My week … the one in which we finally changed the oven lightbulb!

Its a tongue in cheek title this week, but this has probably been the dullest week of lockdown 3. We are so close to a loosening of restrictions but still subject to them, its frustrating. I also had to pause on my running after a silly injury last Sunday so had even more time at home. I have already pretty much decluttered and sorted every drawer and cupboard in the house, so the oven lightbulb really was about the only thing left to do, its been broken for so long, that I get excited every time I see it working now. At least I had work to keep me busy!

Planning for Easter

I tried to use my additional free time in getting ready for the coming weeks, planning for Easter and our cottage getaway. I’ve created my Easter menu and also sorted outdoor things to do near where we will be staying in Somerset. I also sent off the Easter cards and sorted a little gift for my parents. I try to be a thoughtful present buyer and after browsing so many sites, including my favourites, of Etsy and Not On The High Street, there was nothing that excited me to give as an Easter gift. I then got inspiration to look at Fortnum and Mason to see if they had any special Easter nibbles and was able to put together an Easter package for my parents, with a special seasonal blend of tea, Easter biscuits and some other treats for their Easter Sunday tea. It was more expensive than I would normally spend but tbh this year I’ve not spent much money and sometimes you just want to do that wow moment for someone. I knew that my mum would be beside herself to receive a parcel filled with goodies in the iconic eau de nil packaging and to be able to provide that little spark of joy and delight was worth every penny.

Reading

This week upon my colleague’s recommendation, I have been reading Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. Like a few management books I’ve read, it could easily have been précised into a paper rather than a book but the concept is really interesting and makes you reflect on communication.

“When you think of a fierce conversation, think passion, integrity, authenticity, collaboration. Think cultural transformation. Think leadership.”

I had to discuss an area of development with a colleague this week and decided to trail some of the suggestions. It was a really useful conversation and I do think it went better thanks to the model created by Scott.

The surreal

I took a slightly different route to work and was surprised and amused to meet a giraffe, not just a life size giraffe but one wearing a bobble hat too! Geoff the giraffe, because of course I’ve named him and created a personality for him, really made me smile and was just the start to the day I needed, if not a little surreal for a Wednesday morning.

And finally

I’m hoping this week will be a little calmer at work and a little more exciting at home. Its a 4 day week (although I work 5 days in 4 so have to still calculate what I’m working) and on Wednesday (fingers crossed on supplies) we have our second dose of the Covid vaccine. We’re planning a surprise for the team from our local medical practice whom are leading the clinic and its such a nice thing to be preparing. Its also Good Friday this week so hot cross bun day, nothing beats freshly baked buns from the local baker on Good Friday morning. There is a little excitement in the road map out of Covid restrictions next week, Monday sees the return of the rule of 6 and then the big countdown to April 12th and more freedom.

Have a safe week.

One year of lockdown

This week sees the anniversary of the lockdown. In all honesty we knew it was coming, new rules had been coming into force in the weeks preceding to minimise social contact and schools had closed to all but key worker and vulnerable children. It was inevitable and was probably a bit of a relief to end all the speculation.

I think I had found the week before more disorientating when it was announced that schools were to close. My colleague and I listened to the schools statement in our office and I remember us both trying to work out what this meant for us all, both our school but also for our children. This was the week when I had my wobble, it was the only time I cried until I got my vaccination in January. I knew this school closure wasn’t for a few weeks and I knew it was likely that my son wouldn’t be returning to his lovely little primary school. His TA and I were both trying so hard not to cry in front of him on the penultimate pick up, six and a half years of daily handovers abruptly ending. That was the day when it all started to feel real, the last day was better, we all put on a brave face so that our children would feel that it was an exciting, new adventure. I was correct that our son didn’t return properly to school although he went back for a wonderful afternoon with all his classmates so they could say goodbye. Little did I know that the March 20th would be our daughter’s last day at her school. Home schooling showed us that some niggles and concerns we had about her well being and academic work were well founded and when offered the choice to transfer to a different secondary she jumped at the chance. She’s so happy at her new school and I do think that without the school closure it would have taken us longer to recognise the place she was in.

