So what have you got up to in the last week? Even in our own national lockdown it would have been more than Giles Cooke MW who remains confined to a hotel room in Adelaide, as he continues his two-week self-isolation just so he can be freed to go and work on the harvest and 2021 vintage for his Thistledown Wines in McLaren Vale. Here he continues his Quarantine Diary covering days five to seven.
Giles Cooke MW is getting more than used to his own company as he goes into his second week of quarantine in Australia.
Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns have trained us all to appreciate the smaller things and, in quarantine this is heightened still. Basic things like being able to open the front door, breathe in some fresh air and pick up the milk are longed for. The closest I get to such freedom is when I hear the knock at the door and, pavlov dog like, I wait 10 seconds, listen for any other doors opening and then quickly grab a bag of luke warm food from the corridor.
Food has been relatively plentiful but much of it is straight-to-the-bin. Egg based dishes are a regular but unhappy experience. This morning’s breakfast a case in point – flaccid, barely cooked bacon accompanied by the egg equivalent of decomposed carpet underlay. Still, they had diced some tomato into it and sprinkled some parsley over the top, so all good…
Sara Lee has penetrated Aussie food circles. Every meal comes with a gelatinous slice of dessert. Every day a different colour, though I’m having trouble discerning which flavour is which, the overriding character being that leached from sugar and gelatine. In an unusually geometric plating style, each slab is the size and shape of those set squares you got at school. Slightly softer in texture but strangely similar in flavour.
Until you get a negative test result, you’re not allowed to put any waste outside of your room, but now that I have tested negative, I am at least allowed to clear my room of rotting food – which is nice. Would be even nicer if they subsequently removed the waste from the corridor.
Aside from the occasional protest and rally outside the parliament building which my room faces, it is pretty quiet, but yesterday there was a heartening sound – animated voices, shuffling in the corridor, the movement of suitcases – people were leaving! I can only imagine the feelings of relief and elation at being able to leave. Ten days to go, tomorrow I’m in single digits.
I’ve been waking early so this morning I began my room lengths about 5am, the intern below me grateful for the solid hotel construction. My wife and I have been learning Spanish together and so, at 6.30am, I went on the first zoom of the day, faced by Celia, our Spanish teacher, my wife Pippa and the occasional cameo appearance from our eldest, Issy, who was proudly parading a bloody tooth, her last baby tooth to be surrendered to the fairies. Today’s lesson was on the verb gustar – me gusta hacer vino pero no gustan los desayunos de cuarentena.
The food aside, I’m impressed and heartened that, within the very strict regime, there is an awful lot of care and support available. Today I have had three official phone calls. Each day a nurse calls to check on my physical and mental health. I haven’t mentioned the eggs yet but as tomorrow’s breakfast is, and yes you are reading this correctly, a chorizo and Mexican bean stew, I may have to mention the nutritional challenges.
I also get a brisk phone call from South Australia police to check that I am who I am. A few days from now I’m not sure what answer he may receive. But today I also got a more detailed mental health assessment which I thought was great. Mine is fine at the moment, but being closely involved in supporting mental health charities, I was heartened that it is being taken seriously.
Today, the wall to wall media coverage of the arrival of Pfizer vaccines in the country has been punctuated by the really quite alarming behaviour of Facebook, who have pretty much blacked out all Australian news sites, including public health information. A massive overreach of influence and surely something that will, redback-like, bite them on the ass. But this is 2021, so maybe not…..
I’m just about half way through – yay! Ordinarily my sleep patterns would be beginning to return to normal by now but, without the usual exposure to daylight, fresh air and other stimuli, I’m struggling with lack of sleep. I’m tired much of the time, but with little else to punctuate the day, as soon as I try to sleep, my brain goes into overdrive.
But better to go with it than fight it so my days still begin around 4am. Chats with people in the UK early in my day seem like days ago by the time I finally go to sleep around 11pm. Still, it’s good training for when vintage really kicks in week after next.
Yesterday was a bit of a low day. Not that the food is great, but that knock at the door is a welcome distraction. No-one knocked yesterday so I waited til 10am and called reception. They claimed it had been delivered and indeed they were right – it had been delivered two hours before and was now cold – maybe a good thing considering it was a chorizo and Mexica bean stew for breakfast. The rest of the day continued in a similar vein – I guess every day cant be an “up” day….
I did get my second scheduled Covid test yesterday and got the result back last night which was very swift. Thankfully I’m still negative – 24 hours in a mask and visor on the plane hopefully ensured that nothing got through, even if I still have the bruises on the bridge of my nose.
Vintage hasn’t waited for me to be let out and there’s been a steady trickle of whites coming in this week. Clare Riesling, some Fiano and last night, some Eden Valley Chardonnay that will form the base of Thistledown, The Great Escape. I’m closely monitoring progress on my beloved Grenache blocks and it now looks certain that I’ll have some early morning picks to go to the first week I’m out – I can’t wait.
Weekend’s are always strange when you’re away from home. You do think about all the stuff you’d be doing at home, the meals you’d cook, the familiar stuff you only really appreciate when you don’t have it. Equally, you don’t want to impose yourself on people who are enjoying their weekend rituals. Not that that is an option this weekend.
Today marks the last day of the weekly menu cycle so, from tomorrow, the food will no longer hold that excitement of the unknown but more the dread of the known. It’s time to go off-piste. Now, what take-away cuisine goes best with Grenache?
- You can keep up with Giles Cooke’s quarantine via his Twitter posts on @gilescooke.
- You can also cheer him up by getting to know what his two week quarantine is all in aid of – making wine and building the an buying some Thistledown Wines which makes hand-crafted, small batch McLaren Vale Grenache, Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, and Barossa Valley Shiraz, all sourced from carefully selected sites across the McLaren Vale.