Sunday, 11 April 2021

Spring? Or Winter?

Another day of April weather channelling January. We had arranged for our neighbours and former neighbours to come round for tea in the garden this afternoon, and the forecast suggested it would be cold but probably dry. It wasn't far wrong, but what it didn't predict was that it would keep trying to snow! We were well wrapped up, and when it wasn't snowing and we were sitting in the sun it was almost pleasant. It was lovely to catch up with everyone, despite the cold. We fortified ourselves with Prosecco, scones, Victoria sponge and apple cake - I made the scones, and the others brought the cakes - and warmed up with hot drinks. At about 4.30 it made more determined efforts to snow, at which point we broke the rules and sat indoors with the door open. As our district of nearly 300,000 people had only two people test positive for Covid yesterday and we have all had at least one dose of vaccine, I don't think we were taking too much of a risk. 

After our friends left I made cauliflower soup to use up two cauliflowers that had accumulated from our fruit and veg box. I then watched a live talk by TV historian Michael Wood about Aethelflaed, Anglo-Saxon Queen of Mercia in the 10th century, which was part of an online history festival the British Library has been running this weekend. This morning I did some menu planning and updated the online grocery order, and M and I went out for a walk. In amongst things I have also been puttering about with genealogy.  

Saturday, 10 April 2021

RIP Prince Philip

Yesterday saw the end of an era with the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. He was in hospital for a few weeks early this year and looked very frail when he was discharged so it didn't come as a shock. Of course, I feel desperately sorry for the Queen, who has lost her husband after no less than 73 years of marriage, but to die at home at a great age (two months short of his 100th birthday), having led an incredibly full life and remained in generally good health well into his nineties, seems to me more of a blessing than a matter of regret. What a hard role he took on as consort to a reigning monarch, a role he had to largely invent for himself. The Duke of Edinburgh awards that he set up to encourage young people to stretch themselves and develop skills and confidence while also contributing to their community are an extraordinary legacy. According to Wikipedia the award programme is now offered in no less than 144 countries. Rest in peace, Prince Philip.

We ventured back into the local woods today for the first time since we struggled round in ankle deep mud which nearly defeated our wellies several weeks ago, and all the mud has dried out. Green is just beginning to show through on the trees, and there are carpets of green which in a couple of weeks will be flowering bluebells. We headed down to the canal and past the canal side pub which will be reopening (outdoors only) on Monday. It was good to see it with flowers in the hanging baskets and tables ready to welcome customers. Everything looks so very much more optimistic now. Covid cases are low, vaccines are happening (primarily 2nd doses at the moment), and reopening shops and outdoor hospitality seems sensible and reasonable. Only another few weeks and it will be time for indoor hospitality and indoor socialising. 

I have made two bookings for Monday for things which have not been possible since last year. M and I have booked to go swimming in the morning as the pool will be reopening; then in the afternoon I am taking TG to get her first pair of pointe shoes for ballet. I used to take her sisters to Northampton to buy pointe shoes, but a shop has opened more locally which has a good reputation for careful fitting. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get an appointment for the day the shop reopens. It means TG will have the shoes in time for her next class. She is looking forward to being able to go back to dancing in the studio again next week. Her dance school has done a great job of keeping classes going by Zoom, but it isn't the same. 

I don't know when this wooden man appeared beside the canal tow path, but today was the first time I noticed him. I am an unobservant person in many ways, but I am surprisingly good at spotting things while walking, so I think it can't have been there long. 

I didn't write a blog post yesterday as I got distracted exploring Scrivener writing software. I have downloaded a 30 day free trial but have already decided that I will buy the full version as it will make writing projects massively easier. To try it out I have set up a project in Scrivener to keep my family history writing and notes together - it is so much easier to see what I have (and haven't!) done, and it has a facility to easily split the working space into two separate documents so that I can have notes open for reference alongside the section I am writing and switch easily between different documents. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Rest and Recuperation

Seeing these photos from Stowe yesterday I realise that although the trees are not in leaf yet the grass is looking green and springlike. The ground is drying out now, so it was lovely to be able to walk without doing battle with any mud. 

