Life is busy, therefore the blog is quiet. This is the usual theme. Odd in some ways – I want to write when there’s nothing to report on, and rarely write when there is plenty going on that I could write about. Meh.
So, the husband is going into work twice a week from next week, and this has reminded me of a blog I’ve been wanting to write for a while:
‘The positive aspects of the Coronavirus pandemic’
Eek! Is that entirely contradictory and simultaneously heartless?! Or is it a truthful life statement: two seemingly opposing concepts that are both equally correct?!
Stop pontificating Lara!
Things we have benefitted from since March 2020:
More time together as a family
A lot of extra help with Theodore and Rafe
Legal time with my immediate family during the 2021 winter lockdown
The husband being able to see his children grow in a way we never imagined
Saving money on the commute (no travelcard needed for the spare room)
There, I’ve done it, I’ve said it out loud. There are good things about having the opportunity to work from home and to having more family time together. Shame it comes at a massive fucking cost to society, but no-one could see the future in March 2020. Even Boris and co.
And here are the negatives:
Way too much time together as a family
Slightly excessive drinking because there was nothing else to do
Too much bickering as a couple because we were bored and had too little external input
No living room or carpet March to July 2020 (trust us to renovate just before a lockdown)
No employment for me March to May 2020
No nursery for Rafe March to May 2020
Really missing family and friends
In conclusion, hooray for the office! And nursery! And work! And baby cinema! And the husband being able to buy an overpriced cappuccino and croissant for £7 (!) come Monday.
I’ll miss you when I want a shower whilst looking after two kids, but I won’t miss you enough to make you feel bad about having your time out of the house.
With Lockdown 3 upon us and the last minute U-turn on school closures, it has been a bit of a mentally challenging week. “OMG what is going to happen to nurseries” was my mantra last Sunday and Monday, and luckily the husband hasn’t hit me over the head with an axe for being so stressy about it all.
Whether or not you agree with nurseries and schools being open or closed, it doesn’t change the realities of life for those with children, for those without children who work in education, nor for those who work in education and have children.
I’ve been tentatively making friends with the mum of my son’s best friend at nursery, and as a teacher in one school, with an older child in another school, and the best friend at nursery, talking to her makes me incredibly sympathetic to the constant mental strain our educators are under.
And whilst it is just one area of strain in our society, and perhaps not as critical as our healthcare sector, I’d be loathe to minimise or criticise anyone for speaking out about their professional and personal concerns – even if I really want them to say it is all sunshine and daisies and buttercups.
As for me, well, we got through the first week of nursery after Christmas, and we have one more week to go before the husband’s current contract ends. Worst case scenario right now? Nurseries are shut (bar key workers) Monday and I have to try and juggle work and Rafe for two days. That’s fairly tame.
And why does any of this matter or stress me so? Well, I’m pregnant and ready to pop come the 27th of January, so the idea of managing a newborn and a 2 year and 9 month old child with no nursery fills me with a bit of terror and dread!
Then my wonderful and adorable husband Sam tries to reassure me with the fact he has no work after next week, so can look after Rafe while I work for a few more weeks, and then will definitely be around to hit the ground running with Rafe for whenever I pop! And we get to have a support bubble for when he does get a new contract!
Lovely! Let’s just ignore the fact that we are going from a 1.5 income household to a no income household! Woop de do!
BUT. We have savings because we are boring and responsible, and because that’s what you should do when you have a mortgage and two children (nearly). So it is all FINE. IT’S FINE. FINE. FINE. FINE. Blah blah blah.
Oh that feels better.
I think there is a definite correlation between why I’ve not blogged since the end of Lockdown 1 and the start of Lockdown 3… LOLz.
Anyway, on a less whiny note, let’s share a few photos of the fun things we did do in 2020, and let’s repeat a better mantra ad infinitum:
Self education is key, and I found the process of writing about historical conflicts and events a useful way to process the somewhat overwhelming sense of uselessness I initially felt. Which is obviously a very lucky position to be. I get to feel, others just die.
But, to keep my brain more uplifted, I’ve also spent time getting excited about Rafe Going Back to Nursery. And this is something to rejoice in. And rejoice I have.
