Category Archives: school life

Little Pockets

Nothing much has changed for me since the slight easing of lockdown. I don’t suppose it has much for anyone, unless you have returned to your workplace or are an exercise fanatic and are thrilled at the prospect of multiple outings for the pursuit of fitness.

I have, however, had some little pockets of happiness. I’ve been trying to find something each day that I can think, oh yes that was nice, but these are more than that. These are actual pockets of happiness. Last Thursday, I received a text from Mrs F saying “it’s nearly Friday”. In normal life this would be my signal to start getting excited; it would mean that we had plans and would be seeing each other, even if it was just for a coffee and a chat. We haven’t seen each other since lockdown started. Not even a glimpse. We agreed that we would both find it too hard to talk from opposite sides of the road; that we would have far too much to say to each other and it would just not be right. Last Friday, I let myself in through Mrs F’s garden gate and sat at one end of her patio while she sat at the other (she had measured it officially and everything), I took my own cuppa in a travel mug, and we chatted for an hour. It was pure heaven and I spent the rest of the day feeling a bit more “me”. She rightly said “Fridays make me a better person, a better wife and mum”. Fridays remind us that we are us and that we are not just mum, wife, employee. We are us.

When I got home, A and I ventured out to the local garden centre in search of some new plants for my pallet planter (more on that later). It was very well organised, we felt as safe as we could in these circumstances and we got what we wanted. It was A’s first trip outside the village (apart from walks) since lockdown. It was a nice thing to do.

On Sunday, I let myself in through my parents side gate and sat in their garden for an hour (again, my mum had measured it and we sat well apart, I didn’t enter the house, I didn’t have a drink, we didn’t touch) and we chatted properly face to face for the first time in 10 weeks. We talk on the phone, we FaceTime and we talk briefly from the end of the driveway when I drop stuff off. But this was proper face to face chatting. It was so lovely and although I know we both had a little tear when I left, it was so worth it.

Today, I took my picnic blanket and water bottle and met my friend S in the park for an hour for, yes you guessed it, a socially distanced chat. We sat on our own blankets and had a proper catch up, not a stand at the door and chat for 5 minutes. It was lovely.

Tomorrow I am going to meet Mrs L for a socially distanced walk. We haven’t seen each other properly for quite some time. I can’t wait to see her.

None of these are examples of how I would usually spend time with the people I love. But, I have had to accept that I can’t fight this. And spending time with people, albeit in a wierd, not normal, still apart but not, kind of way is better than not seeing them at all. And these little pockets of happiness will see me through the next weeks and months like little lifeboats.


So, my pallet planter. We have had a pallet behind the shed since last summer and I’ve toyed with doing something with it. K threatened to break it up and burn it unless I did something with it. So I have. With his help, obvs. We’ve made some shelves and some troughs. I spent some very therapeutic hours over the weekend painting and filling it with the plants from the garden centre trip and it is now in situ next to the shed and it is really lovely, even if I do say so myself.

Feedback

I continue to be so impressed with A’s work ethic during lockdown. She gets up at 8am every weekday and, after breakfast, she cracks straight on with it, She’s trying to do the work for each subject at the time she would normally have that subject’s lesson if she were at school and it seems to be working out really well as she is generally done by lunchtime each day. She’s finding some of the work challenging, but no more than she probably would do if she were in class. In fact, with the added bonus of no distractions, no pressure to perform (she’s admitted to feeling quite intimidated in some subjects where she feels she doesn’t belong in the higher sets, and this stops her from contributing in lessons), almost instant responses from teaching staff when she has had a query and, possibly most importantly (for her own peace of mind), feedback given very quickly on work submitted. The feedback so far has been generally very positive and encouraging.

However, she had quite a substantial amount of work set for one particular subject today, which she was not impressed with and, as it is one of the subjects where she feels she is winging it most of the time, she was not confident that she would be able to a) complete it all in the time given and b) complete it to the teacher’s quite exacting standards. I can tell she wasn’t impressed as she normally just gets on with it quietly sitting at the dining table. Today, she has huffed and puffed quite a bit, There have been quite a few comments like “I can’t believe they’ve set all this for one lesson” and lots of stomping to and from the printer. She DID get it all done but has been bracing herself for the inevitable feedback. She has just sent me a screenshot of the teacher’s comments and it reads: “Love this, literally impossible to fault…..Really strong understanding evident. Merit.” She is secretly absolutely thrilled and I really hope it has boosted her confidence. She is having a much deserved lie on the sofa with a new book and a hot chocolate.

