Lockdown part 3….Week 10

This week has certainly been a mixed bag. Monday marked the return to school for all primary pupils in England and a staggered return for secondary school pupils. I am sure that parents up and down the country were relieved after what has been a challenging and memorable time. I loved reading about the schools that made a special effort to welcome pupils back such as laying down a red carpet and lining it with balloons and that pupils were running to greet their friends.

The news has been heavy going this week and I was deeply shocked and upset when I first read about Sarah Everard’s disappearance. Without wanting to be pessimistic I didn’t have a good feeling as in all my life I can’t remember a time where someone has been reported missing on the news to then be found alive and well. I admit that I then followed the story like a hawk, all the time I could hear my counselling tutor saying, ‘you need to think why it upsets or bothers you?’ I can’t really answer that question other than to say that I am soft, and I care, and I can’t bare to think that something absolutely horrendous could happen to someone. I guess I also cannot even begin to understand the mindset of someone capable of hurting anyone. I suppose we can’t help but think about ourselves and our loved ones when we hear something bad in the news and maybe more so because she was a year younger than me, and I have a lot of friends of a similar age.

When I watched Dame Cressida’s statement, I had goosebumps all over me, although she didn’t say that the body, they had found was Sarah’s she heavily implied that it was. Then to hear that a serving Met Police officer was arrested on suspicion of her kidnap and murder and who has now been charged with this made me feel sick. We don’t know what happened, we don’t know if Mr Couzen’s knew her, if he planned this or the events surrounding such a heinous crime.

Whatever happened I cannot stand by anyone pointing blame at Sarah for walking home from a friend’s house at 9pm at night. It sounds as though she had walked this route before, it was on a main road, she had spoken to her boyfriend whilst walking home, was wearing brightly coloured clothing and had her mobile phone with her. I am not sure what else she could have done. It is 2021, people should feel safe to be out and about on their own. No one should feel scared or unsafe or that we have to constantly look over our shoulder.

I saw that the police had posted on social media some ‘safety tips’ for women, which included planning your route, having a charged mobile phone, tell someone where you are going – all of which Sarah did. They then went on to say that from the moment you step out onto the street to look assertive, act and walk with confidence – all of which they suggest will make you appear in control. I’m shaking my head as I write this – who’s to say Sarah wasn’t doing all these things?! Are they suggesting that if she acted this way that she would still be alive?! Have you seen a photo of Mr Couzen’s?! He looks like he’s built like a shit brickhouse, in which case nobody stood a chance!

Dame Cressida also suggested that cases like Sarah’s are incredibly rare, yet 118 women and girls have already been killed in the UK this year by a man. Labour’s shadow domestic violence minister Jess Philips read out all their names as part of the International Women’s Day debate.

Sarah Everard was a beautiful, successful, popular young woman with her whole life ahead of her. I am sat here raising a glass to her and I am sending my thoughts to her family, friends and loved ones.

…..

This week we have been playing in the garden as much as possible, my eldest daughter has mastered writing her name and has enjoyed doing lots of writing. We’ve done lots of Easter art, baked some buns and the girls had free reign decorating them!

I love watching the girls do their Tot Bop Boogie dance class (topbop.co.uk) as they know the warmups and cool downs off by height. Mummy has to join in too (of course) and I have particularly enjoyed doing The Charleston this week! I’ll sing and dance away in front of my girls, but I would freeze in front of anyone else!!

I braved taking the girls to a garden centre this week and they loved it – the last time we went was Christmas and they could both remember it in ridiculous detail!! They loved going around with their little trollies and having a ride on the tractor!

I feel incredibly lucky to have woken up with my girls crawling into bed for cuddles on Mother’s Day as well as being able to spend quality time with my Mum as I know so many people won’t be able to spend time with their loved ones this year due to lockdown. My Mum is an incredibly strong woman and someone who I admire and look up to. As well as being my Mum and my rock, she is also a true friend and although we can sometimes get on each other’s nerves I love seeing her everyday and miss her when I don’t. I’ll never be too old to give my Mum hugs!

Finally, I wanted to share that I now have 50 followers (in just over a month) – most of whom I don’t know. To say that I don’t have a clue how to share my blog, I feel proud that it has so many followers from nowhere. I love seeing the map showing who has read the blog and it has now been read by people in the Netherlands, America, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, India, Romania, Indonesia, Egypt, Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, China, Albania and of course, the UK. Thank you to everyone who has read my blog and shared it!

To those worrying about children needing to catch up on school work
I saw this and wanted to share!

Lockdown part 3….Week 9

The past 2 years have been challenging to say the least, but this week has to have been one of the toughest. I have known for months that this week was hopefully the final court hearing and had prepared for it both practically and psychologically. However, the days leading up to it brought about a lot of anxiety and sleepless nights. I had run through various scenarios in my head ranging from the worst-case scenario to the best-case scenario to try and be as prepared as possible. I supported myself as much as possible by having my calming aromatherapy spray and my aromatherapy playdough, I had friends at the end of the phone and a good legal team behind me.

I kept telling myself that once I got through this day that it would all finally be over which is all I have wanted for so long…to finally be free to live my life. And yes, I am finally now free to live my life and all the legal battles are over, however…the next day I crumbled, I felt as though I hit rock bottom and I just wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear, the pain I felt was unreal, it was as if every feeling I had ever had and everything I had lived through all flooded me in one go and I couldn’t cope.

I have pushed this day aside ever since I knew it was coming, not wanting to talk about it because I had had enough, telling everyone it didn’t matter what the outcome would be as long as it was finished. I’d not even told my counselling course tutor that this was all going on whilst I carry on writing essay after essay and practising my counselling skills as I didn’t want her to think it would affect my capability to do the course, so I intended to do my course as usual the day after the hearing.

