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.

Unknown

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’.)

Unknown

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.

images-2

They’re always around…

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

Unknown-3

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. )

images-1

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.

234118840

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.

Unknown

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.

shopping

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.

images

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.
Unknown-2

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.)
IMG_8564A1ED6A45-1

‘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.
IMG_9060

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

 

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding…

I started this blog as a bit of an off-shoot for my writing course which I enrolled on when I had a bit of a meltdown at 40 and thought, “Now what?”

Aside from the student discount it gave me (seriously, best thing ever!), it gave me a forum to pour out some adaptations of my coursework, with various topics given for each module.

One module had two options:

A) To write a piece of erotic fiction

or

B) To re-write a fairytale

I tried with A. I really did. But E.L. James and all her Fifty Shades of Filth is actually not so easy to write. If you are in the slightest bit bashful, it comes across in your writing. (And I wasn’t very comfortable ‘coming across’ anything that I would then have to submit to my tutor.)

So, I chose option B. And here it is. It just seemed apt to share it today…

Unknown-2

THE PRINCESS AND THE CARAT

by Debbie Collins

“Larry, my darling grandson. It has come to my attention that whilst your older and far uglier brother of yours, Arthur, has found himself a lovely bride-to-be, you are still flying solo. I may be the Queen of this fine country, but I am still your meddling old Gran and I think it’s high time you got yourself a nice young girl.”

Larry was yet to find his Princess and although he had very much enjoyed looking, he knew it was time to settle down. He had dated girls here, there, near and far, but no-one could hold his interest for long enough. Arthur was always the steadier one, having found himself the most perfect bride to join the Royal family but unfortunately for Larry, none of his relationships had lasted more than six months. Without letting Granny-dearest know, he was secretly pleased that she was helping him to find ‘the one’, as he loved spending time with her. If nothing else, he would have a date for his brother’s wedding.

The Queen doted on Larry – he was her little cherub and as much as she daren’t have favourites amongst the Royal grandchildren, he would seek her out in the Palace and remain by her side like one of her beloved corgis.

“But Grandma, really? ‘The One’? Honestly, I think your time would be better suited to opening a new hospital wing or whatever it is you get up to these days.” Larry sighed a dramatic sigh and flopped down onto the brown leather Chesterfield. The Queen stood up with her usual assertiveness and yanked her handbag out from underneath Larry. From inside she pulled out a dark wig and gave it a shake before putting it on her head.

“Well, I’m all done opening hospitals this week. And I’m not due on that tour of Australia for another week. Come on, we’re going for lunch and a bit of shopping!”

With that, the Royal driver was called and Larry and his Gran, were off in disguise to do some shopping in their favourite store ‘Selfreezers’. Larry wore his favourite grey cashmere beanie hat that conveniently hid his shock of wild ginger hair, making him otherwise instantly recognisable to the public at large. Gran, a.k.a the Queen of England, was channeling her inner ‘Anna Wintour’ with a bobbed brown wig and seriously oversized sunglasses.

With security teams positioning subtly all around them, they flitted in and out of the various departments going pretty much un-noticed. On these little trips, Larry would always adopt a Cockney twang, calling out loudly over the shop floor, “Ere nan! Cam over ere n’ ‘av a butchers.” The Queen loved covertly interacting with the public-at-large and she would chat away to staff on the tills…

“Day aaaaht wiv mi’ grandsun, innit. Lavley boy ‘e is takin’ ‘is ole nan ahhht fer the dayyy up West.”

Laden with big, glossy yellow boutique bags, drawing possibly a bit too much attention to themselves, they exited the store through personal shopping and hopped back in the car. As the pair cruised the city in a blacked-out Range Rover, they laughed and joked by winding down their windows and waving at passers-by for fun.

“Larry my boy, I fancy a new run-around. Shall we nip into ‘Range Rover’? You know much your opinion matters to me.” Larry was easily flattered by his Grandma and the more time he could spend with this very busy VIP OAP, the better.

“Of course! Let’s make a day of it,” Larry eagerly agreed.

As they pulled up at the Mayfair Range Rover showroom there were thousands of people and photographers waiting outside, including a cordoned-off line of the hysterically excited girls, winding their way around the side of the building.

“How on earth do they always manage to find us? Let’s leave it for another day, Gran.” Larry looked uneasily out of the car window, feeling disappointed that his day with granny dearest was to be cut short.

