Six on Saturday (except it’s Sunday)

I had some sad news on Friday night, so my head wasn’t in the game yesterday to write a post, but I had already taken my photos.

My sad news was that my Granny has passed away. She was eighty nine so you might think it wasn’t unexpected, but it was, and it was a real shock. I didn’t sleep much on Friday night, for obvious reasons, and yesterday as I was driving around everything felt really surreal. I think I expected the universe to know that it’s lost someone special and to be different somehow, but everyone else was just going about their business as normal (or as normal as current circumstances allow) and it felt weird. But maybe it knows something that I don’t, because it hasn’t really lost her, has it? She may have joined my Grandad in whatever’s next, but she will continue to impact our world through my mum, through my aunt, through my cousins, and through me. So I decided I would write today because this little blog is my small way of having an impact on life.

I’m going to stick by the six points rule, but I’m going to deviate from the content rules and make my first point, my Granny.

I found the photo on the left this morning taken at my wedding in 2008, and I couldn’t work out why Granny and Grandad are both looking away from the camera …. then I found the second photo. Clearly they were being snapped from two different angles! My Grandad was a gardener and Granny kept up with his garden after he left us and I did a Six on Saturday a couple of years ago about their garden. Feel free to have a look here.

Heading back to preset and my garden, and if you have just read Granny’s Six, you’ll see why this point leads on from that, my clematis Montana is starting to grow again.

It never does very well and in fact, I’ve had it three or four years and it had its very first flower last year. I was planning to try to find somewhere better for it this year, but I watched Gardeners’ World today and Monty said climbers really dislike being moved, so maybe I should reconsider.

All my remaining points are flowers! Finally, buds are starting to bloom and give me some colour. I need it now to remind me that life can be, and will be again, cheerful. First up is a single solitary grape hyacinth.

I did plant quite a few of these, and I was told that they multiply with gay abandon, but they don’t seem to do very well in my garden. I passed a garden down the road earlier this week and it was bursting full of grape hyacinths so unlikely to be the soil type. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a few more yet.

Next is my Prunus Kojo-No-Ma which arrived from QVC recently. The buds are starting to open and the flowers are so delicate and beautiful. They’re all facing down so far so I had to twist myself into all sorts of odd angles to get this photo.

Next is present from the birds probably. I think it’s a cowslip going by the look of the leaves, but the flowers aren’t the usual bright yellow, they’ve got these gorgeous orange edges. It’s growing in a strange place where it could easily get trampled, so I’ll move it soon.

Finally I’m going to finish with the cheeriest bloom (so far) in the garden. My camellia is in the front garden and it’s had buds since before Christmas but the first one only opened this week. I have to keep remembering to look at it out of the window. In previous years I’ve spent a couple of minutes every morning looking at it when I’ve left for work, but I’m still working from home and I don’t want to miss it because once the flowers bloom they fade disappointingly quickly.

So there we go, my little stamp on the world for another week that would never have happened if it wasn’t for the very special, strong, stoic lady at the top of this post. I’ll try my hardest to continue your legacy in the best ways that I can.

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.

I’m really missing ……?

Everything seems really glum while we’re all in lockdown and I don’t know anyone who’s not missing someone or something at the moment (and most are missing multiple someones and somethings!) I’m doing my very best (and mostly succeeding) to keep my chin up. I’m very lucky that I have lots of home-based hobbies which I’ve been able to enjoy even more than usual over the past ten months – crocheting, cross stitch, gardening, reading, jigsaws, DIY and, of course, blogging.

I’ve been pondering on what I’m missing most from ‘normal’ life, and I came up with the following.

So, starting top left and going clockwise, first is a photo from just over a year ago when I went down to London to watch both parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and it represents a few things that I’m missing. First is days out, particularly trips further away from home than the local park and possibly involving overnight stays, the second is going to the theatre and the third is time on my own because this was a trip I took on my own and it was blissful me time.

Next is driving! Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely not missing sitting in heavy traffic, being cut up by Audis and BMWs or spending a fortune on diesel, and I’m happy that the environment is benefitting from fewer cars on the road, but I’m missing driving in free flowing traffic and I’m missing the headspace that I get from driving. I used to process the happenings of the day in my head on my way home from work and gear myself up for the day on the way in. There is also a sense of community from knowing that most of the cars around you contain people who are also commuting and contributing to keeping the world going. Home working has lots of benefits, but it is very insular.

The third photo represents eating out! Sometimes you just want someone else to cook and serve your food, but it’s not just that, it’s the looking forward to it, choosing where to go, choosing what to wear, being surrounded by other humans – it’s the whole experience.

