Hello everyone, I’m back from my ‘week off.’ I hope you’ve all been settling into this new way of living, I thought we’d have a quick Midlife lately quarantine catch up today and then perhaps go on to look at some clothes on Friday. As this spell of good weather continues (she says, touching wood), I’m starting to think about a wardrobe for a summer that is largely, if not completely, going to be spent at home.
Before that though lots of you have said you’ve enjoyed the coronavirus diaries so I’m going to have a quick whiz through what’s been happening here. As always, I need to say that this is just me reporting from our northern outpost. I know that we’re having a relatively easy time of it compared to some of you and I want to point out that I’m neither gloating nor moaning. I’m sure you know that but I sense from social media that feelings are running high and that some people are being easily upset by people posting about their everyday lives so I feel I need to add it here before I start.
So, what have we been doing? I knew I should have jotted down some notes every day because it’s all blurred into one. Apart from Christmas I don’t think I’ve ever taken a week off at home before and it took me a while to settle into it but I did by the end – and of course now it’s hard to get going again. I think it would be a bit of a tedious read if I did a daily update so I’m just going to chat about the things that stood out.
Midlife lately quarantine – The Ups
Fiesta de Pascua
As I left you last time we were planning a Spanish Fiesta for Easter Saturday to make up for the fact that we weren’t enjoying the first night of our planned week in Mallorca. I wasn’t sure if the boys would get into the mood for it or just roll their eyes but they seemed to. Earlier in the day I suggested that we should all dress up as though we were on holiday. Of course I was imagining them putting on nice linen shirts and shorts as they would if we were going out for dinner… but they had their own interpretation of Mallorca:
Dress; Boden shoes (SS19)
I should add that we haven’t been there since they were tiny and so Magaluf now appears to be their primary reference – it was certainly more authentic here than it would’ve been if they were there. We had a Spanish-Mexican hybrid dinner with cava followed by furious rounds of Perudo.
Just a word about the dress I’m wearing because I had so many questions when I put this on Instagram. I obviously bought it with Mallorca in mind but it’s working well here in the sunshine, it’s the nicest summer dress I’ve had for a while, true to size, comfortable and easy to wear with either heels or trainers. I absolutely love it and wish they’d do more colours.
Back to Easter. On Sunday morning we looked out to find that the poor old Easter bunny is in fact a key worker and had done his job. The boys were up early, knowing that if they didn’t appear Teddy and our resident squirrel family would rapidly complete the hunt for them. We had hot cross buns for breakfast and a long, lazy lunch so it was another lovely day.
Landing stage update
The landing stage project is progressing. Mr MC is a ruthless perfectionist and so they’ve spent hours digging, terracing and levelling. There are often days when he decides that a trench they’ve dug isn’t in quite the right place and so it has to be filled in and dug again. My job then is to listen and mop brows as they come to let off steam and then get back to work.
I’m still running with the eldest and it’s a real pleasure – not the running itself I must add, I’m not at the point yet where I’d call myself an enthusiastic runner (and probably never will be) but I love the feeling of doing something with this particular boy who in an ordinary life would have spread his wings by now. It’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. His back is getting better and so he’s always ahead of me now – as he should be.
You’ll no doubt have seen the #run5donate5nominate5 nominations going round social media asking people to run 5K for the NHS and then make a donation before passing five more challenges on. I received mine from my old schoolfriend Stiz last week who was no doubt laughing slightly manically as she did it, knowing only too well how much I used to hated cross country. Anyway we did ours on Sunday and you’ll be pleased to know that two of the people that I then challenged were Midlifechic readers – Anne and Gillian who came to France with me last year. It seemed only fair to spread the joy amongst our community here!
A better way to food shop
Mr MC and I are now doing almost all of our shopping from a local farm shop. They sent out an SOS last week because people are so focused on the supermarkets that they’ve stopped going. It’s actually a lovely experience, there’s very rarely anybody there other than us and all of the produce is freshly grown or made on the farm. They do coffee to take away and we can give Teddy a walk at the same time. I don’t miss trudging round Sainsbury’s one bit.
There’s even a raw milk station at this one where you can serve yourself – it comes from those happy cows that you saw in the video a couple of weeks ago.
While we’re talking about shopping a few readers have written in with a plea for people not to book supermarket deliveries if there’s a shortage in your area. Each slot reserved is one taken away from a shielded person who can’t go out to shop for their own needs. If you’re in a rural area it’s worth thinking about going to a farm shop because so many of them are having to throw their produce away at the moment.
