Thursday, 25 June 2020

Go to your room and think about what you've done

And the world retaliated.
Some people commented, that it was as if we all received a ticking off, and were told to go to our room and think about what we've done.
Because for so long, so many of us, have been doing what we like, where we like, with whom we like. Vast amounts of us have got greedy, impatient, living this fast life, sometimes without stopping to think about the consequences.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first erupted, environmental changes have occurred. Clear water was spotted in the Venice canals, blue skies shone over Delhi and wild animals roamed boldly in locked-down cities. The oil industry and airlines floundered in the new world, and carbon emissions fell fast.
Plus, we spent quality time with our family. Well, the families living together, for families not living together there was Facetime.
But what I mean is, we thought about what was really important.
We looked out for each other. We realised how vital key workers were, we supported our local farms, we went for walks with our family, we stayed at home and ate meals together and thought of fun ways to entertain ourselves.
I think the majority of us became kinder, more appreciative, we slowed down and counted our blessings.
Gradually the rules have relaxed, as approved by the government. Yet I have heard some people state they don't want to go back to their old life, they prefer the new simple way.
No doubt we will look back at this time with mixed feelings. For those who have not been personally affected by loosing a loved one to the coronavirus, will probably reminisce of days spent appreciating our home and each other.
I feel extremely grateful that my family have remained virus free, and I have fond memories of days spent admiring nature in our pretty village, and evenings spent dancing, quizzing and playing board games.
I'll also never forget one of the first rules to be relaxed, we were allowed to visit parks and beaches again for picnics and socialising, rather than a form of exercise and well-being.
Did someone say the word picnic? Oh I love such a thing.

We are ever so fortunate to have many forest walks in our village. This is one of my favourite ones. With our first, finally permitted, picnic of the year.

Friday, 22 May 2020

75 years later

If you can't go the village fete, then the village fete must come to you.
One of life's mottos? Maybe it's not quite up there with, "We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated." (Maya Angelou).
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
"One person can make a difference."
"Every day is a second chance."
However, I kind of like it, my village fete motto.
Because the VE Day celebrations were rather different this year. Alas the gathering on the village common, with live band, stalls and beer tent, were forbidden due to the new rules and regulations. In true British spirit, we did our utter hardest to make the best out of the situation.
Lots of families decorated their houses with Union Jack flags and bunting. Street parties were not allowed, as such, but many people sat in their front gardens with tea and cake. Oh I suspect some were on the harder stuff, in fact I know my mums street indulged, as a neighbour informed her she was 'pissed by 7pm'.
I began the day at 6.30am by blowing red, white and blue balloons and hanging the bunting I bought for the Royal Wedding in 2017. Actually, I forgot I had this particular bunting, until I spotted an old picture of, hunted high and low for, then found underneath the bed. I can not tell you how relived I was, as I could not purchase any on Etsy or Amazon, due to many shops closed and delivery drivers out of action. I then baked cakes with Tommy, decorated with melted chocolate and flags, whilst listening to 1940's music and trying to educate my son with war time facts.
We took some of the cakes to my parents house. Okay we were not allowed inside, but we stood outside, with the 2 meter rule and I left them on their little wall to enjoy later.
The drive to and from my parents house was fun. Tommy was literally screaming in excitement when he saw Union Jacks, and we tried to see who could discover the most. This was in between waving at all the families sitting on their lawns on their deck chairs.
Next, it was the official opening of the garden fete!
Over the years I have collected many games for these sort of occasions. We spun the wheel, Tommy kept winning prizes much to his delight, we all got a little competitive over hook a duck and tin can alley, but it was all in high spirits, with popcorn and cakes.
We were ever so fortunate with the weather. In fact, it was such a warm evening that we decided to extend the day in the garden into the twilight hours. We garnished the veranda with cushions, rugs, blankets and fairy lights. We let Tommy choose the film from the laptop.
It might not surprise you that he chose...wait for it... drum roll for special effect...Spider-Man.
I think this was my favourite day during lockdown. It was ironic really, celebrating the end of the war, during our own war against germs, but it put into perspective all the hardships some families faced, and some families are still facing to be honest, with courage and dignity.
I shall leave you with another quote, from Winston Churchill. Because we must not give in or give up. Life is currently strange and uncertain for sure, but we simply must continue.
So I find myself quoting:
"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Decorating the house.

