My weeks … busy times

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Sparkles household and I’m very aware that the promises I made myself about life post lockdown seem to be fading. Life is very full again, with things I feel I should be doing rather than perhaps really want to. It’s a difficult balancing act and one I feel I’ve not met in the past fortnight. Things will calm in the coming weeks as the school holidays start but I think Ive got some reflecting to do before September.

In my last post, I was writing it just before the Euro final, so didn’t write about the result. I was sad that England lost the final on a penalty shootout and it was quite hard having to tell our son in the morning that England had lost. He had stayed up til extra time and then despite his strong will to continue watching it, he conceded and went to bed. When I look back on special times, I think me and him sitting together on the carpet watching the match together will become one of those memories. I was simply disappointed and sad with the result but ultimately incredibly proud of the amazing group of young men whom were representing our country. I found it so difficult to read of the racist abuse paid to some of the England players in the following days and this only worsened in preparing an assembly feature for work where I saw some of the graffiti for my research. I have faith in our young people to be the change but feel we need to recognise that racism is a significant issue in our country.

We have enjoyed a heatwave after some dodgy summer weather in these past few weeks. One of my favourite things is to sit in the cool of the evening in the garden with a good book and Matt Haig’s Comfort Book has been a prefect choice. I have watched very little television in recent weeks, although a documentary on the London Olympics was a notable exception. The summer of 2012 was amazing, highlights included watching the torch come through our town, decorating the house and enjoying lots of sport with a renewed belief of what being British looked like in contemporary times. There was a pride, unity and joy in our country, which sadly I don’t feel now. However, I will be cheering on all our athletes in the next fortnight and no doubt finding a new interest in a new sport or two.

With the good weather and growing Covid cases, we have been doing lots of outdoor activities. Last weekend, we took a picnic and did a long walk along the costal path. Fortunately, with appropriate clothing and accessories and a a sea breeze we coped with the heat. We’ve also tried football golf, although as I have a dodgy foot I was the scorer. At the site you can also do traditional putting or frisbee golf, so perhaps a few new options to try. Both children have been to the local water park in the past fortnight, Little Man with Scouts on a wet and cold evening, Little Miss with school on the dream conditions of a hot and sunny day. Both loved it and are desperate to return during the holiday. I was very proud of our daughter’s trip, she was in the top 3 house points for her year group and the trip was a reward. Initially she was hesitant to go as none of her friends were but with careful persuasion and a lot of What’s App messages on the day she went and enjoyed every minute. At this time of year, she often becomes a little wobbly so there’s lots of TLC and reassurance needed at present.

Today was my day as parkrun returned after its Covid suspension. I ran the last parkrun on March 14th 2020 and whilst we recognised it was likely to be our last for a while, I never expected to wait 16 months for the next. I was so excited today to go and Little Miss decided to join me. At first, she was tired so was just going to sit in the car as it was a bit drizzly. Then we met some neighbours so she jumped out and walked over to the start, from where she was planning to watch. I think the enthusiasm of the runners and cheers and clapping in the introduction persuaded her to run the first lap. I never put any pressure to do the full 5k and after the first lap she chose to continue and finally take off the hoodie which signified she was getting serious! After lots of lovely chats with fellow runners we completed it with PBs for us both and she was first finisher in her age group. Her mood was lifted and she was so pleased with her result, the parkrun magic strikes again. Personally i was a bit emotional at being able to parkrun again. I welled up as I passed the start line and realised it was finally happening. I was pretty patient with all the lockdowns (although the hairdressers was hard) but this was the one I needed. Typically I can’t do next week as we have a family day out at a theme park, but from then on, its no longer Saturday but parkrun day.

Whilst Little Man is not a park runner (yet) he’s had a lot of cricket in the past few weeks, finishing off the season last night with a match, which is him in his element. It was a pretty perfect setting, sitting on the club terrace in warm sunshine with a drink. Life is always about the simple moments.

Next week sees the first joint week of holidays for the children. Mr S is chief holiday planner so activities are all booked and days planned. I’m still at work for a few more days but look forward to hearing of their adventures before joining them on a much needed holiday.


My week … the one with a hotel stay

This week I had a few days holiday, we have slightly different term times, so I have a July break, return to work and then the end of our school year is at the start of August. In previous years this has led to lots of juggling childcare and work days, but with Mr S at home now, its much more relaxed and easier. This year its him whom is organising all the treats and days out. The children finish a week apart from each other and return with a similar gap so our holidays seem to stretch out over 8 weeks this year.

Its been a week of organising and little jobs. On Monday, Mr S and I followed a hike he wanted to try, it was perfect walking conditions and it was nice to be out and be with each other for a few hours with no distractions. I also caught up with a friend over an al fresco lunch later in the week, the food and company were perfect. On Tuesday, I popped over to big town to do a bit of essential shopping. I also ordered the school uniforms online this week, M&S have their 20% offer and I got the sizes I needed, later in the summer it always seems my children’s sizes are out of stock and uniform buying becomes more stressful than it needs to be. I like to be planned and organised, it helps me to enjoy my time with others.

