Prema Howard

I’m fortunate that as a recent joiner to QMU's marketing and communications team, my supportive colleagues have facilitated me working successfully in the comfort of my home, despite not having been with the university for very long. I sit with my laptop next to my potato pots, with various things fermenting and rising in the kitchen, and in the evenings, a good supply of internet has allowed me to watch my favourite K and C dramas and Japanese TV in the evenings... Just like a photo on social media, this story isn't the whole picture, it's just a snapshot of a happy moment amid lockdown.  

One could argue that I’ve been raised for such a time as this. Growing up in the Indian countryside meant we had access to a limited selection of produce, and as such, I learned to make most things – yogurt, cheese, compote, nut butter, bread, pickles, sauces – and cooking from scratch in general. I learned other things too, like gardening, making candles, cutting hair, sewing basic clothes and home linen, maintaining a first aid kit, and a well-stocked pantry.

When I began my career in the city, I quickly learned to adjust to the small, cramped grocery shops in my local area that placed the highest priority on branded clothes, jewellery, extravagant cinemas, and food courts in large shopping malls. Shopping for food was easy. My choices were mostly between eggs or no eggs, white bread or brown bread, and whole or skim milk.

By the time I moved to Australia, I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of choices in the massive suburban supermarkets. It took time for me to navigate the 5 variations of eggs, 15 of milk, and 20 of bread before I worked out what I needed to buy. My Aussie husband couldn’t understand why simple food shopping could take so long. By the time we moved to London several years later, neither could I.

Browsing the aisles of fresh produce had already become second nature to me and what once took me at least 2 hours, now took me 30 minutes or less, particularly after I discovered the online shop/home delivery option. I learned to make kefir, jams and jellies and watched videos to learn cross stitching.

Moving to Edinburgh some years later, prompted adjustment again, though this time with the inclusion of supporting the farmers at the weekend markets. The farmers were chattier than I’d expected, and several hours could go by on our rounds of the stalls before we had everything we needed. By this time though, I’d learned the secret to keeping my husband happy on a shopping outing was to start at the fresh hot chocolate stall! I worked from home by day and learned to crochet by night.

Things were going well until I was a week into my new contract at QMU, and Covid-19 made an appearance, turning everything on its head!

When we moved to Edinburgh, we'd selected a tiny modern flat, next to the park. Our main criteria were to live in a newly renovated flat, so we’d have no mice, and to be near a place where we could get some air when we wanted it, something we’d terribly missed living in central London. We hadn’t factored in that at some point soon, we’d need to be continuously indoors, and might need the extra space. When it looked like the lock down was inevitable, we quickly booked a storage locker, packed up all our seasonal items and anything we didn’t immediately need and tried to make the place as excess-stuff-free as possible.

Our final trip to the farmers market included buying plenty of fresh veggies that I turned into raw cultured pickles, fermented salsa, kimchi and sauerkraut. We’re learning to bake bread from scratch as a weekend activity together, and have tried to include more vegetarian meals, as pulses last longer in the cupboard.

Near the window, I’ve planted some potatoes in special pots that allow for collection and have designated these new additions as our "house plants". I’ve spent hours painting the pots to reflect our travels and experiences over the years, only to find I’d used water soluble paints. I’ve ordered some lacquer... Learning is a process. My jun kombucha is fermenting on the kitchen bench alongside cultured veggies and preserved plums. I would talk about the Easter buns we made from scratch, but they weren’t around long enough to get a mention!

I’m fortunate that as a recent joiner to QMU's marketing and communications team, my supportive colleagues have facilitated me working successfully in the comfort of my home, despite not having been with the university for very long. I sit with my laptop next to my potato pots, with various things fermenting and rising in the kitchen, and in the evenings, a good supply of internet has allowed me to watch my favourite K and C dramas and Japanese TV in the evenings.

I have everything I need, want and more. I am content.

 

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