Cake time.

Fete time. With popcorn.

Film night

Saturday, 16 May 2020

She's really got to wash her hands now!

Home schooling. Not something I thought I would ever attempt. Or have to attempt. Still not completely sure about my attempts, to be honest.
Can I just say, for the record, I have tried my best under the circumstances. Because it's jolly hard when you are supposed to be working full time, at the kitchen table, with husband approximately two feet away, who is also trying to secure an important and necessary job. This is in between your boss and team continually sending you requests for Zoom meetings, whilst keeping in mind the 75 books published target and the monthly membership entitled magazine, with the COVID-19 impact.
Don't even get me started on the guilt. The ever growing pressure of the weekly school print outs, the Whatsapp group messages from school mums and other mums, mixed in with Facebook pictures of perfect parenting pictures. And the weekly telephone call from the teacher to check we are okay..."Arr yes we are fine!" I have been known to say, trying my utter hardest to sound poised and intelligent. This has often been met with, "Please don't worry, it's your well-being we are most concerned with."
It's all a valuable lesson, isn't it, this life we are living. That's what I keep trying to tell myself anyway.
So some days it's more home than home schooling, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? He is safe and happy, these are my top priorities. Plus, he is learning to bake and attend to the garden, whilst asking me maths questions (he loves to keep me on my toes with mathematical debates) and we have become very good at writing quiz questions for nanny. I myself have learnt a thing or two about the solar system (Tommy loves a space theme).
I kind of have a structure, I like to write on the chalk board anyway, Monday to Friday, as it differentiates the days. But I refuse to split hairs if things do not quite go to plan, due to an unexpected crisis at work or his best friends mum texting me to see if Tommy is free for Facetime catch up.
The BBC have helped too, with their Bite Size lessons. They have been great fun to watch together. I particularly liked the one about The Faraway Tree, as it was my favourite book when I was a child.
We were both mesmerised by the enchanting story brought to life, and the lady climbing the tree to visit magic lands. A wonderful tale for Tommy and a much needed distraction for me, in the hope I could try and forget about germs and schedules and spend quality time with my son. Yes we both loved watching the grown up enter make believe rooms in the tree, and climbing higher and higher to reach a new land, almost hidden in the clouds. I kept sneaking looks at my boys excited face, thrilled that he appreciated the story as much as I did as a child, and was still doing so.
And then, I shall never forget what Tommy said next. It pretty much summed up this weird time and how paranoid we have all become. He looked intently at the lady climbing and all the things those big hands of hers were touching. "Oh mummy!" he said, eyes wide open in astonishment, "she's really got to wash her hands now!"

Here is it, the chalk board.

One thing I am proud of - his journal. Every morning he writes about the day before, sometimes with pictures. I think his writing has improved big time, since beginning this journal.

Art lesson. This is the one where he painted on stones for nanny's garden. We made a garden in a tub, unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of, but we both enjoyed collecting things in our garden for her mini one. Which Mark left on her doorstep as we are still not allowed to enter another household. No matter who it is.

Science lesson. The runaway pepper. All to do with surface tension. Tommy found this fascinating, especially the yukky colour the washing up liquid made.

Time capsule. A schools project, where he has written lists about his COVID-19 experience. We have also placed a newspaper article inside of the story of Captain Tom who raised 36 million for the NHS, and the letter to every home, from the prime minister, asking us to please stay home and stay safe.

Baking lesson. Amazing what you can find in your cupboards, not quite out of date. The Spider-Man heads were cut out from paper napkins. Yes it did take me a while, but worth it to see the smile on Tommy's face.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Looking out for rainbows

Note from the author (may I call myself that? I know it’s only a blog but I kind of like the name!) - I thought long and hard before posting the below. I am not in any shape or form being derogatory towards anyone showing symptoms and suffering from this terrible virus. I am merely reflecting on the mood, that life feels as if we are starring in a bad film or disaster book. Lots of people seem to be of this opinion, and, personally speaking, one television series has sprung to mind, particularly as we traipse through the ancient woodland...

