Lockdown Ginger

It’s been a while.

So long in fact, that I was locked out of my WordPress account and I had to dig deep to remember my password.

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Eldest? Plus birthdate?

But I’m here now, albeit nervously…

“Why aren’t you blogging?”

“Why haven’t you written anything?”

“How is the writing course coming along?”

All fantastic thanks. (In my head.)

It’s a strange thing, because pre-lockdown I felt I didn’t have enough time to concentrate on my writing. Now, having had the ultimate luxury of time, I’ve done even less writing.

WTAF?

The thing is, I’ve been a little bit busy with other things (possibly also known as ‘avoidance tactics’.)

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At the point of lockdown, I cancelled all pending appointments, loz’d my cleaner and thought, “Sure, I can do this.”

Because, even though I have an avoidance of certain things, in typical Libran balance, I LOVE getting stuff done! I’m a do-er. A ‘fixer’ as my friend calls me.

I can do this!

…I just hadn’t banked on a housefuls of family members doing ‘it‘ with me.

As an introvert,  I love to go out, being social, seeing friends, having fun. But I equally enjoy my time. Me time. Recharge time. Quiet time.

Husband heads off to work. Kids delivered to school. My house becomes ‘my place’. My refuge. My solace.

Gone.

Fucked.

Taken from me.

Kids not at school. Husband working from home.

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They’re always around…

What was this trickery? Would Ant and Dec suddenly pop out from behind my sofa and unveil this huge prank?

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Seemingly not. This was really happening.

“Okay. I can do this.” I told myself. Again.

I set to work with a strong plan in place and by week two, I’d made good progress on avoiding writing and tackling rooms and drawers and cupboards around the house.

Shelves and their items have been cleared and shifted, sometimes the actual shelves themselves, moving rarely-used items up high (like the Slushy ice maker machine thing) and making room for regularly used things to be at a more accessible height, rather than needing a stepladder. (Aka 6’4″ husband. Handy for high stuff, not necessarily DIY stuff. Although during lockdown he has proven himself a worthy apprentice and more than capable. )

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The aforementioned Slushy Maker

Onto the spare wine glasses from our wedding list, taking up valuable space in a kitchen cupboard. They’ve finally been unpacked – it’s only been 15 years. In our defence, we aren’t the biggest boozers. Husband rarely drinks, as it takes a LOT of alcohol to even make a dent in his impairment.

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Strata by Conran. A popular gift lift choice in the early 2000s

And the last time I was drunk was at a friend’s 40th, where wandering bar staff kept topping up drinks and somehow my glass was always in the firing line. I was carried out of there (apparently) and spent the following day in bed whilst husband took kids out for lunch. Mothers Day lunch. Shame.

Back to the lockdown though – the office had a good declutter and the shredder has been working double time. Yet to learn ‘five sheets maximum’ reminder is there for a reason.

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We’re jamming’…

There was a lot of cooking. A lot of cleaning. A lot of teaching. A lot of working. A lot of Zoom calls. A lot of washing.

We all had our jobs to do and set to it with pretty good attitudes. All working around each other, checking in to see how we were doing, going on walks and all sorts. Busy busy busy.

By week four, I was even looking at various designs for workwear coats.

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My Grandma wore one like this. She would definitely have made it onto the Big Breakfast ‘Woman in a Tabard’ segment

But by week six, I had to have a very frank discussion with myself that something had to give.  I was forever cleaning, still wanting to keep the house ‘just so’, forcing all ‘housemates’ to commend me on ‘how nice the bathroom smelled’, ‘how clean the floor was’ and how ‘satiny smooth the ironed bed linen was’. By the way, don’t come at me with your ‘I don’t iron my bedsheets’ – I am willing to give up some things. Not that.

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Not my actual bed. But excellent ironing.

I was done. Finished. Frazzled. Miserable. I had to purge something before I was shipped off in a straight-jacket and thanks to a very good friend, experiencing similar, she encouraged me to draw up a schedule and stick to it. It involved 50% less cleaning. I was over the moon.

[At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there have been some incredibly sad times during lockdown. Please don’t think with this blog I’m making light of a desperately tragic time for so many people. I most definitely am not. But I’ve watched people still share ‘funnies’ and blogs about food and fashion trends and all sorts and for me personally, these are the things that have kept some semblance of normality amongst this mess. So hopefully you will indulge me in my musings too….]

