Covid Life Lately …

Until July, I was keeping pretty up to date with my Coronavirus diary post on this blog. I think just the ongoing nature of the situation made me lose interest in keeping the post live but as we are now here at the end of October and facing the second wave, I thought I would update what life is like and our new ‘normal’ This will be a purely home angle, no politics although there’s a lot to say …

We are currently in the first tier, ‘medium’ which means that we have the fewest restrictions, we can meet with friends in groups of up to six inside and out, drink in pubs until 10pm and generally get on with day to day life, as long as we have a face mask and sanitiser! Our children are both at school and amazingly have not yet been in self isolation for a 14 day period as there have been no cases in their ‘bubbles’. I am working near enough as normal, at my place of work, as I have done all this year. However, much of my work is online now, especially meetings and I think this will continue indefinitely and is one of the areas where things might not go back to what they were before lockdown.

We are being careful around our parents, we have first met part way between homes at a country park and now have travelled to their houses to see them but not stayed over. This has been difficult over half term, all our normal has changed. It was sad today to be reminded that this day last year, we were ice skating with my parents and cousin. The pictures look so strange now, so many people safely in one place, creating such a lovely atmosphere. Its the social contact I really miss. Whilst I’m still running, I miss parkrun and its community. I miss my Saturday routine, a run, a coffee, a trip to the shops and then back home to watch the sport. Its all different now, at present there is no parkrun and no crowds at professional sports matches. I have been shopping but when I’ve been in the shops there is minimal stock and its easier to buy online. Shopping isn’t fun, its functional.

However, despite the challenges, I do try to embrace the new normal. I have been out with friends to outdoor cafes, this was made so much easier when the children returned to school and there were so many months of our lives to catch up on. This week, I met up with friends with whom I go out every half term on an evening (we’re all teachers and tend to live by the school year) Our last meeting was during the summer holidays, when it was pleasant to be outside on the quay. However this week it was dark and cold and given our jobs, all working with vulnerable children, we weren’t keen to risk being inside for the evening (or 10pm when pubs close) We ended up at a friend’s house as her husband created an amazing outdoor space in lockdown, it is stunning and with a log burner made the perfect environment. It was a fantastic evening, we were warm and cosy and the clear skies and bright stars made quite a backdrop. It was so good that we didn’t realise how late it was until the church bells chimed for midnight, given the times, it seemed unreal to still be out after 10pm! We all made it special, I bought fancy hot drinks, there was freshly baked cake and we were all wrapped up warm, it made life feel a lot more enjoyable. Sometimes its just about the little things and making your normal work in different times.

Another example of this was a virtual 10k I did today. I had entered a 10k for June which was cancelled, so I had written off a race this year and just got on with my running. However, I read about the London 10k becoming a virtual race, £15 for entry with a medal and a technical t shirt and decided to give it a go. I liked the concept, you had a week to complete a 10k route of your choice and to upload evidence and it would tick off one of my 20for20 list. To further embrace the idea, I created a playlist full of London themed songs and set up an app to record my time and distance. It was simple fun.

Despite trying to adapt my likes to 2020 style, there are some things which simply can’t be replicated. I miss live music so much, the theatre and a big blockbuster at the cinema. The arts are so important in my life and I feel bereft at present. I would love to potter around a gallery. I want to be around others, be at big events, get the buzz of being in a crowd. Christmas will be very different this year and it will feel sad not to be participating in those festive favourites. Its only made me even more determined to celebrate every little thing in years to come and embrace the now.


My week … the one with the pumpkin carvings

Its been a funny old week, one in which I have felt a bit disorientated and out of sorts. Its an extra week’s holiday for me, but there’s a lot going on in the background and its not been as restful and relaxing as I would have hoped for. I think its the Covid uncertainty all around us and this week I’ve been trying to fit in extra things just in case there is a further lockdown, I’ve organised and attended appointments and done some present buying (I’ve a few family birthdays and a big birthday for a friend before Christmas.) We Mr S is doing more decorating and this week its our bedroom. This means I’m on a camp bed at present and the upstairs hallway is full of our bedroom furniture, I find it really unsettling and am craving order and neatness!

For someone who isn’t a huge fan of driving, it makes me feel nauseous, I’ve done loads of miles this week, nearly 400. Whilst half of these were in the one day to see my parents ( Each way is 100 miles, 80 miles of windy, rural roads and then v exciting, 20 miles of fast, straight motorway) the other miles were simply completing all my jobs and school pick ups. It was so good to see my parents, its the first time I’ve been to their house since lockdown and Little Miss and I spent a relaxing day with a top lunch cooked by Dad.