Take aways

Well, six weeks have gone by. Six weeeks! The equivalent of the school summer holidays. I suppose in some respects, at some points, it has felt a bit like that: kids at home, me working from home, the sound of children playing in their gardens, warm weather; food disappearing almost as soon as it has been put away in the fridge and cupboards. But that’s just about the extent of the similarity to the long summer break.

A and I were talking, while we were out walking the other day, about what we will take away from this experience when it is over. (We have had some brilliant conversations – possessed spirit dolls (WTF?), boys hairstyles, friendships, the afterlife, health, clothes, the future.) We agreed that we will continue with our walks (don’t worry, Mrs F, you remain and always will be my walking buddy).

A thinks she could happily home-school for the rest of her time at RPS. She misses her close friends (although she speaks to them several times a day) and she would, of course, like to be able to meet up with them in person but, as far as the rest of the school experience goes, she can take it or leave it (preferably leave it). She’s working hard, up at 8am each day and working solidly until lunchtime most days. She has free time most afternoons – they only have one lesson timetabled in the afternoons in a normal schoolday and she gets ahead of it in the mornings. We walk, she bakes, she catches up on Vampire Diaries. She’s getting some great feedback on her work so I have no worries that she is not putting in enough effort. She is conscientious. She is happier than she’s been for a long time. She is enjoying not having any pressure from the social aspect of school. She interacts with who she wants to rather than putting up with the – sometimes irritating, sometimes soul-destroying – other students that she has to contend with at school. But she thinks that when she does eventually return to real school life she will return with a more positive, less “bothered” attitude and I am determined to support her to do so. We’re working on it. As she says: she’s a Work In Progress.

We also agreed that we would like to spend less time doing stuff for the sake of it. Pre-lockdown we would have spent most weekends trying to cram in as much as possible, making the most of every moment, and for K and I that meant a lot of time driving A and T to see friends, to work (in T’s case), picking up again later, going to the shops, trying to get some time to ourselves, household chores, seeing family. Ending up more knackered at the end of the weekend, wondering where the time had gone, again. With all that taken out of the equation (I have driven my car no more than 4 times in the last 6 weeks) we found ourselves at a bit of a loss for the first few weekends. A bit like the start of a holiday, we took a bit of time to adjust to being with each other all the time. It was a bit tense. I tried to make things fun by suggesting we play a board game or cook dinner together. I was trying way too hard and I didn’t need to because, as soon as I stopped, we all realised that we do actually like spending time together – whether that’s just chatting over dinner, K & T going out for a bike ride, me and A going for a walk, all of us watching a film together (I have been inducted into the world of the Marvel films and have throughly enjoyed all 6 that we’ve watched so far – we’re watching them in some sort of specific order – having said for years that they are not my cup of tea) or some TV (Race Across the World has been a winner) or me doing a jigsaw while the others do their own thing, T even went for a bike ride ON HIS OWN today without me prompting. Now that I’ve stopped nagging and worrying, he spends more time downstairs. Sometimes we just chat. We’ve slowed down and as much as I hate “doing nothing” I quite like doing nothing much. Not rushing around, not stressing about having to have eaten dinner by Xpm so that Y isn’t late for Z. We’re thinking more about what we eat, eating nicer meals, we’re all taking a share of the cooking. I hope that this doesn’t change when we get back to “normal life”, whatever that may be.

I will take away from this that it’s OK for me to do nothing. I can ask someone else to cook. I can ask someone else to do the washing. I can ask someone else to clean the toilets. And I can do it without feeling aggrieved that I’ve had to ask. It’s not my job. And I don’t have to make a show of being busy to justify asking someone else to do it. I can sit and read a book while dinner is being cooked. It’s allowed.