On Thursday, Mr S and I did some serious ‘adulting’ by attending a Mencap seminar on wills and trust funds. Our son has special needs and whilst he has amazed us all with his progress we don’t know what his future holds and need to start making plans for when we die. I know this may sound totally morbid and depressing and we intend to be around for a very long time but its strangely positive. There is a lot of work to do but we now know how to start the process.

I’ve continued to watch the Euros this week and its been semi finals. I was such a nervous wreck in the England game, perched on the edge of the sofa, peering through my fingers when it got a little too stressful. I am now writing this to distract myself from tonight’s final between Italy and England. There will be more to follow …

As I’ve had time off, its always a treat to read, I finished So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter and have made a good start on The Comfort Book by Matt Haig. There’s not many books I buy in hardback upon publication, but his non fiction work is so insightful that I was keen to read it.

The highlight of our week was a trip to Longleat. We picked up the children from school on Friday and drove to Trowbridge where we had booked a night in the Premier Inn. It was a great pit stop, we were next to a plaza of restaurants , a cinema, a lovely park and a M&S food hall (perfect to buy our picnic for Sat). Our Italian dinner was taken al fresco (it was a gorgeous sunny evening and I’m more comfortable outside than in at present) and then we walked around the park and chilled before an early night. Longleat was great, its a family favourite and there is always something new to discover. On this visit, it was the new crocodile and koala enclosures which captivated us. Longleat is mainly outdoor so there were little changes to our normal trips, a few attractions were closed but there was still so much to do and see. You really noticed all the extra sanitary measures and I did feel comfortable at the park.

Next week is a busy one for the children with lots of end of year treats. However, as Covid cases rise again, I am not sure that both will make it to the end of term without being told to isolate if bubbles burst. Fingers crossed as with the school years they’ve had they deserve a special ending. Have a happy week.

My week … the one reminiscing on 1996

This week has been about the football, and hopefully next week I’ll be able to write up an event never seen in my lifetime! Its a week when I’ve been enjoying the current England team, whom are the role models we all need and thinking back to Euro 1996, 25 years ago. For me, the summer was the bridge between full time studies, I had finished my PGCE and the world of work, as I was just about to start my first teaching job in Cardiff.

This week I finished my RED month, I am pleased to have done it, but not sure if its something I would like to do regularly. Normally I run 4 times a week, 2 long runs and 2 shorter runs, totalling around 20 miles a week. This works for me and I like my routine. In doing a RED month, I missed my long runs, they give me more time to get into the tempo of the run and give me time to think, daily 5kms just didn’t give me this opportunity to reflect. My new running challenge is to run a half marathon this year, the only problem is finding a race locally which fits into an autumn of family celebrations and before I have a foot operation due mid October. If I can’t find a race I will simply measure 13 miles on my running app to have the satisfaction of doing one.

This week I read two books, the first Careless by Kirsty Capes is one which I think will haunt me for a long time. The theme of a young person in care is perhaps a little too close to my professional and personal life at present and some of the dialogue and situations are far less fiction than one could imagine. This story had a happy ending, I don’t believe all similar real life stories do, which genuinely makes me sad and angry. The second book I am reading is So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter. I always enjoy her books and whilst I’m about 3/4 through the book, her wit, perception of modern life and women’s roles is excellent.

My highlight this week has been watching the football, aside from the England games there have been some great Euro 2020 games. On Tuesday, it was England vs Germany. This is a game I dislike for the way it is presented in the press with jingoism and historical references. Germany are a bit of a nemesis because of recent history when we tend to lose against them in key games on penalties, but I have no time for the game to be referenced against the world wars. Apart from their ability to beat us on penalties, I like the German team for their skill and spirit in which they play. I was nervous watching the German game, its one of those when you don’t relax, knowing it can change at any moment, until the final whistle. The 2-0 score looks good but I was a bundle of nerves throughout. Fortunately, the quarter final against the Ukraine was so much more relaxed after a goal in the first few minutes and with a class and skill that the 4 – 0 final score makes it sound closer than it actually was. Our next game is Wednesday against Denmark, everyone’s second favourite team after the near death experience of one of their players on the pitch in their first game of Euro 2020. A game which put life into all perspective and thankfully one with a happy ending.

The BBC are doing a series of radio documentaries on the summer of 1996 and on my long run, I listened to the one on Euro 96. That was a fantastic summer with many happy memories. I remember being out on the Saturday night of the England Spain game and the song 3 Lions was played in every bar and several times at the nightclub we went to. Happy days and its so strange to think that those hot, sweaty bars and filled dance floors are not allowed in 2021.

One final little mention this week is to the birds which have been providing a daily show for us. Mr S picked up a peanut butter bird feed at the garden centre and the birds have gone crazy for it. We have lines of birds sitting on our fence waiting to feed from it, we had 3 jars and all are now empty. We all spent so long just looking at the birds and enjoying the spectacle.

We are now into July, for me I have an extra few days off work, perfect for enjoying the football and we have two weekends away booked for this month. This may also be the month when Covid restrictions end, which will be a strange and curious time. Infections are high but the vaccinations are working well and people are less ill with the virus, however I’m not sure how I feel about the ending of restrictions, only time will tell.

Have a happy week and lets hope we’re singing 3 Lions next Sunday.