Birthday #TortoiseFlashFiction

Kitchen of the Future

Tuesday is baking day. It’s a lot of work but after the hell that is Monday washday, it’s a day I look forward to. There’s a lot to do, but the feeling of the flour and fat is a salve to my sore hands. Plus there’s all that kneading … I remember watching Paul Hollywood on TV (my Mum was crazy about his blue eyes) saying how therapeutic it was, and he was right. Sometimes I miss TV, but it’s not like there’s time any more.

With the great Energy Crash of 2032, we all had to scale back our lives – massively. Decisions had to be made as to whether we kept warm and could travel some, or whether we got to keep our labour saving devices. Nowadays we have to use our energy so we can save the energy to keep us all alive.

Naturally, hospitals get to use most of the energy, and there’s another chunk for the mass travel system. No more individual transport, unless we’re talking bicycles. They’ve become popular again. Remember all those annoying middle-aged men running round in lycra trying to find their lost youth, well they had a head start on the rest of us.

But back to my kitchen. These days it’s a big room. Biggest room in the house probably, especially when you combine it with the food storage areas. We use some of our energy allocation to have a chill room. It means we have to collect wood to keep the house warm, but it keeps the kids busy, especially in the longer summer months. No sitting them in front of a TV or some electronic game now.

Anyway, back to my kitchen. Monday is washday and although there’s a special bit of the kitchen set aside for it, the whole room gets filled up with steam. I use lye soap, a couple of old zinc tubs and a big old scrubbing brush for the really mucky stuff. I managed to find an old mangle before they became rare as dodos – and it’s a godsend. By the end of the day, the house looks like a chinese laundry and everything tends to smell of smoke, excepting during the fine weather that is, when I can get it hung out of doors.

Tuesday’s baking day, like I said. We eat a lot of bread – we need the calories and the carbohydrates these days as life is more physical, plus there’s a lot less protein around. I prepare the dough for all our bread, even though I only bake some of it. The rest I put away in the larder and till Friday when I do the weekend’s baking. I also make pastry as we eat a lot of pies – most of that goes into the larder too, in day-size rounds. I also do biscuits – lots and lots of biscuits. I keep that old jar filled up, we don’t have many treats and that’s one I can manage.

Wednesday is ironing day. Same place as I got my mangle, I found an old-style iron. I only use it for work clothes, even though it seems silly in this day ‘n age to be worrying about such stuff, but employers still do it seems. I also do the fireplaces Wednesday – clean ‘em out thoroughly, then re-set and re-light ‘em.

Thursday is cooking day. I do some cooking most days ‘cept Mondays – but this is the day I cook most of our meals for the week. I make a big stew and serve it up with dumplings, the rest of it goes into a meat pot pie for later in the week. I prepare the fillings for fruit pies, pop a couple in the oven ‘n put the rest into the larder for later. I always have a veg soup on the go too.

Fridays is dairy day. Dairy van delivers in our area late Thursday, so Friday I get busy churning butter, making yoghurt, cream and cheese. I did a cheese-making course at Neals Yard back in the old days. Ever so grateful for it now as it provides a really good alternative source of protein for us, as dairy is much cheaper and more easily available than meat. We don’t live near enough the coast to get fish, except as an occasional treat.

Saturdays we all get together to clean the house ready for the weekend. I try to make it fun, but it’s a chore, same as it’s always been. But at least I get help. If I’d have to battle with TV and electronic games, there’d be no chance of that. We get it done in the morning and I do us a big cooked breakfast before the kids go outside for a run round. Usually there’s a game of kick-ball going on, and both girls and boys can join in. I prepare everything for our big Sunday roast and then have a sit down. I have the one cup of Earl Grey tea I allow myself a week. I miss it the rest of the time, but what can you do? Our carbon footprints are carefully measured – I use ours for my yearly allowance of Earl Grey and for spices. I pickle and preserve to make sure no gluts ever go to waste. My larder is always loaded up.

