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Tips for living in genteel poverty 1

Corona-Lasi-Bellver-Forest Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

Heh! Who would have thought that going for a sedate walk in the forest with your dog is now OUT? For one thing, the forest (park) is closed off. And new guidelines are being issued all the time. "Carry ID and your dog's passport, keep it on a leash at all times, don't let it sniff other dogs, stare right ahead as you hurry past any dog owner or human"... well the last sentence was just what I read between the lines, but still! Don't they know a strong immune system, acquired through dog walking, fresh air, etc, is our best defence against this bastard virus? 

Fortunately I live a bit further out from the centre of town, and so far haven't been picked up by any marauding fine-collectors. But it is a concern. 

Meanwhile I'm well prepared for any eventuality, with hand-axes, bazookas and a whole bunch of instant noodles. So today I will share with you how to keep the electricity bills down. It takes a bit of preparation, but fortunately I started weeks ago. 

First of all, always carry a rucksack and a little saw or axe when out dog walking. There's lots of firewood lying around, and often fallen branches after storms. Don't thrown away ("recycle") your empty Nespresso sleeves, but keep them and fill them with scrap paper and cardboard, as well as dog hairs. Force as much burnable stuff as possible into the boxes (sleeves).

Corona-wood-Nespresso Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

Then, when the temperature drops, set fire to three Nespresso sleeves and use lots of twigs (which you have ALREADY collected!) to get a fire going. When it's roaring well, add increasingly larger pieces of wood until the whole house is pleasantly toasty and smells good. Important! Don't try to put the whole branch inside the wood burner, but cut it in suitably sized pieces with a saw. Sawing will also keep you warm and healthy during the winter months. 

Corona-wood-saw Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

P.S. You will need a wood burner and a certain (low-ish) outdoor temperature for this to work. But it's FREE! Except the Nespresso. But we have to have certain standards. I said genteel poverty, right? Not abject poverty. 

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This time it's personal

Corona_Koldbrann_walk_me Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's PenAndWok.comInstead of tomorrow (Monday) morning 0800 as threatened promised, the total lockdown of Mallorca thundered into action today, Sunday. All "well" and "good", but what about Koldbrann, my ginger brute, flown here at great expense from Hong Kong? Wouldn't I be able to take him out - for 15 days?!? The rumours started flying on Facebook, but after a couple of hours word came down via the Citizens' Advice BureauCitizens' Advice Bureau that 

The Board has approved a general measure to maximise restricted movement by citizens. Citizens are only allowed to leave their homes, individually (unless accompanying a disabled person or for another justified reason), in the following situations, both on foot and by car:

  1. to buy food or other primary necessities, or to get prescription meds from the farmacia
  2. to visit medical facilities in case of urgency
  3. to go to your workplace or to carry out labour, professional or company duties
  4. to return to your habitual home
  5. to take care of children or other dependant family members or to assist elderly or disabled people
  6. to visit banking or insurance institutions
  7. for reasons of overwhelming force or situation of necessity
  8. for any other activity of an analogous nature duly justified
  9. to walk your pet (this was not mentioned in the original list, but mentioned specifically during the Q&A after the press conference)
  10. to fill your vehicle up with fuel.   

Basically, you can go out for any reason at all it seems, except that all bars, restaurants etc etc are closed. Only nature is open.

Distant memory from pre Corona times

But then two separate friends told me that they had tried to walk their dogs this morning but had been "sent home" by "stern" police. What the hell? My Koldbrann needs two hours' walk per day and so do I.

 I had planned to cook for some people today and indeed had started inviting them more than a week ago in the halcyon days of "only Italy is closed down." Even yesterday morning we thought the lunch could go ahead, as a Last Gasp (ha!) before total house arrest set in. But bugger me if I didn't have to cancel! I and my friends are now the, cough, splutter, TARGET GROUP for this virus. That's right - me, old?!? But, but... I have only ever been young? How can this be! Anyway, I did the socially responsible thing and cancelled. But even a socially responsible person gets hungry, and so I made dumplings for myself.

Corona_table_garden Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's PenAndWok.comHaving completely missed the run on the supermarket a few days ago, I didn't have any meat, but had already taken the dumpling skins out of the freezer. Soy beans and potatoes mashed together with salt, Sichuan pepper and egg yolk to the rescue! It's delisssshhhhes. In fact, better than pork.

This is a strange time. It's the kind of time when people instinctively huddle together, but now you get fined for that. Fortunately I'm used to living and working alone. And fortunately I live in Mallorca and have a garden, so I can follow this excellent advice from the time of the Spanish flu: Get as much sunshine and fresh air as possible! 

You know those plucky Italians who go out on their balconies and sing Nessun Dorma or whatever, to cheer each other up? I tried that with Chinese opera. Got pelted with objects. 

Are you quarantined? Use the time wisely. Learn Cantonese from me on Skype! Me, I'm writing a Spanish textbook. More about that later. 