One of my numerous appointments was an x-ray at the big hospital and I was disappointed at the Covid precautions. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a clinic at a different venue which was highly secure, the consultant in scrubs, mask, health questionnaire done, temperature taken etc.. This time, I walked through the hospital with a questionable one way system, no health checks, staff with masks only and it just felt wrong. In the past few weeks, Covid cases have risen and both of my children’s schools have had children sent home to self isolate. I am amazed that we got through a half term with no self isolation cases among our household, although I do think its inevitable and we are ready and prepared.

This is a long preamble this week, but here’s some of this week’s highlights …

  1. We decorated our bedroom.

Well, we’re still in the midst of this but it should be finished tomorrow. This was the most contentious redecoration so far on our little project list. We’ve been doing so much decorating because we hadn’t done any ongoing work for the past 18 months, as we weren’t sure whether we would have to move to be nearer our son’s new school. Fortunately because he’s at the closest special school, we don’t need to move and can now tick off those home projects. Coupled with Mr S retirement (I still can’t believe he’s retired at 54) we’ve been making big progress on our list in the last month or so. The big argument on this project was not the wall colour, its called heartwood and is a lovely heather / mauve colour but the bedside table lamps. You would not believe the time spent on this decision, too cheap, too light, too dark, doesn’t complement the wall colour, not in stock. Considering in the last month, we’ve chosen wall colours for 3 rooms, picked a new carpet and sofa with ease, the table lamps were a long and tense negotiation!

2. We carved our pumpkins.

Normally, I would have done the pumpkins a little later than today which is October 25th. However with horrible weather forecast for the whole day and other activities more difficult with upstairs being out of bounds, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to do the pumpkins. Both children have been looking forward to carving pumpkins, its something we do every year and they had been thinking and even sketching designs. I was so impressed how independent they were, Little Miss is creative and at an age where she can do it without help or supervision but Little Man was equally determined to do his on his own. I helped him scoop out some of the seeds but the rest is all his own work. He was determined that his pumpkin was going to be wearing his army helmet and the design was based around this. At her farm session yesterday, Little Miss picked her own pumpkin, its not only big but a beautiful specimen and looks lovely. With the addition of the farm pumpkin, this meant we had a spare pumpkin, so I did one too. On one side I carved Covid, the horror for Halloween and the other side a rainbow, the light in dark times, so 2020!

3. I browsed recipes.

I adore Nigel Slater’s cook books and in looking for a good recipe to use up our pumpkin, I spent far too long browsing his GreenFeast, autumn, winter book. Whilst I did find a recipe I’m going to do in the next few days, roasted pumpkin with a home made accompanying hummus, I spent a long time looking and being inspired to try other dishes. They are all simple but the flavours and combinations are mouth watering. Its one of those cookbooks which is as comforting to read as are the recipes.

4. I watched Strictly

I love Strictly, it gives me all the sparkles and feels and I am so grateful that the production crew have done all they can to bring it back live for the autumn. I watched the intro show last Saturday and then the first week’s dances yesterday. Its too early to try and make a prediction and work out who I’ll be cheering on each week, however for skill and potential, I liked HRVY, Clara and Nicola but Caroline was simply charming and her tears of delight at dancing had me, I think she could be another Susan Calman, who is one of my all time favourites.

And finally

Its half term this week, a half term like no other! Its going to have a bit of a Halloween theme, whilst we’ve done the pumpkins, we still need to decorate the house and I’m planning a big window display. As like the early lockdown days where people put teddy bears in windows to keep little children amused on their walks, there’s a similar activity this half term, to put a pumpkin where they can be seen as part of a pumpkin trial, an alternative to trick and treating. It sounds a great idea and as someone who really dislikes trick and treating its a winner for me! The children have asked for the swinging doughnut on Halloween, adapted from the sticky pudding game from my childhood Scottish Halloweens and also to make cheesy bat biscuits as its what we do. I’m happy to do these and given the forecast it’ll be a half term of indoor games, crisp walks and baking.

Have a happy half term.

My week … the one with the baby goats and baby squash

I’m early writing this post as its a busy weekend and I have to use writing time when I can find it. With all the new tiers and local lockdowns this week, I am expecting half term to be affected in some way and as this was the time we had been planning on seeing our parents, we decided to bring this forward and visit them this weekend. As Little Miss had a farm session booked for today, the boys have gone to visit Mr S’ dad today and tomorrow, Sunday, the girls are heading off to see my parents. We’re not staying overnight and have at least 4 driving hours each, making for long days. Fortunately, I’m on holiday next week so can relax a little.