I will also take away from this how much I take for granted. I have hated not being able to see my parents and my brother. I have dropped some supplies off to M&D a few times and I hate having to stand at the end of the drive to talk to them and I can’t do it for more than a few minutes. I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to be overheard by their neighbours. What I want is to be able to go in, sit and have a cup of tea (my dad makes the best cup of tea) and chat with them, and hug them when we leave. Its excruciating to just wave at them from the pavement. And I know they feel the same. It’s not quite as bad with P as we only see each other once a month or so anyway, and we have spoken on the phone and we FaceTimed on Sunday. But it’s the not being able to if we wanted to that makes me think that, when we are able to again, we should try and make sure we do see each other more often.

Mostly, I will take away from this how bloody fortunate we are.

Picture Positive and DAWNS

Since we’ve been in lockdown I’ve tried to post a picture on Instagram every few days. I’ve been pretty active on Instagram for years and, a bit like blogging, some months I am more active than others. It has worried me a bit that it may look like I am loving lockdown and trivialising the situation we are all in by posting these pictures. I’m not, but I am trying to take a picture every single day of something positive so that when this is all over I can look back through each day and feel that I tried to be as upbeat as I could be. We’ve been lucky with the weather and A and I have been out for a walk nearly every day since this started, either for just 40 minutes or sometimes 2 hours. Most of my pictures are from our walks, others are of the lovely things that A has baked or cooked, or simply of my cup of tea whilst I am sitting in the sun for 5 minutes. I don’t share every single picture that I take – some of them are of the same view each day, or of the blossom tree in the park so I can see it’s progress. I’ve never been bothered about likes for photos that I post, I’m not 14, but I’ve had some nice comments and I hope that means that people see it for what it is: me trying to share something lovely amongst all the sadness and worry.

My friend summed it up perfectly on one of her posts (a view of some fields, very like the ones I share) yesterday: “…I am still very aware of the severity of our current situation, so if you see my posts trust me when I say I am thinking of you all, whatever your circumstances”. She was making the point that we’re not all in the same boat: some of us are able to carry on working and earning, some aren’t, and are struggling to provide for their families; some of us are able to get out each day into beautiful countryside and some are stuck in flats in high rise blocks with just a window to look out of; some of us are with our families and have support and hugs from people we love, others are having to work away from home and not see their families apart from over a video call; some of us have no personal experience of the virus or even anyone we know, others have lost dear loved ones or live in fear that if they catch it they may not survive. It’s all very real and scary I am not making light of it. But, I need to stay positive and see good things.


I had the weekly email update from the National Trust today. Most of what’s in their emails passes me by as I’m not really middle class enough to appreciate it but today’s email had a link to something called DAWNS and it caught my eye. On Saturday 16th May people are being encouraged to set their alarm clocks and get up around 3.45am, go outside into their garden and sign in to a website from where they can tune in to musicians playing music live as the sun comes up. It should fit in with the dawn chorus and (if the weather is dry) it should be a lovely experience. I have no real appreciation of classical music (other than the stuff I sometimes hear when I listen to Scala radio instead of Radio 2 so that I don’t have “pop” songs going round in my head at 3am) so I will have no idea if the music is any good. But I have signed up for it and hope that I don’t talk myself out of doing it nearer the time. I mean I could well be awake then anyway as it seems to be my brain’s favourite time to ping awake at the moment! If anyone else is normally awake at that time too and is interested, you can find out more here: https://dawns.live/#about

Hairy

As you know, I am trying not to get bogged down in the negative sides to lockdown. I am trying to see the good stuff, focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t and not think too much about what is happening. But there is one thing that I can sense may become an issue.

My hair.

I am not high-maintenance; I don’t make regular visits to a beauty salon; no waxing appointments; no manicures. But my hair is a bit of a different matter.

My hair has been short for 95% of my life. There was a short-lived period of about 2 years in the late 80’s/early 90’s when I grew it to just below chin length and had a poodle perm. Strange that it was short lived, it was such a good look. The rest of my teens my hair ranged from a very Human League-inspired flicky fringe, to a definitely-NOT-Flock of Seagulls – inspired spiky fringe, then a Marcella Detroit of Shakespears Sister-inspired very short bob and then when I started working in the Building Society a slightly more conservative short style.