Here we go again

Corona_Restaurant_closed Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

Mallorca, where I have lived the last two years, has just been put on lockdown due to Covid 19, also known as Wuhan corona virus. I wish I had written a diary when I lived in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic in 2003 and 2004, but there you go. At the time we weren't quarantined; people were going about their business, travelling on the underground and working. But they were all wearing surgical masks. The whole city looked like a gigantic convention for dentists. I tried one once, for one day, and they were damned uncomfortable. And many people were wearing them on their heads, under their chins, in their hands. The main thing was, they probably thought, that they did wear masks! 

Chinese shop keeper in Palma

Now, apparently, the corona virus is on the retreat both in Hong Kong and mainland China, mainly because the people there knew what to do. With a sigh (and in China's case, with armed government officials stationed outside their house), they put on their masks again, bought up all the toilet paper and went back to life as normal. Poor Hong Kong! This came hot on the heels of six months of riots and upheavals, deserted streets and shopping malls. 

Corona empty streets

From today, the people of Mallorca are supposed to stay home for the next 15 days, except for going to work and going shopping. And did they ever! My local supermarket had long lines and staff was only allowing small groups of people in at a time. I therefore legged it all the way to the other side of Palma and the Chinese shop, to stock up on lotus root and some instant noodles. The thing is, we don't have to 'stock up'. The delivery lines are not down. Shops will stay open and will have goods in them. 

But when people don't know, they panic. And then they panic buy. 

Palma, although it's not yet the tourist season, was unseasonally empty. This kind of cheered me, because it shows that people have social conscience. Unlike me! 

I went to three Chinese shops, and all the staff were wearing masks. They even advertised with this on the shop door: "The staff of this shop is wearing masks for your safety!" So I will go there in future. You just never know! Oh, and they have better food. 

Keep calm and carry on! We will be fine. But this thing will change the whole world forever, that's for damned sure. 


Celebrating the year of the Rat in style

CNY-rat-year-of-the-rat Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

Chinese New Year has been and gone, and what a hoot it was! The year of the charming and opportunistic Rat has begun. The year kicked off with China and Hong Kong going into lockdown over a flu. Being a Rat, I smell one. How can China benefit from this, I ask self? Oh! Yes. By using the crisis to ramp up the already intrusive Social Credit system, where everything you do and say is recorded, and points taken off your social credit for jaywalking, spitting, talking about the poor little government behind its back. They are now taking money off the streets to "clean" it, but I'd be very surprised if it goes back into circulation. When people use cards, it's so much easier to control their every move. 

CNY-table-4 Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

But you know what? I do miss China, a lot. So when Chinese New Year rolls around, I feel like cooking Chinese food and lots of it! This year 18 people turned up to celebrate what will surely be the best year in history for the whole world. Yes including the Chinese, if they can only be like the Rat and see this as an opportunity, as their government is already doing. 

CNY-table-3 Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

Meanwhile, all the ingredients for a fantastic Sichuan meal (Sichuan is a province in China famous for its peppercorns and chillies) are available here in Palma de Mallorca. So until this flu dies down (pun intended) I will just cook for myself - and for you! 

CNY-table-1 Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

Screw the flu!  Doobie doo! 


Use the time you are hiding from the virus constructively


Palma-cathedral-boats-morning Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

This is the famous cathedral of Palma de Mallorca seen through a forest of masts. Palma Bay early in the morning is truly a magnificent sight. And this morning I was savouring it again, not on a dog walk this time, but on my way to the very cathedral itself. Because today is one of the only two days each year that the following happens:

Palma-Cathedral-rose-window Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

The sun shines through the window on one side of the cathedral to form the reflection of a rose window right underneath the window on the other side. Pretty cool, and special. I knew there would be a lot of people but didn't expect the line to get into the cathedral to stretch through five streets and all the way to the not nearby Plaza Cort. But I stuck it out, through the second hand smoke and the boredom. That's right, I have no inner life, so find just standing and waiting quite boring excruciatingly painful mentally. 

Inside the cathedral were every single local resident of Palma plus most of the tourists. it's a spacious cathedral so that wasn't a problem, and also after a lifetime in Hong Kong

Hong-Kong,-Kowloon,-Mong-Kok,-Overview Pen & Wok Blog - - Cecilie's

crowds don't really faze me. 

Then someone sneezed. Loudly. Right next to me. And suddenly, for no reason at all, I started thinking about Hong Kong, China, crowds... and a certain virus. SARS. That particular rigmarole started with a geezer sneezing in a lift. 

A cathedral isn't a lift of course, and no one outside China that we know of has died of the latest virus named after a beer. But still. Perhaps it's better to stay away from the largest crowds for a while? 

Poor Hong Kong people! As if the last seven months of protests and riots aren't enough, now this, with shops running out of food and schools closing indefinitely. Haven't they had enough? 

But if you live in Hong Kong, or are otherwise confined to your room, why not take this time to learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian - on Skype? I'm giving a discount to everyone affected by the latest product to come out of China.