Thursday, 21 January 2021

A Sunset Walk

I am getting better about being organised with my time and pacing myself, and have got through all my work this week quite efficiently. I now have a three day weekend to look forward to. I have kept up with my yoga challenge and I am now past the half-way point - 12 days done out of 21. The afternoons are starting to get lighter, and today we didn't go out for our walk until 4pm. On our way back I was able to get some good sunset pictures. 

Yesterday afternoon I was feeling generally grumpy about what is beginning to feel like never-ending lockdowns, and realised that in large part it is the lack of anything specific to look forward to. Usually we have a holiday planned and some social events on the calendar, but for now it just isn't worth planning anything. In theory we do have holidays booked but I don't think the chances of them actually happening are very good - two have already been postponed once, and the other was booked before the pandemic. Maybe  our weekend at Disneyland Paris which has  been postponed from February to September will happen. There have already been too many disappointments over the last year to want to line up any more. M suggested that as we can't go out and do anything other than walk, we should look for small treats to cheer me up from the coronavirus blues - so yesterday I ordered some posh chocolate from Hotel Chocolat, and today we did a click and collect order from Caffe Nero for coffees and / or cakes according to everyone's preference. A gingerbread latte while I worked definitely perked up my afternoon. 

I have put together an alternative outline for my book-in-progress, though whether I can make it work, I am not sure. I have also been playing around with some genealogy, researching the families of my adoptive grandparents. I started to do this a few years ago but didn't write much down, so I am effectively starting from scratch. Yesterday evening was Zoom band practice, and I am nearly through my book about a World War I hospital in London that was run entirely by women. All in all quite a productive few days, though I still keep complaining that there isn't enough time in the day to do everything I want to do.  

Monday, 18 January 2021

Monday Flowers

Another busy work day today for all of us. M finished at lunchtime and went out to the local shop to buy bread and milk. He also picked up a cheap bunch of crysanthamums to fill a gap in the living room. The large poinsettia I bought back in November had been sitting on this table, and since the plant wilted and died it has looked rather bare. I can't remember whether I mentioned before that after Christmas I decided we needed new vases. I eventually realised that the reason flowers somehow always looked disappointing was because for years I had been shoving them into vases that were just the wrong shape. This one allows the flowers to spread out and gives them much more water to drink and makes it look as though my flower arranging skills are less pathetic! As they were very reasonably priced I bought the same vase in two sizes: this large one and a smaller one which will be nice for things like daffodils. M and I like the simple glass, though H thinks it is too plain. The flowers are really brightening up this corner. 

After lunch we went for a 30 minute walk, and when I finished work I did a 25 minute yoga class. It would have been a longer one, but the broadband was not cooperating and it kept freezing so I had to switch to another class on You Tube. While we walked we were talking about how impressed we are with home working and home schooling is going, and with the way everyone just gets up and on with their work in the mornings. You would expect it with H, but for a 14 year old TG really is very self-contained and self-motivated. Partly her own personality, and partly following H's example, we think. She gets herself up with plenty of time to start her day with an espresso (she likes strong coffee!) and breakfast, works through her online school day without any fuss or input from us, makes her own lunch, and generally functions more like a young adult than a young teen. Definitely a strong independent streak there, though perhaps not quite as extreme as her eldest sister who at two declared "I do it mine self! I do everything mine self!" and never looked back. 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Rest, Renew and Restore

Rest, renew and restore ... that was the name of tonight's yoga class, but also sums up this weekend. I caught up on sleep - a blissful nine hours each night - and I will be starting work tomorrow feeling much more ready for a run of busy days than I did last week. I am now eight days into my 21 day yoga challenge and loving it. The classes are varied, and today's restful class was a lovely way to end the weekend, including 30 minutes of yoga "sleep". 

Yesterday was another of the grey, damp days, but it brightened up this morning so after I had tackled some band finance stuff (I managed to get the end of year accounts to balance. Woo hoo!) we went for a walk around the lake. When we got home H went out to meet her BF for a walk, wearing my hiking boots as she doesn't have any of her own and is fed up of trying to get mud off trainers. 

Yesterday evening we had a video chat with some old friends, and M had a call with another friend while I was doing my yoga today. We also watched some light TV as a family - The Masked Singer yesterday and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire today - and I have read, knitted and crocheted. Between us H and I cooked roast potatoes and yorkies for dinner to go with the last of the frozen turkey leftovers from Christmas. 

