A happy 90th birthday to my lovely father in law.

This weekend we have had family down to our seaside town to celebrate my father in law’s 90th birthday. Its been a really special weekend, the sun has shone, the birthday lunch was superb and the relaxed conversation and laughter in our garden with drinks and birthday cake just finished the celebrations perfectly.

We have been busy prepping up for this weekend, Mr S organising a venue for lunch and the accommodation, there’s been many whats app messages between me and my sister in law finalising the cake, decorations and sparkles and then a final itinerary to please everyone from 12 – 90! However it has been worth every minute of our time to put together such special occasion. My father in law is one of those lovely, old fashioned gentlemen who would never wish to put anyone out to plan his birthday, I have no doubt that for him the highlight was simply seeing his family all together for the first time in many years. The Covid threat really hung over us this week and despite it being the first week of the holidays, I organised lots of outdoor activities, insisted on mask wearing in the shops and other measures to keep us all Covid free, it would have been devastating to have to cancel. I have promised all the big, indoor activities this coming week for the children to compensate for their willingness to sacrifice them in the first week to keep the party plans.

I am so lucky to have the loveliest, kindest father in law. Sadly I never knew my mother in law, as she died many years before I met Mr S in 1998 so Mr S senior is both my parents in law. The relationship between him and his son is very close and strong and they speak daily. Thankfully Mr S senior has always been very welcoming of me into his family. He has always been there for us both, on the most difficult days and on the most joyful too. He was also wonderful on our adoption journey, he attended all the sessions and interviews he was asked to and has truly seen our children as his grandchildren from Day 1, he is the kindest, most generous grandad and I am so pleased that our children will have happy memories of grandad.

It was a pleasure to be able to do something so special this weekend for such a wonderful man. I would love to have a very special centenary celebration in 2032, but for today, I am thankful we celebrated his 90th together and look forward to many more happy times with this lovely man.

My week … the one with craft projects

So its not a weekly catch up this time, but ten days, as it offered a little more variety and interest to the weekly version which was very work focused. We are now on the Easter holiday and after a term of Covid, storms and Ofsted, this holiday feels very much needed. On Monday morning, my daughter had a two hour session at the farm so I made use of this time to catch up on the really urgent work tasks so I can focus on the 90th birthday plans this week.

The craft projects of this title are some Easter decorations and table decorations for my father in law’s 90th party. The table decorations are something I’ve done for a few big birthdays, my Dad’s 70th, my husband’s 50th where I colour copy old family photos, cut and laminate and stick them, double sided on a straw which are then grouped on the table in glass vases. I’ve done nearly 40 photos for Sunday and there’s some lovely images included. Its a great conversation starter to smile and talk about happy times with those present and those no longer with us. Our other project is decorating a MDF egg and rabbit for our Easter celebrations, we have done the base coat today and plan to paint dainty little flowers on them tomorrow, I’m doing this with my daughter whilst my son painted a sun catcher of a little chick. I have put up most of our Easter decorations this week but would like to add a few more fresh flowers to finish it nicely.

As its the holidays, I have been busy reading, one is an absolutely outstanding read and another in which the writer came across as arrogant, selfish and so self obsessed. The 5 star read, is Lisa Faulkner’s book Meant to Be about her infertility and adoption journey. I really was in tears as I read it, as so much of her journey reflected my own experiences and I found it a very honest and therapeutic read. I’ve never found a book which really expressed the whole experience and this was written so beautifully it actually helped me feel at peace. In contrast, Louis Theroux’s Lockdown Diary was so full of self pity that I felt quite contemptuous of him by the end. As someone who worked onsite everyday of the lockdown and faced Covid on many times in this period, I found I couldn’t really relate to his experience, so many people in all walks of life had such a challenging times that his just simply didn’t compare which seemed to simply be summed up as Joe Wicks, computer games, alcohol and family arguments.

I had a nice mum and son day on Sunday, we needed to go and get a smart outfit for Grandad’s 90th birthday party and he is so much easier and laid back than his sister on the fashion stakes. We were done in the first shop with smart navy trousers and a blue polo top, so we also picked up a few other things for him too, its rare to get him in a clothes shop so I made sure we had some summer essentials. We then went to the picturesque and lively quay area for a walk, to admire all the very expensive boats at the marina and some lunch. It was a really nice, chilled time together.

