A to Z of a lockdown

Animals – as soon as we were able, we did our bit to support animal attractions that had been forced to close for months. All the animals still had to fed, watered and cared for during lockdown and some came close to having to put animals to sleep. Edinburgh zoo is currently considering whether they have to send their two giant pandas back to China as they’ve had very little income for twelve months.

Baking – I, along with most of the UK going by the empty flour and sugar shelves in the supermarkets, felt a need to bake. Very yummy it was, but unfortunately not good for the old waistline!

Crochet – I’ve never crocheted so much in my life! Lockdown made me feel that I needed to be productive and crochet was one of the ways I did this.

Dog bite – I got bitten by a dog on the beach in Norfolk in between lockdowns and ended up in A&E and on antibiotics.

Exercise – I managed to mitigate the baking a little with exercise. The gym was closed so I found other ways of exercising, enjoying the outdoors when the weather was good and building our home gym for when it wasn’t.

Fur babies – a massive upside to being home so much has been spending lots of time with Olive and Tinkerbell. It’s really comforting to look round during a day of working to see them snoozing on the bed.

Garden – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve thanked my lucky stars that the pandemic didn’t happen when we were in our tiny flat with no outside space.

Harry Potter – bizarrely Harry Potter has played a big part in keeping me sane over the past year. I listened to all the books on audible and hearing those stories again was strangely calming. When I was furloughed we set the spare room up better for working from home and gave it a Harry Potter theme. I made 3D models and splashed out on Lego Diagon Alley which I love love loved building.

Improvements – we made several home improvements. Apart from the Harry Potter room, we also stripped the wood chip and redecorated our living room, built a catio so our furry girls can get some fresh air, had our loft insulation upgraded and replaced all our double glazing.

Jigsaws – I’ve done loads! My friend sent me this one which I really enjoyed.

Kindle – once I’d worked my way through all seven Harry Potter books on audible, I switched back to my Kindle and I discovered the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley and read the six that are already released. They’re really good. I’ve got loads of books on there so I’m all set for the rest of lockdown.

Lego – hubby bought me Lego Hedwig for Christmas which triggered my Lego joy!

Masks – I was hesitant to start off with because BoJo was telling us that masks didn’t help with stopping the spread of covid, but once they told us we had to wear them I embraced it and made a few. It’s become almost a fashion statement. In Scotland I wore my Harry Potter one when we went to the Elephant House cafe where JK Rowling wrote some of the books and my dinosaur one when we went in search of wee Nessie.

Netflix – along with Disney+, Prime TV and iPlayer, Netflix has kept me entertained. I’ve watched Tiger King, Picard, Safe, Bridgerton, Mulan, Moana, the Stranger, Fleabag, Pete’s Dragon, Inside Out, Brave, It’s a Sin and goodness knows what else!

Online deliveries – many of them entirely superfluous to my needs! I ‘needed’ heart shaped cutters to make heart shaped sandwiches for Valentine’s Day and glitter for us to make Valentine’s cards so we could avoid shops. Our poor postman looked absolutely terrified every time he knocked on the door, which was almost as many times as the Amazon delivery driver.

Pooh bear memes – there have been loads of memes and funnies around. If anyone is yet to see David Attenborough narrating Boris Johnson cleaning a chair in a vaccination centre, I urge you to visit YouTube to rectify that. Anyway, me being me, I was drawn to the Pooh bear memes.

Quizzes – during the depths of lockdown we joined two friends every Sunday evening on FaceTime to do a quiz that their local pub quizmaster had moved online. I’ve been so grateful for technology during this time – I was able to virtually see more of some friends than I did before lockdown.

Rowena – this is my great aunt, Rowena. She passed away in February and I wasn’t able to go to the funeral because I was still in my isolation period after catching covid. I watched it online though, giving me another reason to be thankful for technology. It was hard seeing my family on the screen, but not being able to see them in person when it’s been so long.

Staycations – we were really lucky that we’d booked a foreign holiday at the end of January so we had the memories of that to keep us going, but we still felt the need to get away when we were allowed and we went to Norfolk in July for a couple of nights and Edinburgh for my birthday in September.

Tennis afternoon tea – I had tickets booked for the ATP Tour Finals at the O2 in London in November and that got cancelled so I made us a tennis themed afternoon tea as recompense.

Unbooked holidays – we should’ve been going to Jamaica in May and that was cancelled so we had a non-Jamaican party for two instead with Jamaican themed food and Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff playing all day. We swapped that holiday for Orlando in April this year, but that’s been cancelled too so, unlike the photo below, the adventure doesn’t begin, not just yet.

Virtual tours and shows – tour guides have become creative whilst they’ve not been able to offer physical tours and they’ve moved on line. The tour below took us all round the different Harry Potter locations in Scotland. I’ve also watched several West End shows on line, and Cirque du Soleil and next week I’m going to Iceland (virtually).

Working from home – this was my first day working from home when I actually bothered to get dressed before lunchtime and clearly made an effort with my breakfast. you can see why I had to rearrange the room – it was a bit depressing facing the wall all day.

Xmas – I don’t like shortening Christmas, my Grandad used to say that shortening to Xmas was crossing out Christ, but X is such a stupid letter and I couldn’t think of anything else. Despite the restrictions, we had a good day. We walked in the park in the morning with some family and then my Dad (who’s in our bubble) joined us for the rest of the day, the first time I’ve seen a member of my side of the family on Christmas Day for years.

