In the early weeks after Rafe’s birth, Sam and I spent a lot of time watching historical documentaries. We found them much easier to focus on than a film or series (not quite sure why now), so we would watch portions of episodes at a time while looking after Rafe.
The Yugoslav Wars are just at the edge of my memory as they started when I was little and I never followed their progression as I became a teenager. I barely registered a conflict just the other side of Italy, and it is only now thanks to the above documentaries that I know what happened.
I’m loathe to make any grand statements or conclusions about the conflict, instead I would urge you watch the documentaries if you can. Both are made by the same production team, the first won awards, and interview footage from the same was even used at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
If you don’t have the time, here is a 16 minute summary on the topic by WonderWhy:
I love history. I love how it gives me context and a sense of my place in the world. Learning about history empowers people to think about their thoughts, decisions and actions, and should hopefully encourage them to consider how they want to represent themselves in society.
To conclude, here are two quotes from people smarter than I:
The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
I spent a lot of last weekend’s Bank Holiday reading about Dominic Cummings, and his trips to Durham and Barnard Castle. Most of my reading was done on Twitter, with the BBC and a variety of tweeted articles thrown in for good measure.
It was enjoyable in some ways, but it was also all-consuming and dumb. Obsessing over a news story is not helpful, or healthy. It also makes you quite a bore to your husband, and he was irritated with me constantly checking my timeline.
By Monday I think a bit of news fatigue had set in as I started to lose interest in the story. And given there has been no resignation or sacking, what’s the point of giving an actual shit about the situation. No-one in the government seems to actually care one toss about what happened, and how it comes across to the general public, so what is the point of me retweeting statements from aggrieved Conservative MPs.
Obviously, herein lies the rub, if I grow tired of the story and ‘move on’ as Dear Leader would like us to, then they win. Therefore, it is probably best to conclude that we are all fucked. 😠
I probably won’t stop reading Twitter though, for one there isn’t enough to do at the moment, and for two, if we don’t keep complaining then they definitely do win. I just need to remember to take a break from the incessant refreshing, particularly when my son and husband are about.
On the 12th of May my son’s nursery emailed to say we could request a place for our son to go back to nursery (if we wished). Neither of us are key workers, and my freelance job ended in March, so we don’t need the two days per se, but I decided to request a space while making it clear that we don’t expect Rafe to be prioritised over a child with working parents/carers.
A few days later I was really excited to have his usual days confirmed, and we have started talking to him about going back. We will be crossing our fingers and toes, and hoping that all goes well, as he’s effectively starting again. 😬
Not all parents will be comfortable sending their children to school or nursery, but given the data on Coronavirus deaths in the young, and school reports from other EU countries like Denmark, the husband and I don’t feel worried about sending him back. And to be honest, at this point, I’m thinking more about his social interaction with children of his own age – or the lack of.
I’ve been trying to find clear government guidance (hahaha), or a scholarly article on the importance of social interaction for children, and frustratingly I’ve got a bit stuck. However, the Mental Health Foundation states the following:
As children grow up, their ability to form and sustain relationships – be that with peers, parents, teachers etc. is crucial.
… If we can make sure that babies, children and young people are able to form and maintain positive relationships in ways that make sense to them, then this will help get them off to a good start in life and support their mental development.
Paula Lavis, Co-ordinator of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition
And that is pretty much how I feel – the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
I’ve also been inspired by Professor Karol Sikora‘s calm demeanor and positive attitude regarding the pandemic, and more recently the debate about schools reopening.
I started following him on Twitter a month or so ago and he’s been a real breath of fresh air on my timeline – and I know that my mental health needs a good dose of positivity to counteract the whirling negativity I’ve be prone recently. There is always a fine balance between reading the news and drowning in the news…
From a selfish point of view, I’m also really looking forward to some me time. Not couple time or family time, or ‘steal an hour here or there on the weekend’ time, actual ME time. Doing the washing up while the husband plays with the child is not me time. Driving down to the post office and standing in a queue is not really me time. Even the excitement of fortnightly trip to the supermarket is wearing off a little…
But what do I do with the time? I must make plans! And I must leave the house! Watch this space… 😊
Towards the end of April we moved Rafe into his ‘big boy bed’, and it has been a great success! 🥳
My main worry about moving him was that he would climb out of bed and start banging on his door… and this does happen, but thankfully not until “the sun comes up” – and I think we have the Groclock to thank!