I had been really proud of my son on Saturday when he and Mr S decided to walk their first parkrun. They had come to watch us girls, but one of the organisers persuaded them to have a go too, cue me frantically registering them when I had finished so they could get a time recorded. We then went on a long family walk and I had done 20k+ steps before lunch!

One of the highlights of my week was the return of the comedy, Derry Girls. Sadly, its the last series, hey they can’t be school girls forever, but it was pure class and is one of those rare comedies I want to watch again now just to catch every last laugh. The 90s theme track suits the mood brilliantly.

I am on party countdown, aka please , please no-one catch Covid this week and I’m doing all the last minute prep I really enjoy. Easter weekend will look a little different, it feels wrong but I think the Easter egg hunt will need to be on Good Friday so we can focus on the birthday celebrations on Saturday and Sunday and both children think its too long to wait until Monday for their traditional chocolate fest.

Enjoy Easter.

My weeks …. the ones with lots of running and flowers.

This is one of my fortnightly catch ups instead of my preferred weekly posts. Last week I wanted to wait to the half marathon on Sunday to write up my race, but feeling tired I chose to wait until Monday night. We then got the Ofsted call on Monday at work and my whole week was changed.

So much has happened in the past two weeks, I don’t really know where to start. My professional life was particularly busy on both weeks, there’s a lot going on at present and its an important period of my career, change is ahead… The Ofsted inspection was a bit of a surprise (we were working on it being a bit later due to pandemic delays) and it also coincided with a Covid outbreak at work. Our town is now in the black rating for Covid, the worst on the chart. This made for a very different style of inspection as my first one leading the education department. However it was a positive experience and I was so proud of my team and students. I have been given 4 bunches of flowers in the past few days, one from my children for mothers day which is today and the others for my work on the inspection. Its lovely to be appreciated.

It has also been a busy running period. I love my parkruns but until last weekend the closest was 20 miles away, however one has now opened in our town, less than a mile from home which is much more convenient and eco friendly, no more car journeys. For the first week, we all went to help the set up and the girls ran whilst the boys cheered us on. I hadn’t been expecting to run this Saturday but a Covid cancellation of our planned activity (not us) meant I could run. Its a stunning but brutal course, 4 hills and possibly the hilliest parkrun in the country. I’m loving it, its hard but as it is only 5k manageable. Next week, I’m visiting my parents and planning on doing their local parkrun, its flat and fast, quite a contrast. In addition to the parkruns, I also managed to tick off one of the items on my 22for2022 list, run a half marathon last Sunday. It was extremely well organised and the first half was delightful, flat, a mix of the prom and country park in spring bloom, but the second half was definitely much harder with a few steep hills. I was so pleased to have completed it, especially as its only five months following my foot operation. My next running challenge is to complete 50 parkruns and then I’ll need to think of a new goal. I do like a little running challenge.

Family time has been quite limited in the past fortnight, I worked late this week due to Ofsted and my son has been away on scout camp this weekend. However last Saturday we all made pizzas from scratch. We have a different theme each Saturday as our special meal of the week. The pizzas were fun to make and delicious and simply quality family time. This week with my son away we did Chinese as he’s not keen in it and we love it.

Unusually, we’re not together next weekend either as we’re off to our parents separately, the boys are off to Grandad’s to see a special car show and do some jobs for him and the girls are off to my parents for shopping and a catch up. Then we’ll be back together for lots of family time, especially during the Easter holiday.

This week I’m looking forward to a quiet, non eventful week, i need one!

My week … the one with red hearts and a red storm warning.

There is a bit of a colour theme to this week’s entry, red hearts for Valentines day and a red storm warning which meant the children both got an extra day off, starting half term a day early.

