22 Apr 2020

A Strange New Normal | Life In Lockdown

I should say now – I don’t work on the frontline (a huge bloody thank you, virtual hug and mountains of chocolate if you do). I’m not ill and the small amount of people in my life who have been ill have thankfully made full recoveries. I write this in the comfort of my own home, currently safe and well. Whilst my job no longer has a comfortable feeling of certainty around it, as it stands, I am still on full pay and with – albeit a somewhat reduced amount of – work to do. 

However, I think it’s important to remember we are not playing tragedy top trumps and I 100% believe that we can admit we are finding this hard and weird and wtf is going on. Feelings are not invalid because someone else has it worse off. Don’t go adding guilt into the shit show of emotions you are feeling right now. 

So, really, how are you? I hope that wherever you read this, you’re safe and well and haven’t yet thrown something at whoever you’re locked down with. 

As I write this, I think I’m on 36 days of social isolation. The last time I properly left the house (to travel into London for a meeting in the office) was mid-March. At this stage, we had been loosely told to social distance and work from home if we could, but the office was still open and someone needed to be physically there to set up a virtual meeting for 20+ people. I spent 6 hours sat opposite someone who later got ill with Covid (luckily it didn’t come my way), nervously laughed about how surreal it all felt and then caught the train home. And that would be the last time I would go further than the half-a-mile radius around my house. 

You know what happened next. Less than a week later, lockdown was announced and we have watched in horrified fascination as our lives have transformed and the country has become the scene of a real-life pandemic movie. 

Gary and I are at home together; trying to work, trying to tick off DIY jobs, trying not to brood, trying not to snap at each other (my bad). Luckily, we are both pretty self-sufficient people with plenty of projects to keep us entertained and with a familiarity of quiet weekends around the house. Gary’s on a health kick, I’m wondering how many reduced Easter eggs I can buy in one go – we all deal with things differently I suppose. 

Some days, it’s almost easy to kid myself that everything is normal. We’re just having a normal quiet Sunday, same as always. There’s no pressure to be anywhere or do anything; it’s almost calm and peaceful. Some days, I’m barely keeping my mental health out of the danger zone and it’s bloody exhausting. One day I’m the gal throwing about her to-do list in an annoying fashion and the next I’m the person aggressively liking ‘you don’t have to be productive, just showering is enough’ style posts on Instagram because how the hell am I supposed to motivate myself when I’ve been looking at the same still-need-to-paint walls for days on end? And no, I haven’t showered either. 

Right now, I’m struggling with the feeling of being cheated. Cheated of this year. A year where our aims were to have fun, to travel, to relax. Weekend breaks, a summer full of weddings, the blissful feeling of very little responsibility… gone. Sure, we don’t know what’s going to happen and come August, we may well be stretched out in a pub garden with friends… but I’m not holding my breath. I am trying to come to terms with the fact that this is not something that will go away after a couple of months. And that then leads to worry over the Big Things. Everything beyond the front door feels chaotic – what on earth will the world look like when this is over? My job feels like a question mark, the planner in me is utterly confused at not even being able to plan to next week and the future looks strangely blurred and uncertain. 

And whilst I know we just have to take each day as it comes and that I will eventually make peace with the lost time, the lost adventures and plans and joyous occasions; it’s a struggle to make peace with not being able to see my people. Every week, as I exit out of yet another diary reminder of a social engagement that will not be going ahead, I mutter under my breath something about it being unfair that we don’t live within walking distance of any family or friends. I’m rather jealous of those that can stand at the end of a driveway and wave to each other. Video calls are great and all, but it’s never the same as physically seeing someone in person, no matter from how far a distance. 

I try to embrace this new normal as best as possible; appreciating the time to spend an afternoon baking, the glorious explosion of blossom around the neighbourhood, the pile of books ready to dive into, but there’s no denying this lockdown business is a rollercoaster of emotions. 

17 Apr 2020

My Top Five Books From 2020 (so far)

What with a lot of us needing more ways to keep ourselves entertained over the weekends these days, I’ve had a few friends and family members ask me for book recommendations recently. Whilst I feel like I’ve read a lot this year, these are the five books I keep dishing out as my top picks.  These are books that I literally couldn’t put down, books that genuinely made me cry or laugh out loud, books that will stay with me. In need of reading material? Read on…

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins 

Holy moly, I still haven’t caught my breath after reading this book. The very definition of impossible to put down. If you want something that literally races along, then this is your guy. I was hooked from the very first line. A breathtaking story of a mother and young son’s attempt to cross the US-Mexico border after their entire family is slaughtered by a cartel. 