We are very fortunate to have a 2 week half term, the first week is on my own and then the second week is shared with my children. It was strange when I broke up yesterday, I’m normally very excited about this holiday, but I just felt it was a bit of an anti climax. I always have lots of plans and trips organised for this fortnight and whilst I have adapted these to lockdown it simply doesn’t feel like half term should. Its also the uncertainty of what could happen in the next few weeks , with the possibility of a national circuit breaker lockdown during half term.

This week was a lovely autumn week, crisp, bright days and I spent lots of it outside, creating our new normal. I met a friend for a coffee one morning and we walked along the beach with a takeaway and chatted. It was lovely and I didn’t miss not being inside the café. I’ve been organising an evening meet up with friends for the coming weeks and we’ve admitted that we’re not comfortable being in a pub, so it looks like its a BYO in a friend’s garden whom has an outdoor heater and lots of layers.

So apart from anticipating a second lockdown, here are some of the other things I’ve been doing…

I read …

I read Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy. It is an excellent read but in the nicest possible way, this is a collection of stories which many teachers could have written. Some of my students’ stories have stayed with me and influenced me through my life. Before my career in a special school, I was a teacher in an inner city, multi cultural comprehensive and it made me so much aware of asylum, trauma, racial tensions etc.. They are not negative stories but how communities can work together, it takes a village to raise a child.

I got a new sofa …

Continuing the story I wrote of a few weeks ago, our new sofa arrived for the dining room, bought entirely online with no popping into a shop to see it and try it out. Its a gamble which has paid off and we are delighted with it. I’m really pleased with the room, I love the colour and the new palette. I have one final job now, to try and get a chair reupholstered, however finding the craftsman its proving more difficult than I expected.

I looked after baby goats …

Little Miss has started working at a farm on Saturdays for the next few months. We visited the farm as part of a summer scheme and enquired if she could help with the animals which is a big passion of hers. They agreed, with a parent accompanying her and we have started the sessions. This morning we worked with the chickens, pigs and goats. Since our last visit, the farm has two new baby goats who are adorable, and have only cemented goats as my favourite farm animal. Today, we groomed and fed animals and cleaned out some drinking troughs. It was a beautiful way to spend a Saturday morning, in the absence of parkrun 😦 , a bright, sunshiny morning in stunning countryside.

I got a baby squash … (yep, really I’m talking about a vegetable)

I know its not big news but this is 2020! I was given a beautiful baby squash this week and whilst I will use it as its original intention in a recipe, I am enjoying the beauty of the vegetable. Its not stored in my vegetable cupboard but on display for all to see and to add to the autumn ambiance in my house.

And finally

As I mentioned earlier, its my solo half term week. I’m hoping I’ll get to a number of pre booked appointments, as this is my week to get organised and do all my little jobs. I do have a hospital appointment for an x-ray, so I wonder if this will happen. I will do a little more Christmas planning and get ready for half term and Halloween 2020 style!

Have a happy week.

My week … the one with more decorating.

This week, has been a week of tasks to do, none exciting but all useful, including a car repair, redecorating the dining room and an eye test. It was simply one of those weeks focused on getting the to do list ticked off.

We unexpectedly redecorated our dining room, although dining room is a bit of a misnomer as we don’t eat in here, its the adult room, with sofa, tv, work desk etc.. Having finished the games room we were planning our next project and decided to focus on the dining room. However, we had a large sofa bed we wanted to replace as despite being great quality it did overwhelm the room. We put it on a local Facebook page, for collection only and within a few hours it had been sold and collected, which fast forwarded our plans, including buying a replacement sofa, which in these Covid times, we have done online, finding the right size, colour and shape with a quick delivery. It arrives late next week, so fingers crossed it is as we hope. I can’t believe we’ve bought such a key item without seeing or testing it. The paint colour was quickly chosen thanks to the Dulux app and despite being a bit worried that it was a darker colour than normal, it looks amazing and we are really pleased with it. I will collect some more accessories and a plant or two in the coming weeks, but I’m impressed how much we have managed to do in a week.

Away from the decorating these are some of the things I’ve enjoyed this week.

I’ve embraced autumn.

Whilst I’ve been mourning the end of summer for the past few weeks, I’m now trying to embrace autumn with delicious warming meals, warm cosy clothes and a little seasonal reading. I always return to Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, a day book of comfort and joy for inspiration and her topics this week were perfect for life as it is at present. I’ve had this book for over 20 years now and it is as perfect now as it was then. I also popped into one of my favourite indie bookshops on Thursday when I was in a neighbouring town and picked up Ten Poems for Autumn, its a lovely mix and does make the season a little more pleasurable.

I’ve been on the seafront at dawn for the past 3 days, a mix of walking to work and my runs. The dawns have been quite spectacular, as the sea has been so calm and still, its been mild and the colours have just danced in the sky.