It is unusual to have Valentines day in term-time, so I made sure I celebrated the school day for my two with a Valentines day themed packed lunch, heart shaped sandwiches, doodles and notes and some kisses and heart sweets as a special treat. I also treated the classes in my department to a box of hearts and kisses to give the day a little sparkle. I took the approach that Valentines day is for sharing and celebrating all types of love. Little Miss got her first real Valentines card and presents from her boyfriend (belated as he was off with Covid) The teddy is as big as she is and she also got lots of chocolate. They are very sweet together, although I am hyper vigilant! My gift to Mr S was expensive socks, he has been complaining about the holes in his socks which were bought fairly recently so he got a set of new socks, I hope the price reflects the quality. I’m still waiting for my present … TBH, after 23 Valentines day its not really a day we celebrate, we have other significant dates, Halloween (the night we first met) and our wedding anniversary.

It was another week on the Covid roulette, our daughter finished her 7 day testing following cases in her friendship group and our son then had to start his 7 days on the day she finished as there was a case in his class. All clear so far but I do feel its going to catch up with us one day soon. I was out with friends and one has recently had Covid whilst the other had her class all sent home because of the number of cases. Given its prevalence, I find it hard that it is has been suggested that from next week, there will be no self isolation period for Covid.

The Thursday dinner with friends was lovely, we’re still meeting in the garden summer house of a friend and its become our routine to have a meal and lots of treats. I had Thursday off work, so I prepared a veggie lasagne and the host made fresh garlic bread in their garden pizza oven, along with the lightly dressed salad, it was perfect. I love these evenings, although having gone to bed around 12.30, the 5.30 alarm call was a tough one on storm day!

The storm day was a strange one. Everybody seemed really well organised and prepared for the potential disruption and damage but we seemed to have got away quite lightly with it. The wind was incredible at times, with speeds of 90+ mph but amazingly the worse damage at work was a broken roof tile and nothing at home. The high tide was before the strongest winds so the flooding was avoided. I have travelled through the county this weekend and I did see lots of broken trees so there was damage but we were incredibly lucky.

I’ve done a lot of driving this week, nothing in our rural location is near! On Tuesday for work I had a couple of appointments in big town. One of my visits was brilliant and I ended up on the driving range playing golf with some of our students. My job is quite demanding and tough at present, so a half hour of fun was so needed. On Thursday I drove my daughter over to a medical appointment we’ve been waiting for. It was an initial session but it went well and hopefully we will have a follow up in the next month or so. We were early so stopped off at a Costa for a cheeky second breakfast, it helped calm the nerves and relax us both.

This week is finally half term, it was a long time coming. Our daughter is off to stay with her aunt for a couple of days ( and her cousin who is in her early 20s and just the height of coolness and sophistication to her) In her absence, I’ve organised a few treats for my son, with tomorrow being the cinema and bowling. Its a stay at home week as I am exhausted at work and need to be at home and simply catching up on life. We’ve big plans for the next 3 holidays so I’m appreciating the quiet nature of the week.

My week … the one with little pleasures.

An alternative title for this week’s entry would be the one with the Covid roulette! Our daughter’s friends have Covid and there is a sort of inevitability that she’ll come down with it next, we’ve been doing daily tests since Wednesday but she’s still testing negative. Whilst the restrictions seem set to be stopped soon, there does appear to be a lot of Covid in our community at present (my night out got postponed due to Covid this week) and it’ll be interesting to see how things develop in the coming months, is this finally the end?

Its been a quiet week as with the close proximity she’s been to Covid, Little Miss didn’t go to Youth Club on Wednesday and Little Man didn’t go to Scouts on Monday as he had a very late night on Sunday (he loved the football game and whole experience) and coupled with a school trip this week it just seemed too much. I was relieved he didn’t go to Scouts as their night hike took nearly an hour longer in some pretty horrible weather. Little Man is a little under the weather today, its been a long half term and I think he’s tired. However, as has become typical on the first sign of illness, his Covid test is negative too.

This week has been a bit of a home making week. I have updated our bathroom with some new, bright towels in cornflower blue and a new laundry basket, just small changes but ones which have perked up the room. I am also taking real care of my pot plants, its one of my #22for 2022, and one I’m taking pretty seriously, I’ve never bought or used plant food before, let alone researched the best plant care.