Launched by The Gro Company in 2009, the Groclock allows you to set a wake up time so a child knows when they are allowed to get up. Obviously children have to be of a certain age to understand time, so the Groclock uses images of the sun and stars to delineate the passing of time.
The clock also comes with a book called Sleepy Farm, it tells the story of Percy Pig and his grumpiness because he’s not getting enough sleep – and guess what, he gets a Groclock to help! 😀
We’ve set ours for 7am, and every evening at 8pm we activate the clock and say “night night sun, hi stars”, and “remember not to get up before the sun comes up”, and we think it more or less works as our sleep has been pretty decent this past month.
Yesterday morning he woke at 6am, made more noise at 6.30am, but given we fell asleep again both times, he was obviously just chilling in bed or playing. Come 6.55am he started whining and calling “cuddle Daddy” which is pretty standard, and 5 minutes later Sam went in to get him.
If every morning continues like this, I would say it is a successful clock!
But I reserve the right to bin the thing if Rafe ignores it once we start potty training and have to leave his door open…
Now we are in the ninth week of lockdown, and a lot of us are fairly used to our new lives, it’s possible that we might gloss over the early days of lockdown, and think it wasn’t actually that stressful, and that things aren’t so dramatically different from ‘LIFE BEFORE THE COVID’.
That assessment is probably incorrect… it is significantly different, and it will be a long time before things are back to how they were… presuming that day WILL come. 😬
So, to things that have made my life and other people’s lives better… the local food heroes in my area.
The VeryGreen Grocer
Based in Shooters Hill, The VeryGreen Grocer has been delivering to homes in South East London since 2010. Run by Mike, Mike, Barbara and Simone, their vans deliver groceries, dairy and bread every week, Monday to Friday.
Luckily for us, the husband had registered as a new customer 3 weeks before lockdown, and we started getting a weekly delivery at the end of March. The company stopped accepting new customers for a while due to demand from far and wide, but we were very reassured by their tweets explaining their new ordering process.
Things seem to have settled down since March and customers can now order through their site as usual. And they are now accepting new customers, so do email them your address and postcode if you would like an account, and the team will respond.
Below is the box we had delivered at beginning of April – full of lovely tasty good things, and we’ve been reminding ourselves how to eat in order of freshness. I’ve also had a lot of fun looking up BBC Good Food recipes to work out what to cook with what we have, and I’ve become a big fan of cabbage – which I never expected! Blame Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
We are still doing a big shop at Sainsbury’s every fortnight, but we are keeping up a weekly fruit and veg order, and are very happy to continue to support the VeryGreen family.
The Plumstead Pantry
Usually a cafe on Plumstead Common, The Plumstead Pantry has converted itself into a bakery cum grocer cum delivery service over the past two months. The owners Ash and Julia also used crowdfunding to help with the conversion, and were able to raise over £5,000 in just 14 days.
I wasn’t really aware of the business until April as I’ve only driven through Plumstead Common a few times, but I saw a tweet from a local friend about the cafe, and after a good nosey at their Twitter and Facebook, it turned out they were having regular deliveries of plain flour. At the time we had nearly run out, and as the flour shelves were/are usually empty at Sainsburys, the husband was very keen to get some!
After buying 2kg of plain flour, plus 1kg for our friends, we have since branched out into tin loaves and their very scrumptious cinnamon buns – they drip with sweetness and are just heavenly.
As well as their 1 in, 1 out policy at the cafe (with beautiful views across the Common), you can also pre-order goods for collection or delivery. Delivery is free within SE18 and surrounding areas, and there is a handy WhatsApp button on their Facebook page if you want to place an order (DMs on Twitter are also used).