Mr S and I had to make some decisions at this time, as key workers we were entitled to school places for the children but neither of us wanted to send our children to school in such a strange and scary time, they needed us to be with them. We both requested and were granted flexible working, meaning that we condensed our working hours into fewer days onsite. I worked 3 days a week and Mr S 2 days a week, on non working days we did home schooling. Interestingly this is one aspect of lockdown which not only benefitted us at the time but led to a permanent change in my working hours. I now work 4 days in 3 but I am currently temporarily working fulltime in 4 days. Whilst it is early starts, it has improved life and I’ve definitely become a morning person now. Lockdown also led to lots of thinking and talking about the future. In August Mr S left his part time job and did what he had always hoped to do, retire at 55. This has made our life so much easier, especially with the further school’s closure in January. With Mr S at home and focusing on our home life, I have been able to accept a promotion at work and it feels like a new chapter of our family life is starting.

This lockdown year has really seen as thrive as a little unit of 4, it was the year when family was everything. I felt secure in my relationship prior to lockdown but it showed that even in the most challenging of times, we are strong and united. I always felt home life was safe and full of love and support and I will always be so grateful for this. We missed our parents in this year. I saw my parents at a country park midway between our homes in August when we met for a picnic and walk and spent a day with them in October. We have booked a cottage for a few nights in April when restrictions lift slightly so we can see them again. I have not seen my father in law this year, although Mr S has seen him in his garden twice. He has been so careful shielding, but again we look forward to seeing him outside in April by when both he and I will have had our second vaccinations. I have found myself being very cautious this year, I was terrified not of my health but passing the virus on at school where we have medically vulnerable children or to family members. It was a difficult conversation to have at Christmas that we wouldn’t be visiting family but in hindsight this was definitely the correct decision. Whilst we had two Covid outbreaks at work this year, the January outbreak was the more serious, with more cases and for the speed in which it spread. There was also a large number of cases in the community, in a matter of weeks our town went from suppressed to the highest category, scary times.

In January, we started the Covid testing at work, and in full PPE I helped with tests. PPE has become something quite normal now, I must wear a mask at all times at work at present, but on testing duty, I have surgical mask, shield, gloves and apron. On my first day as a tester. I had 8 positives, its an awful feeling when you see the result, concern for the staff member and their families and the hope that they will make a full recovery. Its also quite scary coming home and hoping that you don’t pass anything on to your family. I go straight to the downstairs shower room, shower and put all my clothes into a hot wash. This all makes it sound like I work in a medical institution, but the reality is I am Deputy Head in a special school and this all seems normal now.

In thinking about a post about lockdown, I inevitably started writing lists as its my way of organising my life. Below are a few Lockdown lists, its impossible to write a post about the whole year, its too much to take in and process but the lists hep me share key information.

Lockdown List 1: The things I’ll remember about Lockdown.