I love Sundays, for I get a lie-in. John gets the roast cooking and does the roast potatoes. We have a dual-fuel range cooker which is pretty efficient. We can run it on wood, or use some of our energy allocation. There’s always a fruit pie ready in the larder for John to slide in to the oven when he takes out the roast dinner, and the children help with the vegetables – everything’s been cleaned and prepared, so there’s no sharp knives needed – but I always lay the table. I kept my nice china and we use it on Sundays. Silly really, but it makes me smile even when I’m washing it all up on Sunday evening.

Before you know it, we’re back to Monday and it’s washday once more. No cooking on Mondays, so it’s cold meat and cold roast potatoes from Sunday, with pickles and preserves from the larder. Best bit of a Monday that is.

I kept my old Readers Digest Cookery Year cookbook – that way I know what’s in season. I bought a book on mushrooms before – I enjoy the occasional forage and that way I can recognise what’s safe to eat and what’s not. We’re so lucky our village had a great bunch of people who’ve always kept allotments. They helped us set aside quite a lot of land for planting – gardens, bits of park ‘n what-not. We all help out with the planting and harvesting, so we have a regular supply of fresh produce.

I never thought the future would be like this. I’m pretty sure I expected robots and perfect, modern, clutter-free homes. What we have is hard work – but I can’t deny that I always sleep well and there’s the added bonus that I never have to watch my weight nowadays.

© Debra Carey, 2017

10000 steps a day

“It’s surprisingly hard to walk 10000 steps a day.” I said to Sam.  “I’ve been doing this new walking thing for about six months now, and I think that I’ve managed it about twenty times.”

I’d started focussing a bit more on walking after I met the Brigadier.  I’d taken him for a colonel as soon as I saw him: the neat tweed suit, erect bearing, and a no-nonsense attitude that seemed to radiate from within.  The plummy voice was a perfect fit.  The man was in danger of being a walking cliché, but in just five minutes he’d changed my life.  He looked eighty, but was actually over ninety.  Our friendship had grown over the last six months and we ‘d skirted around his military experiences; an impressive collection of medals told a story of a career of service around the world, some intensely prosaic, others a Chinese curse embodied.

With everything that he’d lived and seen, he maintained a generous sense of humour and still walked a minimum of five miles every day, usually more.  After a chance meeting, where we’d found that we both lived within walking distance of the park, I’d realised that I’d been drifting into a sedentary lifestyle and decided to do something about it.

I’d been a bit boring about it to some extent, but I’d been working on my friends to get them to come out for a walk on occasion.  Sam had been the most resistant, but had finally caved.

“Here’s the app that I use to keep track of things. I usually manage five to seven thousand steps, but that 10k requires planning as much commitment.  I always used to think that you could get 10k in just by moving about a bit during the day, but even walking in to work these days I struggle to get the steps in.”

“Is it going to be like this for the whole walk?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I was persuaded to come out today on the basis of fresh air, good conversation and a decent cup of coffee at some point and, so far, we’ve just talked about – no, you’ve just talked about – the number of steps that you ‘re walking.”


“I mean, I get that it’s important to you, but perhaps we could diversify things a bit.  Like, oh, I don’t know.  If we assume that 1000 steps is a kilometre then it would take you nearly 19 days to walk round the M25, at 10000 steps a day.”

“No way!”

“Or, if you use this app, you can set yourself challenges based on a scale model of the solar system.”

“You are a complete swine! You’ve been stringing me along about going walking for ages!”

“Yeah… but you still love me.”

“Humph.  You’re buying the coffee.”

“Fair enough.”

“I wonder how far the Brigadier’s walked…”.

©David Jesson, 2017

Author: debscarey

Tweets @debsdespatches My personal blog is Debs Despatches, where I ramble on a variety of topics. I write fiction on co-hosted site Fiction Can Be Fun, where my #IWSG reflections can be found; and my Life Coaching business can be found on

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