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.

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.

Non-Jamaica Party

Anyone who read my Six on Saturday post yesterday will know that we were due to fly out to Jamaica yesterday. Plans got thwarted by Corona Virus and the holiday was cancelled, the same as thousands of other people during this time.

We should’ve been waking up this morning in paradise, but hey, we’ve woken up at home, safe and well and with our fur babies, and the sun’s shining so things could be a lot worse. Perspective is a great thing.

Still, I would love to see this place another time …

… and wake up in one of these cute beach bungalows.

We decided to embrace our non-Jamaica holiday with a Jamaican themed party for two at home. One of the major pros of lockdown, and in particular, being furloughed, is time. I find myself with lots of time to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise manage to fit in. In many ways, this is a good trial run for retirement! I spent some of my extra time over the past week planning and preparing our Jamaican party. I made and coloured in Jamaican flags, I researched Jamaican food and added it to our online shop, I made a Jamaican playlist on Spotify and I ordered Jamaican themed props!

Here we are channeling our inner Usain Bolts in the garden, modelling our Jamaican flag and Rasta hat complete with dreadlocks. No idea if the neighbours saw us, but I bet they were a bit confused if they did!

After this I set about preparing our exotic fruit platter for lunch. I had no idea that you heat up a coconut before preparing it (thank you Google!) It makes the shell come away from the flesh so you can separate them easily. This was followed by a protracted sit in the bistro (which, coincidentally I’m pointing to in my Usain photo) whilst listening to the aforementioned playlist in the sun.

When lunchtime came around I prepared beer can (bacon) sandwiches for lunch and we enjoyed them with Old Jamaica drinks and the fruit platter.

I know Nando’s Peri Peri sauce isn’t Jamaican (Portuguese I think) but I’m sure Peri Peri is popular in Jamaica and this is the only one I could get! I had the grape soda and it really got me in the holiday mood because the only time I’ve had grade soda before is in Orlando which, whilst not exactly on Jamaica’s doorstep, is a lot closer than we are here! Everytime I have it I can’t decide if I actually like it or not! It’s a very unusual taste which doesn’t resemble grapes in the slightest!

I really didn’t know if the Jamaican fruit flag would work, but I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

After lunch we whiled away the hours sitting in the sun, listening to Bob Marley and reading or playing swingball (another perk of lockdown – who knew how much fun swingball is?)

The menu for dinner was Jamaican jerk chicken with rice and peas and coleslaw followed by banana and rum cake. I found the recipe for the jerk chicken on the BBC Good Food website, but I have to admit that the rice and peas was from a packet. We didn’t have quite all the ingredients for the jerk chicken marinade but I cobbled it together. I blended a couple of spring onions, a small onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a splash of olive oil, a pinch of dried thyme, a splash of soy sauce, some lazy ginger, a couple of chillis, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a tiny pinch of Chinese five spice (it was supposed to be all spice but we didn’t have any) and then put a few slits in some chicken breasts and slathered them in the paste. It was supposed to have lime juice in too but we didn’t have any limes. Could’ve tried lemon juice I suppose. I left it in the fridge for twenty four hours to do its magic and then just bunged it in the oven for forty minutes yesterday. Et voila …

I made the banana and rum cake on Friday after I managed to finally get self raising flour – whoop! This was also a BBC Good Food recipe and it turned out pretty well. It didn’t taste loads of rum but there was a definite hint of the Caribbean about it.

Here it is just out of the oven …

… and nicely presented. I just shaved a few bits of coconut over the top, added the chopped banana and whipped up some sweet cream cheese ‘cream’ to go with it. Delicious!

You may have noticed the cocktails behind the jerk chicken. Well, you can’t really have a Jamaican party (even a non-Jamaican party) without rum! I had lots of fun pimping up our cocktail glasses (jam jars because we were jammin’!!!) with fruit, umbrellas, stirrers and little flags that I made.

Here’s the ensemble.

So there we have it. Our non-Jamaican party! It was lots of fun and now I’m going to attempt to spend the next week not thinking about what we would be doing in an alternate universe where we had got on that plane yesterday! I’m especially not going to think about that from Wednesday on when the weather’s going to take a turn for the worst. For now, I shall bid thee farewell and traverse to the garden for some sun while I can, and I may even take a cheeky slice of banana and rum cake with me. Happy Sunday all!