I was delighted to get an email from H today to say that she now has wi-fi at home. That will make their lives very much easier, and means she can now go back to working from home. Her dining chairs also turned up after Yodel took them on various unscheduled journeys. As a new build house built on what was previously a field her postcode isn't yet recognised by sat navs, so getting things delivered is an issue. On their first attempt to deliver Yodel failed to find the address (despite H adding a note on their tracking app with specific instructions); at the second attempt she got a notification that the chairs had been delivered, but no chairs; clearly they had not actually been delivered as they turned up on the third attempt!

I have had a very lazy day today. I spent some time reading and knitting, and some playing around with some genealogy research. We went out for a local walk this afternoon, so at least I got a bit of exercise in. From next week life will start to get busier and more "normal" (though it is now hard to remember what normal is!) so having a calm, restful week now to rebuild my energy is just what I need.

Before the pandemic started R gave us a hotel break voucher for a night away with breakfast and dinner, which we ended up not being able to use last year. The voucher has been extended, so today we booked to go to a hotel in the Cotswolds near Banbury for the end of June. TG will go and stay with R, which always makes her happy as she gets lots of doggy play time. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

In Memoriam

I had a productive morning today. I read for a while, then sorted out my tax return for last year. As the tax year ends on the 5th April, getting the return submitted on the 7th was impressively good going, I thought. For once I even got mine done before super-efficient M. To be fair, it is straightforward enough - I keep a running total of freelance income for the year and the employed income figure was on my last pay slip - but it still somehow seems to take more mental energy than it deserves. Being able to complete and submit the return online makes it much easier in my opinion, though M disagrees and is much happier filling in the paper form. Each to their own! HMRC now owe me a refund for overpaid tax on account, so it was a particularly satisfactory exercise. To celebrate TG and I watched the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; we then watched the second part this evening, completing our Harry Potter movie binge. 

This afternoon M and I went to Stowe Gardens for the first time since before the lockdown and did a 5 mile walk around the grounds. The Friends of Stowe House had a little takeaway cafe open just behind these steps, and we tried to resist but failed. We ended up sitting on the steps sharing a scone with jam and cream and warming up with a cup of tea. The snow had gone but it was still definitely on the chilly side. I'll post more photos later in the week. For now I want to talk about this one ... 

M decided to participate in a yellow candle project to remember individual victims of the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) which falls on April 7th. Everyone taking part was sent the name of someone who perished along with a candle to light in remembrance of that individual. The name he received was a little girl who died in the Minsk Ghetto, Lyuba Konatopski. I put my research skills to work and was able to discover that she died along with her older sister Vera and her mother Sonya. Her brother, and possibly her father, survived. There are multiple records for her on the Yad Vashem list of Holocaust victims, and it seems more likely that she was born in 1938 and died in 1941, so was actually only three years old when she died, not six as it says on the card. After the Germans captured Minsk, the capital of what was then the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, in the summer of 1941, a total of over 80,000 people were confined to the Ghetto, where they were subjected to repeated killing raids. It seems likely that Lyuba and her family died in one of the earlier massacres. Minsk now has a memorial to its lost Jewish citizens on the site where 5000 people (including many children) were shot in March 1942. 

May her soul, and the souls of her mother and sister, rest in peace. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Confused Weather!

I have this week off work, which has worked out nicely as I have been able to have a very lazy and restful day, reading, knitting and watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with TG. We should have been in Cornwall this week on a trip postponed from last April, but it has now been put back again until April 2022. Given the change in the weather this may not be a bad thing! M and I went out for a short walk this afternoon  and as we headed home it started to snow a little. Later this afternoon we had this ... 

It is hard to believe that two days ago we were sitting out in the garden enjoying the sun, and that last week we had one of the warmest March days we have ever had. 

I signed up for occasional packages from a craft gin club back in January when the lockdown and pandemic were getting to me and M decided I needed some treats to cheer me up. The second package arrived today, so I sampled the new gin this evening. It was made in Provence with local botanicals, so a good choice for spring. It's just a shame spring had gone missing in action! I drank the gin with posh tonic, garnished with dried orange and rosebuds, which all came in the box. And very nice it was too! 