“No, darling. Quite the contrary. I had this specially organised. They’ve been expecting us.” The Queen removed her wig, gave her hair a fluff and straightened the hemline of her tweed outfit. “Go on. Out you get, poppet.”

Feeling confused, Larry exited the car, deafened by the cheers and blinded by the flashbulbs going off and the calls of ‘over here Ma’am!’, ‘this way Larry!’ and ‘one of you together please!’.

Once inside the showroom, Larry slowly slid the beanie hat off his head, realising the disguise was no longer needed. Puzzled, he asked, “Gran, what on earth is going on?”

The Queen explained that she had organised a ‘meet-and-greet’ for Larry to find his perfect Princess, to bring along as a date to to Arthur’s impending wedding.

“Gran, are you telling me you’ve basically organised a Royal Britain’s Got Talent?!” Larry was incredulous and ran his fingers furiously through his hair.

“Yes, although no Simon Cowell on the judging panel. Although I did ring Simon. He says, ‘good luck’!” The Queen trotted off to speak to the David, the showroom manager, about getting going with the proceedings.

Over in the corner, a new member of staff called Kelli looked on in amazement at all that was going on.

“We never had this at Saab,” Kelli thought to herself.

Kelli started working at Range Rover a few weeks ago and was trying her best to fit in and make a good impression. Little did her colleagues know, but Kelli was actually a pretty important person, because she was in fact the daughter of Prince Alec of Sweden. Kelli was keen to show her father that she could be so much more than ‘just a Princess’, and he was happy and proud for her to spread her wings in London and experience ‘normal life’.

The enormous digital clock on the showroom wall displayed 11:57 as the Queen gathered all staff together to explain how things would be unfolding for the afternoon.

“Righty-ho. At midday on the dot, the doors will fling open and all the girls will come through and register. They may all claim to be Princesses, but I’ll be the judge of that,” said the Queen.

As staff began to take their places, Larry’s eyes met Kelli’s and she smiled brightly at him as she walked off. He smiled back and thought how refreshing it was not to have a girl fawn all over him. She seemed totally relaxed and not in awe of him whatsoever. He felt as if he somehow knew her, but surely that was impossible?

The Queen and Larry moved to the right-hand side of the showroom into a private office with big glass windows that overlooked the entire showroom, allowing them a prime view of all that was happening. Larry distractedly watched the beautiful dark-haired girl take her position within the showroom. He knew most of the staff at the showroom from numerous Royal visits, so he was sure he would have noticed her before today.

Larry wanted nothing more than to find this girl and go and say a proper hello, but he knew he had to focus on the task in hand. Unconvinced, he asked, “Gran, what have they actually got to do?”

“Not much,” the Queen said nonchalantly. “They’ll walk past, give us a wave and a curtsey and then go behind that big red curtain over there. Nothing too challenging even for the dimmest ones, of which I’m sure there are quite a few.”

“What’s behind the curtain then?” asked Larry.

“I’ll show you.” The Queen clicked on the monitor which was set upon the desk and up popped a live feed of the latest yet-to-be-unveiled Range Rover, with a life-size grinning Larry cardboard cut-out sitting in the driver’s seat. 

“The idea is, each girl will come through, sit in the passenger seat and pose for the Royal photographer, while you and I take notes from back here. The girls don’t know we can see or hear them.”

At midday on the dot, the girls started to flow into the showroom to register, they gracefully walked past Larry and his Gran and giggled, curtseyed and smiled before going behind the curtain.

As they watched girl number 398 slide effortlessly into the passenger seat purring about how comfortable the car was, pretty much the same pattern was repeated girl after girl. After an hour or so into things, the Queen ordered a Royal break for some dainty cucumber sandwiches, which also allowed Larry to go through his list of potential candidates. Unfortunately, the list wasn’t as long as he had hoped for because the princesses were all so terribly fake and seemingly desperate to win him over.

“Now I know how Simon Cowell feels at most of the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ auditions,” sighed the Queen in disappointment.

As Larry and the Queen and Larry considered their strategy for the next round, the staff at Range Rover were busy giving the showroom a tidy up, as it had become extremely messy. The hopeful Princesses had dropped tissues, wrappers and left make up stains all over curtained-off area. Kelli, being the newbie, was given the job of tidying the inside of the new Range Rover.