As well as resting and relaxing I did a bit more research and writing. It still surprises me how often a bit of judicious digging through Ancestry, the newspaper archive and other oddments on the internet throws up answers to questions. I have no idea yet of what this attempt at a book will look like. I am working on a draft which is just a chronological account of the lives of the women I am researching, but I feel that there will be a more interesting and readable way to tackle it once I have got the outline of the story down. My current plan is just to work through to the end of the chronological draft, read through it a couple of times and see what better plan, if any, jumps out at me. Goodness knows how long it will take even to get to that stage. I am still only on Chapter 3 of what my current outline expects to be 12 chapters, and while I am still working two paid part-time jobs it isn't going to progress very fast. I also have another writing project I should be working on which has been sadly ignored - one which I know will actually be published when it is eventually finished it as it is for the local historical society. I may be doing things badly out of order, but I am hopelessly distracted by my Edwardian ladies and their war time adventures. 

Friday, 15 January 2021

Friends on Friday

I finished a freelance job yesterday, so today was a free day. In what made a wonderful change from the isolation of the last few weeks M and I met up with friends for a walk this morning. We are allowed to meet with one person from outside our household for outdoor exercise, so as we were two couples we split up into two pairs - I walked with one friend, while M and her husband followed us 50 yards or so behind. We went to the local country park which, inevitably at the moment, was damp, but because it is sandy soil the mud wasn't too bad. The final path we took was more of a stream than a path, but nothing we couldn't handle with boots on.

We walked round one part of the country park, then up to another section where there is a lake, which was looking very full and very brown. This is an artificial lake, constructed when the park belonged to a large country house, so it isn't very deep. I think all the rain had churned up a lot of silt. Past the lake, near the entrance to the park is a takeaway cafe which was open, so we stopped for a coffee and bacon rolls, with a burger for M who doesn't eat pork products. We then sat down at picnic tables several yards apart, but near enough to chat across the gap. Hot coffee and rolls was a true luxury after a cold January walk, and the combination of seeing friends with an unexpected outdoor lunch was a treat after so much isolation. 

This afternoon I did a bit of research and writing, followed by a yoga stretch class. I managed to find a sibling of one of the women I am researching who I had lost somewhere in the early 20th century - thanks to a newspaper mention I discovered she had married again after a divorce. I subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive which is a fantastic resource; it has often both solved mysteries and found unexpected treasures for me. I was hoping to spend quite a bit more time on this project next week, but a new job came in this afternoon which will keep me busy for the next three weeks. I'm still hoping to be able to keep one weekday and the weekend free. Working four days rather than five still feels part time, though it's not quite the leisurely semi-retirement I was expecting when I dropped my archive hours down to two days a week four years ago. At the time we didn't imagine that we would get offered so much freelance work, and the pandemic doesn't seem to have affected it at all. It is unpredictable though - we can have a run of busy weeks followed by a slack spell, which can make it difficult to get our work-life balance right. 

H has been on a team working on a job which had a major deadline today. She was expecting it could be a long day but they finished by mid-afternoon so she was given the rest of the day off and took herself out for a walk. The day ended with a Chinese meal and a glass of red wine - we are back to our lockdown habit of a weekly takeaway. Another week done, and the Covid news is looking better. The case numbers are slowly starting to fall, and our local vaccination centre opened yesterday at the rugby club in town. I'm hoping that if everything goes to plan in a few weeks it will be my turn for my first jab. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Raindrops and Roses (or Pot Plants)

It has got a bit warmer this week, but today was wet and miserable. Despite that M and I managed a walk this afternoon, but it was more a duty than a pleasure! I got started reasonably early this morning and managed to get my chunk of freelance work for the day done by lunchtime, then I read for a while this afternoon - I am now reading a history of a hospital in London during the First World War which was run entirely by women. I am always interested in anything about women in the medical services as I am researching and writing the story of three women who served as ambulance drivers and medical orderlies in France, Belgium and Serbia during the War.  

Talking of medical things, H phoned 111 this morning and was given a list of dentists to phone. She spoke to one and has been given an appointment with a local dentist next week, but the jaw pain seems to be easing a bit. M went out to M & S Food to pick up a pair of pyjamas he had ordered online - our store is food only, but they also operate a free click and collect service for other M & S products, which is very handy. I asked him to look for a pot plant while he was there to replace the large poinsettia we bought a few weeks ago which was dying. After showing me all the plants by FaceTime and much discussion, we ended up with a very small cyclamen that looked lost in the living room so has gone to live on the kitchen windowsill instead. He also had video chats with friends at lunchtime and again in the late afternoon. TG had Zoom dance and I had Zoom band this evening. After three days of yoga which was quite tough today's is a gentle wind down session, which I plan to do before going to bed. All in all a comfortably routine sort of day. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Learning Lessons

I only went for a short walk yesterday and none at all today, so no pictures to post today. I am three days in to my 21 day yoga challenge and hoping that this might be the worst day for aches and pains! I have definitely been using muscles that are unaccustomed to exercise. So far I am enjoying it. I like the live classes, knowing that other people are doing the same thing at the same time is companionable, even though I can't see or hear them. I like the teachers, and I like the variety of the challenge with different daily activities and classes, which is definitely motivating me. On the other hand, I don't like the aches and cramps which remind me that at I am at an age where if muscles aren't exercised they get very, very unhappy. I also don't like that I sometimes have to give in and take a rest, but ... slowly, slowly! Charging into it full tilt, overdoing it and giving up is not the way to go. 