Today was his third week back, and he’s just having a ball. He’s getting covered in paint every day, spending time with other children, and picking up a ton of new phrases every week. It is amazing.
I’m so grateful that his nursery have opened their doors to the children of non-key workers, and I’m so happy that they seem to be doing okay after having to furlough a number of their staff.
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… ?
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!
Post-work walk for the 3 of us through a bit of wood between Severndroog Castle and Eltham Common. I discovered it last week with Rafe, and the wood has lots of open space with various paths snaking through leaf covered ground. Gorgeous.
Searched for a BBC Good Food cabbage recipe for dinner to ensure we were eating our fresh fruit and veg delivery in the right order. Haricot beans substituted for cannellini with no negative consequences. Husband even approved, and was actually impressed with my research and implementation
Breakfast was my first ever frittata: ham and mushroom with Comte on top. Yum! Feels a bit excessive using 4 eggs at a time, so I might hold off on making any more for a while
Rang my 96 year old aunt, she’s fine and hasn’t fallen over again… while walking in her flat… ?
Another friend left Rafe’s birthday present outside the house, he is now the proud owner of a bright orange lobster bath towel, it has sticky up eyes and everything. Fabulous!
A chilled day where the main activity was water play in the clothes basket. Couldn’t be arsed to get the big swimming pool out, and I completely forgot about the little one we were given last year. Woops!
Caught up with aunt 3 of 5 too. She is also known as Yvonne.
Spoke to another friend for the first time in forever. Her, her husband, and her son have all had a really crap run of non-Corona illnesses, and they are finally nearly through it all. On top of running a business from home! So good to catch up with her! ❤️
Julie from my chamber choir rang for our first video call, we sit next to each other in rehearsals and she’s such a fun and cheery sort to sing and chat with. She’s also really experienced at sight singing – which I’m also a big fan of!
(then) Rafe napped for 2 hours and 40 minutes! Marvellous!
Prepped Tom Kerridge’s ‘Short ribs with horseradish dumplings’ from Best Ever Dishes. I’m not doing the dumplings as we have fresh veg that needs working through, but I had great fun sorting the rub. It is wonderful having more time to cook, and to be able actually enjoy the process. A lot of the time you just feel like it is an endless cycle of prep, cook, eat, wash up*. Obviously this is nothing new, but it is definitely more YAWN at the moment.
Dinner was tagliatelle bolognese with a vat load of carrots, celery and mushrooms. Sam is a bolognese purist (or fascist) and usually just whines about my bolognese – but even he just ate the bloody thing this time. Thanks to HG Walter for more excellent MEAT.
Special Rafe Update
We’ve been talking to Rafe about a move from his ‘little boy bed’ (the travel cot he’s been in since he was 5 months old), to his ‘big boy bed’ for a few weeks now, and he’s been using a duvet instead of a sleeping bag with no complaint for the same amount of time.
On Monday I asked him which bed he wanted to sleep in, and he pointed to his proper bed and said “bed” – weeeeeee!!!!! OMG! Amazing! Fandabidozi! Etc.
We laid him down, tucked him in and said good night as usual.
He slept through!
And then has done for the past five nights!
He slept in his bed all the way through til 5.30am, 6.15am and 6.30am 3 times. And then woke at 11pm-ish on 2 nights and then came into our bed til 6.15.am and 6.30am.
It’s a work in progress… but I’m still so impressed with him! Love him! ❤️
Inspired by Alistair Campbell’s recent feature in The New European, here are my ’20 Things I’m Missing During Lockdown’ – listed in priority order per the rules. Mine are a mix of existential and tangible, but all sorely missed.
The excitement of researching, planning and booking trips. This really is my favourite thing of all time, and the husband will definitely confirm this to be true. Usually I am mentally planning the next thing while on the current expedition, so to have no plans is quite unbearable. And to have no clue when we can visit another country again is quite vile. We are really hoping that our fishing trip to Ross-on-Wye in July can go ahead. ?