I am absolutely trying not to think about Zombies at the moment.
Because years ago, when we lived in our polka dot home, Mark and I used to binge on The Walking Dead. This was BT (before Tommy) when we could lay on the sofa all day, eating Doritos with melted cheese and spicy salsa, and staring at the big screen. Oh those hedonistic days of long ago!
We haven't watched TWD for a while, due to the fact it's not really appropriate viewing with young child. And well, there have been quite a few episodes, so you know when something just looses its appeal?
In the current climate, I definitely do not wish to view. It's a little too close to home. For the benefit of those who have not delved into this show, it's about a new way of life, which focuses greatly on sending loved ones out for food in the tone of preparing them for battle, whilst avoiding human contact, particularly those who could be infected. With the majority of the filming via long treks through dense forest.
Nah, it's definitely not a suitable series to be presently watching. And I am not only referring to the reality that our six year old is with us for the majority of the day/night.
We live in a small cottage, with a small garden, which backs onto a park, forest and golf course. Thus, as approved by the government, we have immersed ourselves in our daily walks, for exercise and well being purposes. Most days we do not see another soul, and when we's interesting. For you can literally feel the tension. Sometimes the other person turns around and flees as quickly as can be, sometimes they surrender themselves to a designated area and beckon us on, whereas we walk as far a distance as possible.
I try to concentrate on the coloured stones and painted rainbows during our walks. There really has been a sense of togetherness amidst COVID-19, especially in our little village. Tommy is always excited when he spots a stone or a rainbow, showcasing from a kind neighbour. I have also turned our outings into nature lessons by pointing out the wild flowers and different trees.
But mostly we simply enjoy being outside (I have recently removed my fat bottom from the sofa to join Mark and Tommy, and anyway, Escape to the Chateau DIY has finished).
We relish in the fresh air, listening to the birds, basking in the sunshine and nature, forgetting about germs, in this new world, for those few precious, wonderful, moments.

It's been uplifting to see the coloured stones and painted rainbows, in an effort to raise positivity.

My favourite gate. I'm sure it's perfectly acceptable to have a favourite gate?

Sunflower seeds, left out by one of the mums. Thank you!

Some of our walks, over the park, through the forest and around the golf course. Tommy found a smile and wanted to pass it on.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

I am a sponge

Dear readers, may I ask you a question? I’m wondering what you will remember from Easter 2020?
Personally, it will be: the stench of bleach in my house, the soreness of my hands due to the frequent washing, and Mark 'joking' every, single, flipping, morning, "What shall we do today? Stay in?"
As well as all these weird and poignant things, I will recall being a sponge.
Confused? Thinking I have finally lost the plot? Allow me to explain.
Due to a game which Tommy absolutely loves (thank you nanny), I have been a pig, witch, balloon and sponge, amongst others. Mark has been a zombie, saw, caveman and alien, and we've laughed our heads off at the remainder.
Tommy doesn't participate as such, he selects the cards, attaches them to our headband (so we can not see what we are supposed to be) and is in charge of the egg timer.
Crikey, who knew I was so competitive?
It has become a running battle that I must beat my husband. At all costs!
And our child is not allowed to dish out clues, until we have played for many rounds and Mark (or myself) literally have no idea. Yes I was very cross once after Tommy exposed the most obvious clue in the world, to my husband/his daddy right at the beginning of the round. Do you like the way I have now invented rules to accompany the game?
The snacks and drinks table assists us whilst playing, and we have created forfeits for the looser. Just to spice it up a bit. So far forfeits consist of: tidying Tommy’s bedroom, making the next dinner (I live in hope to have a break from cooking), telling someone you are a bum. These are still a work in progress.
Never be said that we do things by half measures in this household!
Plus, it's entertained us for many hours during the lockdown of Easter 2020.
So I have tried not to feel sad that other family members were forbidden to visit our cottage for the Easter egg hunt and afternoon tea. I have not dwelled on the fact we could not board the steam train into the woodlands, to meet the Easter bunny, or run around the forest looking at tree houses and collecting letters.
Yes we have missed many things recently.
But we've had each other, my little three person family, in our little cottage. And we've had our health.
This is priceless. Worth more than the biggest chocolate egg in the whole wide world.
Right, I'm off to play the game again. I wonder whom or what I shall be this time?
May the best woman win.