My half marathon plan went to schedule this week, with my long run of 10 miles being done on Thursday morning. I was joined by Little Miss on my Tuesday night run and enjoyed a sociable parkrun this morning. I was impressed that I was not achy the day after the long run, and with no ill effects and a feeling that I could have run further I’m feeling hopeful about the half in 5 weeks time. This week is a ‘rest’ week from long runs with my longest run being 6 miles, before a return to two weeks of high mileage.

With being in most evenings this week, I have watched more tv than normal. One evening, Mr S watched the Shane Warne film, and I watched bits too. We were actually at the match in Melbourne where he got his 700th wicket, which is featured and we did get to reminisce about an amazing holiday. I also caught up with the Marian Keyes Imagine documentary. I love Marian Keyes, she is a brilliant writer and her interviews and Twitter feed are so witty and always worth a read or listen. The follow up to Rachel’s Holiday is out next week and I have it on pre order ready to land on my Kindle on its release.

Its the final school week before half term and it feels like such a long half term. Monday is Valentines day so I have a surprise for the children in their lunch boxes and a special treat for our children at school too. Its not a day I generally celebrate but to add a little sparkle to people’s lives in a grey and dreary month seems a worthwhile task.

My weeks … the ones off balance.

These last few weeks were always going to be tough, as my work bestie, confidante, all round top person and job share partner for more than a decade left work on Friday. She’s been such a part of my daily life, we’ve gone through personal and professional highs and lows together and I’m not quite sure how I’ll cope without her come Monday. These last few weeks have been building up to the big goodbye and its been emotional, she’s such an amazing person loved by everybody. We were determined that we would walk out together for the last time on Friday afternoon, we always laughed we would drive out a la Thelma and Louise (obviously without the final act) but instead we walked together sobbing and hugging. The crazy thing is that whilst we won’t see each other daily, she is one of my closest friends and will always be in my life. My leaving gift to her was a print from the movie Thelma and Louise with the words ‘No matter what happens, I’m glad I came with you.’ I ended her leaving speech with this line. With a little creative thinking, we were able to hold a leaving celebration. We chose an outdoors event for Covid safety as we couldn’t risk have our whole team off! One of our local beauty attractions is holding an illuminated trail so we went there after school to do the trail and cake and hot drinks. It was beautiful and such a lovely way to spend time with our team.

Friday was quite simply the crescendo in what has been a crazy fortnight. Both my friend and I have decided to leave the company we work for, the values and ethos are not ones we can share or promote. However as the sole earner in our house, I need to stay in position until I have a new job. I did apply and have an interview for a new position this week but did not get it. It actually came as a relief, as I had misgivings at the interview, something didn’t quite sit right and I have learnt that your gut feeling is probably correct. It was quite a different role to what I am in at present and I think I need to work to my experience and strengths. I am an extremely prepared person and had spent all of last weekend preparing for the interview, pages of notes and research all neatly written and mock questions answered. I also needed to dress for an interview as I had not had one in 17.5 years. A smart outfit was more of a challenge than expected as there were no blazers in stock when I went shopping on Friday! Fortunately the Next next day delivery service came to my rescue and the outfit was sorted. I also needed a pair of court shoes as I didn’t think trainers or Converse pumps would suit the look. I had tried to buy some heels for Christmas but my foot was still swollen from the operation so I was a bit nervous about finding a suitable pair now. The manager in Clarks could not have been more helpful, bringing me so many pairs to try and we did find a pair that fitted. It is so nice to be wearing heels again. My foot has been so bad for around the past 5 years that heels were not an option, so it really is a novelty and one I intend to enjoy lots.

There has been so much going on this fortnight, parents evenings, medical appointments, ill time car break down etc.. that it has felt overwhelming and I know that I’m off kilter. I watched an episode of This Is Us last night and one of the characters talked about being off balance and that is me at present, emotionally I’m a bit all over the place whilst trying to portray the professional and parental front that everything is good. I know I’m wobbling but have simply tried to do the basics, eat healthily, keep up my running and get to bed on time which seems to have kept me on an even keel. Fortunately life has calmed for the moment and its time to look after myself.

This weekend its been lovely to have family times. We went to the local forestry commission, where the girls did the parkrun. It was a slightly different course to the one I did there in October and it was beautiful through the forest and around the lake, a one lapper! It might be my favourite parkrun course I’ve run, although the mild morning and bright sunshine helped too. We then hired bikes and cycled for the rest of the morning before a picnic. Life is all about simple pleasures.