Meals out. Not that we regularly go out for super grand meals now we have a Rafe, but even Nandos is out of the question – the perfect place to relax and eat while the child noshes his way through a giant corn on the cob. Also missing Rosa’s Thai, The Old Cottage Coffee Shop, Boulangerie Jade at Blackheath Standard, and McDonalds (obviously). Instead, I shall cast my mind back to the pre-Rafe days of fancy hotel restaurants, and weekends away spending lots and lots at swanky Michelin star eateries.
Nights out / Date nights. Not the food per se (that has its own category duh), just the act of getting ready to go out, not being with our son, being free for a bit. We used to go out a lot with my in-laws, and now they are our main babysitter, we do that rarely. We were quite lucky to see Paul Carrack at The London Palladium with them just before everything closed. Just like old times. ❤️
Driving to places new. I learnt to drive in 2015 and I absolutely love it. I love driving in France, I love discovering new parts of our nation, I love driving on motorways, I love listening to music and podcasts in the car, I love escaping somewhere with the family. It is the best. But right now, I feel guilty driving to Catford where my aunt lives to drop things off for her, and it is only 4 miles away! I keep waiting for the police to pull me over and tell me off, but then I remind myself that they have better things to do… but I am trying to stick to the speed limits a little more carefully now…
My mother and father in law. Some people reading this might be aware that both my parents are dead, and as such, I am particularly close to my in-laws in a way that might not have happened if my parents were about. So, we really miss them, we really do! And Rafe absolutely adores them, and they him. My husband is also super close with his parents – it is so lovely to see. I was very close with my Dad, but he was such a different character to Sam’s parents, so I have such a different but equally wonderful relationship with them. Waaaaaaaaaah, stupid lockdown!
My aunts. I have 5 aunts, and I’m quite close to 2 of them. My aunt Jeanette is particularly in love with Rafe and is missing him oodles, and I am missing her. Jeanette helped raise me during the school holidays along with my nan, her mum Brenda and we’ve been making a big effort since her early retirement and my pregnancy to see each other every 6 weeks or so. Luckily my aunt and uncle sneaked in a previously delayed visit (due to Storm Ciara) the day before lockdown – hopefully we will all meet again soon. My aunt Yvonne is my only local aunt, and it has been lovely to say hello when dropping things off at her front door. My dad’s job took us out of London when I was 5 and we lost touch for a while, but I spent about 10 Christmases in a row at her house until I met Sam when I was 24. She’s also a big part of my life, and I’m so happy that we get to see each other nearly every Monday as she finally joined my choir (after a good prodding) 5 or 6 years ago.
My friends. I’ve never had a huge group of friends, but I have 6 or so good friends I can definitely rely on if needed. I’ve made 3 of them since having Rafe, and it is really wonderful to keep making friends the older I get, and the extended network of partners and children is fantastic. I’m also pretty lucky that the 3 friends and their children all love spending time with my son (and hopefully me ?).
Singing. I’ve already written about this in detail, but bloody hell I miss it. The neighbours were treated to some very loud singing along to Kate Bush last week. Lucky them. And thank you to Julie and Cinzia from my chamber choir for their little notes about what they are doing, and how they are missing choir and me (!). ❤️
The structure of life. I need structure. I needs it hobbits! Hence the blog… some sort of mental structure if no actual structure bar cleaning, feeding, dressing and playing with the child.
Being near people. Not at the top of the list because I do like my own space, but this is too much! I miss people. I miss the buzz of a pub or restaurant. I miss Rafe meeting random children and having a chat. Ho hum.
Pubs. Not that I’m getting pissed every five seconds, but I do love a good pub. Especially since the smoking ban. It was a fair bit smoky and smelly at university, but whiling away time in a pub is wonderful. I went to a pub with my friend Rebecca in February and the child slept for 2.5 hours, it was amazing. So much lunchtime chat.
Central London. Man it is the best. Getting a tube, a bus, a train, a whatever. Pootling about seeing the sights, going down to the river, getting some lunch, taking Rafe somewhere fun, occasional nights out. Love it so much. Really really glad I moved back here in 2007! The last time I was down by the Thames was in February, I popped up on the train for lunch at Rosa’s Thai while he napped, and then we saw the water fountains by City Hall, and looked at Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. It was beautiful, sunny and cold, and he had a lovely run about. I’m so excited that he will get to experience all that London has to offer the older he gets. Miss you!