I am adjusting to working full days on Mondays and Tuesdays. Yesterday was not good. It was cold and I was tired and wanted to hibernate, so I stayed in pyjamas and worked tucked up under blankets on the bed. Apart from a couple of short breaks I worked for six hours straight, working through lunch which M kindly bought me. Then I showered and dressed and was in a very bad mood. Tired, muzzy headed and thoroughly grumpy. We went for a walk and poor M had to tolerate a ten minute tirade on everything that was WRONG. Then the fresh air cleared my head, I got it out of my system and felt better. I came back and finished the day without further grumpiness, and loved doing my yoga challenge between finishing work and cooking dinner. Today was much better. A little late getting up and showered and ready to start, but I balanced the day much better with a proper lunch break, and another break mid-afternoon to prepare a beef stew and put it in the oven to cook slowly. I finished in time to do a one hour live yoga class at 6, and the dinner was ready to eat as soon as I finished. 

So, lessons learned this week (so far):
  • Regular yoga is good, even when it hurts. 
  • Working in pyjamas is bad.
  • Not taking breaks is bad.
  • Exercise to wind down after finishing work is good. 
You would think I would have learned these lessons long ago, but time management and self discipline are not my strong points. 

Not much else has happened over the past couple of days. The Covid news is mixed. Numbers of deaths are horribly high, but the number of cases seems now to be coming down and vaccinations have kicked up a gear. Our local health care trust has now set up a vaccine hub at the rugby club in town, which started operating yesterday. Poor H is suffering from a painful jaw. She doesn't think it is toothache, and may be related to a nasty mouth ulcer. I think she is planning to phone the 111 service tomorrow to see if they can sort out either a medical or dental appointment for her. I suspect she may need antibiotics. 

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Word for 2021: Slow

I like the idea of picking a word at the beginning of the year as a focus for changes I need to make. It is less specific than new year resolutions, more of a guideline than an instruction. I don't by any means do this every year; even when I do I may forget about it by the end of January, but I still like the idea. Last year I decided my word would be Rest. I felt over-tired and over-stretched and, well ... in need of a rest! Let's just say I got rather more than I bargained for, between a nasty non-Covid virus (I got ill on 1st January, so too early for Covid), a long post-viral recovery, and the pandemic. There was far more Rest in 2020 than there had been in several previous years put together. Unfortunately, despite the amount of rest, the virus I had means my energy levels still feel lower than they should be and tend to wilt quickly if I overdo things. 

I have decided that this year's word is going to be Slow. It popped into my head unbidden and after a bit of pondering I realised it had a lot to teach me ... 

  • Pace myself - take things more slowly so that I don't drain my energy levels. This includes getting plenty of sleep.
  • Don't rush - I am a terrible time manager. I waste time, and then end up chasing my tail. It is stressful for both myself and the rest of the family. It also works the other way - my competitive streak (vs myself!) kicks in and I try to do things quickly just for the fun of it, but then I run out of steam and end up getting less done. The story of the tortoise and the hare has a lot to teach me. Instead of rushing, I want to take things slowly.
  • Take time to savour the little things - slowing down gives time to be more aware and appreciative of the good things in life. 
  • Accept that for at least the first part of the year life will have a naturally slower pace, and treat this as a positive rather than a negative. 
I talked this through with M on one of our walks, and I'm sure I came up with more points which I have now forgotten, but I think this covers the basics. 

After talking about going more slowly and pacing myself, today had been very active! I started the 21 days of yoga challenge with a one hour live online class at 9 this morning. I am out of practice and out of condition, and it has left me feeling tired for the rest of the day, though not too tired to do some other physical things. Later in the morning we took down the tree and Christmas decorations, then M and I went for a short walk in the afternoon. According to my Watch I burned over 800 active calories today. I was glad that H cooked dinner, which tasted as good as it looked. 

I am seven stripes in to my crocheted blanket. The photo was taken in the evening with electric light, and it looks a little darker and more yellow than it does in real life. The Meadow blanket is inspired by the colours of a wild flower meadow in spring, with slightly muted yellows, mauves, pinks and greens, and with blues for the sky. There is a "colour story" version with the flower and grass colours at the bottom merging gradually into the sky colours at the top, but I am making a mixed stripe version with the colours more randomly distributed. As well as making progress with the crochet I have made a good start on my third book of the year, an autobiographical account of life as the doctor on a remote Scottish island in the Orkneys. I have a longing to visit both Orkney and Shetland when travel becomes possible again. For some reason I am feeling very much drawn to the north and my travel wishlist also includes Finland, Norway and Iceland. I would love to make it up to the Arctic Circle!