Life Lately | January 2021

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Life update life lately in January 2021

So, 2020 was the plot twist no-one expected - and so far, 2021 isn’t shaping up to be all that much better. 

It’s been a long time since life was ‘normal’. Simple things like seeing friends, going out for meals and pleasures like holidays and nights out just haven’t been an option for ages. In the UK, it felt like people were holding out for Christmas, which was a very quiet one for us. But here we are in a new year and things haven’t changed. 

That makes it a harder task to stay focused on the positives, even though a vaccination programme is slowly rolling out now. It feels like the goalposts keep moving and there’s no clear end in sight yet.  This is real life at the moment -  so what else has been happening?

Saying Goodbye

On Boxing Day, my mum died unexpectedly, which has cast a huge shadow. She was battling cancer and had been through several rounds of chemotherapy last year, but she died as a result of complications from an operation. 

It happened too fast to process, and I wasn’t able to be with her or get down to Cornwall before her life support was switched off. That has made it incredibly difficult to accept.  In addition, the coroner has chosen to open an inquest into the circumstances of her death, which is going to take some time. Like anyone grieving, there have been better days and sometimes, black holes. It’s a long process that you can’t just switch off. 

Trying to cope with the sheer weight of admin a person leaves behind while also juggling my job and homeschooling a five year old due to the latest lockdown has really pushed me, but I am so fortunate to have a wonderful, supportive husband who has been my rock. The kids have also kept me going. 

Thankfully, even under the tough restrictions funerals are still allowed, so I’ll be able to travel down there and say goodbye to her soon.

Introducing Indy

sprocker spaniel puppy

golden sprocker spaniel puppy

Some brighter news though - we have a new addition to the family! The stars have finally aligned to allow us to give a home to a new family pet, our golden sprocker puppy. 

We have wanted a dog for a long time. We’re quite active, outdoors people anyway, and it felt like having a dog to come along on our adventures would complete us. We’ve had so much going on with babies and renovating the house it was never the right time to get a dog before, but now that’s out of the way, and I’m permanently based at home for work, it made sense. In fact, it will be great to have a reason to get out of the house a couple of times a day. 

We looked up and down the country for the right litter of puppies, but like fate, found exactly what we were looking for three miles away. A spocker is a hybrid spaniel - a mix of cocker and springer spaniel. They’re energetic, intelligent, friendly dogs that make great family pets. 

After much debate with the children over what to call her, we settled on Indy (I wanted Juno but was over-ruled!). There’s a few weeks to go until she arrives with us as she’s not ready to leave her mum just yet, but we’re really looking forward to welcoming her. She’s just the ray of sunshine we needed.

Family Life In Lockdown

children making gingerbread biscuits

The latest lockdown has felt a lot different from back in March 2020. For a start, where we live in Nottinghamshire, we’ve been in Tier 3 restrictions in between a complete lockdown, so it just feels like a never-ending process. 

As it's cold and grey outside, it all feels a lot harder than last year, when we had a stunningly sunny Easter and could just spend most of the day with the kids in the garden. Horizons have literally shrunk to nothing. We haven’t been out of the county since a quick trip to Cheshire for our wedding anniversary when restrictions were slightly looser. The world feels very small right now! 

Theo started school in September, which seems crazy. He got off to a flying start at first, literally skipping through the gates each day. We managed to get through a whole term, but he hasn’t been back since the third national lockdown kicked in. 

Trying to homeschool is a whole new one for us - I’ve been learning a lot about phonics and number bonds. The real challenge is motivation. He loves learning but it's hard when he can’t see his friends and both of us are trying to work all day. A big difference from the last total lockdown is that nurseries are still open at the moment, so our two year old daughter Romilly is still going to hers. It's easier to cope as we only have only child at home, but equally it's more boring for Theo without his little sister around.  

As nothing major happened last year, I didn’t do many life update posts, but Romilly turned two in July and Theo was five a couple of weeks into September. They are thick as thieves and play so well together. 