As it happens, shortly before I was supposed to start, I collapsed on the floor and sobbed for hours, too weak to move. I then worried about what my tutor and peer group would think as I am not the kind of person to not turn up without letting people know. I felt incredibly guilty and that I had let people down.

The course means so much to me but in hindsight I should have kept my tutor informed of what was going on and taken my friends advise to not do the course this week as I had had a very tough time. Fortunately, my tutor is incredible, and her response was especially touching, she told me that the light comes, allow myself to experience the emotions that arise and how much I matter to my peer group. I was also given an interesting perspective on things by someone who said that part of my feelings are probably because it’s all over now and that the sense of relief can have an opposing effect to what you expect because all the adrenaline that kept me going has gone.

I suppose I was being harsh on myself as initially I was elated and wanted to pop open the champagne, then shortly after it hit me, and I certainly didn’t feel like this. I do have a bottle of champagne, but I am waiting until I receive my decree absolute before I open it. (I never thought I would be getting divorced, let alone celebrating it but here I am, wanting to sing from the roof tops that I am a free woman!!).

……….

Regarding lockdown, I was wondering if people are classing this week as the end of lockdown with restrictions beginning to be eased from Monday? Although all that is changing is that schools are opening to all pupils and we can now meet one other person outside.

This week the governments budget was announced with some interesting points. I found it interesting that furlough has been extended until the end of September, yet lockdown is planned to end on 21st June. I was pleased that the £20 weekly uplift in Universal Credit has been extended for another 6 months as this makes a huge difference to families, including mine. It’s also good that the minimum wage is going up but it’s still not in line with living costs increasing.

I’m very pleased to see that £19m has been given for domestic violence programmes as 1.6 million women are affected by domestic abuse every year (not forgetting that men can be victims too) and I have no doubt that lockdown has had a negative affect on anyone experiencing abuse and that there will have been a spike in abuse that to some extent will have happened without anyone knowing as people haven’t been able to see others so it’ll be a lot easier to hide. It’s incredibly scary knowing that according to Refuge (a domestic violence charity for women and children), 2 women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex in England and Wales.

I think it’s positive that 95% mortgages are going to become available from April as I know so many people, particularly single people really struggle to save £10-£20k for a deposit on a house. However, my concern is that mortgages are still limited to around 4 times your salary. So, for example a teacher may earn around £30k which would potentially give them a mortgage capacity of £120k yet the average house price according to the house price index is £230k so there is a huge gap in affordability unless banks are able to lend more.

…..

I received my invitation to complete the census 2021 this week…the highlights of this were being able to say that on 21st March 2021 I will be divorced and choosing to select my sexual orientation. I didn’t realise that this year’s census is the first time that people can state their sexual orientation and trans status. I also didn’t know that there are no robust figures on the number of LGBT people in England and Wales. The data collected through the Census will play an important role in addressing inequality gaps. It will be of particular use to the LGBT sector as we demonstrate the need for national and local Government to increase investment into LGBT-specific support.

Lockdown part 3….Week 8

Well, I feel as though I should eat my hat after the government’s announcement on Monday regarding easing of lockdown restrictions. I was pleasantly surprised that the focus was on our social activity in terms of being allowed to meet people outside, to be able to sit and have a drink with them, leading up to being able to sit in people’s gardens and meet more than 1 person.

For me this is what I have missed the most and felt frustrated when in previous times pubs and restaurants have remained open (where although social distancing is in place you don’t know who you are sitting in an enclosed place with or whom they have mixed with) yet we were t allowed to see friends/family etc.

Just knowing it won’t be long before I can legitimately drive my girls to the seaside or countryside will feel liberating and very exciting. I’m not sure how I feel about visiting farms etc when they open again in April. Part of me is desperate to go as we missed out on this last year but part of me is hesitant as I imagine places will be busy particularly to begin with when everyone is desperate to go out. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of being somewhere crowded even if it is outside. I’m hoping places will still have measures in place to make it feel safer but only time will tell.

I have felt the general consensus amongst people is a mixed feeling…excitement and relief to get back to some sort of normality, mixed with anxiety about what lies ahead and if easing lockdown will cause a surge in cases. I guess we just have to take one step and a time and do what feels right for ourselves.

I feel as though since Monday’s announcement some people have decided that if certain measures will be relaxed in so many weeks’ time that it doesn’t make any difference if they take it upon themselves to start now. I find this very frustrating. As much as I’m not a massive fan of our government I believe we have been given dates for a reason and that Boris didn’t just say we can meet one other person outside to sit on a bench from 8th March or whenever you feel like it!

It feels as though some people have forgotten that the dates we have been given for further relaxations of rules is based on vaccinations still being given at the rate intended, that evidence shows that vaccines are reducing hospitisations and deaths in those vaccinated, that infection rates don’t risk a surge in hospitalisations and that risks are not fundamentally affected by new variants of the virus.

Maybe people believe that if they have had their vaccine (baring in mind that most of those who have, will have only had one of two), then they can’t catch the virus or spread it. Surveys from December showed that 29% of people admitted that they would adhere less strictly to the rules and I imagine that figure has increased lately.

I appreciate people are desperate for life to return to normal but fear if we don’t stick to the rules that are in place things could quickly spiral again and we’ll be in a full dock down again before we even come out of this one.

I’ve stuck to the rules 99% of the time despite wanting to go places and escape the same walks etc because I know how quickly things can snowball if the virus is spread.

Yes, I’ve had my vaccine, but it’s not been 12 days, yet which is when they say it becomes effective, aside from this they aren’t clear about if it prevents you being able to carry the virus therefore exposing others.

