The Corona Chronicles – Whatever Happened To Spring?

The beginning of the week saw the official start of Spring, with the vernal equinox. Tonight, we will be moving the clocks forward one hour, thus heralding the official start of Israel Summer Time.
The weather, however, does not seem to be aware of that. It is freezing cold (at the time of writing, midday, it is 6 degrees C) and pouring with rain! Yesterday, it snowed!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we are experiencing a definite upswing in the COVID transmission rate (R). A week ago, it was already 0.92. By Sunday morning, it had risen to 1.1, meaning the pandemic was officially spreading once more. As of 8:38 am today, it stands at 1.42. On Sunday morning, the number of new, confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours was 7,783. Today’s figure is 13,603.

It is very likely that the transmission rate will increase even faster over the next few days, in view of the many Purim parties last week. (Friends in the US tell me that a similar effect is being experienced there, only they are blaming the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.)

Under the circumstances, one can’t help but wonder if Pessach (Passover), in three weeks time, will see us in lockdown again.

Meanwhile, the war drags on in the Ukraine, and the Israeli Knesset hosted the Ukrainian President, Zelenskyy, on Zoom, in a special Assembly, which was broadcast live on Israel TV. I have to say, if Zelenskyy was hoping to convince the Israeli public to pressure the Israeli Government into extending more aid to the Ukraine (such as sending them weapons), he was going the wrong way about it when he likened the Russian invasion to the Holocaust and claimed that during that terrible time, Ukraine helped the Jewish People. The Russians are not out to exterminate the Ukrainian People – and the Ukraine most definitely did NOT help the Jewish People. On the contrary, they eagerly did the Nazis’ work for them. Nor has the Ukraine ever supported Israel in the UN when that blatantly biased body passed resolution after resolution against us.

I am by no means suggesting that Israel should turn her back on the Ukraine, in the face of the naked, inexcusable Russian aggression. But to suggest that Israel owes that country a special debt is ludicrous! In fact – it’s a downright chutzpah.

The beastly weather, combined with the COVID upswing, means I haven’t been out much and have therefore had more time for improving my baking skills. Yesterday, I baked a cheese and vegetable pie, with Parmesan and cottage cheese, carrots, onions and celery:

I had some for supper and some more for lunch today and it was so good, I’ve almost finished it.

Then today, I baked a cheese strudel for Shabbat:

I know, I know – it doesn’t look all that professional. But I have sneaked a taste of it, and I can tell you, without any false modesty, that it tastes delicious!

Today’s post is going to be a relatively short one, as I am anxious to get back to a lovely book I am reading – one which I actually bought four years ago and which has been waiting for me on my “To Be Read” shelf for a considerable while (along with over fifty others, both in Hebrew and in English), until I felt the time was right.

I suspect the current events in eastern Europe might have had some influence on my choosing to read Katherine Arden’s debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, at this particular time. Set in the land of the Kievan Rus’ (Ukraine and Russia) in the fourteenth century, at a time when the Rus’ were still subject to the Mongol Khans, it is a fantasy steeped in Russian folklore. This was a time of political struggle, between what was to become Russia, and the Golden Horde, and also of spiritual tension, between the Orthodox Church and the old gods and other spirits. The heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna (Vasya), daughter of a northern boyar (Pyotr Vladimirovich) and a mother (Marina Ivanovna) who died giving birth to her, is also in conflict – with her stepmother (of course!). Both women are gifted with the power to see the spirits and demons, the veneration of which, the Church is determined to stamp out. But whereas Vasya welcomes many of them as friends, her stepmother, Anna Ivanovna, fears and hates them. Anna finds an ally in the ambitious and fanatic young priest, Konstantin – who, it appears to me, both fears and lusts after Vasya.
I will not say much more. In fact, I cannot, as I have only read about a third of the book so far. However, besides current events, I think the weather might also have played its part in my choosing to read the book just now. Most of the events take place in winter. Vasya was born “on the steely cusp of winter”. As her mother’s labour pains began, “the first screaming winds of November rattled the bare trees …and the child’s first cry mingled with their howl”. And as her father laid his dead wife in the cold earth, “the snow hurried down like tears” while the baby Vasya screamed all through the funeral – “a demon wail like the absent wind”.

Much of the action in Vasya’s home takes place in “the winter kitchen”, with its huge oven large enough for a whole family to sleep on top, for warmth. Indeed, the house is divided into a winter half and a summer half:

The sleet had stopped and the night was clearing. A few valiant stars showed between the clouds when Pyotr came into the dooryard and pulled the barn door shut behind him. Despite the wet, his house was buried nearly to the eaves in a winter’s worth of snow. Only the pitched roof and chimneys had escaped, and the space around the door, which the men of Pyotr’s household laboriously kept clear.

The summer half of the great house had wide windows and an open hearth. But that wing was shut when winter came, and it had a deserted look now, entombed in snow and sealed up in frost. The winter half of the house boasted huge ovens and small, high windows. A perpetual smoke trickled from its chimneys, and at the first hard freeze, Pyotr fitted its window-frames with slabs of ice, to block the cold but let in the light. Now firelight from his wife’s room threw a flickering bar of gold onto the snow.

Winterfell, anyone?

And now, I can’t wait to get back to the winter magic.
But I do wish it would stop raining…

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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11 Responses to The Corona Chronicles – Whatever Happened To Spring?

  1. it’s not any better here weather wise; two weeks ago 70… and sunny; last weekend 24, this to come… possible snow. me thinks mother nature is telling the entire planet to go to ~~~~~

    that pie and strudel LOOK delish; any chance of sharing the recipe for the pie 🙂 !! ??

    stay safe, be happy and hugs to the crew =^..^= ♥♥♥

    • Ingredients: 2 eggs, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 200 gr. cottage cheese, salt and black pepper to taste, 100 gr. grated Parmesan (or Cheddar) cheese, 1 cup plain flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 2 medium carrots, 1 large onion, 1 large stick of celery including the leaves, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 large tomato.
      Method: 1. Chop the onions into small cubes. Ditto the carrots (or you can grate them).
      2. Cut up the celery stalk into thin rings and the leaves into small pieces.
      3. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, oil, cottage cheese, salt, pepper and oregano.
      4. Add the grated yellow cheese, carrots, onion, celery, flour and baking powder.
      5. Mix till the flour is mostly absorbed into the mixture.
      6. Grease a tin or pan (or line with baking paper. I just grease the dish, which is a glass dish, as you can see) and pour in the mixture.
      7. Now is the time to cut up the tomato and arrange the slices on top of the mixture.
      8. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees C for 40 minutes or till the pie is golden in colour and stable.

      Good luck and – as we say in Hebrew – b’te’avon (Bon appetit).

  2. CATachresis says:

    Melanie Phillips had quite a bit to say about Zelensky’s speaking to the Knesset. He didn’t appear very wise. He is a Jew as well!

    We’ve had some very nice weather here last few days. Very springlike! I hope it lasts. Heating costs have more than doubled (nearly tripled) for us in recent months. It’s not good when one is on a fixed income.

    • Yes, I heard about the rising heating costs in the UK. I expect it will happen here too. The war in eastern Europe is bound to have an adverse effect on fuel prices. Still, to triple in price is staggering!

  3. Rick Bailey says:

    Comfort food for cold weather! Our weather in Maryland has exhibited multiple personalities as well. A few days of cold rain, then temps in lower 70s (f). This allows me to balance boat work with recovery time (boat work can be uncomfortable!).

  4. Pingback: The Corona Chronicles – Back To Business | THE VIEW FROM THE PALACE

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