By week eight or nine I started to see the plus side of lockdown… I even made a list of positive things:

  • No chance of the kids catching nits. That would have finished me off.
  • Yes, my hair really is that dark naturally.. but on the plus, I HAVE NO GREY HAIRS!
  • Fortunate enough to wrangle a weekly online slot and many substitutes have now become firm favourites. Received a sub of tennis racquet-shaped pasta and it was a complete winner! It did however descend into a shit show whilst the kids recreated Wimbledon and flicked peas at each other using pasta racquets.
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New balls please

  • We can finally bake our own challah! It had always seemed a daunting bake. Something best left to the pros. But it’s fun and a lovely activity to do with the kids. (And I can do a nifty 4-strand plait thanks to YouTube.)
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‘Challah’ at me for the recipe. It’s not mine. but I would share it.

  • I’ve deep cleansed my address book, email inbox, subscriptions and gone pretty much paperless in my finances. I feel about a stone lighter.
  • Following an extensive spice cupboard audit conducted by my eldest, I have accepted the fact that I have more than enough dried parsley. However, I have just added red pepper flakes to the bursting collection and I can now make the The Good Earth’s Crispy chilli beef. (If you know, you know). All thanks to @food_obsessed_girl.
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Worth every ingredient

  • After initial first-world problem meltdowns that I couldn’t continue go to the gym or Pilates classes, I have rediscovered the delights of instagram lives and zoom classes. Thanks to @ciaralondon I have expanded my music appreciation with soca, whilst holding and pulsing and flexing. And thanks to @pilateswithlouise, I have rediscovered the joys of matwork and look forward to ‘Teaser Tuesdays’.
  • I taught my kids new skills – like what the ‘Rinse Aid’ light meant on the dishwasher. And that ‘adding salt’ didn’t mean using Malden Sea Salt. They were fascinated that there was actual special salt for dishwashers.
  • I’ve read. And read and read. Usually I only get to do a ‘solid read’ on holiday. But lockdown has allowed me that pleasure again and it’s my detox in the evening. I think I’ve actually watched less tv than ever.
  • Re: above, possibly a lie. Youngest and I indulged in some feel-good tv and binged on Friday Night Dinner. ‘Shit on it’ is now a regular turn of phrase in our house. And daughter will often greet me with ‘Hello Jackieeeee’. Fun fact: the house where it’s filmed is round the corner from me. Unknown-1
  • Got the kids on board with sheet change day – Fridays if you must know. They are now fully capable humans as opposed to what my friend’s daughter said following bed stripping instructions. “What does ‘strip’ the bed mean?”
  • My hygienist appointment avoidance was finally on an even keel with everyone else. I went just before lockdown – I truly hate going. But now? I can’t go. You can’t go. No-one can go!!! I am guilt free. Although feeling sad for my daughter who has a brace that is currently missing about five brackets and I had to perform a DIY wire cut using nail clippers. Don’t worry, it was on advice of orthodontist and so far so good.
  • We can now bake our own Millie’s Cookies. We went through various recipes and test batches – oh the gluttony – but have finally reached perfection thanks to Baking Mad. I guess it depends on what your version of perfection is. Plus, we were sick of banana bread.

See? Lots of positives. There are of course so many negatives in this altered normal life we are all living, but I’m trying hard each day to outweigh with the positives that we, as in my family, are all healthy.

I crumbled at week 6 and again, 6 weeks later. This week, week 13-ish, I had the meltdown of meltdowns. I just couldn’t do ‘it’ anymore.

It’s really not easy. And ‘it’ will be different things to different people. But my ‘it’ got too much for me this week. It felt good to have my moment and re-set.

And I feel much better for getting all of this down in a blog. Writing makes me happy. So do cookies.

I hope I won’t leave it so long next time.

Must go – the slushy maker is required from the top shelf with the impending warm weather…

x

 

Hallow Again…

Where has the year gone?

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Will the kids’ Amazon Prime costumes arrive in time or are they still on a longboat from China?

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I think mine is bottom right, three to the left

Will it be raining on the 31st, meaning the kids’ costumes will be completely hidden under their winter coats?

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So many questions, very few answers.

And yet, each year, we go again with same ol’ routine:

  1. Sort kids’ costumes.
  2. Bring Halloween decorations down from the loft.
  3. Buy more decorations, because nothing really survived from last year.
  4. Change costume idea because the kids’ have seen something better.
  5. Carve half term pumpkins with the kids by myself because the kids get bored after half an hour I’m a control freak.
  6. Re-think kids’ costumes because a few of them want to go as the same thing.
  7. Buy massive tub of sweets for trick or treat visitors me. (Cadbury’s Heroes.)
  8. Revert back to original kids’ costume idea, by which time it’s sold out on eBay, Amazon, everywhere.