  1. The emotional clap for carers at 8pm on Thursday evenings and the town band who chose a song to play after from their gardens. All the neighbours were out in the gardens and the sound of the applause echoing around the bay was something quite special.
  2. The lockdown speech, suddenly it was real.
  3. Boris being admitted to Intensive Care. Regardless of politics, he was our PM and seriously ill, it was scarily real now.
  4. The Queen’s broadcast to the nation. The reassurance we didn’t know we needed.
  5. Captain Tom raising £33 million for the nhs. The 100 year old grandad we all fell in love with and mourned when he died from Covid.
  6. Rainbows everywhere. There’s something hopeful about every rainbow.
  7. 5pm government briefings. They became a feature of the day and on some days gave the grimmest statistics.
  8. The comfort of radio and podcasts and the voices which made us feel a little more connected.
  9. The cancellation of everything, there was nothing in diaries except food delivery bookings.
  10. Hot sunny days, from the first day of home schooling we had the most amazing weather in spring and summer, it made lockdown a little easier. January lockdown was really hard with the dark days and cold weather.
  11. Postbox bingo. This came from a running podcast I listen to and provided a focus to some of our daily walks as we tried to find the insignia of different monarchs on post boxes. It was surprisingly addictive and I always look at every post box I pass to this day.
  12. Tidying and sorting every nook and cranny in the house. My house has never been more organised and streamlined.
  13. The walks. Every single day …
  14. Appreciating nature. Our nearest outdoor space is either the beach or the country park and in both we could witness the changing seasons.
  15. The search for a Nintendo switch. To counter the cancelled holidays and lockdown birthdays we decided to buy the latest Ninetendo games console for the children. It became the must have item of early lockdown and was sold out everywhere. I did eventually track one down before the birthdays and I felt like a superhero!
  16. Sadness at the overgrown, locked children’s playground. There is something so melancholy and quiet about an unused children’s playground and it was so sad to see all the playgrounds locked, equipment covered up to stop little ones playing.
  17. Sanitiser and mask, the never leave home without accessories of the year. And the obligatory lockdown rucksack for all the practical items you need to carry. I miss handbags.
  18. The first Covid test. I’m such a dab hand at administering such tests now but my first test in May was a shock at its invasive nature. I have never got used to them.
  19. Family games. We have never played so many games, Monopoly, Cluedo, Quirkle, Uno, Monopoly Deal, Nope. We even had a games championship over the Christmas holidays, convincingly won by Little Man.
  20. Sense of community. I have never felt a part of my community as much as I have done during this year. Our neighbours have been amazing and I hope we have all supported each other. We clapped together, celebrated the little things and finished the year with a beautiful socially distanced carol concert from our gardens.
  21. Baking. There wasn’t much we didn’t bake last year, every little thing was celebrated with cake. I finally found the time to make fresh hot cross buns after threatening to do so for years (we’re sticking to the local bakers this year) A friend sent through a recipe and we made cakes and chatted via Zoom. Baking was everyone’s comfort.
  22. The relief and joy at my first Covid vaccination. Due to the Covid outbreak at work, Public Health England supported all our frontline staff to get vaccinations in January. The organisation all happened pretty quickly and on the day I helped at the clinic, a wonderful, joyful task. On the way home, alone for the first time all day, I found myself crying happy tears.

The changes in my life due to Covid and which are likely to continue.

  1. Flexible working. I work long days but prefer my new hours. The time between 7 – 8.30 when most others arrive is my most productive time of the day.
  2. Cash seems pretty much redundant now, contactless is the norm. I have had the same £20 note in my purse for months.
  3. A weekly food delivery. This was one of those things that I’ve been arguing for forever, but Mr S always liked going to the supermarket. Since the pandemic came he quickly converted and is chief food shopper with a superb booking system.
  4. Zoom meetings. Zoom and Teams are words that meant nothing to me in Feb 2020 and are now used daily. There are some things which will remain post lockdown and virtual meetings are a bonus. As a parent, the virtual parents evening was so much easier and relaxed.
  5. Health. The pressure of work in the pandemic got to me in May and I felt really poorly and decided to take positive action, cue a healthy diet, exercise and daily meditation. It was one of those life switch moments, over weight and unfit people were affected more by Covid so I lost a lot of weight, got the fittest I’ve been and feel so much better in myself.
  6. Accepting its okay to pause. There was always something to do in my life pre lockdown, now I recognise its okay to just be at home and be ourselves.

The things I miss so much in lockdown (not including being with family and friends as that’s a given) In no order of preference.

  1. Fresh flowers in my kitchen
  2. Pottering around town
  3. Cafe culture
  4. The cinema, theatre and live music.
  5. parkrun
  6. The buzz of a crowd
  7. Diving into a swimming pool and being submerged in the water
  8. Planning and looking forward to events
  9. Spontaneity
  10. Fun

Its been the hardest and most emotional year and there is more lockdown to come, but I feel strangely content with life. Its been the worst of times and the best of times.