Next week is about fresh starts and looking after myself and my little family. Sometimes you cannot avoid mad, crazy times, but its good when they finish and you can relax a little.

My week … the one with the winter sunshine.

Its been the first full week of term and we’re all getting back into the routines and rhythm of daily life. January always seems such a long month so we’ve been trying to plan something different at the weekends to give us something to look forward to.

My week has been very work focussed and my day off was spent doing a long run as part of my half marathon training and then simply pottering around at home doing some life admin. It is good to have a day like this, its been a long time since my last and my diary looks quite busy in the coming weeks too. I ran as early as I could when the children left for school, it was a rare daylight run as I generally run very early in the morning or at night so in winter these are dark runs. I took advantage of the light to do the lanes, it was a clear bright blue sky and the sunshine was melting the frosted fields, it was an absolutely stunning run. As it was my longest run for nearly 9 months, I did warm down and stretch after and it worked, there were no pain or niggles.

It was decided that this weekend, we would spend some special time with a child each, I had our son, Mr S our daughter. Its nice to have this 1:1 attention and the children had the choice on what they wanted to do. Although Little Miss had a session at the farm, she then went shopping with Mr S. Little Man chose to visit one of his favourite museums, The Aviation museum. It is just a giant playground for him, its all outdoors and is a field of planes where you can climb into the cockpits of all the planes on display and be a pilot. It is also right next to the airport so you can view close up, the planes coming in and going out. Its so close you can wave to the pilots! After a morning here, we went to the neighbouring town for lunch and a little wander around the shops, although not too many shops as my son isn’t too keen! The final thing my son asked for was to visit the Smyths toy superstore on the way home which we did although he did feel he was a bit grown up for a lot of things now. It was a lovely SaM day, this is our special name for our son and mum day, perfectly finished off with a curry and all the trimmings for dinner with us all back together around the kitchen table.

Its another ordinary week next week, I need to pop over to ‘big’ town on my day off for an appointment so it’ll be nice to potter around too and see if the Spring stock is in shops yet. I do worry if it’ll be quite eerie now the big M&S has closed and there’ll sadly be no food treats to take home which has always been a thing if we were in town. We also need to plan our weekend surprise next weekend, I’m wondering if we can combine a trip out and some parkrun tourism, we’ll see what the week holds.

My week … the one with an inspiring watch

And just like that, Christmas was over and the new year began. The week did feel a little disorientating with an extra bank holiday on Monday. We hadn’t planned anything for Monday, just getting ready for the week and maybe a little walk. However, at lunchtime we got a call from the local vaccination clinic inviting the children in early for their second vaccinations and offering a spot in the afternoon. We took this invitation and headed over to the big town, it was so smooth and easy although the children were disappointed by the lack of lollipops. The clinic is next to the football stadium, so we took a walk around and popped into the shop. My son got a new calendar and I got a superb bobble hat with a rainbow pompom, I love it!

Tuesday saw the return ish to school, my son and I returned on Tuesday but due to the LFT testing, my daughter not until Friday. She has missed a surprising number of school days due to this staggered return to school over the past year and there haven’t been any lessons or work set in this period. I took her over the farm where she helps out on Thursday to give the day more focus and structure, this also freed up Saturday. As we had nothing planned, I decided to do a little parkrun tourism and visit a new parkrun in the county. The weather was wicked, rain, wind and so cold yet it turned into one of those life affirming and positive mornings. Everyone was so friendly and chatty. I saw my first ever 500 t-shirt and as an added bonus someone was completing their 500th parkrun too, that’s such commitment I also got to say the catchphrase from the With Me Now podcast, so despite the weather it was a great morning run.

I was sad to hear that when I was listening to Marathon Talk that the next episode, 600 will also be their last. Despite never having run a marathon, I’ve listened to the podcast for years and its a great pod on all things running. One of the original presenters Tom was back on guest presenting a few weeks ago and the interview this week was with one of their old regulars too. With those two featuring, its been a nice and nostalgic ending to one of the original podcasts. I’ll be sad to listen to the final podcast, I hope Tony comes back too!