Finally, I miss browsing in shops, garden centres or otherwise. I used to enjoy browsing round WHSmiths looking for nothing in particular, running my fingers over book covers and flicking through magazines. I could still go and browse some garden centres as they are still open, but it’s not the same when you have to wear a mask, you can’t break up your browsing with a slice of cake in the cafe and you’re scared to touch anything in case it might be tainted by covid!

Along similar lines, first in this second set is going out for drinks (and possibly some cake!) There’s something luxurious about sipping a cold Aperol Spritz in a beer garden or enjoying a cold glass of vino in the pub before a meal. It’s not the same when you have to pour it yourself and drink it in your living room with your washing drying on the radiator and BoJo on the telly telling you there’s a zombie apocalypse coming!

Next is my niece’s hand and the photo represents family. I’m so grateful that technology enables me to keep in touch virtually and that the rules allow me to see one family member at a time for a walk, but I miss my family that live further away. It was especially hard not being able to see people at Christmas. I haven’t seen my Mum for over a year, I’ve got nieces and a nephew who are growing up really quickly and other special people that I’ve only been able to see on doorsteps or far too fleetingly.

Skipping down to the bottom left now and you’ll see some of my lovely friends. I know I said only a few paragraphs ago that I miss me time, but it’s hard not being able to see friends and relax together as well. It’s all about balance. Zoom calls are a good substitute, and they do enable me to ‘see’ long distance friends that I rarely saw pre-pandemic, but it’s not the same as physically being in the same room.

I couldn’t find a photo to illustrate my last point perfectly, but my question marks are as close as I could get! I miss planning and spontaneity! I guess they’re the flip sides of the same coin but you really can’t do either at the moment. Planning’s out of the question because we don’t know what the rules will allow at any given date, but we also can’t be spontaneous because we have to weigh up every situation to determine if we really need to leave the house, and if what we want to do is safe, somewhat negating any spontaneity.

In addition to all this, what I’m REALLY missing at the moment is going on holiday so I thought I’d try to pick my five favourite holidays and live vicariously through my own past!

I don’t know if it’s just because they’re freshest in my memory, but my first two favourite holidays happened last year. The first was in January when we went on a Caribbean cruise on Harmony of the Seas, preceded by a couple of nights in Orlando. I wrote a couple of posts on this at the time so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.

These pictures really sum up some of the best bits of the holiday and trigger off lots of other happy memories. Not that I need that – we were on this holiday this time last year so every day when I log in to Timehop I see the joyful posts that I wrote one year ago. The photo top left is the reason that we went to Orlando before the cruise. There was a new ride at Islands of Adventure – Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – and I was desperate to go on it. We had to queue for two hours but it was sooooo worth it! The last photo, bottom right, is an air boat. This was a trip we did on our last day before we went back to the airport. It was absolutely freezing, but it was really good. We didn’t see any gators though – apparently it was too cold for them. The rest of the photos are of the cruise part of the holiday. The ship was just amazing! And huge! Ours was the one dwarfing the cruise liner docked next to it in the top middle pic. It had so many facilities – an ice rink, climbing wall, surf simulator, water and dry slides and, as you can see, a zip line. Hubby conquered his fear because he’s not keen on heights. It was really fun. Bottom left is us in the Bahamas where we swam with pigs which was awesome! The round window was in our cabin and it was just so relaxing to sit in it and gaze out at the sunny ports that we were docked at or the waves rushing by.

I could wax lyrical for hours about this holiday, but this post’s already turning out pretty long so I’ll move on to my next favourite holiday which was Edinburgh for my birthday in September.

I don’t know whether this holiday was so good because we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go due to COVID rules, or if it was because we hadn’t had a proper break since January, or if Edinburgh just really is that amazing, but whatever the reason, we loved it. We had a little Airbnb which felt safer than a hotel and everywhere we went measures were in place and were being followed.

The photo of me with wine I suppose could’ve been taken anywhere, but it reminds me of how relaxed I felt and what a good day we’d had. The restaurant that we were in is Makar’s Mash Bar which, as you might expect, does lots of different kinds of mashed potato. The multi coloured photo is at Camera Obscura which was extraordinarily good. The next two are fairly self explanatory – the Royal Yacht Britannia and Edinburgh Zoo.

The middle row were all taken on my birthday when we went on a day trip to Loch Ness, stopping off at various picturesque sites on the way there and back. As you can see, we saw wee Nessie!