Romilly is very talkative and bright, and she’s a fierce little soul but also such a girly girl - I call her my warrior princess. She loves playing dress up and with her dolls house and is mad about horses and drawing. Theo is a little quieter and more reserved than his sister. He loves figuring out how things work and he’s got a very strong moral compass. Back in the summer, he decided to go vegetarian himself and has stuck to it despite not being allowed previous favourites like Haribo and ham sandwiches. 

Like all small children, of course they can be hard work at times, but on the whole they are so caring, polite and funny. For someone who wasn’t sure about becoming a mama, I’m wholeheartedly enjoying it and in hard times the kids have absolutely been my saviours.

2021 goals and progress

Goal setting has really helped me to deal with the current difficulties and stay focused on a happier future.  So far everything is going well and getting me back on track. 

I’ve been making great progress in a couple of areas especially. I wanted to plan out each day to make sure I made the most of it and got everything done, and that’s been a great way to feel a little bit more in control. In fact, now that work and childcare are competing for my attention every day it's become absolutely essential to have a day plan! I’m mindful not to cram too much in so it's realistic and I don’t end the day feeling defeated. 

I’ve also been making inroads on addressing my health and wellbeing, which is especially important at the moment. After seriously losing momentum with my running in the last part of 2020, I’ve actually gone back to Couch 2 5K (for the third time!), but that’s giving me a kick to get going again, and I’ve discovered the Asana Rebel app which is very active yoga. 

I’ve also been getting better at the little things, like drinking more water. Every little bit helps!

Friendship In Tough Times

I’ve never really known the meaning of finding out who your friends are in tough times until recently. People have been so kind and supportive in so many different ways since my mum passed away. 

From checking in regularly on text and phone to my oldest friends setting up Zoom calls, my mama friends  buying me a voucher for a place that does healthy prepped meals so I don’t have to worry about cooking, to the friend that left scented candles and chocolate on my doorstep to help me try and relax and the one that invites me out for socially distanced evening walks with cans of gin and tonic, I really do feel lucky to have so many great connections. 

It’s taken time to really build up a network like this. When I first moved here after university, my old friends were scattered far and wide. Now I’m finally in a place where I feel like I’ve got amazing friends who have my back again. 

I just can’t wait to be able to give them all a hug and meet up for coffees or cocktails when this pandemic finally subsides.

I’m Watching

The Last Kingdom Netflix

Riviera Series 3 Sky Originals

You’d think there’d be nothing else to do in lockdown but plough through the entire contents of Netflix, but it never seems that way in this house. With both of us currently trying to juggle full-time jobs with homeschooling, we’re exhausted and there’s always something to be doing. When I do get a rare half hour to myself I much prefer to read a book! 

So we haven’t gotten through an awful lot, but one thing we did watch and enjoy was The Last Kingdom. This is an epic saga set in Viking times, and tells the tale of a young Saxon boy who is adopted into an invading Danish tribe, eventually rising to become the right hand man of the pious King Alfred. 

On paper it's not really the kind of thing I’d enjoy but I gave it a chance and got sucked in. We’ve now rattled through all the series, and I’m glad to know there’s another being produced as we speak.

The latest series of Riviera has also been gripping us. A tale of a renegade art dealer getting entangled in all sorts of high power struggles in the world of the jet-setting elite has been really entertaining, and the locations are absolutely stunning. This show makes my heart ache to be able to travel again, and it’s entertainingly silly too.

I’m Listening

Meg Myers singer songwriter

Tame Impala

Meg Myers, where have you been all my life? The female singer-songwriter isn’t someone who was on my radar at all, despite releasing her debut back in 2015. She writes dark, epic rock songs about forbidden love and her voice is by turns powerful and breathy. She appeals to my inner emo teenager massively! I discovered her music by accident when someone shared a playlist with me, and have been making up for lost time. 

Other than that, a bit of Tame Impala has been cheering me up for a lunchtime kitchen disco. And old dubstep tunes from Andy C, Sub Focus and Dillinja have been soundtracking my wintery runs out in the mud and cold and keeping me pepped.

I’m Reading

Reading really has been my lifeline and my escape in the past few months. Life can feel very dismal and monotonous at the moment, so books have become more vital to me than ever. I’ve been thanking my stars that I really have the ability to wrap myself up in a great narrative as it's been a massive gift. 