My week .. the one with Mothers day.

I am late in writing this post up so it is an update on the past fortnight, rather than one week. To be honest each week seems pretty similar these days and there’s not a great deal to write about. I didn’t write last weekend as I felt a bit rough, I’ve never really been affected by hormones but as I’m getting older I do have a few days each month of bad headaches, irritability and just that bleugh feeling.

I also just couldn’t express my words for what was happening last week. As many commentators noted in a week which started with International Women’s day and ended with Mothers day, the kidnap and murder of a young woman in London allegedly by a police officer and the aggressive policing of a vigil in a park, many of us were questioning again how women are treated in a society. It was all so depressingly familiar, for this generation Sarah Everard will be what Suzy Lamplugh was to mine, women quietly getting on with their lives and killed randomly. Suzy Lamplugh’s family and friends started a charity in her name and I do remember all female undergraduates at my uni being given a rape alarm by the charity for our safety and knowing how to carry keys in a hand to be used as a weapon if attacked. This ‘normal’ 30 years ago is still the ‘normal’ now although the rape alarm has been replaced by technology in mobile phones. Its a situation which makes me sad and then so angry, everybody should be able to walk down a street at any time of the day without fear.

We started the Covid home testing this week for my son and I, my daughter has 3 tests at school and will then bring her kit home too. Its just a little too surreal to even comprehend, twice weekly tests being reported to a government website, you simply couldn’t imagine that this is where would be this time last year. I’ve lost count of the tests I have done now, they have become part of my routine and its a relief they’re only twice a week now as for a period I was doing them everyday at work. They don’t get any more comfortable or easy, sticking a swab down your throat and up your nose is never pleasant, but key to keeping everyone safe.

Life has been so quiet, that its back to writing about running. I have a new pair of trainers! They are very bright but as I explained to Mr S, no one ever really looks at my feet and at half the price of a more neutral colour of exactly the same model, I would be crazy to pay silly money for a different colour. I do own more trainers than proper shoes now. At the beginning of the fortnight, I passed the 200 mile marker of my Lands End to John O’Groats challenge and the postcard was of Blaise Castle in Bristol. It actually brought back some wonderful memories, its somewhere we often take the children when visiting family as its got one of the best children’s play park. I also attended a friend’s wedding reception at the castle. It coincided with the Bristol Air Balloon Fiesta and it was so beautiful to be in the castle gardens and watch the balloons fly past, just one of those magical moments in life. It is surprisingly fun to track yourself on the route of this challenge and remind yourself of places you’ve been and memories you have. So far I’ve been reminded of family holidays in Cornwall, a weekend away with friends in Devon and thinking of other friends as I pass the towns where they now live.

I have been watching a new series on television, Bloodlands. It is your typical gritty police drama and as it was written by Jed Mercutio of In The Line of Duty fame, I had high hopes. It was a bit of a slow starter but by the end of episode 2, I was hooked by the twist and I’m still indignant by the end, so unexpected and sick. Line of Duty starts this weekend and I can’t wait to get gripped by it all again.

Last Sunday was Mothers day and we had a lovely, simple day. My flowers were delivered to me on my day off, so had blossomed beautifully for Sunday. I had lovely cards, although it always me makes me smile that my son signs every card with his first name and surname initial. He has a very popular name and despite always having been in a class with less than 14 children, there is always at least another with the same name. It was a very quiet day, the normal Sunday routine with a walk in the morning to a local landmark and chilling in the afternoon. I got exactly what I wanted, special time with my family.

As I started at the beginning, there is a lot of monotony in life so that’s all for the time beginning, I am busy working on another post about the past year. Its strange trying to piece the bits together, life is different to what it was last year and for us has changed permanently in ways I wouldn’t have predicted. I look forward to writing it up.

