Minor joys

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on May 22, 2020

The lockdown hasn’t had a direct impact on my life because I’m naturally reclusive. Even so, I’ve learnt four interesting things in this period. Of course I may have learned them anyway! But I’m going to credit the crisis with these tiny life-improvements.

At the top of my list: An incredibly easy way to peel garlic. I know, I know: We’re ALWAYS being shown yet another miracle method! Most chefs have grown so used to their own that they’ll never shift. So my revelation, learned from the wonderful Netflix show Nadiya’s Time To Eat, is intended for Novices Only. Step One: Separate the garlic cloves. Step Two: Immerse cloves in boiling hot water. Step Three: Slip the skins off. That’s it. You’re done.

Second and Third items. They’re a matched pair: How To Store Rolls Of “Scotch” Tape and What To Do About Dead BallPoint Pens. I happen to be a tape-a-holic: If I get a chance to buy one roll, I’ll buy 10. I have a couple of drawers overflowing with many different varieties — packaging, permanent, low-tack, gift-wrap, invisible, metallic — but whenever I want a particular tape, I have to dig through the whole lot.

For years, I have planned to store them on long pegs sticking out of the wall, or on a board. This is where the dead ballpoint pens come in. I, like many urban humans, own three thousand dead ballpoint pens. All of them are near the phone when I need to write down a message. The reason I can’t throw them away is that I feel sure they’ll be useful for SOMETHING. And now I’ve found that thing: Pegs for the tape.

“How does a dead ballpoint pen become a peg?” you ask? Easy! We take an ordinary push-pin (see Fig 1) and, using pliers, snap off the little disc at the end of the plastic head. It snaps off very easily. The resulting small rod is EXACTLY the right size for inserting into the shaft of a pen from which we have removed the ballpoint. Ta-daaa! We now have a plastic peg with a pin at the end. A bit of hot glue ensures that the bond is tight.

We hammer the pointed end into a wooden board, or, as in my case, the spaces between the wood panelling of my walls. And there we are: Countless rolls of tape sticking out of the wall in joyful arrays.

Item Four is not useful in any way: How To Make A Honeycomb Ball (see Fig 2). Bet you didn’t know that’s what this pretty thing is called, right? Neither did I. I spent an entire afternoon googling it by description alone. It needs only tissue paper, glue-stick, two bits of card, scissors and perseverance. I made myself a couple. Then I hung them up in the window to admire them, dangling in the fine sunshine of yet another quiet, quarantined day.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on May 22, 2020

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