The Sunshine in Lockdown

As we come to the end of the first phase of lockdown, I look forward to being able to be with family and friends again, albeit at a distance, more than I can say. We’re reaching a time it sometimes seemed would never come and it will be beyond lovely to sit outside with the people we love most and speak in person after so long.

Being here at last, however, has had me looking back on the last couple of months. We have been incredibly lucky during these last 10 weeks we have been at home to all have been well, to have been well-connected with family and friends and to have everything we need at home to make it a positive place to be.

For us, these weeks have been time we could really enjoy as a little family, especially as our newest member arrived just a couple of weeks in. I will always look back on the bubble we had at this time as so special in spite of all the restrictions. It’s been a time span that’s covered so much for us – our second little daughter’s birth and first weeks, growing from a tiny newborn into a now 8-week-old holding her head up to take in the world and the sights and sounds around her, enjoying the breeze in the garden and giggling at the chaos of her big sister’s world of play. I’ve kept a diary for her of life in lockdown and her arrival into a world that was as far from its norm as it could have been but that we were all able to be together in while we waited to widen our circle once more.

For all of us, it’s been the beginning of a new era. Some of the things I’d been looking forward to most about family life have arrived. We’ve found our feet in a routine and taken a daily walk together every lunchtime as a four. The two girls have grown together, played together and settled into their new roles as sisters. We’ve had our first couple of family takeaway nights, our eldest’s eyes wide at the food arriving in boxes. We’ve started settling to a film all together – working our way through Disney films on quiet Sunday afternoons. We’ve had long walks gathering sticks and stones, the big little loving the exploring around our village that we often didn’t end up doing in favour of woodland or park walks further afield.

It’s been amazing how much more we’ve taken in of our own little corner of the world. A couple of months ago it seems now that we were just passing through the garden to jump in the car for busy days. Now we’re completely paused here, and are able to properly see it. At the moment we have blue tits nesting in the bird box in our back garden which is wonderful to see – they are just building their nest at the moment – and sparrows in a fir tree in the front garden whose babies have hatched already – they are very tucked away and we haven’t gone too close to see them but they are filling the garden with their tiny chorus when their mother flies in and out with food. Across the road too, a rural but normally busy one, now much more silent, deer and hares are running so much closer and more freely than ever before and are lovely to see. On our walks, just to the edge of the village usually, although once or twice slightly longer down to the shore we’re lucky to have just a couple of miles away, we’ve seen buzzards soaring and really enjoyed the wildlife and the world around us blooming even more for the lack of traffic and bustle.

Mostly we’ve been so blessed and I’ve been so grateful, but as I’m sure is the case for everyone there have been some times I’ve struggled more with being locked down and being away from my own family. In these, I’ve turned to some much appreciated rays of sunshine in this strange time. The wonderful world of video calling – Zoom, Messenger, House Party, we’ve tried them all! – has made the distance seem so much shorter, and has meant we haven’t been socially distanced at all, only physically. Week after week we’ve gathered with family and with friends too for quizzes, games nights and chats and it’s been wonderful to feel in some small way that we’re still able to sit and relax together, hanging on to all the things that are most important. We’ve managed to translate so many things across the distance – Pictionary, charades and Guess Who popping up in our increasingly inventive family games nights; quizzes and drinks with friends somehow managing to feel at least a little like the relaxed chat of pub nights; an afternoon coffee with a friend; book group analysis of our latest read; and even surprisingly successful play dates for the toddler, her and her friends loving seeing each other and amazing us by just going with it and adapting to the new normal.

I’ve found myself reading lots in my spare time (mostly in the middle of the night just now!), books a wonderful escape. Some will forever be synonymous for me now with this period and because a lot of what I’ve been reading recently has ended up being books I’ve been sharing with or had recommended by family and friends it’s been another wonderful way to keep connected.

TV box sets have also kept me going – we had already started watching our way through Parks and Recreation together for the first time when lockdown began and had been so enjoying it, but our watching definitely ramped up from then on. Feel-good, heartwarming and hilarious, I have absolutely loved it, and when we got to the end of the seven seasons we even had the extra bonus of the April 2020 special filmed and set during the pandemic, so perfectly pitched to be a lift at this time, and with all the heart of the show and a tear-jerker finale. ❤️ I’ve also turned to some proper cosy British comedy TV – The Vicar of Dibley and Outnumbered a couple of my go-to comfort programmes; and as so many of the country have done, we have found Gogglebox more appealing than ever these last few weeks – something so lovely about finding a way of still settling into the living rooms of familiar faces on a Friday night.

One of the biggest joys has of course been the actual sunshine – it’s been so wonderful as we’ve all passed the time, played and stretched our legs to have such wonderful weather; and now it’s even more of a blessing as we prepare to welcome family to our garden over the next couple of days at last.