I helped Little Man do a Zoom Scouts meeting

Although Scouts was due to start IRL this week, a delayed risk assessment meant that it was done online in the guise of an escape room. I was impressed by the organisation and enjoyed participating with Little Man.

I’ve lunched al fresco

On Thursday, I met my cousin in a town mid way of our homes. We had planned lunch and we found a café with a sheltered courtyard, ideal for an al fresco lunch. Al fresco eating in the summer is enjoyable and preferable but its another thing we need to adapt to in the autumn and coming winter. I was well layered up and with a nice warming bowl of soup it was lovely to be outside in a pretty location. We were lucky it was a mild day, it’ll be interesting to see how long we can continue this style of eating out as the seasons continue.

I’ve had an eye test

I’m not very good at keeping up with eye tests but I’ve noticed my eyesight deteriorating over the past months, too much time in front of a screen, not being able to read the back of food packets, needing good light to read etc. As expected I need glasses and these have been ordered (as an aside, I can’t believe how expensive they are!) However, unexpectedly, I also have a referral to the eye hospital. I’ve not googled too much of what the optician explained in case it got a bit scary, but its to do with the eye pressure and may help explain the increased number of headaches I’ve been suffering with.

I did more Christmas shopping

It was just the one item this week, but I was so pleased to find the metal Emma Bridgewater Roses tin in Waitrose when I popped in on Thursday. My son’s new school is next to the shop, so its very handy to have a quick browse when I’m there. The tin is so pretty and tbh its all about the tin rather than the chocolates for me although I think my family will disagree!

Hope everyone has a great week.

My week … the one when the heating went on

Every year my husband and I have a little competition who can last longest without putting the heating on. This year, I thought it was going to be me, I was freezing last weekend and cosied up in hoodies and under blankets, but knew I couldn’t last much longer. Fortunately, I got a text message at work on Monday to say that he had switched it on and so victory is mine this year, I may have done a little whoop of delight (and relief)!

It has been a week of extremes, there was some warmer days but also a wicked storm on Friday. I had to stop my car and remove bins to pass one road on my way to work. It was a stunning storm, and as I have a sea view from my desk at work, I became totally distracted by the waves. I also had the very real threat of heavy branches falling from a large tree by my office, we did have to go outside to see if it was safe to stay in the office after one fell. I was relieved that the storm subsided by lunch time and the tree surgeons were very prompt in making the tree safe.

Apart from a bad storm, its been a normal week, no drama, just an everyday week, which is actually very reassuring in these times. I had my first face to face medical appointment this week as I had an appointment about a foot injury in our local ‘big’ town. It was as I expected, my consultant in scrubs, mask, a medical checklist and temperature check, but all was done very efficiently and professionally. I had a little spare time and popped into some of the high street shops. I was surprised at the lack of stock and emptiness of lots of the shops, I was hoping to pick up a few Christmas things but very little stock was on display.

With more bad weather today, we’ve had one of those incredibly productive days. We had a new carpet fitted in the children’s playroom yesterday so we had to put the furniture back. However, we had a few ideas and ended up rearranging furniture and storage throughout the house and sorting out so many things. It feels so different in lots of rooms, tidy and organised, with so much extra space. An unexpected but really useful day, finished with curry night, a real family favourite treat.

Here are some of the other highlights of this week…

I listened …

My trip to ‘big’ town meant that I could listen to Woman’s Hour on the car journey on Thursday and Jenni Murray’s final edition as presenter after 33 years. I really like Woman’s Hour and have always listened whenever I could, through sixth form, uni years, school holidays, the Saturday omnibus when it started and now on demand. In all that time Jenni has been the voice of the programme, a programme which has helped to educate, entertain and politicise me. It was a lovely programme and one which showed what an important role Jenni Murray had played in promoting women’s’ rights. The clips of interviews she had done were an amazing timeline and to finish with Woman was just class.

I read …

I love autumn evenings curled up on my sofa with a book and have started The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes this week. Her trilogy starting with Me Before You is a real favourite so I hadn’t even read about the storyline, simply going on Moyes’ reputation. I was a little surprised to be reading about a library in rural America in the early 1930s but just like her other books, its captivated me and I can’t wait to finish it.

I wore …

More masks. On Thursday I even coordinated my mask to my outfit, 2020 has made us do the most random things which we could never have imagined.

I read poems …

It was national poetry day on Wednesday and many poems were shared on social media to promote the day. The one which resounded most was by Nikita Gill, Tell Your Daughters, a poem about positive body image. It has such beautiful lines ‘Tell them how they inherited their ancestors souls in their smiles.’ I’ve printed it out and subtly put in on my daughter’s notice board for her to read and embrace its message.

Have a happy week.