Unless you live in America or a certain strip of North West London that totally goes for it under the guidance of their leader Mr Jonathan Ross, it really is just a fabulous excuse to play dress us and have some fun.

And there really is very little to actually scare you. (Unless you count the out of date sweets people try to palm off on your kids.)

So, in the spirit of Halloween, here is a list of super scary things imo:

1. Drop it like it’s hot

I don’t think I know a soul who hasn’t cracked their smartphone screen, even just a tiny bit. For some it’s a weekly occurrence. (You know who you are.) That palpable fear when you drop it and tentatively turn it over to assess the damage…

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2. Where’s the parking angel at?

You’re only going to be 5 minutes… you’ll risk it.  Oh but that that dash back to the car to see if there is a sticky yellow rectangle on your windscreen…

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3. Door Handle Rattlings

When you’re out and about, minding your business, ‘doing’ your business and someone tries the cubicle door handle. Well, it’s enough to make you sh*t yourself…

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4. Non-moving escalators

Stairs? No problem. A non-moving escalator? Huge problem. What if it starts working mid ascent? Or the fact that your brain is concentrating so hard on lifting each foot up to hit the next step? There is just something very unnerving about scaling non-moving escalators.

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5. Sleeping with an open window 

More of a summer problem really when the bedroom windows are open all night. The problem usually occurs around 5 am when you hear that familiar low hummed ‘buzzzzz’ behind the blinds. The bastard has got in…

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6. Fishing for toast

When you toast is stuck and you need a bit of help dislodging it…in the form of a knife. You switch off the toaster. You UNPLUG the toaster. You move the toaster away from the WALL. And yet still, there is that fear of electrocution…

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Don’t worry, I now own some toaster tongs

7. Waste disposals

Similar to the above really. A spoon has managed to slip through the ‘splash guard‘ (yes, I had to look up what it was called) and you immediately switch off the waste disposal, tentatively reaching your hand down into the depths to fish out the mangled spoon. Admit it, you still fear that somehow, like in horror films, the motor will switch back on and saw your hand off.

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8. Keeping it in

When you’re in a ‘quiet’ exercise class – think pilates, yoga – and there are some demanding moves. I know it’s only natural, and some of us are more relaxed about breaking wind in front of others (you know who you are), but for me, I would never be able to go visit that fitness studio again.

9. Go with the flow

When you flush the loo (especially in a friend’s house) and the water level rises…and rises…and rises.  And their loo is carpeted. There is no fear quite like it.

10. Shoplifting

You’ve been browsing, you’ve bought nothing, you KNOW you’ve bought nothing, but when you walk out past those ‘alarm post things’ by the door and that alarm goes off, you STILL feel guilty.

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It wasn’t me

11. Housesitting

When a neighbour gives you a set of spare keys so that you can water their plants while they are away. It’s a simple lock, the alarm panel is literally as you enter and the keys have that handy fob on them that you just tab. You don’t even need to memorise a pin.  And yet when those bleeps sound, it’s panic stations.

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BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!

12. Don’t wish too hard

I’m throwing this in because I feel I need validation. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many films like ‘Vice Versa’ and ’13 Going on 30′ and ‘What Women Want’. Or maybe that I just have a very vivid imagination? But I have this weird ‘thing’ where I’m at home, maybe in the shower and I imagine I have been granted one wish. Except I don’t just wish for something brilliant – I almost mock the faux-wish and think ‘public place’! And WHAM! I magically end up standing in the middle of Brent Cross, starkers…  Anyone?

And finally, in the spirit of Halloween and 13 being a ‘scary number’ and thinking about my thirteen year old and her best friend...

13. Parenting Fails 

When you take your daughter and her friend out for the day and you’re running down the stairs to catch a train and you all manage to get on when you realise it’s the wrong train. So you all quickly jump off before the doors close. Except for BFF is frozen to the spot. And as you shout in slow motion from the platform, “Getttttttttt offffff thhhhhhhe trrrrraaaaaaiiiinnnnn!”, she doesn’t. And the doors firmly close. And the train pulls away.  I will never ever forget the look on her face, my daughters face, probably my face. Fear not – the friend was a mature 13 years of age, in possession of a mobile phone so within minutes I had every station attendant ready to greet the 14:27 from West Hampstead Thamelink into St Pancras. There were even police officers. It was an emotional reunion. There are still some very kind lovely people in the world.