And many thanks to Julia for not ringing the doorbell when delivering, Rafe nap time is sacred! 😊
Old Cottage Coffee Shop Cafe
We used to live in Charlton and one of my favourite haunts was the Old Cottage Coffee Shop Cafe in Charlton Park. I still visit before Monday music at Charlton House, and do I love having a jacket potato with bacon and cheese while Rafe wriggles about with his own lunch.
Every Christmas the cafe organises a Christmas Day lunch for the elderly, and since Coronavirus closed their doors, Michael and Mimi have been cooking and delivering food to those unable to leave their homes. Based on their tweets, they are delivering lunches to at least 20 people 3 times a week. Amazing! If you can help with the lunch deliveries, please contact Michael.
Hopefully we will all be back there soon!
The Red Lion
Since a new management team took over in 2019, The Red Lion has been aiming for a more family friendly vibe. A few months ago I went with my husband, son and in-laws for an early evening meal, we had a great time, and we all really enjoyed the food.
While the pub is closed, Danny Brooker and his team have been supporting a number of individuals, NHS hospitals, care homes and hospices in the local area.
Funds are being raised through crowdfunding, and hundreds of meals are being prepared at each cooking session. A separate team are then organising and delivering the food. Super super impressive, and a wonderful thing to read about.
After last Saturday’s walk by the river, and my walk through Oxleas Woods yesterday, I’m getting fired up and excited to be out and about.
Whatever you think about last Sunday’s video presentation from Dear Leader, the fact that we are now allowed out more for exercise fills me with nothing but joy.
Obviously this is ridiculous, no police officer is watching you through a set of binoculars just in case you step outside more than once a day, but the removal of the social pressure is certainly helpful.
And I think the announcement has lifted some of the fug I’ve felt around myself since lockdown began in March. I’ve definitely had a good week with no low moments, and given I’ve not had any errands to keep me busy, I think I’m doing alright. 😊
I woke up in a great mood today: we had some nice family time before the husband started work, and then I did some writing for another blog while Rafe played with his toys (intermingled with cuddles and Mummy chest raspberries). And once showered and dressed, I went to Greenwich for the first time in 7 weeks, yay! 🥳
It was a BEAUTIFUL day today, and we had a wonderful walk through the park with some chill time on the grass during Rafe’s nap. The buggy also rolled down the hill because I didn’t put the brake on properly. It was pretty funny, and it didn’t bash into anyone so YAY!
A little later I ‘picked up’ some lunch via Deliveroo and we sat in St Alfege Park while a squirrel watched us eat. Rafe did some running around, and then we went down to the river for additional running plus climbing. I missed the river so!
After a play by the Cutty Sark we circled back to the park where Rafe pretty much gave up walking and climbed in his buggy. There was a brief bit of running away and hiding in some tall grass after a breather, but by about 4.15pm he was ready to head home via Daddy taxi. 🚕
A wonderful trip out, and keep scrolling for photos!
I started writing ‘Odd Things I Like To Do’ on Saturday, and I’ve officially given up 5 days later. My conclusion? It was a shit idea.
But as I spent a fair amount of time thinking about it, and I don’t want to waste my electro-chemical reactions… here’s a shitty half written blog!
Organising my son’s Duplo
The photo below demonstrates the ‘in use’ state. When not in use, the bricks, and the people, animals and themed elements must be separate.
We have two yellow Duplo buckets for this… but as we add to the collection, there’s nearly not enough capacity to keep things separate. 😲
Also, the pesky blue brick with helicopter propellers doesn’t really fit in either category. 😲😲😲
My little kitchen knife
We bought a set of knives from John Lewis a number of years ago (very similar to these) and I have a favourite. The wee fella below is perfect for chopping salad and vegetables and is our go to knife for most things.
It is so light and ergonomic and it just makes me very happy.
Separately eating each element of my dinner
Note how the chilli on the left isn’t entirely obscured by the sour cream and spring onions? I don’t like mixing flavours. But as he spent an hour cooking my birthday dinner I thought I had better acquiesce to his presentation request. In part anyway…
Another example? A rice wall. Whether it is a Chinese or Indian takeaway, do not blend the dishes! You will spoil the flavours! A rice wall please.