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

My top recommendation if you’re looking for something feel-good in these times of crisis. There’s a reason this book has had a lot of fuss; it’s a bloody delightful story. I picked this up at Kings Cross WH Smith for a bargain when I realised I only had a few pages left of my current book and a train journey ahead of me (remember when we got trains?). I loved it so much that I’d finished it less than 24 hours later. 

Tiffy and Leon have never met but they share a flat, and a bed, in London. Leon works nights and occupies the one-bed flat whilst Tiffy is working 9-5 and then she occupies it the rest of the time. They begin communicating through leftover food and post-it notes and what follows is a story that will seriously warm the soul. Whilst it does tackle themes of a coercive and abusive relationship, it does so sensitively and brings more depth to the story without taking away from the loveliness. This is the best romantic comedy novel I’ve come across in a while and I really hope it’s turned into a film. 

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey 

This is an interesting one to make it onto this list because for the first 2-3 chapters, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to keep reading. This was partly because it immediately felt very sad and I wasn’t sure I was up for something heavy, and partly because it’s a bit of a slower burner. By the time I’d finished it though, I was really moved and I’ve pondered the story a lot since – which is always the sign of a good book. 

Whilst it is never explicitly said, this appears to be a story told from the perspective of someone who has dementia which I found such an interesting concept. Maud is an unreliable narrator; things are repeated, the reader begins to piece together clues before Maud suddenly forgets them and only the reader gets some kind of resolution to the seventy year old mystery Maud is trying to solve. I found it a desperately sad book, full of unique details and a narrative unlike anything I’ve read before.   

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell 

Warning: you’ll need a stiff drink after this one. I raced through it and would highly recommend, but it was not a comfortable read. 

Vanessa was 15 the first time she had sex with her English teacher, exactly 30 years older than her. Now she is 32 and he has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student. Vanessa is forced to reconsider her past and contemplate whether her great ‘love’ story was actually rape. A fascinating look at the complexities of grooming, abuse of power, rape and gaslighting. 

Hard to read, hard to put down. 

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano 

Honestly? I think this book has made its way onto my all-time favourites list, and you need to be pretty special to make it onto there. 

One morning a plane takes off from New York, and crashes on route to Los Angeles. 191 people are killed. 12-year-old Edward is the sole survivor. The story alternates between the day of the crash and the stories of the passengers, and Edward learning to navigate his life in the aftermath of tragedy over the following years. 

Questioning what it means to truly live, everything about this story was poignant and beautiful; I would urge you to add it to your reading list. 

Happy reading folks x 

10 Apr 2020

Five Highlights From March

Five Highlights From March


If you told me when I was writing February’s highlights that by the time I sat down to write March’s, the entire country would be in lockdown, I’d have probably looked at you like you were high. 

So here we are, trapped in a real life dystopian novel. How are you?  

Trying to find five highlights for the last month has been trickier than usual but I’m giving a go because focusing on the positives feels essential right now. Needless to say, highlights that include other people obviously took place at the beginning of the month when life was still relatively normal and social distancing measures had yet to come into place. Which was roughly 3561 days ago…

Afternoon tea with Alice – the last friend I saw before shit hit the fan, Alice came over for a day trip and I showed her the highlights of Ely (er my house, afternoon tea & a walk through some fields). It was great to catch up and half way through our walk, we saw the most fabulous rainbow stretching across the sky. 

Dad’s 60th birthday – literally the last in-person social engagement I had before social distancing stepped in, my dad and Elizabeth came to visit and we celebrated his 60th birthday. If I’d know that was going to be my last visit to a restaurant/pub for a long time, I’d have probably drunk more wine.

The sunshine – whilst I appreciate the irony of the dreamy weather arriving just at the point where we can’t be hotfooting it to the beach/park/pub garden, I still am loving those blue skies right now. I feel like it does wonders for the mood. 

Baking – in my defence, I used baking as a bit of an outlet before the pandemic but, yes, like a quarantine cliché, I have also baked banana bread. And banana muffins. And lemon cake. And bread. And cookies. And cornflake flapjack. Seriously, I am marginally out of control. Hit me up if you have flour. 

House – Gary announced this morning that we only have two boxes left in the house. Woah. It feels like we have suddenly turned a corner house-wise and we have hit the point I have been fantasising about for months – just adding the finishing touches. Whilst I had imagined we would celebrate the end to DIY-heavy weekends by having a social-and-travel-heavy few months, I am extremely appreciative of having our lovely house to hunker down in right now. 

Hope you are all keeping safe and well x