Well hello! How are you? I hope your 2020 ended with a Christmas that meant something to you, even if it was a bit different – and that you feel in some way restored. Hitting a new year in a state of extreme lockdown wasn’t what any of us were hoping for but we’ll get through it together. Today I’m going to do a quick Christmas recap for my memory bank and then I’ll share the way that I’m going to approach January and February. I have to confess that even my Pollyanna outlook was dimmed on Monday night but since then I’ve done lots of walking and given myself a good talking to so I’m back on track now – but first, here’s Goodbye 2020 and hello lockdown 3.0.
Goodbye 2020 and hello lockdown 3.0 – Christmas recap
So Christmas 2020. Yes it was different but in some ways it was better. I started by completely logging off from everything and cocooned with Mr MC and the boys – eating, drinking, walking, reading, running and playing games. In fact one morning as I was down on my hands and knees collecting the ashes from the fire grates it struck me that I was probably living a similar Christmas to the ones that the first residents of our house enjoyed over 300 years ago.
I found it especially restorative to switch off from the noise that usually surrounds me. Because my work requires me to have my finger on the pulse of a cross section of society’s thoughts and feelings I can’t just follow the people I want to on social media or read the newspapers I would naturally lean towards and last year I found listening to some of the conspiracists, materialists, militants and the generally vacuous particularly exhausting. So one of the best things about Christmas for me was that there was no seep of negativity and I had absolute peace of mind.
Equally, because the boys were in the same situation as their friends, they had no sense of FOMO; their social media feeds were filled with stories of people spending time with their families just like them and so they were completely relaxed too. As Christmas drew to a close, we all agreed that it had been one of the simplest but nicest ones we’ve had – and nobody was ready to step back into real life.
The only thing I regret is that we were so relaxed that we hardly took any photos even though I made a point of dressing up each day. Admittedly my two pairs of velvet joggers got a lot of wear paired with sequin tops or brightly coloured cashmere but you’ll just have to imagine that, otherwise all I have are these quick snaps from my phone.
Being on the tier2/3 boundary we did manage to go out a little bit which just one week later seems unimaginable. This was a trip to a farm shop for the Christmas cheese board and other local goodies. Overdressed I know but it made me happy to wear my Christmas clothes:
Hush faux fur jacket AW19; IdLF @ Uniqlo cashmere jumper AW16; Anthropologie skirt AW18; LK Bennett boots AW19; earrings (gifted AW19)
Here’s Christmas Eve when we went to a small local cinema to watch the new version of A Christmas Carol. There are only a few seats so we expected it to be full but in fact we had the whole screening to ourselves…
… and a lovely meal out – you can imagine how special that felt this year.
Christmas Day felt strange without my sister and brother-in-law coming over in the morning for a glass of fizz or any other friends popping in but we soon got into the spirit. For the first year ever the boys didn’t get up until 9am, not quite their usual lie-in but surprisingly late for Christmas Day. I suspect they were wondering whether Santa would still come… and he did. Mum-in-law always likes us to send her a nice family photo but this was the nearest we got without anyone pulling a daft face.
Warehouse sequin poloneck (AW20 – sold out)
Teddy dressed up for his walk although he insisted on wearing his Boden jumper Bardot style.
Mr MC and I did a lot of Twixmas running and walking and the boys joined us for our favourite Elterwater circuit when there was snow on the hills. The weather has been spectacular throughout, sunny and crisp and today’s even a snow day.
We had a few themed food nights – après ski was a good one with home-made pizzas, prosecco and Peroni followed by a few rounds of ‘Shut the Box’ (which Mr MC and I associate with crazy Alpine nights that often impeded the next morning on the slopes). Again we forgot to take photos but here’s our Japanese evening,
Hobbs dress (AW18); Zara shoes (AW16)
Mr MC took his role as tepanyaki chef very seriously – I was in charge of the sake and was delighted to find that the boys like it less than I do.
And before we knew it it was New Year’s Eve. We made fajitas, played board games until midnight and then danced to the sparkle of the disco ball until I looked at the clock and realised it was 4am.
Mint Velvet sequin halter (AW19); Velvet trousers (now in the sale, gifted); Aeyde shoes (AW19)
However by that point the boys had taught us lots of new TikTok dances and I’d already hit my 10,000 steps for the day so it didn’t matter that I spent the following afternoon glued to the sofa!
New Year’s Day felt like such a fresh, hopeful start didn’t it? But then over the weekend the Covid clouds gathered. We dedicated Monday to the bleak task of packing the decorations away and then braced ourselves for the Boris broadcast – lockdown 3.0. There’s no denying that it feels like a sick game of Snakes and Ladders and I didn’t post on Tuesday because I felt the very definition of discombobulated. Coming so quickly after the cosy refuge of Christmas this lockdown feels brutal and the new transmission rate of the virus is, of course, worrying. Suddenly the odds have changed. However, as we so often say to the boys, it’s a Bear Hunt. We can’t go over it, we just have to go through it so I’ve been working out how I’m going to approach it.
Goodbye 2020 and hello lockdown 3.0 – facing January 2021
When I was out with Ted yesterday I looked across at the snow topped hills and thought about my ancestors. You may remember me showing you the farmhouse they lived in after we found it last half term. Their winters must have been really hard in the bleak landscape of Stainmore with no neighbours for miles around and it struck me how arrogant and over evolved we’ve perhaps become in our expectations of winter.