A couple of weeks ago on Marathon Talk, the film the Rescue was highly recommended and I noticed it was on Disney+. Mr S and I sat down to watch it last night and were totally transfixed, it was an incredible watch on the discovery and rescue of the Thai boys stuck in a cave. It was documentary film, with real images of the time. I had a little cry at the end, its so emotional and I have such a deep respect for the deep sea cave divers whose hobby saved 13 lives.

One of my #22for22 is to write a few positive lines daily and I bought the rainbow book to do this. So far I’ve recorded 3 things daily and its telling me what I probably have always known, its the little things in life which make life sparkle, a clear and star filled sky, a good run, playing a game with my son.

A few personal highlights of 2021

2021 was a difficult year but there were highlights and you always need to shower life with sparkles. Here are some of my favourite personal and family moments of the year.

January

If one were to ‘gram’ my life in January it would have looked amazing. However, it was also one of the toughest months of my life interspersed with some brilliant events. I passed my Uni professional qualification with merit after 18 months of really hard study. We also paid off our mortgage in January, every single penny was earnt by my husband and I, no financial gifts or inheritance, just our earnings and simply paying a bit extra if we had some additional money. It is a wonderful feeling to own our house. I also got my first Covid vaccination in January, as after such a bad outbreak at my place of work, PHE helped us to get all staff vaccinated quickly. It was such an inspiring, happy vaccination clinic which took place onsite, I cried happy, relieved tears!

February, March

Lockdown, Vaccination 2 in March.

April

The restrictions on staying away from home were eased in the second week of the Easter holiday meaning we could stay away from home in self catering accommodation in England only. Mr S managed to find a beautiful refurbished milking parlour in the countryside near Cheddar which we could use as a base to visit our parents ( a walk with my parents, and a garden meet up with my Father in Law) It was such a simple holiday, in addition to seeing our parents we visited Cheddar and Wells, enjoyed a family bike ride along the Strawberry Line and lit the first barbecue of the year, but it was also one of the nicest holidays.

May

Mr S got his first Covid vaccination.

Half term meant another holiday, this was a postponed holiday from 2020 and in May half term, we had a caravan on a site near Hastings. There were many restrictions still in place but we got to swim for the first time in 15 months, sit in a pub, watch a show (but no dancing or singing) go to the cinema (Peter Rabbit 2) eat in a restaurant, etc… It all felt so new and exciting. Best of all it all happened in a heatwave.

June

Euros 2020, the tournament where England were brilliant and my football mad son and I loved every single minute.

My son and I also continued our crazy golf challenge which has become ‘our thing’ The year ends with the score as 3 – 1 to him, but I am improving and look forward to more challenges next year.

July

By July, things were opening up more to allow us a night out in a hotel! Things were still slightly different, we dined al fresco in a local restaurant and for breakfast there was no buffet but table service, but it was great (although I may have sprayed the room with an anti bacterial spray when we arrived) We also enjoyed the day out at Longleat, one of our family’s happy places, alongside Paultons Park, which we also visited this month.

This month also saw my parents golden wedding anniversary but such were restrictions that they were unable to make any plans for celebrating the event. We dedicated a plaque on Clevedon pier to the occasion, as its a place with happy memories.

parkrun finally returned at the end of this month and this made me exceptionally happy, normal service on a Saturday morning has finally resumed. I was at the last parkrun in March 2020 and never imagined it would take another 16 months till the restart.

August

Another postponed holiday from 2020, firstly a week in Norfolk and then a further 4 days in Kent. Norfolk was brilliant and probably my happiest day of the year was spent just the four of us on a long, warm (flat) cycle ride followed by an outdoor swim. We all loved Norfolk, the site was gorgeous and we liked exploring some of the local towns, the children especially loved the noise and buzz of Great Yarmouth.

The children and I spent a few days this month with my parents. We did a brilliant treasure hunt around Clevedon and it was just a day with all the feels. When you can’t do so much inside, its surprising how more creative you become with your ideas. Mr S didn’t come with us as he was supervising the building of a new fence, it transformed the look of our garden and made us ridiculously happy, who knew you could get so excited over a fence?