As a result I’ve been reading insatiably. As usual, I’ve chosen a mix of novel, social history and biographies.

Dan Jones - The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors review

Dan Jones - The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors - I absolutely devoured this gorgeous epic all about the Knights Templar - one of the most secretive and enduringly fascinating of all organisations. A strictly religious military order, the Templars combined a life of pious devotion with extreme bloodlust, and were originally founded to guard pilgrims journeying in the Holy Lands around Jerusalem before swiftly growing into a crusading army, a political force to be reckoned with, and a huge financial power that bankrolled royalty during the 1200s and 1300s. 

Eventually they were pulled apart by a French king envious of their resources, but they continue to live on in history and myth. I have never known that much about the origins of war in the Middle East, so I found this a fascinating read as so many of the polarities are still resulting in conflict today. It’s quite an academic book but written in a wonderfully accessible way.

Perhaps it's my age, but I’ve started to read a lot more self-help books. In fact, I have resolved to try and read one every month this year. I want to be constantly learning and developing myself, so I;ve started to read something instructional each morning as soon as I wake up, to get myself into the right mindset to greet the day and tackle my goals for 2021. 

Get Your Shit Together by Sarah Knight review

Get Your Shit Together by Sarah Knight was my first port of call. A friends bought me a copy of her bestselling ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck’  which was simple and practical, so I decided to follow it up with this. I’m someone who always feels as if they’re hovering on the edge of utter chaos and just faking being grown-up and responsible. 

This book is all about getting rid of the excuses and the self-sabotage that a lot of us engage in almost unconsciously. Like a very brutal but spot-on best friend, this book doles out very practical steps to take to get moving on your goals. A great read to start the new year with.

Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain’s Underclass by Darren McGarvey  review

Into another fairly weighty topic - Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain’s Underclass by Darren McGarvey shocked me to my core. The books author grew up in a very deprived community near Glasgow, and uses a mix of personal testimony, political rhetoric and insights gleaned through years of therapy and community advisory roles to take a cold, hard look at why childhood poverty sets people up to fail. How it literally hard wires trauma responses into the brain, making aggression and apathy default responses. 

In the end, the author advocates that only a mix of policy change and individual self-development can really address the problems of entrenched deprivation. As someone who was lucky to grow up in a fairly nice situation, I found this a complete eye opener. I feel like it should be compulsory reading for everyone.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett review

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was a very readable novel that I devoured quickly. It’s about twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes, who live in the racially charged Deep South. The sisters end up on hugely different pathways. As light-skinned black women, one of them chooses to marry into a wealthy white family and hide her roots, while the other suffers an abusive relationship before moving back to the small town they came from to care for their mother. 

It’s a really interesting study of how the past shapes your future, and how small decisions can spiral into huge deceptions.

The Accidental Adventurer by Ben Fogle review

I also read The Accidental Adventurer, Ben Fogle’s autobiography. We went to see him on a speaking tour days before lockdown first kicked in last year and I found him very engaging and inspiring, which made me want to read more. 

Despite in his own words never being very good at sport, Ben has completed some awe-inspiring challenges, such as a desert ultra ‘Marathon Des Sables’, travelling to the North Pole, rowing across the Atlantic and climbing Everest. Any adventure or challenges he’s been able to meet with enormous mental strength, despite having a few crazy near death experiences. Quite a contrast to the challenge of quarantine!

Final Cut by SJ Watson review

And I’ve just started on Final Cut by SJ Watson, so no spoilers. It's about a film maker who journeys back to a sleepy seaside town she escaped from as a teenager. But the picturesque location is hiding some sinister secrets to do with disappearing girls. 

I was riveted by ‘Before I Go To Sleep’, SJ Watson’s last novel, so I knew this would be a gripping read.

So that is life in January - quite cold and grey, a bit of struggle, but with some brighter moments. It’s an endless cycle of baking, board games and films with the kids, followed by escaping into a book at night, but we are appreciating all the family time.

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