At Uncle Stan’s funeral I discovered that the farm is within our family’s living memory because my uncle remembers going there – so that lifestyle really isn’t that long ago. And yet now we assume that in winter we’ll be cossetted by central heating and hot water or even a quick escape to somewhere warmer if we feel like it. We expect our food supplies to be constantly available and not to change with the seasons. Back then people would have hunkered down for the winter which is really what we have to do this year. But whereas they would have been struggling to sustain themselves and their animals in cold houses with reduced and bland winter food supplies that they’d stored throughout the previous year, all most of us have to do now is bed down in our warm, comfortable homes with a well thought-out weekly food shop.
Bleak winters are a counterpoint to bountiful summers; without them there is less contrast in our lives so just think how good this summer is going to feel when we reach the point of sufficient immunity for lockdown to end. For now we need to find a way to make the next few months as good as they can be in the circumstances. In another strange parallel to my ancestors I’m accepting that my income will be reduced as retail pauses and my contracts are put on hold until there is more clarity about timeframes. So as they did, I’ll just have to pull my belt in and ‘winter’.
You’ve probably read about the Scandi concept of ‘wintering’ which is the approach they take to getting through their long, dark days. They make a point of wrapping up and getting outside in the daylight for an hour or more. This helps to manage the Circadian rhythm, mitigating problems with sleep and depression that can be compounded by a lack of light and the distinction between night and day. When they return inside, they cocoon so it’s all about making everything as cosy as possible. We’re having log fires every night, lighting candles and we’ve left quite a few fairy lights out which we’ll put away ceremoniously when the clocks go forward in March. I’m cooking soups and stews using winter spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and as it’s dry January, we’re making up for it with hot chocolate, chais and spiced lattes.
When you think about it, this semi-hibernation is actually a much more natural state for us to be in at this time of year when nature is fallow, preparing itself for a springtime revival. I always think that the idea that nature is kind and beneficent is an urban myth. When you live in the countryside you know that it’s more often brutal than gentle. Since last spring we’ve had a family of swans on the canal at the bottom of the garden. Over Christmas we noticed that the cygnets, now in their ugly ducking stage, were still huddled together with their parents. However this week I’ve watched the father as he’s chased his offspring away. Now they’re lurking a bit further down, standing disconsolately on the solid ice wondering what to do next. For them it must feel like the end of days, they must wonder where the water’s gone and of course they don’t have the knowledge that spring will come again. Nature tests us, it aways has and it always will. I know not everyone agrees but it could be said that nature has created this human virus – and we have to do whatever we can to get through it.
So what I’m suggesting is that we stop feeling shocked and affronted by what’s happening and instead have the humility to accept that however evolved we’ve become, we’re still animals. We have two options; one is to keep going round in circles feeling annoyed and fed up, the other is to take it for what it is and make the best we possibly can of it. For the first time since Covid hit us we have a little certainty. We know that we’re going to be locked down until at least the end of February – that’s eight weeks which is the perfect timeframe to achieve something positive. There’s time to complete Couch to 5K… lose half a stone… knit something… take an online course in something completely new… choose six books to read on a particular subject… complete my free capsule wardrobe course… My advice is just to decide on one thing. Like most people I gave myself too many projects in the first lockdown which meant that I didn’t finish any of them. This January it’s time to mimic nature by slowing down and restoring ourselves whenever we can.
I’m structuring my days so that I don’t waste time at my desk worrying about the work that isn’t there. I’m reminding myself that when it comes back I won’t look up from my keyboard for weeks on end so I’m:
- Spending an hour outside either walking or running
- Sitting at my desk for only 3 hours a day
- Blogging once a week
- Doing one retail course to bring my buying and merchandising knowledge up to date
- Giving myself just 3 tasks to complete each day which means I have a sense of overachievement because I then always go on to do a few more
- Cocooning in the evenings with healthy food, warmth, music, books and Vikings on Amazon Prime – which again reminds me how cushy our lives are even now.
What’s my overarching project? I’m afraid it’s the half stone. I got out of the habit of weighing myself last year and when I stepped on the scales this week I realised that I have to pay the price of letting that discipline go.
I’ll leave you with one last thought from one of my walks. I was looking back over the last couple of years at the memories that stand out and I realised that they’re hardly ever made in the early part of the year. Unless you’re someone who always has a winter holiday, even when life is ‘normal’ the months from January through to April often just pass in a mist of time. So although right now it feels frustrating when you look ahead at 2021, if you view the year backwards there isn’t much to be missed. We’re in a much better position than we were at the start of the last two lockdowns because with the vaccines, the end is in sight at some point this year. As a reader friend said to me in a message recently, it’s time to put on our big girl pants and if we do that we’ll get through it. Do share any plans that you have for managing the next couple of months in the comments because you will undoubtedly help someone else if you do. In the meantime, Happy New Year my friends – pants on and off we go!
[Final note – I’m sure we all want to send our very best wishes to everyone working frantically without the opportunity to pause and also our friends in the US who must be feeling all kinds of emotions after this week’s events. Not long now.]
Disclosure: ‘Goodbye 2020 and hello lockdown 3.0’ is not a sponsored post
The capsule wardrobe course
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