I know I’ll have to tip my toe in the water at some point and I will but I’m in no rush to throw myself straight in the deep end when restrictions are eased.

I’ve read that there has been a massive surge in holiday bookings, understandably, yet to my knowledge we haven’t been given information on practicalities related to any restrictions in place such as quarantine, testing etc either in the UK or abroad. I know that many countries still have quarantine in place for visitors, some countries require you to be tested prior to leaving the UK and again on arrival, others are only allowing people not to quarantine if they can prove they have had both of their vaccinations. There still is lots of if’s, buts and maybes which will hopefully become clearer as time goes by.

I’m in the fortunate position where I don’t need to send my girls back to childcare on the 8th March and decided a while ago that I wouldn’t. Partly because it would only be for a few weeks before the Easter holidays, partly because I want to see what the impact is on schools reopening first and partly to enjoy them that little bit longer whilst I can. All being well and if the R rate doesn’t go through the roof, I’ll send them back after Easter.

It’s hard to believe that in a few months’ time lockdown could be completely over.

During our 7th week in lockdown, as usual we have done lots of arts, crafts and baking this week. The girls made chocolate fridge cake and savoury breakfast muffins this week with quite a few ingredients ‘disappearing’ in the process!!

We’ve done lots of spring and Easter arts including bunny and chick handprints, finger painting sheep and lambs and mosaic Easter pictures. (I decided to replace the handprint heart in our window with a spring theme instead which is now in place – my eldest daughter loved creating the display – I’ve put a picture of it at the end of this post)

On Friday it felt like spring had arrived…we had a crystal-clear blue sky; the sun was shining, and the birds were singing away. I hung my washing outside for the first time this year (which felt exciting…its bizarre what things excite you as you get older!) and I got our garden furniture out.

It reminded me of the first lockdown when I could leave the door open into our garden and the girls would play outside for hours.

They decided to fill their paddling pool up and splash in their wellies after much persuasion that it wasn’t warm enough to go in in bare feet!! They also enjoyed it when I apparently made it snow with washing up bubbles! We also got our sand pit back out and they had fun building sandcastles. Whilst sitting outside, feeling the sun on my face, I closed my eyes for a few seconds and it almost felt as though I could have been on holiday!

The girls even had a teddy bears picnic outside (we love picnics and find any excuse to have them inside or out!).

Everything seems so much brighter when the suns shining…Hopefully we’ll get more sunny days like this.

Lockdown part 3….Week 7

This week has been more of one of reflection. I have had a few days to myself and challenged myself to strike the balance between doing jobs and having some ‘me’ time.

I think a few things have been building up and have left me feeling a little drained. I know I feel stronger but clearly burying things under the carpet has taken its toll! I also didn’t realise that writing about what happened in my previous relationship would bring up as many memories and emotions as it did.

The highlight of my week (well in fact of this lockdown) was when I was invited to book my Covid vaccine. (I’m not going to write about people’s judgement towards other people having a vaccine when they don’t think they should. We all have our opinions and may not agree, there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with about our governments decisions, but I don’t have the power to change this and feel fortunate to have now had my first vaccine).

When I went to book my vaccine, I was offered to go to York which although is an hour drive away, I jumped at the chance! I haven’t driven more than 5 miles since lockdown and now I was being allowed to go all the way to York! I can’t tell you how excited I was!! So, I got my play list ready and some snacks for the journey relishing at the thought of having 2 hours in the car, just me and my cheesy play list. It’s safe to say I sang and boogied the whole time!!

I can’t tell you how uplifting it was to see the countryside and to be free to drive!

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but I have to take my hat off to the absolutely amazing volunteers at the vaccination centre. There were so many volunteers there to guide you to where you needed to go. The volunteers covered all age ranges and despite it being dark, cold and windy they were all so friendly, helpful and welcoming.  The whole process from arriving in the car park to leaving was so smooth and efficient. I was waiting no more than a couple of minutes before being sent in for my vaccine and I even got a sticker afterwards! Yay! I’m pleased I had it in my left arm, being right-handed as it feels a little sore but hey, that’s a small price to pay! I have my 2nd vaccine booked for in 12 weeks’ time in York again which is something to look forward to!!

I also took some time to pamper myself a little, do some retail therapy (online) and absorb myself in some grown up TV. I discovered White House Farm on Netflix and got hooked, I ended up watching all 6 episodes over a couple of days. If you’ve not seen it, it’s worth watching. I’m not always into true stories or murder mysteries but it was gripping. I couldn’t even ‘tat’ whilst watching it in case I missed anything. (Normally when I am watching TV, I’m doing something else at the same time).

I feel very lucky as yet again I had another mystery parcel left on my doorstep from a mystery neighbour. Because I got one last week, I feel I should redistribute it but equally know they chose to leave it for me and my girls and don’t want to appear ungrateful. (Which I am certainly not!)

I wish I could afford to do the same for others, but I hope that our window art puts a smile on peoples faces. I need to think of what we can make this time…probably a spring/Easter theme. I shall put my thinking cap on!

I know there is a lot of talk about Boris’s announcement tomorrow and I feel people have high hopes and expectations. There have been rumours thrown around about what he may say but despite feeling pretty desperate to be able to see friends and family, I really hope that he will stick to what he said about following data rather than sticking to dates. I personally don’t want us to come out of lockdown too quickly to only find ourselves in the same boat again. I have no expectations that he will talk about being able to mix socially which is all I really want to hear. I hope he won’t tell us that pubs and restaurants are opening if we can’t go and sit on a bench with a friend or allow someone into our garden. I somehow feel this is a long way off.