Decorated the house early this year.

Getting ready for the hunt in the garden.

This year we had a competition, who could find the most eggs - Tommy or daddy? With a special prize for the winner.

And the winner was! He loved his special prize.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

When we opened our front door and clapped

I forgot I was wearing my pyjamas. They were my favourite floral ones, and mighty comfy. Hence I was wearing them at 8pm on a Thursday evening, when we opened our front door and clapped.
Tommy clapped too. He didn't have a clue why he was doing so, just that mummy and daddy had instructed him to.
And the nice lady from the right was leaning out her bedroom window and wildly clapping. The lady on the left (whose name we can never remember, it's only been seven years since we moved in) and her kids were also standing on their doorsteps with their hands making as much noise as possible.
"Sorry about my pyjamas!" I said above the racket.
The noise level was quite high, I think the whole street participated. As did every street, or balcony, in the UK. I know this is true because FaceBook was bursting with videos of the people clapping and cheering.
In fact, my palms stung a little afterwards, perhaps I was too enthusiastic, but I just wanted to show my appreciation.
It was quite emotional actually. Many friends have commented that they've had a low point, or a poignant moment, during COVID-19, well that was mine.
Because really we're doing the easy part, staying in, keeping safe. Oh we can moan about missing our family and friends and what a mission food shopping has become. For it's easy to live in a little bubble and forget the horror some people are facing.
"So why was it important to clap mummy?" Tommy asked, as I discreetly wiped a tear from my eye.
"We are clapping our NHS heroes," I explained. "All the nurses and doctors who are working so hard to help us and make people better. We are showing our gratitude."
Yes the true heroes are not wearing capes and leaping over buildings. They are real people and they are saving lives, whilst risking their own.
And for that, the least we can do is open our front door and clap.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Staring at a cats bottom and wearing a Spider-Man mask to the team meeting

Wow, despite the Coronavirus quarantine, recently I have never had so much contact with my friends and family.
Weird hey?
And we owe it all to technology.
Boy, there are some bored, and clever, individuals. My phone is constantly beeping with clips of funny songs and ideas.
I have WhatsApp groups with different sets of friends, one of them being a book club, in an effort not to constantly worry and discuss the virus, but instead review good literature.
I am now an expert at FaceTime. Thanks to this, I've had a nose around friends homes, chatted to their kids, and waved at their pets. (Not sure the pets appreciated the waving to be honest, you can but try.)
It's also vital that myself and Tommy FaceTime my mum, as due to my parents ages and health conditions we can not visit. The other night I left my mobile in the capable hands of my son and he showed his nanny his bedroom and his favourite toys, whilst I was cooking the dinner.
Things like this have become completely normal. And crucial in supporting each others well being.
Yes there is definitely a current sense of togetherness. Except for the greedy people who panic bought and the idiots who are still meeting friends at the beach. Let's not discuss them.
I have recently downloaded the HouseParty app, we are all benefiting from this. Tommy can see his friends and play the drawing game. In fact, if they don't play the drawing game they just stare at each other, they are not big on conversation at six years old. Except for Tommy, he likes to show everyone his Spider-Man figures.
Last night we had a family quiz on HouseParty. We connected with Marks Dad, his brother, sister-in-law and their kids. It took us a while to work it all out but once we did, there was no stopping us. Tommy and his cousin Will have definitely bonded so it was nice for them to spend Saturday night together, in this new world.
Even my colleagues and I stand united with our daily Skype messaging and our Friday 3pm 'let's have a cup of something together'.
Yes it is crucial to have contact with each other, and to check our loved ones are safe and taking care.
Staring at a cats bottom, and wearing a Spider-Man mask to the team meeting are optional.
Can you guess who wore the mask? I'll give you a clue, it wasn't Tommy but he does have a vast collection for me to choose from.

A typical Saturday night.