As we move into the new phase, I’m so grateful for all that kept us going. I know our return to normal life will be gradual and these things will keep sustaining us when needed. I am so thankful to be able to look to seeing family again, and also for the time we’ve had as a little unit in these last weeks, before we take these first steps forward all together.

Hope everyone is doing well and having a good week. Xx

Thoughts in a locked-down world

I’ve opened up WordPress a few times in the last couple of weeks, since these increasingly strange days began, bringing with them so much change – at first little by little, then something new, bigger and more overwhelming each day; until within a matter of weeks the world around us is completely unrecognizable. Each time I’ve dipped back in here, I’ve found it impossible to know where to begin – what to write, how to reconcile the reality we find ourselves in with where ‘normal life’ left off such a short time ago. I have two drafts I’d been waiting to post, both of which I’ve found myself just staring at in disbelief that they can possibly feel so distant already: One about a road trip I took with my daughter just at the end of January, up round some of our favourite places in Highland Perthshire – driving freely, popping in and out of small shops, chatting with walkers in the woods, visiting family – all things I could never have imagined would be taken away from us within weeks. The other, my March reading diary, a regular post I’ve been keeping running in my drafts each month with notes on the books I’ve read throughout, and then posted all together at the end of the month. This one begins with a book I went to the launch of on March 1st, on a wonderful night out with a lovely friend, having dinner, drinks, and sitting in a room packed full of people listening to the author speak. That we can have gone from that to this in a little over three weeks is almost unbelievable – and yet here we are.

I just wanted to post a hello, and a hand-hold out across this online world – now all of a sudden really our only way of connecting in the world – to you all. We entered our own isolation at home here just over a couple of weeks ago now, as my daughter and husband both came down with what we’re sure was just a cold, but had a cough with it, so we began a period of household isolation for 14 days. We watched from inside as the wider world changed a little more every day, with social distancing measures introduced for all, isolation lengths and vulnerable groups guidance updated, workplaces closing, public facilities, then schools and nurseries, cafes and restaurants; until finally we got to where we found ourselves here on Monday night: total lockdown. Every day, after our new routine – my husband working from home in a little pop-up office in our kitchen and me filling our daughter’s day with activity as best I can in just about every other room of the house; we come together to watch the daily briefing at 5pm, and hear the latest on all the efforts to battle this virus.

That is really all that matters in the midst of all this. All of the vast changes we might have had to make to our daily lives in the last few weeks – even adjustments that may have felt so difficult, like replacing the much-valued company of family and friends with phone conversations and video calls; pale into insignificance alongside the experience of those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. It is tragic how many lives have been lost so far across the world, and all I hope for is that we can keep this at bay as much as we possibly can, and keep as many people as possible well and healthy. These are huge and unprecedented days, and all this is so very disconcerting; but all we can do is our best to stay as safe for ourselves and each other as we can and follow all the advice as it updates and changes with all the new research that is being worked on so tirelessly, until those amazing people who can achieve it can find a way to conquer this.

In the meantime, we adjust to life as it is for the time being. Since our own household isolation ended yesterday, I’ve been able to return to the farm to check on Charmer after the longest time away from him I’ve had in years, which I’m so thankful for; although of course keeping it to the absolute minimum, just what’s essential to keep him well and looked-after. I’m very grateful to the others at the farm who kindly looked after him while I couldn’t, and to our yard owners who have put so much in place to ensure we can have a small isolated slot each day to care for our horses without risking crossing paths with each other – and also that there are plans in place for if we do find ourselves unable to visit.

Being on maternity leave has meant life is very different for me than it would have been otherwise, as I would have been working more than ever in what is currently the most impossible time of crisis in the world of home care – a challenging one to keep staffed and running efficiently and safely for all our vulnerable clients at the best of times. As it stands, I can’t do anything to help at the moment, just days away from giving birth, other than hope and pray for the safety and health of my colleagues and clients – and all who are out there working in so many different fields to keep others as safe as they possibly can.

My days are being spent at home looking after my two-year-old, where I’m very grateful to be able to be; and every day I’m more amazed by her perspective on all this and how she is adapting to such completely different routines and taking it all in her stride. For our new little one, due to join us this very week, this will be such a strange time to be born. All is well with the baby, which is wonderful, but I did have to go for a check up at the weekend, after a couple of concerns and having missed a couple of regular ante-natal checks due to being in isolation; and it was a strange experience being taken into the hospital “red zone”, face mask on, to be seen. When I got in there, though, the midwife was beyond kind, caring and reassuring; all staff just doing the most wonderful job imaginable even at such an overwhelming time for them all.

Everything around us is just so unknown just now, and it’s good to have a little outlet here, to gather thoughts and to read and write in the midst of it all. I will write more soon – for one thing with possibly the biggest list of books I’ve ever read in one month before, which I’ve found to be the most wonderful escape in an unsettling time; and also with how we’re keeping busy, especially the little one, in these strange days, as we hole up, take care and wait for our newest addition to join us. In the meantime, hope everyone is well, stay safe, and take care all. xx