This week I shall leave you with this…

Post Lockdown…

When I think of life after lockdown, I feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement to do the little things we used to take for granted such as seeing friends and family, hugs, going to shops and cafes, days out…

But also, anxiety…what will life look like? Will I feel comfortable going into shops, restaurants, cinemas, or any crowded places?

I guess everyone will react differently when lockdown ends and the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and accept that however you are feeling is ok. If you are desperate to hop on the first plane to sunnier climates that’s fine, but if you are someone who wants to take baby steps back into life as we knew it or as close as we are going to get, then that’s also fine.

We have all been through something completely new and unexpected, so all we can do is cope the best we can without judgement and without putting expectations on ourselves.

Maybe you are dreading meeting up with people for fear of what the conversation may entail…maybe you’re worried that people will say that during lockdown they became fluent in a language, learnt how to play an instrument, set up a new business, became an avid painter etc. However, whether you did any of these things or not we have all achieved something – we have all survived lockdown!

I know it’s irrational, but the sense we should be achieving something new, creates anxiety which isn’t helped by social media posts claiming things such as if we haven’t acquired 100,000 YouTube subscribers, learned Mandarin or trained to run a marathon, that we “didn’t lack time, we lacked discipline”.

Yet, when have we ever had a time in our lives as adults when we’ve felt it’s ok to live in pyjamas, have naps, enjoy duvet days, eat takeaway 2 days on the trot or allow ourselves to weep for no reason?!

The world we live in, (particularly in the UK) has become so pressured and fast paced yet one of the few advantages of lockdown is that hopefully some of us have learned that it’s ok to press the pause button and not do anything. I think for a lot of people it’s been a time of reassessing life in terms of careers, hobbies, relationships, self-discovery or re-affirming what’s most important to us.

For anyone who is worried about life post lockdown, take your time, and start small. It could be something as little as finally feeling you have an excuse to wear something other than loungewear, meeting up with a friend for a picnic or going for a drive without worrying if it’s a necessary trip. Try and notice the little things, so for me, I love the sea and whenever life feels overwhelming that’s where I like to go. Visualisation helps but it doesn’t replace being there so the first chance I get that’s where I will be going. I’ll smell the sea air, listen to the crashing waves and the seagulls and feel the sand between my toes. All these things I find very calming and it doesn’t need to be hot and sunny to enjoy it either!

Remember that when all this started, we would never have imagined spending the best part of a year at home, with schools and shops closed, and not being able to visit family or friends. Yet, we’ve already adapted to this major change in our lives. I think we deserve a massive pat on the back for that!

Right now, there are still so many unknowns about when or how lockdown will end. For me, a way I am trying to cope is by not making solid plans yet as I feel this may lead to disappointment. I know that as soon as I can, I will be going to see friends and family and enjoying day trips. I try to take each day as it comes and keep myself busy.

I know my girls have definitely helped me get through this and they are an inspiration. They’ve taken everything on the chin and gone with the flow despite missing friends, family and not being able to go places.

I am surprised at how well I’ve coped (don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments), particularly as I suffer with health anxiety and at the start of the pandemic, I was a lot more stressed about it than I am now. I suppose in a way I have learned to live with it in a way that works for me.

……When I picture the end of lockdown, I imagine herds of wildebeest being released into the wild!! I also think of the scene in Love Actually where they filmed everyone greeting loved ones at Heathrow Airport…no doubt there will be lots of hugs, tears, love, kisses and passion!

Lockdown part 3….Week 6

What an exciting week we’ve had!! We woke up on Monday morning to snow!!!!! Well, I don’t know who was more excited…me or my girls?!! When I opened the curtains, I was so giddy as soon as I saw it! I have longed for snow and been envious every time somewhere else in the UK has had snow. I was beginning to think we were the only part of the UK to not get any.

It was fair to say we never got dressed so quickly in our lives and we went straight out into the garden! It was my youngest daughters first time in the snow and my eldest was only just one when she first experienced snow so couldn’t remember. It was magical! We all loved it!

We made a snow owl, snowballs, snow angels and caught snowflakes on our tongues!! My youngest daughter soon took after her Mummy and loved having snowball fights…. we walked to my Mums and had a compulsory snowball fight!

There were lots of giggles and a very memorable day! It brought a much-needed distraction and joy during these cold and dreary winter months.

On top of the excitement of snow, once we’d worn ourselves out, we did this weeks http://totbop.co.uk dance class. I have to say it was my favourite dance class so far (not that it’s meant for me!!).

By now the girls know the warmup and cool down routine, then came this week’s first dance which involved lots of silly moves and balancing and we all found it hilarious, we enjoyed the music section where we learnt hand moves including mashed potato!!

This week’s story time was ‘Under the sea’ and we all thoroughly enjoyed swimming around and being sea creatures (I swear my legs are aching from being a very enthusiastic jelly fish!!) (of course, this led to the girls wanting to watch The Little Mermaid afterwards!).

Then came our favourite section – Tot Bop Boogie and this week featured one of my favourite songs, ‘This is me’ from The Greatest Showman, it’s fair to say the volume got turned up and Mummy threw herself into it!! (I do sometimes wonder what people may think if they look in the window but then again, I don’t really care if people think I’m silly!)

But the highlight of this week’s dance class has to be where it shows you a video of this week’s Tot Bop Boogie winner which was my daughters!! To see my eldest daughters’ reaction was very heart-warming! She looked at me in amazement and said, ‘It’s me!’ I was lucky enough to catch her reaction on camera!