Anyway, getting back to point. My hair is short, which means on a day to day basis it is low maintenance. I also have an undercut – i.e. the underneath layers are clippered close to my scalp, so my very very thick hair is easier to manage. However, as low maintenance as this is day to day, it means I need my hair cut every 5-6 weeks to keep it this way. We were due to have haircuts in the first week of lockdown. Our lovely hairdresser (a friend as well as our hairdresser) made the difficult decision to stop working. We totally understand as we would not want her to put herself or her family at risk. But it does mean we are now about 8 weeks since our last haircut. I normally get to about 5 weeks before I start counting the days until it is going to be cut. Three weeks in and I am looking longingly at the kitchen scissors. I won’t – I am not that brave/stupid – but I am not sure how much longer I am going to be able to cope.

It sounds a bit dramatic and for anyone with long hair, who has a cut twice a year, this will not be something you can relate to at all. Even if you have long hair and a fringe, you can probably give it a go with some nail scissors if it starts to get in your eyes. But, short hair, like really short hair, is not something you can just snip away at and hope for the best. And this isn’t me being all precious about my hair, my hair is just hair and I don’t have any really strong feelings about it. It’s short because it always has been and I can’t ever imagine that changing any time soon. Unless Lockdown goes on for months and months and months. And I can’t contemplate that either.

K and T are in a smilar situation. K has woolly hair which grows out sideways and T’s hair grows so quickly he has a cut every 3 weeks or so. I have offered to buy some clippers and give them both a buzz cut. Neither have caved in yet, opting to suffer not so much in silence but in preference to looking like they have just enlisted. A suggested that if I get some clippers she could do my undercut for me – she is the only one not having any problems in the hair department. Unsurprisingly, I am also trying to put a brave face on it. For now.

A learning curve

One thing I am grateful for on a daily basis is the fact that I don’t have small children. Hearing the fraying tempers, screams and shouts from neighbouring gardens is more than enough evidence that this period of time must be extremely hard for anyone with a child under the age of 7. The idea of having to work full time alongside occupying small children fills me with horror. Although A was only 7 or 8 when I returned to work, I was able to be flexible during home-time and school holidays and it was all OK, mostly. Luckily she was pretty self-sufficient and liked her own company. Whether this was by luck or design I don’t know, but I was grateful for it.

As it is, I have an almost 18 year old and a 15 year old so they spend a lot of time sleeping, a lot of time in their rooms doing whatever it is they do, some time watching TV, quite a bit of time eating, the odd bout of exercise, and (in the case of A) some school work (luckily she has been given the Easter break as a homework free time). It’s not difficult to parent them. But I have found myself getting a bit wound up by the mess, the housework, the washing, the cooking. So, a new regime has been borne. They are now being schooled in the art of cleaning, cooking and washing. They’re so excited. Not. Some may wonder why they don’t already do this stuff. I don’t know what to tell you other than, and you may have already picked up on this, that I am a control freak and like things done the way I do them. It is what it is and so this is going to be just as much a learning curve for me as it is for them, learning not to be picky, learning to let things be.

So, I have made a list of things that need to be done: hoovering, dusting, cleaning the kitchen worktops (more than at least three times daily), washing clothes, washing towels, etc. And they are both on cooking duty once a week (at least) – for A this poses less of a challenge than for T and I suspect it may require some supervision for his stints. But If I’m not actually cooking, just overseeing with a glass of something refreshing in hand, it will still be a change. He made a decent stab at chicken fajitas the other night so there’s potential there.

Yesterday saw me biting my lip to the point of almost bleeding whilst A pegged some clothes out. Luckily I had a well-timed break from work when it needed taking in and folding up. Baby steps. And I was told to “chill out, it will get done” when I dared to suggest that maybe the dishwasher could be emptied before lunchtime. I retreated to the office and took it out on a customer (joke, I would never be so unprofessional. I told Trisha about it and she sympathised. Kids today!).

There’s still plenty of work to be done on the final item on the list which was “make mum a cup of tea”. It’s happened once and that had to be prompted by a pleading text (yes, I text my kids, judge away). They must take after their father.

Supermarket Sweep and Trisha

While these are not normal times, I suspect it is normal to experience highs and lows, albeit about things that would not normally pose an issue. (Warning: very boring post about food shopping follows. Feel free to log out now.)