So, with all those sweets entering your household, one way to stave off temptation is a healthy snack and so don’t throw out the pumpkin seeds from your carvings.

According to Google: ‘Pumpkin seeds are a good source of antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and fatty acids — all of which may help keep your heart healthy. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels — two important risk factors for heart disease.’

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Wash seeds. Dry seeds. Lay them on a roasting tin. Lightly spray with olive oil and add some Herbamare. Give them about half an hour in the oven with some midway shaking (tray not you).

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Yes. The lids look like willies. Grow up.

But beware, they give you wind. ‘Apparently’…

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x

 

 

 

Be a Good Sport…

On my first date with my husband (Silks & Spice, Camden), he casually mentioned in conversation that he was ‘into sport’. Alarm bells should have rung, but it was only through marriage and a shared custody of a Sky remote control, that I truly realised the extent to which ‘into sport’ actually meant.

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Silks & Spice sadly no longer open. Marriage still going strong. 

I’m quite aware that most of my life revolves around a sporting event. For example:

Me: “We’re going over to friends tomorrow for tea.”

Husband: “What time?”

Me: “Why?” (I know full well why.)

Husband: “(*insert seasonal sport here*) is on tv. If they haven’t got it on in the background, I’m going home.”

My social butterfly…

 

 

Thinking back, my first birth gave a clear indication of life as a sports widow.

Around 2am on the 14th September 2006, my husband found me at the foot of our bed, curled over a giant gym ball thingy, declaring, “I give up.’

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I think I was doing it wrong. Photo Credit: Rooted for Life

A couple of nights previous we’d had a false alarm, so once the hospital staff had finished prodding me and were satisfied that I was definitely in labour this time, husband decided we were in it for the long haul and proper arrangements needed to be made.

He even managed to schmooze the nurses into dragging a camp bed into the room for him. Tiring for the men, after all…Unknown-11.jpeg

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‘Comfty’, as my youngest says

Around 15 hours later, my beautiful daughter was born and whilst dizzy from both the epidural and the fact that she wasn’t a boy, I will always remember that soft green glow as I was wheeled back into the room…

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I always favour a v-neck

 

No. It wasn’t the staff in their scrubs.

It was the green haze from the football pitch on the tv screen as my husband held our daughter, experiencing her first game of many, whilst cradled in daddy’s arms, lying on the camp bed. (Ah, now I could see the urgency of the camp bed.)

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Not actual husband. Or daughter

I looked on in marvel at the thing next to me, peaceful, calm, content.

And that was just my husband. He even remembers the game. (Of course he does.Unknown-11.jpeg)

UEFA Cup – West Ham vs Palermo fact fans.

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Actual footage 14.9.06

I’m not a particularly sporty person, safe to say I’m not really sporty at all. I like the gym, Pilates, a friendly game of badminton or table tennis. Even basketball, but only if it’s at the funfair and involves winning a bag of candy floss.

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Yum. Get in my belly…

I just have zero interest in reliving my ‘wing attack’ days at school and joining a ladies league of netball.

No offence to those who do this pursuit for pleasure or professionally…plenty of my female friends are loving this release on a weekday evening – it’s just not for me. In fact, massive props to the England Netball Team who recently thrashed to receive gold at the Commonwealth Games.

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So emotional.. as I watch from the sofa.

Before I get trolled and bashed on social media for dividing the sexes, lots of female friends watch and attend just as many games as their other halves on a regular basis and have done since a very young age. (Even funnier when rival husband and wives are at the same match. You know who you are…)

But going back to base levels, I’ve been through alot recently. Alot.

Darts. Done. (He threatens to take me every year. FYI, I would go.)

Olympics. Done.

Cricket. Done.

Golf. Done. (Although I secretly quite like watching The Masters because:

A) the clapping and birdsong is so calming

and

B) my usually 9pm-watershed husband is actually still lucid at midnight

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So relaxing

So, to all of my football widow friends – we’ve performed really well this season, with limber checks on our phones for match updates and team support over whose evening will be the most ruined due to a match loss.

Just a few weeks to go and it will all be over  Unknown-9.jpeg

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…I’ve just been gently reminded that the World Cup starts in under two months.

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I think I might take up netball for the summer…

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ps. Good luck to everyone participating in tomorrow’s London MarathonUnknown-10.jpeg(I’ll be watching. From my sofa.)