The icing on the cake came when the doorbell went and when I answered the door I saw a gift bag on the door step. I couldn’t see anyone and I had no idea who it was from. Inside was an envelope saying ‘Please open me’, and inside the card it read, ‘Just a note to say, that a present can brighten a day. So, whilst there is snow on the ground, get tucked up nice and warm, with a gift you have found – A neighbour.’ There was also a beautiful notebook and chocolates inside. Well, I have never been more touched by someone’s generosity and thoughtfulness! It put a huge smile on my face and made me feel warm inside. I only wish I could thank them!

It’s definitely lifted my spirits this week as I have to admit that I am starting to feel a little despondent about lockdown and feel I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All this talk of if or when people can go on holiday but for me personally what I crave more than anything is to be able to go and see a few close friends and to be able to give them a hug. I’m not too bothered if cafes, pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc stay closed but to be able to go to their house or for them to come to mine would mean the world to me.

Knowing that they only live a few miles away is incredibly hard especially when I know that some people are breaching lockdown rules. I am lucky to have my girls and my Mum and to have technology, but nothing can replace seeing someone in the flesh and being able to hug them in person.

I imagine when the time comes there will be some happy tears and some very long hugs, in fact I don’t think I’ll want to let go of my best friend!!!!

I’ve got to share something that made me smile this week…my Mum isn’t really a fan of musicals and therefore isn’t keen on one of my girls favourite Disney films, Frozen. However, when I was having a moment of frustration my Mum stood in front of me and started singing the lyrics to ‘Let it go’, best of all she did the actions too which was hilarious!!

I had my counselling course as usual on Thursday which I am now starting to really enjoy (I think because I feel less nervous) and I am starting to come out of my shell. Even my Mum has commented that she has seen I have changed, in the sense that I am stronger and surer of myself which is massive for me.

It definitely gives you a boost when working with new people to practice your counselling skills and to be told positive things. I even volunteered to go first this week which is not like me at all! I normally avoid it and put it off.

I found it harder to be the client this week as I am still getting to know my new triad and being a private person it’s a big deal for me to open up and I was nervous to share things, but I did, and I was surprised what came out of it.

So, although there’s still a long way to go, I am starting to channel my inner self.

I suppose I should touch on the fact that it’s Valentine’s day on Sunday…. this is something I always feel a little odd about. Part of me has always loved the idea as I am romantic and like the idea of being spoilt but I can’t recall a time where I was spoilt. I’ve exchanged cards before but in my previous relationship I think I was given cards out of feeling it should be done rather than genuinely wanting to.

I’m not sure if I would ever want to go for a meal on Valentines day because it’s heavily commercialised and I feel it’s kind of rammed down your throat in terms of expectations of gifts, romance, love etc and also because I don’t think I’d feel comfortable being seen out with someone of the same sex especially when surrounded by lots of loved up couples. I guess it makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

I don’t like the fact that you can now buy a Valentines card for everyone from your parents to your children, friends or pets! I find that odd. Of course, I love my Mum, my girls and my friends but I wouldn’t choose to get them a Valentines card but each to their own. I have however got a large handprint heart in my window as in was suggested it would be a nice thing to do in our village…and we did spot one other house that has decorated their window with hearts on one of our walks this week.

This week I will leave you with this…..

Tot Bop Boogie of the week winner!

Education Overhaul?

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about the effects on children’s education, how many hours schooling they have lost and how this can be resolved. The government is throwing ideas around which have been covered by the news. I feel this was a huge mistake for a variety of reasons. Is the government giving false impressions, false hopes, false promises again? I feel they should make some definitive decisions with things in place before sharing anything with the public. All these suggestions come at a huge cost – where is that money going to come from?!

The latest ideas that are being thrown about include….

1. Summer schools run by qualified teachers which they claim children can make up to four months of academic progress. It’s suggested that these summer schools would need a strong academic element.

2. 1:1 weekly tutoring sessions, which the government is claiming would make up for 3-6 months of academic progress.

3. Repeating the school year, which The Education Policy Institute think tank has suggested could help those whose education has fallen behind (I imagine this could include a huge % of pupils!).

4. Extending school days.

5. Increased well-being support, which in this report suggests that extra funding for mental-health support for school children to help ease their return to the classroom and improve their chances of catching up. They say that this can be provided by teaching staff and in-school counselling sessions. (Yet as mentioned in previous posts, the government is yet to fund counselling in schools, and I can’t imagine that schools have enough funding or staff to be able to provide enough support for pupil’s well-being especially given that it is inevitable that there will be a huge increase in demand for such support once all pupils return to school).

I think that apart from increasing well-being support for pupils, the rest of the ideas pose problems and don’t solve the issues faced by children and young people.

Parents may love the idea of summer schools or extended school hours but has anyone thought about children’s wellbeing? School can be tiring as it is without being there even longer, especially after being off for so long. I fear they will find it hard enough going back as it is without more pressure. By all means, offer more extra-curricular activities, this would benefit children in terms of socialising and being able to participate in activities that they’ve missed out on for so long. 1:1 tutoring sessions particularly if funded for those who may benefit aren’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it doesn’t cause burnout for children.

Although teachers do their job because they are passionate about children’s education, they also have a life and have had an incredibly tough time since the pandemic began. With teachers having to quickly learn how to teach remotely, change how they teach, still teach children who can attend school at the same time, ring parents, still complete the ridiculous amount of paperwork etc, yet there’s no mention of consulting with them about these proposals.

How do you think teachers would feel about extended school days or working over the summer holidays (which they do anyway – there’s always planning and preparation to do even when teachers aren’t physically in school)?  

Teachers are paid a salary, like nurses, doctors etc but teachers don’t get paid overtime unlike nurses and doctors. I imagine most teachers in the past year have worked a ridiculous number of hours in very stressful and bizarre circumstances.

