at me like I was mad but who was the ultimate winner!

The problem of course is the litter. As they have got older, they have started to use more and more devices, tablets, iPads, phones etc. Along with this increase in technology seems to have come a direct inversely proportioned decrease in brain computing power. Conversations around devices, adapters and chargers tend to follow a theme; “where did you leave it?”, “when did you see it last?”, to which the answer of course is “I don’t know, I thought I left it on the table/couch/bathroom/bed/sock draw.”

This all ties in rather neatly with my own derivation of Newtons Third Law, every action has a reaction. The reaction in our households’ case being a new question.

An enquiring, “Mum/Dad…how much charge have you got?”

This is notably only asked when one of us is charging our phones and a now desperate tween-ager is now suffering from battery range anxiety mid-Minecraft/Fortnite battle. If of course we are not charging our phones, the charger will simply be removed from the bedside table and relocated to a more user-friendly point of access for the applicable child.

The dilemma here is that cannot just nip out to that shop in the mall that has all those knock off chargers (amongst every other conceivable fong-kong item); the shop is closed as the government deems the need for a “MyPhone 8” non-essential (they do do a great phone cover range though, cash only).

I am still baffled as to how we got to two iPhone chargers and 5 devices that require them?

I visited Poppie in the spare room to discuss the potato mashing that needs to be done today; he was a little worried about working on the Lord’s day of rest but I assured him that even though it was Palm Sunday, even Jesus took time out once in a while to convert a little water.

This seems to have placated him, making Vodka may not be exactly doing the Lord’s work but without it we may all be meeting our maker sooner rather than later!

Poppie reminded me that there was an easier way to make alcohol. We could make a Pineapple

Cider, which is easier and requires no heat and distilling etc; I asked him where we would get a supply of Pineapples in the time of Lockdown? He suggested Hawaii. He’s not wrong, but we left it that.

He gave him my hand written recipe for the mash part; I dare not type it out for fear of it landing up on those aforementioned WhatsApp groups.

  1. Scrub potatoes with a produce brush to remove residual dirt. (Done)

  2. Cut potatoes up into cubes to increase surface area. (Done)

  3. Boil Potatoes for 20 minutes in 7 gallons of water. (To do)

  4. Mash potatoes by hand or by using an immersion blender. (has to be by hand as the noise will call attention to the shed)

  5. Transfer the mash to your mash pot and add water to reach 7 gallons of total volume. (Water and pot already there)

  6. Raise the heat of your mash to 140 °F. Stir mixture continuously until desired temperature is reached. (Use the pool thermometer – should be 60 Celsius?)

  7. Add 5 pounds of crushed malted barley, continue to stir while adding barley. (Use the Jungle oats – we don’t have barley)

  8. Hold mash at 140 °F for 20 minutes. Stir for 30 seconds every 4 minutes during this time. (60 Celsius…)

  9. Raise temperature to 152 °F and hold for 1 hour. Stir for 30 seconds every 10 minutes. (67 Celsius)

  10. Take a gravity reading. If it is below 1.065, add sugar to reach 1.065. (No idea what this is?)

  11. Cool mash to 75 °F. If time allows, cool overnight to give barley enzymes more time to break down potato starches. (Radio me when your done and we will let it settle overnight)

We kitted him out properly this time,

3 x Antihistamines to combat the left-over Raymond cat hair

1 x hipflask of Bells

1 x Snorkel and Goggles – snorkel with some fabric over the top end with rubber band, to stop the cat hair getting in.

We are definitely getting better at this.

Once again snuck “Starsky” out of the house with his supplies and full-length coat (now deemed a necessity after the last Raymond attack); he radioed in that he was all set and ready to go.

I started the “snore tapes” in his room and we were ago!

I settled back into a rather simple and easy-going Sunday for a change – almost like real life if you ignore the 70 year old in dicing goggles preparing Vodka out in the shed; the wife was making Banana Bread with the kids (what is the global obsession with Banana bread at the moment?!) while the dog glared at me.

Mrs. B’s daughter called for update on Raymond; this of course means the cat has not gone home? I don’t fully blame it, living with Mrs. B must be quite trying but at the same time it must be one up from living in a shed?

I went outside to check the alarm beams which all seemed normal? Garden could do with some looking after but will save that for the kids “chores” in the week. Checked on mine and Joseph’s (the gardener) “stash of hash” at the end of the Garden; we have 4 plants growing quite nicely now just behind the “Yesterday, today, tomorrow’s”. I have no idea when they are ready but will try my best to save them for when Jo returns. Just as I was going to check on the granny flat, the wife called me urgently to taste the litters Banana bread creations. They didn’t do too badly at all but we are definitely going to be one of those families on a reality Dieting show by the end of this.

For the fits hour I check in with Poppie every 20 minutes or so to make sure we were on track; soon found out that pool thermometer we had requisitioned didn’t go as high as 60 degrees Celsius, which to be honest does make sense; we instead guesstimated as best we could between us.

After an hour, things went very quiet.

After two hours I started to get worried; we agreed to keep the comms chatter to a minimum in case of enemy ears, but after 40 minutes of hiding in the garage with my Iron Man walkie-talkie, whispering “Starsky, come in Starsky, this is Sundance over”, I was starting to sweat a bit.

I decided I needed to go and see if he was okay.

Perhaps importing Pineapples from Hawaii is an easy route to go. FML.

After sneaking out of the house and into the shed, I found Poppie passed out on a pile of old and musty sunchair cushions; mask and goggles still on. I checked his pulse and he was fine but the damage was done to the mash; the mix of reduced oats and potatoes may never be removed from the pressure cooker I fear, we may have just invented new super glue. I turned off the camping stove and tried to wake our “Starsky” but he wasn’t having it. I had no choice but to leave him there. I tucked him into covered in old tent fly sheet, removed the snorkel so he could snore easier, left a note on the back of the recipe to call “Sundance” when he woke up and snuck out again.

Carrying my comatose father-in-law back to the house Dear diary would have raised more than a few questions.

I went back and checked on him just after dinner and he was still sleeping. I told my wife that given last nights “problems” with the alarm we should perhaps leave the beams off this evening? She agreed faster than Jake White accepting a coaching job, which surprised me but in the current circumstances suits me just fine. I simply cant have Starsky tripping the alarm at 2am trying to make his way back into the house.

As it was, he woke up at around 7pm; still groggy he made his way to the backdoor and I helped him back into his room.

We worked out that in his haste to combat his cat allergy’s he had popped all three antihistamines at once; then for no other reason than he was bored, while waiting for the mash to get going, he had a “few” nips of the whiskey from the hipflask. I assume a few more than a few, as the combination of medication and alcohol soon had “Starsky” cuddling up to the 1970’s sunflower adorned Che’s lounge covers.

If this was Breaking Bad “Heisenberg” may have already commissioned a hit by now.

Back to the drawing board tomorrow; we are 4kg’s of potatoes down, running out of alchol in the house and still no closer to our own moonshine. May have to take matters into my own hand’s tomorrow.

RH

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