These strange times have short-circuited our normal expectations. Circumspect neighbours dance with enough distance between each other to satisfy a vicar chaperoning a school dance. The world watches a leader throw a strop with an admittedly often deplorable press and somehow convince grown adults it’s in their best interest to drink cleaning products. And last week it was Christmas, at least here in our cozy pocket of Far East Sussex.
On St. George’s day the mail carrier left presents in the plague box outside the front door.
This is a recycling container, ostensibly the property of Rother District Council but abandoned by them since the contract was awarded to another refuse collection agency
and repurposed as a bin for packages from the outside world. Now I only open it wearing gloves. While the contents of envelopes are usually decanted into a plague tray to await the decontaminating effects of time – laugh if you want* – boxes of supplies are unceremoniously gutted on the kitchen floor.
One was a delivery of Doublebase Gel, the best moisturizer in the world as far as my wife is concerned. (I’m a known sceptic of all known gels, lotions and potions applied to the skin – ick! – but have also been sold). Hands constantly washed are in dire need of first aid, and this stuff is the bomb.
The other package, a cylinder with a label bearing exquisite calligraphy, was a mystery. I had an outstanding small order for bike parts, but this did not look like the sort of wrapping a repair kit for a Topeak Joe Blow pump would be arriving in.
When I carefully applied the box cutter to it, green leaves immediately peeked out. What fresh hell was this, we both wondered, Therese bearing witness to the proceedings. As more leaves spilled forth, it suddenly struck me: This must be for Chompsky!
Not long ago I’d made the virtual acquaintance of Tom, a Yorkshireman who cycles, carves, and who knows what else when he’s not penning beautifully written travelogues. (Oh, here’s what else. He’s also a dab hand with photo editing software.) Aware of my love of the woodland creature who shares our home, he applied his talents to a switch of sycamore: “tarted up a cooking spoon” is how he put it. Who knew spoons grew on trees.
The leaves protecting this treasure were fresh willow, safer to introduce to our rabbit than the utensil, which will in due course appear with Chompsky in a photoshoot at a safe distance from his chompers.
Due course – and cutting it close
It’s easy being green
We were advised to give this instant heirloom a little flax or walnut oil now and then, and hand wash only. I assume this is meant as a working spoon, but lordy, that will be difficult.
“It is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself,” said the pint-sized Dali Llama [“Did you mean: dalai lama?” asked Google – no I did not] to Neo in The Matrix, spawning god knows how many spinoffs.
There’s more if you go back in time
Yes, I’m just just dumping these spoons in a big drawer at this point
Couldn’t find a clip of Marie’s kleptomania in Breaking Bad – what gives, video archivists?
This work of art, a mind-bending gift of generosity, is a sterling example of the silver lining of Covid-19. It has been widely observed that people seem friendlier of late. Obvs YMMV, but that’s certainly been my experience. I’ve lost count of the pleasant, if slightly breathless, conversations with people clearly happy to be out and doing something different than what they normally get up to – probably either working, or worrying about another strand of their life.
Although the forum where the woodcarver and I met was already heavily trafficked, I believe the current situation has increased the thirst for quality social interaction (defined as you wish, but for me, something more than idle chat). My reckoning is that he appreciated the care I put into my contributions, and saw a kindred spirit. “Filigree high in the rafters” is how it was put once upon a time.
Whatever his motivation to donate his creative labour, one is bid to pay it forward. There are worse articles of faith than ‘What goes around comes around’. Does it? I’m moved to say