I tried to find out how teachers’ performance related pay has been impacted during the pandemic but I couldn’t find anything. I’m not sure how or if teachers have been able to achieve their yearly performance related pay increase as it’s based on pupil’s academic progress. Now I imagine that on average pupils have not made the same progress as they may have done if they had been in school full time, therefore, despite the best efforts of teachers does this mean that they have had to also forgo their yearly pay rise on top of everything else?

When I read any articles relating to pupil’s education and how it’s been impacted by the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder why nobody has taken a step back and gone…ok yes, children may not have made the same progress, yes, some children may have fallen behind, however, maybe we need to change the goalposts, maybe we need to rethink expectations or even rethink the National Curriculum.

What benefit does it have on children to keep the same goalposts given the current situation? Surely, it’s just going to cause more anxiety and more pressure on pupils and teachers. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t provide children with every opportunity to flourish, I’m not saying we shouldn’t encourage, positively push or challenge them but why are we expecting them to tick the same boxes as they would if the pandemic never happened? To what end?

I’m not a fan of SATs as it is…but are you telling me that when pupils do eventually go back that they won’t be pushed beyond belief to still try and achieve the results anticipated or wanted? I am aware they aren’t going ahead this year but no doubt they will next year. I know that most Year 6 pupils spend the entire academic year preparing for these tests as it is, but after missing more than a year of school it’s bound to have an impact. I’ve always felt that SATs are purely for league tables and aren’t of any benefit to pupils.

Teachers have plenty of ways of doing assessments without it having to be these tests. For those pupils who will be taking GCSE’s in a few years’ time, maybe schools could start directing lessons towards them earlier? Could they be done in modules or with more coursework spread over a longer period?

I am concerned that there will be a lot of pressure for pupils and teachers when pupils return to school. Surely given what we have all been through we cannot expect everything to go back to normal as soon as lockdown ends in terms of expectations?

In fact, I worry this may be harmful.

I don’t know how schools will approach this and maybe they will do things differently. It’s more the pressure from above i.e., the government that’s the problem.

I hope that time will be given for pupils to readjust to school life – they will have had different routines, different rules/expectations, gone through a bizarre time, may have lost people due to Covid, been stuck in the house for most of the time. Some children may thrive and be excited to go back to school whilst some may be very anxious and fearful of going back. Children may struggle to adjust to real life lessons again.

We don’t know what life in schools will look like post lockdown…. will children still be in bubbles? Will they be able to play with their friends? Will Christmas plays be a thing of the past? Will assemblies be non-existent or virtual? Will children be able to take their favourite teddy in for show and tell?

Given that so many children have not been able to socialise for many many months it would be nice to think that schools would be able to provide them with this opportunity and to focus on their emotional well-being on their return to school rather than focusing on a regimented intense series of lessons aimed at children catching up on a year’s education in the space of a a few weeks/months.

We might be surprised at how much children have learnt during the pandemic. I imagine most children’s IT skills will have vastly improved!! It would be interesting for children to share what they have learnt and experienced in this time with one another.

So what if children have forgotten what fronted adverbials or grapheme-phoneme correspondences are?

What if children have learnt how to ride their bide, learnt how to read scales, read a vast variety of books, learnt about artists when they went on a virtual tour of an art gallery, how to follow recipes, budgeting, letter writing, first aid, life skills? The list goes on!

I believe this is a prime time for the government to have a complete overhaul of the education system, but I will be very surprised if this happens.

Lockdown part 3….Week 5

And just like that another week of lockdown is complete…I make it sound like a prison sentence! Maybe it feels like that to some people. I know I generally don’t know what day it is let along what date. We’re already in February which brings Valentine’s day, pancake day and half term. I’ll definitely be making pancakes for my girls. Half term won’t be any different for us….it may not feel different for most families but at least it won’t mean remembering passwords and trying to log on to live classes whilst trying to persuade little ones to get dressed!

This week may have brought moments of sadness or reflection and of course I have to acknowledge the lives of all those that have been lost to Covid-19. This weeks news and media coverage focused on the passing of Captain Tom Moore, however, I feel we should also remember everyone else who have sadly died. Thousands of parents, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends and colleagues. I would hate for all these lives lost to just become statistics.

We decided to sign up to more Tot Bop online classes (https://totbop.co.uk) as we have all been enjoying it so much. The girls have definitely got into the swing of it and are starting to learn some of the routines. This week we through ourselves into being cowgirls and dancing to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’. The girls love it when we do peekaboo as part of the cool down and they know that Mummy’s favourite part is painting the rainbow at the end. I recorded the girls dancing this week as my eldest wanted me to send it into Rachel who runs the classes. She was very excited when I told her that Rachel had replied to my email saying that she had watched the video!

I felt like a bit of a rebel this week (please no judgement) when on the one sunny day we drove to the nearby open pastures with my mum and her dogs. We all had a great time and it made a nice change as we haven’t driven anywhere other than to the shops for a long time. We went into the woods on a Gruffalo hunt, exploring the dens, listening to the birds, crunching the leaves, spotting a ‘castle’ (it’s what my girls call the an old mill) and most importantly squelching in icy muddy puddles! Of course I had to join in and instead of walking around the puddles we went through them! It was too cold to have a picnic outside so instead we sat in the car and enjoyed it. It was a lovely day.

As always we have been busy getting creative…we had a finger painting session and this time I decided to join in. Me and my eldest daughter painted rainbow trees, I found it very therapeutic.

I’ve started Joe Wicks February Abs challenge this week in an aim to reduce my waist measurements! I have to say I quite enjoy abs exercises and challenged myself to hold a full plank for 90 seconds.