Placing our bedroom coasters at a 90º angle
This is essential to my well-being. That’s it.
And the only reason I can cope with Sam’s coaster not matching mine at all times is… at night it is used to obscure the evil blue light emanating from Sam’s mobile charging pad.
It’s my dad’s fault. And be sure hit up my aunt Jeanette for an even better example of Ruffle nutcase behaviour. Just ask her about the swans.
I am at home doing the same things I’ve been doing for 7 weeks, hurrah!
Anyway, I bought myself a cake yesterday so yay. And it is far too big, but it tastes great, so WHO CARES. And it was made by the lovely people at Boulangerie Jade, a local chain for local people. I [used to] frequent the Blackheath Standard branch, and I very much recommend all that they do. Support them if you can!
Below is a photo, woo hoo!
So what have I done with my birthday you ask? I have sorted some washing for the line, done some washing up, and shortly I will be taking the washing off the line and folding said washing. Marvellous.
However, we did go for a pre-nap walk and I took the photo below when the wind briefly calmed down, and the sun came out. The view is looking north towards Severndroog Castle – completely hidden by the luscious greenery, and was taken standing on the foundations of Castle Wood House (torn down in 1922).
We walk this way at least once a week at the moment as we live just opposite. Unfortunately for the husband, there wasn’t much walking from Rafe today, Sam had to carry him most of the way… and he’s getting really heavy now!
And what was my birthday present? It was a meal of my choice!
I went for buffalo wings with celery, carrot and ranch dressing, plus chilli cheese fries. Sam cooked up a storm – he’s such a brilliant cook, and as expected, it was very tasty! And we have chilli leftovers too, woo hoo!
And then we had more cake… we really need a salad tomorrow. 🙈
We found a screw in our back tyre today, so down to the nearest Kwik-Fit we went. And luckily for us, it was a 5 minute walk from the river, so we had a lovely walk while we waited for the tyre change.
It felt like such a treat to see the Thames, and on such a sunny day as well. We used to live about 20 minutes walk from the river, and before Charlton, we lived in East Greenwich for 4 years – lots of riverside walking back then!
The stretch we walked is between the Anchor & Hope pub and the Thames Barrier, and we did a quick-ish loop back to the pub before we found ourselves a quiet spot on a patch of grass by the Sainsbury’s depot. Very salubrious.
We enjoyed listening to a man ranting on his phone about having to wait for his colleague by the depot exit gate. 👍
However, the view was heavenly.
And we now have a fixed tyre and a new lovely memory to keep us positive and upbeat.
As lockdown gives us more time to think, I’ve been thinking about my Dad more than usual – a lovely and a sad topic.
Some of the happiest times we had together were when we listened to music, particularly Billy Joel, but also Chris de Burgh and The Beatles.
I don’t remember us ever really listening to Wings, but I’ve discovered them as an adult through Spotify and their wondrous not Christmassy but definitely Christmassy song Mull of Kintyre.
And then there is Live and Let Die, a song I knew through the Guns N’ Roses cover, and its use in the epically fantastic 1997 John Cusack film Grosse Pointe Blank – listen carefully as the cover morphs into muzak as Blank walks into the Ultimart. Pure class.
Jet, My Love, Let ‘Em In, and of course Band On The Run, have also been hiding somewhere in my subconscious for years because that’s how Paul McCartney works – he’s everywhere (in a good way), but my ultimate favourite at the moment has to be Silly Love Songs.
I’m a complete romantic and I love a good tune. And what a good tune it is. The funky groovy driving and thudding bass – I just love how high in the mix it is, the joyous dancing horns, the violins, the way it slows and speeds up as the song transitions from one section to the next in an entirely natural waltzing way. And of course the lyrics, so entirely happy and merry and delightful. I just love it, it makes me fizz and dance about.
And I love that it was written as a gentle riposte to John Lennon and others for being a bit sneery about McCartney’s music.
Turn it up loud (but not right now as it is 22.23 and I should be going to bed), dance about and give someone a good squeeze and a cuddle after.