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.

A little bit of this and that

I didn’t do a Six on Saturday post yesterday so I thought I’d compensate with a general round up post today instead. I did go into the garden yesterday, phone in hand ready to take six photos, but it was just too cold and miserable to be out there so I gave up and came back in to the warm.

It’s been an odd few weeks, most of it spent enforcedly indoors, and not just because of inclement weather. My hubby works in the local hospital. He’s in catering and, at the beginning of the first lockdown he was still working but was relatively safe from the virus as he was mainly working in the kitchen then all of a sudden his hours completely dried up and he didn’t work again till January this year. When he went back his role changed and he found himself on the frontline having to visit wards and, inevitably, at some point during February he had to work on a covid positive ward. As you might imagine, that didn’t end well. This virus is so virulent that he didn’t really stand much chance against it and he succumbed. Luckily, being on the frontline meant that he’d received his first vaccination so his symptoms were very mild, in fact, he only really knew he’d got it because he got a positive result on a routine lateral flow test that he was taking twice a week. This was then confirmed with a pcr test. So, we entered our first ten day isolation.

During this time we did everything we were supposed to do – we slept in separate bedrooms, used separate toilets and kept our distance as much as possible, which is tricky unless you live in a mansion! He was fine, he had a couple of days when he cleared his throat constantly (and I mean constantly – if I hadn’t known he was ill, I’d have thought about banishing him from the house) and he was more tired than usual but other than that he had no real illness and continued with his usual exercise and housework routine. It was a real relief when we got to the end of the isolation and could go out for a walk. We headed to Kingsbury Water Park and, oh my goodness it felt good to be out and further away from home than the end of the garden! It was a gorgeous day too – hubby was in short sleeves and even I was warm enough without a coat.

On the Monday and Tuesday after our isolation finished we had the remainder of our double glazing replaced and had our back door replaced with French doors. We’d had to rearrange this from the previous week because we obviously couldn’t put the guys at risk.

I just love how the new French doors have opened out the kitchen, almost bringing the garden inside. I can’t wait to be able to throw them open when it’s warm enough to do so.

Whilst the guys were here I coughed a couple of times, but not enough to make me think anything was amiss, especially given that we were outside of our isolation period. However, over the next few days I felt worse and worse. With hindsight, I think I was in denial. I knew that there was no way I could’ve caught anything in the normal way because, other than that walk in the park where we didn’t go near anyone, I hadn’t left the house. I was considering options such as some germs having come into the house on a delivery or in a food delivery or even a new allergy. I just didn’t think it could be covid because we were out of the isolation period before I showed even the mildest of symptoms, I didn’t have a temperature and I’d also done three of hubby’s lateral flow tests, all of which had been negative. It wasn’t until my boss heard me coughing on a conference call (I’m still working from home) and made a comment about me definitely having it, that the penny dropped and I thought I’d better get tested.

I went on the government website to investigate how to go about getting tested and I found out that the testing centre that I’d have to go to was in an area that I don’t know and also the other side of spaghetti junction. Now this should’ve been more proof to me that I wasn’t well because I didn’t feel able to drive there, especially not round spaghetti junction, and normally I’d do that without a second thought. I really had brain fog and didn’t feel safe to drive so I opted to have the test posted out to me. It arrived the next day, I did the test and struggled down to the priority postbox (which is allowed) but I was still expecting a negative result. You can imagine my reaction the next day when I got both a text and an email telling me I’d tested positive!

After the initial shock, it was actually a relief to know why I’d been feeling so utterly pants for the previous few days. I thought I was turning into a complete pathetic wimp, but, phew, I wasn’t! I had a proper reason to have felt ill. I feel a bit stupid now for not taking any time off sick because I really didn’t feel well enough to be working, but the stubbornness in me wouldn’t let me give in to it! Thankfully I don’t seem to have set myself back and, apart from a slight cough which can apparently linger for some weeks and a bit more fatigue than usual, I’m back to normal now. I’m glad that I was on the mend by the time I got my positive result because I think I’d have been concerned that I might be one of the unlucky ones who ends up seriously ill, or worse, otherwise.

For anyone in the UK, I have a couple of tips. First of all, as mentioned above, you can get a home test if you don’t feel up to getting to a testing centre – I wasn’t aware of this before. I would also recommend getting a test if you feel unwell, even if you don’t have the usual symptoms. I had the cough although it wasn’t a hacking cough as I imagined it would be, but I didn’t have a temperature and the change to smell/taste wasn’t as obvious as other people have reported, in fact I’m still questioning whether that happened at all. My sense of smell certainly didn’t change (I work in the same room as the cats’ litter trays – twice a day, I would’ve known!) but I did have some cornflakes one day which left a really odd taste and I had a can of Pepsi Max cherry one day and I realised I could taste the Pepsi but not the cherry! Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to test positive, be prepared to be bombarded by NHS Test and Trace! They will text and email you pretty much daily and they will call you multiple times too. I understand that they’re doing their job trying to limit the spread of the virus and I was lucky in that I was starting to feel better by the time they called because I’d been in denial, but if I’d have still been feeling how I’d felt a few days earlier, the last thing in the world I would’ve wanted to do would be answer their millions of questions on a half hour phone call. Oh, and I’d also take lateral flow test results with a pinch of salt. Hubby’s test showed an accurate positive result, but I got three negatives when I was definitely positive for at least two of them. I find it concerning that this is what the government is relying on to keep us safe as schools and businesses start to go back.

Anyway, moving on from covid to more positive news. I have been crocheting a lot over the past few weeks (with a slight break when I didn’t have the energy). I’m currently part way through two separate CALs (crochet-alongs). Firstly I’m doing the Picnic on the Beach CAL by Coastal Crochet which has a new instalment released every Friday. I’m part way through week three of it now and I’m loving how it’s turning out.

Whilst I’m waiting for each instalment on Fridays I decided to start a blanket for which I bought the yarn ages ago. It was a CAL but I’m only just catching up now. It’s the Scheepjes histoire naturelle blanket and I’m doing it in the mineralogy colour way. It’s quite tricky, there are loads of new stitches but they provide great video tutorials so it’s easy enough to learn.

Today I decided it was high time I dragged myself into the garden to do some summer prep. It was still pretty cold out there so I decided to closet myself in the greenhouse and sow lots of lovely seeds.

I sowed Russian Giant sunflowers, Pacino Gold sunflowers, cosmos Dazzler, zinnia Orange King, sweetpeas …

… and tomato maskotka.

On my way back in, I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of my daffodils tête-à-tête. They won’t last much longer but I’m hoping the weather will allow me to go out and enjoy them in the meantime.

When I came back in I made some lunch and wandered into the living room to eat it and found this propped up against my Chilly bottle.

I’d been so concerned about getting my card and present to my Mum whilst I was in isolation that I completely forgot that our lovely furry girls normally get me a card. Well, ok, I know it’s from their Dad really but I’m sure they would if they could!

Right, I need to get off and do some more crochet before I have to go and collect hubby from work so I’ll finish here. I think I’ve probably waffled on for long enough anyway. Hopefully next week it’ll be warm enough to find some Six on Saturday photos.

Have a great week all and stay safe!

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.