I also challenged myself to try and allow myself to do some things for me before the girls go to bed which I rarely do. Don’t get me wrong they are very good at entertaining themselves and playing on their own but I suppose part of it is feeling that I need to give my all to them or that as soon as I start doing something they will want me for something. So whilst they were both happily watching the 2nd Nanny McPhee film I managed to do some work. Small steps but I am going to try and do this a bit more so that not everything is left until they are in bed.

This week posed another challenge when it came to my counselling course. We have been working in groups of 3 since September last year in order to practice our counselling skills but this week marked the start of our case study which mean that we had been put into new groups. I get incredibly nervous with new situations so this was something I was anxious about, not only in terms of being the counsellor but also being the client. In our practice sessions we have to use real material about ourselves so we are exposing ourselves to strangers. Of course it’s confidential but as I fear being judged this can make me feel uncomfortable. However, the people I am with appear to be lovely and supportive. We only had time for 2 of us to be in the role of counsellor on this occasion and normally I would do everything possible to avoid being the counsellor but for once I voiced this to my group and I decided to challenge myself as I knew I would spend the rest of the week getting myself worked up about it. I felt so much better for doing it and they gave positive but constructive feedback which has boosted by confidence and belief in myself.

I also knew I had an essay I needed to complete this weekend so didn’t want to add to my ‘to do list’. I am surprised at my own determination and motivation this week, as I sit here writing this post I have also completed my essay so I am rewarding myself with a sneaky glass of wine!

I want to share a poem I came across this week which I think it incredibly clever….

Lockdown part 3….Week 4

This week has gone very quickly for me and has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I’m loving spending all this time with my girls and we are always doing something fun, but I really miss adult conversations, having a cuppa with my friends (or something stronger!) and being able to go anywhere. On Monday there was quite a lot of ice in our garden which the girls were fascinated by and they particularly enjoyed trying to break it (safely of course). I also joined in and I have to say I got rather enthusiastic at smashing the ice!! I think it relieved some tension!!

I’m no longer interested in the government announcements and don’t trust anything they say. I mean does anyone seriously pay attention when Chris Whitty has anything to say?! He has the dullest voice I’ve ever heard…who wants to hear him go through his various slides?! And as for him being the face of a TV campaign surely everyone just mutes him or changes the channel?? If they want people to listen (who aren’t already) they could at least make it a fun and interesting advert!

As for Boris’s letter to parents well that just pissed me off….he doesn’t have a clue what it’s like and how hard people are finding it. Where’s the actual help and support? Meanwhile thousands of families are struggling financially and emotionally. He is full of false promises.

I certainly wasn’t surprised when it was announced that schools wouldn’t be opening before 8th March and feel it would have been better if he’s said from the off that he didn’t know when schools could reopen or if he’d said we’ll aim for all children to be back in September and any sooner is a bonus. At least that way people could try and be prepared in whatever way that could be rather than having this continual upheaval.

I find it frustrating that I am one of the people following the rules yet so many people aren’t and they no doubt wonder why cases aren’t going down. If everyone has the attitude that it doesn’t matter if they break the rules it’s only going to snowball, and things will get dragged out for longer. I couldn’t believe (although I really shouldn’t be surprised) that 15,000 people a DAY have been coming into the UK during lockdown…why? What for? They can’t go anywhere or do anything. I’m lost for words that this has been happening and the government have the nerve to say they truly did everything they could! What a load of bollocks! The average person could have done a better job. Why aren’t they following on from example such as New Zealand? Why weren’t borders closed as soon as the pandemic started? I know loads of people that have come into the UK fully expecting to be tracked or tested or checked up on and none where even asked for any of their details so although they were told to self-isolate no one knew if they did or not.

I’ve maybe been in a supermarket once since March last year and know that my local supermarket has advertised that they will not allow more than one person per household into their store therefore I fear going as I would have to take my children with me. Yes, they would let me in, but I would fear judgement and I’d really rather not go whilst things are this bad anyway. Yet despite their rules not all people have been following them and they’ve got away with it. I know we are bored and there’s not much to do but is a shopping trip to the supermarket really a family trip out??

I have seen people judging others all too quickly on social media regarding lockdown rules and I think it’s worth remembering that at times like these in a world where you can be anything be kind. And also, a smile costs nothing yet it mean a lot – plus it’s contagious – but the good kind of contagious!!!

I follow Sam Avery – The Learner Parent on social media and he made me laugh when he posted…‘someone from New Zealand just told me that they were jealous of UK snow. Cos I know if I was hugging mates in the pub on the way to meet my wife in a restaurant to plan some time AWAY from the kids, I’d be SO JEALOUS of a couple of hours of poxy white shite over on Plague Island!!!!’

I spent the week getting ready for my eldest daughters’ 4th birthday…after seeing them on social media I decided to hire a couple of tepees for the girls (seen as we can’t go anywhere or see anyone) as a surprise. Normally they set them up for you but because of Covid they’re not allowed to, so after palming the girls off with my Mum (who’s in our bubble) I set to work gutting the living room and setting them up! I have to say I was very impressed with how they looked and how much came with the tepees from fairy lights to matching cushions, quilt covers, accessories, a stand-up tray and picnic accessories. Well, the girls loved them!! It was definitely worth it! For the 3 days we had them they spent most of the time in them, they ate in them, played in them and of course me and my mum also had to go in them including to play pass the parcel!!!

My daughter wanted to bake her own birthday cake and why not, I really can’t take any credit for how it turned out as I only helped with measuring and the oven and it was absolutely delicious and dairy free!! It honestly tasted better than the average dairy free cake you can buy.