My week … the one with World Book Day

Another lockdown week and another week closer to nearly a year under restrictions. I think this coming anniversary is leading to a lot of reflection on how life was just before lockdown, the time when we could still do the little things. There is anticipation and anxiety about the coming months as we all look forward but worry that our hopes could be dashed again. Positively, Mr S had his Covid vaccine this week. We didn’t realise until recently he was classed as vulnerable because he has epilepsy. Its the kind of thing we’re pretty relaxed about as he takes his meds daily and hasn’t had a seizure in the last 20 years. However when we had that knowledge it did make us a little more aware, so his vaccination was a big relief. With the schools going back next week, we have been receiving the home tests for the children, it is going to be a strange experience testing and reporting the results. Certain parts of daily life have a surreal twist at present.

This week has been the last full week of home schooling, Little Miss is back in on Thursday as her secondary school introduces a phased return because of the testing. I have done my last day of supervising home school and am looking forward to her returning to school, she needs the social connections and real life experiences which can’t be replicated at home. I agreed with the closing of schools in January for all but key worker and vulnerable children but am pleased she is now going back to school. Our son has attended his special needs school throughout the lockdown, which was the correct decision for him, it is much smaller and felt safe. The rate here in January was off the scale and now as our daughter returns, the school’s large catchment area is all white on the map meaning the virus is suppressed. I did have to order some new school shoes this weekend, in fairness they needed replacing at Christmas (long story, I hadn’t bought her new shoes in September) but I had a little feeling that there might be a delayed start. Fingers crossed the shoes come by Thursday or she’ll be wearing a pair of my black flats. On the theme of education, I received my post graduate qualification certificate for my recent Uni course and the right to have a further acronym in my professional signature. The course was held regionally and it feels odd to have a qualification from a University that I have never visited. In a different year, I might have been able to pop in when visiting family in the same city. I’m not sure what I would have done, a drink in a student bar, bought new stationery in the student shop, browsed the library, I think I would have felt pretty old!

Its been World Book day this week, which is always one of my favourite days of the school year, I love seeing everyone dressed up and the special themed activities and events. I did think I had dodged the dressing up this year but two days before, we got the message from our son’s school to say that it was fancy dress as a character in your favourite book. Little Man’s favourite book is one on the history of World War 2, so he dressed up as soldier in camo gear. Fortunately, he has loads of camo clothes so this was pretty easy and he has a WW2 helmet too. One of the advantages of starting a new school this year is that it was also the same costume as 2020 ! Last year, we were sent home a class photo of the children in their fancy dress, little did we know that it would become our son’s leaving photo as one of the final occasions when the class were all together. As part of World Book day, I joined in my school’s paint a potato competition. Sadly I didn’t win a prize despite my anonymous entry but it was nice to do something a bit lighter and fun for work. I also had a go at a children’s book quiz on the BBC website and got full marks, I was dead chuffed! On the topic of reading, I am really enjoying my new book She’s Come Undone, it was recommended on a podcast and has me hooked.

My running has continued a pace this week, I’ve passed the 200 mile mark on the Lands End to John O’Groat’s virtual challenge. As a little treat for the evening long runs, I have a shower bomb from Wideye on my return. They are amazing, I discovered them via an online friend on Instagram and they smell and feel delightful. Best of all, whilst they are only a small company, one of their two stores is fairly local to me, so when shops reopen I’m looking forward to having a little mosey around the shop and to try a few more products.

This week there have been a few signs that spring is coming, I’ve noticed the crocuses and daffodils on the grass banks and some blossom dripping from tree branches. However the best sign was when I took Little Miss to the farm on Saturday and we got to meet the new lambs, born on Monday. They are so sweet and absolutely captivating.

Looking to next week, it’ll be strange to have both children back at school by the end of the week. Having finished my Uni course at Christmas and home schooling since then, I haven’t had ‘me’ time on my day off for a while. I have no plans this week for my day off, sometimes its just nice to see a day flow spontaneously.