September

A return to school with no bubbles or masks (this in fact turned to be temporary as masks were back after half term)

October

After years of steroid injections and carefully considering an operation, I had my foot operation this month. The nhs were beyond stunning and all has gone really well that I’m so pleased I had it done.

My parents also celebrated their 70th and 75th birthdays respectively. My dad’s treat from us was a champagne afternoon tea in Browns in London and for my mum a lovely spa day with me. We’re keen to go back very soon, the spa was amazing

November

My daughter and I used the Inset day she had for a Christmas shopping trip in Southampton and just had the best girlie day shopping and enjoying lunch out and mocktails. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

December

Christmas has been subdued this year as Covid infections grew again and we feared new restrictions. However, we did get to spend time at our parents’ homes over the festive period which was so important to us. Again it was simple, playing games, walks and delicious food but it was all we wanted.

2021 was about keeping ourselves and others safe, I really hope that 2022 is the year in which life opens up more and looks more normal. There are parts of the year which have been surreal, I crave the ordinary.

The year that was .. 2021

This year has been a very strange one, personally I have had some real highlights, but there has been a peculiar feeling to this year, anxiety, anger, sorrow. This was supposed to be the year when the pandemic became a memory, however Covid remains the top news story and as I write this, there is a phenomenal drive on getting everyone boosted following their 2 vaccinations this year and we await news of potential new restrictions. It was relief to be able to visit my parents last week, but this was not done until we had all had negative LFTs and we only did events outside to protect and save us from a Christmas in isolation. Life is the same but different and I think we will all take a time to recover from the past 18 months, life has lost its spontaneity and plans are now only tentatively made.

The year started badly as my work had a big outbreak of Covid. We were at work onsite everyday and I was one of those trained to do the testing (in full PPE) I witnessed the double lines and needing to break it to staff that they needed to do a PCR as their LFT was positive was horrible. Our students were also separated from family and their level of disability meant that some were unable to understand what was happening, why they couldn’t see parents, do their favourite things or that they were ill and needed to stay in their homes, this was heart breaking. Sadly some of our most vulnerable and staff and students contracted Covid and the worry was immense, it was in my thoughts 24 hours, 7 days a week. I was emotionally fragile by the end of the outbreak with a level of cleanliness which probably bordered on obsessive. I also feel that the effects of this period will haunt me for a long time, there was never any time to pause and recover, the next outbreak was only ever a few months away. If I feel like this I cannot imagine how our doctors and nurses are, they are the true heroes of this year, I have never been prouder of our NHS and did have a little cry each time I was given my vaccination. I have remained very cautious throughout the year, even as the restrictions lessened, I continued to wear a mask in shops and on the one occasion I went on a train. I have avoided indoor events and pubs and restaurants if they didn’t have outdoor seating areas. Socialising with friends has changed, we now tend to get a takeaway coffee and walk and talk or share a meal in a friend’s garden around an open fire. Life has changed during the pandemic, priorities are different and values strengthened, perhaps there is no normal to return to and now is the time to develop our own path forward.

Away from Covid, there were many news stories which made me so angry, how the issues which we campaigned against as teenagers are still in the news in 2021, and worse still how we seem to have regressed in addressing and countering racism and misogyny. Society seems more splintered and divided this year, the consequences of Brexit continue and this year saw shortages and a petrol crisis, at times this was a really grim year. Best not to get me started on the government..

All the major events were affected by Covid and we had many of the big sporting events postponed from 2020 this year, the Olympics and Euros. Both gave special memories, England reaching the final of the Euros remains their best performance in my lifetime. However, it was the way in which the team behaved, and the values they shared that lasts, a team which promotes an inclusive and fair society is one to cherish. The Olympics were fun and new sports were discovered, although an Olympics without crowds was a spooky experience to view, lets hope for a raucous and loud Olympics In Paris.

Initially I though 2021 was going to be a transition year ‘back to normal’ it wasn’t as Covid continued to affect daily life, from lockdowns, significant international travel restrictions to a return to even more restrictions by the end of the year . My hope is that 2022 will be the transition period and life will be filled with more sparkles in the coming year.