The night before her birthday after completing an emotional 4 hours of my counselling course I decorated the cake, blew up what felt like 58,000 balloons (without a pump), put up banners and laid out her presents.

It’s lovely watching the world through children’s eyes. She had a lovely birthday, and it was the simple things she liked the best…playing with balloons, pass the parcel, dancing to music, having a buffet party tea, seeing her best friend on a video call, and watching her sing happy birthday to her!

She was very lucky to get so many gifts from friends and family and it’s safe to say we have enough art and craft projects to last us for months!! I still can’t believe that my baby girl is 4, where did the time go? I can still remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. I know it wasn’t that long ago, but it really has flown by. I am very proud of both my daughters and love them more each day (even when they do drive me cuckoo and I don’t get any ‘me’ time).

This week I haven’t achieved everything I needed to or wanted to, but I realised I was running on empty and needed some self-care. I find it hard to relax and always feel I have to be doing something, from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed. I have an assignment deadline looming and seem to be putting off doing it despite finding out this week that I passed the first one, which should give me a bit more confidence and self-belief.

It’s worth remembering though particularly at the minute that if you’ve done any of the following things today, then you’re winning: got dressed, had a shower, survived a major tantrum (yours or others!!), snuggled on the sofa, had a laugh, fed yourself.

I want to thank everyone who has read any of my blog posts. It really means a lot to me. I felt very touched when I read on someone else’s blog that they had been inspired by me to write more. I can’t believe that I have some followers including from America (and I don’t know anyone in America).

To say that I haven’t a clue how to share my blog other than on my Facebook page or how to add hashtags people seem to have found it and read it so thank you again!

This week I will leave you with the following ….

Lockdown part 3….Week 2

Congratulations! We made it! It may seem bizarre to celebrate getting through a week, but I think we should. Whatever you may feel you have or have not achieved; you’ve made it through another week of this weird time. So, reward yourself – be it with a sticker, a bath, a high five, some flowers, chocolate, a treat…you deserve it!

This week was the return of PE with Joe which I completed, all be it mainly on my own but with my eldest daughter keeping me in check with what exercises I should be doing if I wandered off during the 25 second rest period to do household jobs (bearing in mind she’s only 3!) and my youngest daughter clapped after each exercise and said, ‘Well done mummy!’ which was very sweet.

It has been nice to have some more structure to the week otherwise I think I’d struggle to know what day of the week it was (not that it particularly matters at the minute!).

I’m very lucky that I am able to spend this time with my girls and I really enjoy it but am finding it disappointing (as I’m sure lots of people are) that I can’t do more with them such as go to the farm, visit friends and family, go away, go to the cinema, take them to classes, museums, art galleries etc. I really hope that it won’t be too long before we can do these things again. For me one of the hardest things is the not knowing when this might be. I’ve not got my hopes pined on a time and I’ve decided not to make any plans yet as I know I would feel disappointed if more things got cancelled. I made the decision not to write anything on my calendar this year as most of last year got crossed out!! All that can go on this year’s calendar are things like when the bins are going out (which is a lot more than me!)!!

However, our week has been filed with daily walks which usually includes jumping in muddy puddles and on one occasion my youngest daughter took great pleasure in splashing in the deepest puddle she could find and when I took her wellies off most of the puddle came out of them!! She didn’t give a monkeys though and loved every minute of it. If I’d had my wellies on I would no doubt have joined her! We’ve also done lots of arts and crafts, including making cornflour slime, models, jewellery, aqua beads and we thoroughly enjoyed creating lots of handprints for our latest window display – a heart. The girls also painted lots of hearts to go on a tree of hearts which is also part of our window display. Now that everyone’s Christmas decorations are down and there are no more rainbows, it was suggested in our village that people create displays of hearts but so far, I haven’t seen any others. It certainly made our walks more interesting and the girls enjoyed spotting things in people’s windows.

My mum paid for some online dance classes (https://totbop.co.uk) for the girls to try and I have to say all 3 of us have enjoyed them. The main advantage is that you can do the class whenever you want and have access to it for the entire week. Both my girls love music, so we enjoyed boogying to Meghan Trainor’s, ‘Better when I’m Dancin’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ during this week’s class.

We also got to have a bop in the car (when we went to collect our food shop) to the girls’ favourite songs which of course have to be played on repeat for the entire journey! So, for the past couple of months, we’ve been listening to Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun and Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love!

Despite it only being 2 weeks of lockdown so far, I think more people are struggling this time…I know people have said that this is the time to focus on ourselves, to reinvent ourselves, to start new hobbies etc but that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. It’s great if you’ve been able to, but equally it’s completely understandable if you’re greatest achievement is functioning.

I’ve decided that I need to stop looking at the news and social media so often. I don’t know what I hope or expect to see but it’s never anything positive or upbeat and you certainly can’t avoid things to do with Covid. So, I need to set myself a target of only looking once a day and limiting how much time I allow myself to look. My counselling tutor made a very good point this week when she told the class that it’s best not to look at the news in the evening as it will affect sleep along with anything heavy or serious including a TV programme especially if you’re a thinker (like me!). I think it’s almost like an addition for me now, I don’t even know why I check the news or social media every day? What do I think I’m missing? I like being in my own little bubble (not a Covid bubble!) so why infiltrate it with rubbish I’m bound to read? That’s something for me to think about and try and work out.

Anyway….if you’ve been lucky enough to have snow this week I hope you made time to make a snowman, have a snowball fight and make snow angels….if not, why not?! I would absolutely love to have some snow! My girls have never experienced snow that’s settled enough for any of those things. Fingers crossed some comes our way!