This week hasn’t been pleasant. I made what I thought was a kind comment on a Twitter thread in which a woman talked about the death of her twin brother who refused to get vaccinated. A month ago he was climbing mountains and today he leaves behind a bereaved family including his 19 year old daughter. What made this tragic story of particular interest over and above the countless deaths during the Covid pandemic, was the photo she posted of him: a handsome, fit man who looked like something from the cover of a Fitness magazine. I wasn’t the only person to think this.
Amid the numerous replies of ‘Condolences’ and ‘So Sorry’, I remarked: “He looks like the fittest man on earth (also if you don’t mind my saying so, a bit of a hottie.) So sorry. Condolences”.
Several other people commented on how ‘handsome’ and ‘gorgeous’ he was. Tens of journalists asked her to contact them and the story has been the headline news in several newspapers. We associate deaths from Covid with the elderly or vulnerable. It is all the more shocking when a fairly youthful, evidently healthy, attractive person dies so quickly from this disease.
But some people thought my tweet was inappropriate and said so. At first I tried to answer them. But it quickly grew out of control with people calling me ‘sick’, ‘weird’, ‘creepy’, saying that ‘I was flirting with the recently departed’ and that I wanted a ‘bonk’ and that I was ‘horny’. Suddenly I was Jimmy Saville’s perverted sister. Most of these comments came from young men and a few from women (the things women do to other women are somehow even more upsetting, a betrayal).
If the twin sister had objected to my tweet, of course I would have taken it down. It was never my intention to hurt or offend. I was trying to say something nice, perhaps a little less formal. Judging from the photos, both she and her twin are good-looking people.
But things got nastier. People starting messaging me saying I was a ‘tramp’. Some followed me over to Instagram to post nasty comments on a photo of a plate of pasta. Bizarrely some young men messaged me hopefully saying I was gorgeous. I guess they genuinely thought I was some kind of lusty older woman. A couple of young men wrote saying they didn’t think there was anything wrong with my comment and I really appreciated their kindness.
I’m pretty experienced at the internet. I’ve learnt to toughen up. This was an interesting yet upsetting experience, however. In the end I wondered what these people wanted from me. They obviously wanted to publicly humiliate me, put me in the digital stocks, destroy my career and reputation, ‘Why is she verified?’. There was a kind of blood lust. When I didn’t react, they grew angrier – they wanted me to bow and scrape.
The next day a piece about this man appeared in the Guardian and the comments on Twitter were genuinely and deliberately harsh – by not getting vaccinated he deserved what he got. Any backlash on that? Nope. None. Zilch.
I’ve always loved Twitter but it’s getting darker. It used to be fun, lots of repartee and banter.
Is it the pandemic? Are people bored and frustrated? I know I am. I’ve just applied for my fifth SEISS, self-employed government grant, and it’s sobering how much my income, never great, has shrunk since the pandemic. I’m generally feeling a bit hopeless and struggling to motivate myself to do ANYTHING. You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting on my blog that much for the last 18 months. I have little work, no partner, various legal problems, a vindictive neighbour, few friends and frequently difficult relations with my family.
It also feels like this is a female-directed thing. That older women such as myself are just detested in society. We are all Karens now, not humans.
It’s hard not to get paranoid. It’s hard to keep my pecker up. It’s only my curiosity about life that keeps me going. And my refusal to shut up.
You know, baking really does help your mental health. I did a cooking class last week at Eataly London. It’s the first event I’ve been invited to in months. I’ve shopped at Eataly in Milan, a vast warehouse with aisles of fantastic Italian food products. The London one is smaller and equally expensive but worth the visit for products you won’t find anywhere else.
The chef made a version of focaccia that he said was baked with a brine. This intrigued me, so I searched the internet, coming up with Samin Nosrat’s ‘Ligurian Focaccia’ recipe. It is chewier that my usual focaccia. The watery brine slightly boils the dough, giving a slight bagel texture. It’s very salty, which is no bad thing in my book, and has beautiful airy holes in the body of the dough.
Here is Samin’s recipe. I also found another interesting post on this type of Genovese focaccia with another recipe, which I’ve yet to test.
- 400 ml tepid water
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 10 g honey or sugar
- 400 g bread flour (I used 00 flour)
- 25 ml olive oil
- 3 tbsp maldon's sea salt
For the brine
- 50 ml water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 25 ml olive oil
- In a bowl or jug (I use a Pyrex jug) mix the water, yeast and sugar/honey. Leave to froth.
- In another bowl or food mixer, add the flour, salt and olive oil.
- Mix the two together for five minutes.
- Cover the bowl and leave overnight to rise.
- The next morning, grease a baking tray with olive oil and pour the risen dough into it. Gently pull out the corners of the dough to spread it to the edges of the tray. Go back a couple of times and continue to pull. Eventually it will settle into the shape of the tray.
- Preheat the oven to 235Cº
- Using the finger pads of your first three fingers, make deep dips or holes all over the surface of the foccaccia.
- Make the brine by mixing the water and salt together until the salt is dissolved. Stir in the olive oil and mix well. Pour all over the surface of the focaccia and it will sink into the holes.
- Bake for 15 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from the oven. Turn out onto a cooling grid to retain the crunchiness. Brush bottom and top with more olive oil and scatter Maldon's salt on top.
- Serve immediately. It's good for that day. The following days it becomes even chewier so I use it for a panzanella salad.