Canary Wharf. I love buildings, I really really do, and there is something simply magnificent about walking about the place, and seeing new and old rubbing up alongside each other. Alternatively, get on the DLR at Lewisham or Greenwich and snake your way up the Isle of Dogs to any one of the stations cutting through the middle of the area. Pre-Rafe we loved a cheeky trip to Canary Wharf for a drink or dinner, and although that has changed, we now visit for completely different but equally wonderful things. One of my favourite days out with Rafe is the Crossrail Place Roof Garden followed by Mudlarks’ sessions at the Museum of London Docklands. During his nap (long may it last), I get a wicked lunch out somewhere overpriced and fabulous, and he gets a super fun day out on the bus, the DLR and Canary Wharf itself. Heavenly!
The local playground and other activities. I’m pretty lucky to live opposite Oxleas Woods where there is plenty of opportunity for exercise and a good run about for Rafe, but I do miss his usual haunts quite a lot. We had the local playground, or the one in Greenwich Park, which has loads of water and sand play and is super awesome. There was the soft play at Sutcliffe Park Sports Centre, and the ‘hard play’ at Ahoy! and Mudlarks. They really provide so much fun and a lot of interaction with other children – I’m sad for him! But also lucky he’s only 2! I’ll be back at all with a vengeance as soon as I can.
Music class. We’ve been going to music classes at Charlton House since Rafe was 7 weeks old and I’m a big big fan. I’ve written about this in more detail on The Charlton Champion, but it was a great way to get out of the house and meet new people in the early days of the new mum haze. I’ve made actual proper friends through the class as well. AMAZING. And now we don’t live in Charlton, I super miss Charlton Park as well as the regular Monday routine.
Nursery. I originally wanted him to start at 1, but I just didn’t want to let him go. ? By the time he was 18 months I was ready, and I could see that he was running and charging about enough to have a lot of fun in a new environment. Also, most of my mum friends had gone back to work so making mum dates was getting harder. We pushed it back a few months as Sam took a break from work to be a full time Dad (I went to work instead), and we started settling in sessions just before Christmas. This was again delayed slightly due to pesky hand, foot and mouth, but by the end of February he was really happy to be going 2 days a week, and he did not give one shit about us once he was at the nursery door. Sometimes he comes home covered in paint, it is brilliant, and I bloody miss it.
Swimming class. We started swimming at 2 months as I had this bee in my bonnet about wanting him to learn to swim as soon as possible. It is ace, absolutely ace. I love ducking him underwater, I love him learning all the different techniques – even if he hates some of them, and I love being in front of him as he jumps in the pool at the beginning of the class. Half the kids do a standing leap from the side, but Mr Sensible always sits down first – here’s hoping for some nutty behaviour WHENEVER WE GET TO SWIM AGAIN.?
Commuting. It took me about an hour and twenty minutes to get to work before the Corona, and in that time I could get through an entire podcast, or even two a day if I really wanted to push the boat out! I could also use my laptop to do work or life admin during the 35 minute bus trip to/from the tube, and in the morning I would have a KeepCup cuppa too – exciting times! The ‘me’ time twice a week was excellent and I miss it. Hopefully another job will come to me soon, and at some point in time I will be enjoying a bus and tube ride to town again.
Work. I went on maternity leave in March 2018 and went back to work in October 2019. I did and didn’t miss work, but I was ready to be something other than Rafe’s mum. I was proud of my earnings, and I miss financially contributing to the household. It has taken me a little while to get used to being a full time mum again, but we’ve settled into a routine now, and it feels good using this blog to mentally structure myself.
My living room. A very ‘woe is me’ final point… we started re-doing our living room in February, and we had nearly everything done before lockdown. The final puzzle piece was a carpet order, and we took a gamble on the 12th of March as there was a 30% discount offer expiring that day. The gamble did not work out. No carpet = no living room. Grumble grumble grumble.
And if you made it this far… here is a picture of us in town.