Last night I went to Aldi to do the weekly food shop as I had given up all hope of securing a delivery slot with Ocado for the foreseeable. It was not a great experience but was full of highs and lows. Joy at there being no queue to get into the shop, by virtue of which meant it wasn’t very busy. Horror at having to do this alone (the preference is that K comes and suffers with me, but current regulations discourage more than one person going out). Joy at finding I could buy most of what we needed/wanted. Horror at the blatant disregard from some other shoppers for the new way that we are meant to shop. Horror at the trolley nearly rolling away as I tried to load the bags into the car – I’d parked on a slope as it was the furthest space away from other cars and the trolleys don’t have a brake. Joy at getting home and realising that I had only forgotten about 5 things. Horror at thinking of doing it all again next week.

Which leads me on to this mornings highs and lows. With the desire not to go out again next week fresh in my mind I decided to “chance my arm” (a Kevism) and login to Ocado (other supermarkets are available – well, if you can get on to their websites) and see if, ha ha ha, I could by some miracle book a delivery for whenever. I was put in a queue, but only a very short one (never a good sign, it normally indicates that you are a complete moron who thinks that at 10am on a Tuesday there are going to be slots available, you fool) and was soon taken to the login screen. I’ve been here before, reader, it means NOTHING. I logged in, expecting to be taken straight back out again and back to the “sorry you are not a priority customer and can’t access the site right now” message. I know I’m not a priority customer and I would gladly let anyone in need have the slots for eternity. But, joy! I was allowed to stay logged in. I tentatively pressed the “book a delivery button” expecting a GIF of The Joker to appear in a scary, April Fools type way to tell me I was an idiot (this hasn’t ever actually happened but I would be unsurprised by anything any more). The booking screen opened and, of course, there were no delivery slots available. I was prompted to look at the calendar and, I had to look twice at this point, I could see what looked like free slots for next week. I think at this point I squealed. I’m not a squealer so K was a bit taken aback (he’s working from home and we are sharing the office today, more on that later) and looked over. “I think I can get a delivery next week!!” . Well, book it then (idiot). I did. The Joy! Then, I was told to fill my trolley, checkout in one go – WITHIN AN HOUR – and never darken their doors again. The Horror! Decide right now what we need for a weeks’ time? Have no option to change my mind about the salmon fillets? Not add anything I might have forgotten and suddenly remember at 5am. Surely they can’t be asking me to do this, it’s inhumane. And not normal. The Horror.

I got a grip, I ordered some stuff, hopefully enough for a week with things that can be made into meals that we will all eat. I revised it about 3 times. Added some more, took some out, added it again. I’ve never been more nervous checking out a shopping trolley in my life. At this point I expected some message to come up that there had been some horrible error and I wasn’t in fact able to buy any of this stuff and definitely wouldn’t be getting a little truck turning up next Wednesday. It went through, the payment went through. I even, unbeliveably, got an email confirmation to say my order is placed and my delivery is booked. The Joy! Followed by more Joy – if I have been able to get a slot then surely M&D can too?!

The Horror. Spoke to Mum. No slots – she just keeps getting shunted back to the “you are not a priority” message (even though they bloody should be) – I even got T to take over her laptop remotely and use “incognito mode” to see if we could get around the system somehow. No luck. And if T can’t sort it, no-one can. The Guilt. I should have called her mid-trolley. I could have added their stuff. I should have realised that just because not many people in our postcode use Ocado, it’s more popular where they are. I should have thought. But the panic that that one hour window and the “you cannot amend your order, EVER” message had seriously tapped into my very highly strung psyche and I lost ability to think of anything else. We will try again at 6pm as directed. Hopefully we will have some luck. Don’t worry, I won’t write another blog about it.

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And now to the subject of K working from home. This is mainly lows. He rarely makes a cup of tea. He talks VERY LOUDLY on the phone. He huffs a lot. He doesn’t like being interrupted but thinks nothing of asking me to read an email to “make sure it’s not too arsey” whenever he feels like it. He doesn’t like the radio being on.

None of these things make for a very enjoyable working environment. So, on the advice of someone on Twitter, I have devised a work colleague, Trisha. When K is doing something listed above, I say “bloody Trisha, she never makes a cup of tea”, or “why does Trisha have to talk so loudly”. He doesn’t get it, has not the faintest idea who Trisha is, but it makes me feel better. And with The Colleague (the real one, you know, her with the smacky lips and slurpy food) only an email away it’s good to have someone to complain to her about. Trisha is such a good listener.