Bottom left is Holyroodhouse Palace which is the official residence of the Queen in Edinburgh. She stays here every July (well, presumably not this past July!) for three weeks. When I say here, obviously not in the ruined abbey but rather in the intact palace next door.

Next to Holyroodhouse palace are the slightly less grand toilets at the Elephant House cafe where J K Rowling wrote much of the early Harry Potter books. Fans over the years have graffitied the walls and, after initially painting over the scribbles, the cafe relented and the graffiti is now a tourist attraction and tribute to J K.

This next holiday feels like a really long time ago now. I think it was March 2013 and we escaped the cold British climate to the marvellous Maldives.

I would urge anyone who gets the chance, to go to the Maldives. It really is paradise on earth. I remember trailing behind the guy showing us to our water bungalow down the boardwalk in the bottom photo just looking around me in awe at how beautiful it was and not quite believing that we were actually there. I’m not sure I’d ever seen so many different shades of blue before.

I’ve included a photo of our terrace because we spent a lot of time on there so it feels very evocative of our holiday. There’s really not a lot to do in the Maldives other than swim, snorkel, read, eat and drink so if you’re someone who has ants in their pants then it may not be for you, but we loved our week of utter relaxation. The snorkelling is amazing! It was the first place that I snorkelled and it’s kind of ruined snorkelling for me because anywhere else I’ve been just isn’t a patch on it. You only had to be knee deep to be surrounded by all manner of fish but if you went further out there were rays too and potentially hammerhead sharks.

Most holidays to the Maldives are all inclusive. We had the same table every night and the same waiter which was really nice because we got to know him. The food was delicious. They did a different theme each night. Unsurprisingly hubby enjoyed the American night with the burgers but I preferred the Indian night when they did loads of curries and dahls with different kinds of bread.

Speaking of food, there was no shortage of that when we went to Las Vegas!

We got married in Las Vegas in 2008 and we went back there for a week in 2011. We took a bit of a risk getting married there never having been before, but luckily we loved it. I can understand how it’s not for everyone though. Everything is extravagant and larger than life. There are lions in the MGM hotel, a replica of the Grand Canal of Venice in the Venetian and you can see all those lights down the Strip in the bottom left photo taken from the top of the fifty percent size replica of the Eiffel Tower! That little bit of sky that you can see above the canal is actually the ceiling, kind of like the enchanted ceiling in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. The lions live in a pride in a huge complex a few miles away from the strip and a two or three at a time are brought over to the MGM a couple of times a day. All the animals that we saw in Vegas seemed well looked after, and it is fascinating to see them, but I always feel in a quandary over whether keeping animals in captivity is too big a pay off for the conservation work that is enabled through animal attractions. The final photo is one of my favourites. It’s me at Hoover Dam and I’m standing in two states! My right foot is in Nevada and my left is in Arizona.

Back to Europe for our final stop to say kali mera to Corfu.

We’ve been to the same hotel in Sidari in the north of the island three times and loved it each time. I’m sure we’ll go back sometime. The people are so friendly in Corfu, the weather is perfect and they have ouzo! A bit of an acquired taste, apparently, but I love it! One of life’s great pleasures is decamping to the bar after dinner with that sun kissed glow on your skin and a slightly dizzy feeling after a day in the sun, to relax with a nice glass of ouzo and lemonade.

Unlike the Maldives, in Corfu there’s lots to do. One of our favourite days out is to go to Kassiopi just around the coast. On our first trip here we stumbled upon Karavi beach which is only accessible by scrambling along the cliff edge through the undergrowth. Once there, you’re rewarded by an almost deserted pebble beach that’s probably only about twenty metres across at its widest. The picture bottom right is me sitting in the shallows on Karavi beach and loving life. The photo’s slightly blurry because we got suntan lotion on the lens (this was pre-decent camera phones) but I really like the arty effect that it produced.

The rocky outcrop is colloquially known as monkey rock – you can see why. This was taken on a day trip to paradise island which is another beach only accessible by sea, this time a long expanse of pebbles where they have a beach barbecue.

The ice cream is a treat indeed! They’re a bit like a cornetto but they have crunchy chocolate going through them and they’re about twice the size! I’ve never seen them anywhere but Corfu and it’s almost worth going just for one of them!

I’ve been writing this post slowly all week, savouring my photos and my holiday memories and although it has made me yearn even more for a time when we can go on holiday again, it’s also made me feel very lucky that we’ve been able to enjoy these times and that we have them to look back on to get us through these lockdown weeks and months when things seem otherwise somewhat Eeyoreish. I hope you can find some sunshine and happiness in the photos.