TG had an extra Zoom dance class tonight, as she is preparing for a modern dance exam next month. A new thing since the older girls were at this stage is that she has a unique learner number issued through her school, and by adding this number to her exam entry the result gets added to her learning record. She will be doing Grade 5 this time, which doesn't give any formal credit, but once she gets to Grade 6 it will earn her extra UCAS (university admission assessment) points. 

Monday, 5 April 2021

Thinking about Routines

Bleugh! I think I may have spent too long sitting out in the cold on Saturday with my friends, with not quite enough layers on, and I am now paying for it with a sore throat, tight chest and general under-the-weatherness. I also tend to get this sort of thing when I relax after being busy or stressed - annoying as it means it is not unusual for it to happen when I go on holiday - so it could also be down to "breathing out" after H's house move. It intrigues me that people's bodies react so differently to stresses. M's weak points are always his back and his stomach; mine my throat and chest. My mother always said that it was only after having measles when I was six that I became prone to chest infections and tonsillitis (until I later had my tonsils removed). A couple of years ago research was published showing that measles does severe damage to the immune system, so it seems her observations actually fit with the scientific evidence. 

After yesterday's beautiful spring day there were gales overnight and snow flurries this morning. This is why the British always talk about the weather. We get very little extreme weather, it is just so changeable and unpredictable. Plus - according to the book I am reading - it is a handy topic which allows us to get over the awkwardness of not knowing how to open conversations! On the subject of national characteristics - is it a peculiarly English thing to routinely find oneself saying please and thank you to Alexa or Siri? 

For years I have used an app called Trello to organise various aspects of my life. It works with "cards" arranged in columns on "boards", which can be moved around easily to adjust priorities, set target dates, show what is done and what is outstanding, and so on. I use it consistently for my archive work, as it helps me to keep track of what I am doing and what I need to do next - essential when I only work two days a week, as otherwise I would just forget everything during the following five days! I also use it for various personal things, though less consistently. I have a board called Life Stuff which I use rather erratically, but which is a useful catch-all for things I want to do and general thoughts about habits and priorities. 

Looking at my Life Stuff board this weekend I found a four year old snapshot of a spreadsheet where I had planned out an ideal morning routine. I realised that the things I had put into this routine were still things I want to be priorities, so I did a revised version. It is rather more complicated than the original plan as I will be going in to the office on Monday and Tuesday of alternate weeks, and TG needs dropping at school early on Tuesday's and Thursdays for French classes. With small variations to fit round the school runs, the plan is to set aside 90 minutes in the morning to start my day with some quiet reading time, followed by yoga, a shower and a more leisurely breakfast. It will mean getting up a bit earlier - always a challenge for me as I am definitely not a morning person - but if I can make it work I know it would feel as though I have made a really positive start to the day. I may experiment a bit over the next few days, but won't start trying to put it into practice properly until TG goes back to school next week. 

Despite the cold and feeling a bit fragile, M and I did manage to make it out for a short walk this afternoon. The photos are from our walk round the village near H's house yesterday.  

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Easter Blessings

I had a strange, interrupted night yesterday. I spent an hour awake feeling irrationally stressed (I could rationalise this, but when my mind tried to communicate it to my body, it failed!) and then slept uneasily with odd and unsettling dreams. During this unsettled half-sleep I heard two odd bangs, like muffled explosions. I was quite reassured this morning when they were mentioned on a local social network site - some people thought fireworks, but I think the correct explanation was railway detonators (small explosive discs placed on the rails as a warning signal when trains run over them), which I had never heard of before. We are close enough to the railway for this to be plausible, and track works are often carried out over holiday weekends.  

Despite the odd night I woke this morning feeling much brighter and more myself, and this evening I am in a mood to count my blessings ...

  • A sunny spring day 
  • A morning walk with all three daughters and their partners
  • Family dogs that I get to enjoy without having to do any work!
  • Mini egg cookies baked by H
  • Sitting in the sun listening to Handel's Messiah 

And so many more ... 

  • Hammocks
  • Beautiful places to walk
  • Yarn and time to make things
  • Books and time to read
  • Friends and family
  • Flowers
  • Vaccinations

M probably deserves an entire list to himself, but I'll settle for saying he is pretty special (he has to be to have survived 30 years with me!) and definitely very much a blessing (most of the time!)