Yawn – working from home has meant an extra hour of sleep each working day which I really appreciated through the Winter when I normally struggle with seasonal affective disorder and live in an exhausted fog for four or five months. I also appreciated it when I did succumb to covid because it really wipes you out and I needed sleep. Of course there’s no change for our Olive – she’s a gold medal snoozer!

Zoom calls – thank goodness for zoom, teams, WhatsApp calling and FaceTime. They’ve kept businesses going, but they’ve also kept friendships going and families together.

Harry Potter’s Scotland Trail – Virtual Online Tour

This afternoon we took part in a virtual tour round parts of Scotland to show us some of the inspiration and filming locations of the Harry Potter books and films run by Eventbrite. It was really good and especially interesting for us, having been to Edinburgh last September and seen a couple of the locations.

The guy who ran the tour was really entertaining. He really played to the kids that were on the tour, asking them which house they were in and awarding them points for their houses.

He even sorted a couple of them into their houses. As you can see from his picture bottom right, he was dressed like Olivander and even had the background of Olivander’s wand shop in Diagon Alley.

We started off in Edinburgh by visiting the Elephant House cafe where J K Rowling wrote the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Apparently there are lots of references to elephants in the Prisoner of Azkaban as a nod to the hours J K spent here. I’ve never noticed any, so obviously I’m now going to have to re-read it for the umpteenth time! We ate a couple of times at the Elephant House when we visited in September, which was lovely, but what they don’t tell you is that the Philosopher’s Stone was actually written in another cafe round the corner. I didn’t know that till today either!

Next we visited Edinburgh Castle.

Many people think that the castle could have been the inspiration for Hogwarts as J K said she always imagined that the school was on a hill with a lake nearby. Edinburgh Castle, as you can see, does overlook the city and hundreds of years ago it also overlooked a Loch which was drained many years ago and is now the picturesque Princes Street Gardens.

Next we saw the Elephant Castle from the rear where J K apparently sat in the window (we sat there too), and she may have looked out and imagined Knockturn Alley, which is the dark magic street where you can find Borgin and Burkes. Harry ends up here when he accidentally gives the instruction ‘diagonally’ instead of Diagon Alley when travelling by Floo Powder from the Weasley’s burrow.

Our tour guide then asked us to work out which deatheater (follower of ‘he who shall not be named’) could have been roaming around Knockturn Alley. It was Lucius Malfoy and we all had to point our wands (or wand finger) at the screen and banish him with the spell ‘expelliarmus’.

From here we moved on to Greyfriars Churchyard. We were encouraged to open the gates by casting the spell ‘alohomora’.

The graves here may have provided inspiration for many of the characters, including Alastor Moody, Professor McGonagal and even Harry’s arch enemy, Lord Voldemort!

We moved on to George Herriot school next.

This has also been sited as possible inspiration for Hogwarts. It was a school built for Edinburgh’s poor and orphans, it had four houses (although, disappointingly, they weren’t Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin!) and it has four towers.

I have my own theory on where J K found her inspiration for Hogwarts, at least the appearance of it. For me, it’s got to be Holyroodhouse Palace. In particular, the ruin of the abbey next to the main building. I bet, in reality, it was probably a mix of all of these along with a dash of fairy-like imagination on the part of the author.

After this we used floo powder to travel to Diagon Alley! For those of you not familiar with this mode of travel, it involves throwing some floo powder in a magical fire and saying out loud where you want to travel through the floo network.

We arrived in Victoria Street which, I can concur having been there recently, does indeed look like it could’ve led to the creation of Diagon Alley.

We used magic to review the real Diagon Alley for comparison purposes.

Now we had to head to the station to catch the Hogwarts Express up into the Highlands to see some of the delights up there. Ordinarily, you’d obviously catch the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross or Hogwarts itself but catching it from Waverley Station gave the perfect excuse to show us the nearby Balmoral Hotel where J K, having long made her fortune, wrote the Deathly Hallows.

You can stay here hoping to emulate that winning formula if you like. It’ll set you back the princely sum of £2500 per night!

This is Glenfinnan Viaduct that you see the Hogwarts Express travel over in the films. I learnt today that you can actually take this journey, on a steam train from Fort William, and you can buy chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans on the Train! Guess what’s just been added to the top of my bucket list?! Finally a positive to come out of not being able to easily go abroad because of Covid-19 – hopefully we’ll be able to get to Scotland instead and do this!!

Our tour guide suddenly stopped at this point and announced that one of the tour members had missed the train and was joining us by an alternative method.

They arrived in the Ford Anglia that was bewitched by Arthur Weasley to fly.

We chugged our way past Loch Eilt which was the inspiration for the lake used in the second Triwizard tournament task when Harry and his fellow contestants had to find ways to breath under water in order to save their nearest of dearest.

Then we gazed at Dumbledore island, where Lord Voldemort goes at the beginning of the Deathly Hallows looking for the elder wand.

Finally we saw a beautiful waterfall at Glen Nevis which was used quite a lot in the films, particularly as the background in Quidditch matches.

Just before we all said goodbye, our host invited us to help him make a potion to cure Coronavirus using a mixture of veritas serum, unicorn blood and felix felicis.

In the end, he decided a spell would work best so we all aimed our wands and shouted ‘Riddivirus!’

Wouldn’t it be good if that worked? Probably won’t, but in the meantime, this was very very pleasant way to pass an hour, and a perfect diversion from less magical events in the real world.

2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.