“Princesses my bum. They’re nothing but a load of fakes,” she mumbled to herself, as she wiped the lipstick smears that some over-zealous girls had planted on the cut-out’s cheek. Kelli emptied out the chewing gum wrappers and collected the half-empty bottles of water strewn in the passenger seat area. She also found a couple of fake nails, a set of false eyelashes and a silicon bra insert. She shook her head and chuckled to herself as she thought of the girl who had left the showroom lop-sided.

At that very moment, the Queen and Larry had resumed their positions in their viewing gallery and as the Queen was about to chat through the next hour’s proceedings, she noticed that Larry was distracted by the girl on screen. The same one she had seen him looking at intently when they arrived.

            “Larry? Darling are you ready to start the next round?” The Queen clicked her fingers in front of his eyes, but Larry was in another world, taken by this beautiful, seemingly normal girl who was cleaning his future car, sitting in the passenger seat, alongside his cardboard cut-out self.

            As no-one else was in the curtained area, Kelli took a moment to place her hands delicately on her lap and smile demurely at the camera, just as she had learnt to do so at the many debutante balls she had had to endure as a young lady. She wriggled uncomfortably in her seat and frowned, declaring, “Gosh, it’s not even comfortable!”

            “STOP THE PROCEEDINGS! We’ve found her!” shrieked the Queen.

            There was a sudden rush from Range Rover staff and all remaining contestants were told to leave. There were sobs, wails and sniffles as the showroom was swiftly cleared out.

            Larry followed the Queen out of the office towards the back where she whipped back the curtain to find Kelli exiting the car with a huge black sack full of rubbish. As she blew the wisp of glossy, dark hair from her face, she smiled at the Queen and then at Larry, executing the most perfect curtesy.

            “My dear girl what is your name?” quizzed the Queen.

            “’Kelli’, Ma’am. It’s an honour to meet you.” Kelli then nodded in respect to Larry and said, “And you, Prince Larry.”

            “Miss Kelli, could you tell me what you thought of the new Range Rover?” asked the Queen.

            By this point the entire staff had gathered round their fellow staff member to understand why the proceedings had been halted so quickly. Kelli answered with complete honesty,

            “It’s actually really uncomfortable.” She looked over warily at her boss David and expected to be fired on the spot, but instead he smiled back at her and then looked over at the Queen, giving a knowing wink and nod of his head.

            “I quite agree,” said the Queen to Kelli. “Only a ‘true Princess’ would say that…”

            With those words, Kelli’s face went pale as she panicked that her cover was blown. The Queen walked over to the passenger seat, slid her hand underneath the leather seat and pulled out the most exquisite six and a half carat, three-stone diamond engagement ring, resulting in loud gasps from the gathered crowd.

            “Gran, what is… what…  how….?” Larry was completely baffled.

            “You see, David and I hatched a little plan, Larry.”

David, the showroom manager, bowed, tilted his head and simply said, “Ma’am.”

The Queen continued, “Each girl that passed through here claimed to be a real Princess, but there was only one Princess here and that was Kelli. As soon as I saw her here a few weeks ago, I instantly knew that I recognised her and called up her father, Prince Alec to confirm it.”   

The Queen ushered a shocked Kelli over to her side and clutched her hand affectionately. “Kelli my darling, I’ve known you since you were a baby from my Royal tours of Sweden. Your father and I are great allies.”

Looking at Larry who stood to the other side of her, she continued, “The two of you were the best of baby friends, babbling and playing on the Royal lawns together. I even have videos of you two pretending to get married.”

The pair blushed as the memories came flooding back to them and Larry and Kelli smiled at each other, vaguely remembering the scene.

            “Kelli, won’t you join us for high tea back at the Palace?” the Queen asked. Kelli looked over at her boss, about to open her mouth to decline the offer when the Queen said, “Don’t worry. David will give you the rest of the day off. Won’t you, David?”

            David handed a set of keys over to Larry. “Drive carefully, your Highness. We need Kelli back safely for work in the morning. Although I’m guessing this could be Kelly’s last day…?” David smiled at Kelli and then at the Queen, who had told him all about who Kelli really was weeks ago and plotted the matchmaking.

            Larry escorted Kelli over to the new car and as he was about to remove the cut-out, she said, “Let’s keep him, he’s cute.”

            Larry grinned and said, “Maybe he can be my best man one day?” And with that, Prince Larry and Princess Kelli drove off and lived happily ever after (once they’d got through the London traffic.)

Enjoy the wedding.

xx