A self haircut
When we went last week I’d just cut my own hair for the first time and it went ok although it doesn’t behave quite as it should now. I have to say I’ll be very excited if they do allow the hairdressers to open again in three weeks’ time.
Midlife lately quarantine – The Downs
It’s inevitable that we’re going to have a few downs as well as ups and I appreciate that ours so far are pretty minor but I don’t want to paint a fake rosy coronavirus glow – there’s too much of that going on. Last Thursday was the day when a further three weeks of lockdown was confirmed. We all knew it was coming but somehow it was still a blow. The boys had generally been rubbing along quite well but I was aware that tensions were building and they were starting to grumble at each other. On Thursday night, after the announcement was made, it bubbled over and two of them had an almighty bust up. They were all upstairs and the third one heard what was going on and decided to get involved too. We were completely oblivious to it all until they appeared downstairs, one after the other, to put their cases forward.
On one level it reminded me of the scraps that used to blow up over a cherished piece of Lego but on another it felt quite daunting because they’re now men with strong opinions, loud voices and big muscles. In the end one went for a walk to cool down while we talked to the other two. Mr MC then stayed up with the protagonist, talking until the early hours of the morning until he got to the bottom of it all.
By Friday evening the three of them had talked it through and even had a hug but it took me a bit longer to get over it. I hate confrontation and I’m used to our house running on a gently happy hum. I’m raising it here because it made me realise what a tough time more volatile families must be having. We have friends who regularly have huge family barneys where stuff is thrown and things are said that are hard to take back – it’s just their way but I must ring to see how they’re getting through this. On a lower level my sister was telling me about a conversation with someone who was starting to even feel irritated by the way her husband drinks his tea.
We all know how extraordinary it is for families to be cooped up together in the way that we all are and there’s no shame if people are getting on each other’s nerves. I realise that it’s perhaps fortunate that Mr MC has his landing stage project because I’m actually seeing less of him than I usually do – he’s down there from dawn until the sun sets. However the short but intense explosion in our house gave me a glimpse of the stress that some people must be living with. As always if it’s happening to you and you need to let off steam do feel free to do so in the comments. You can post anonymously by using a made up name but if you’re feeling stressed, isolated or even scared, I along with other people here will do our best to support you.
Other than that the thing that is getting to me most is the constant hum of worry about work. There’s still no sign of government support for the two million owners of small limited companies. They keep stating that 95% of self employed people are covered by their schemes but their maths must be worse than mine. I can only think that they’re including the option of loans in that figure which seems unfair when so many are being given direct support. I’ve heard from lots of you who are in the same situation and feel as forsaken as I do. Mr MC as always is remaining calm – he doesn’t worry about things until he needs to but my mind tends to drift ahead and wonder at what point marketing budgets will come back when this is all over. I know that worrying won’t change anything so I try not to let it go there too often.
We’ve had the first case of coronavirus in our family. Mum-in-law called last week to let us know that despite self isolating, Mr MC’s brother had gone down with it. As you can imagine she dreads losing another of her sons so she’s been very shaken. He’s on day seven today and is starting to pull through thank goodness although he’s still sleeping most of the time which is very out of character.
So what else comes to mind when I look back over the last week?
Midlife lately – noticing the small things
For years we’ve heard an owl in our garden hooting late at night. Now that the evenings are so quiet we hear him much earlier and so we’ve all been able to look out and spot him in the trees. We can see now that he’s a tawny owl and his cry is the classic “woo hooo.” His female partner is around somewhere, we hear her “kewick” screech in reply but we haven’t seen her yet. It’s just one of those little things that’s always been in the background but has suddenly become a more noticeable part of our life.
As everyone else has been down on the deck, I’ve been digging the garden and have ended up quite enjoying it. Gardening in the north has been a constant battle for me since we moved here. I learned my planting habits in the balmy south and have been consistently disappointed that everything I’ve tried to do here has failed because the climate is so different. As I’ve been digging I’ve been thinking back to gardening with my mum when I was little. It’s given me time to reflect and I understand what I need to do going forwards.
I’m so glad that we brought Ted into our lives when we did, even though he still chews absolutely everything he brings us such a lot of pleasure every day. I had my biggest laugh yet with him the other night when he suddenly started tearing round the house as though the devil was on his tail. Eventually I managed to calm him down and noticed what lovely fresh breath he had… he’d been rifling through the youngest’s school bag and found a packet of Extra Strong Mints. I don’t think he’ll try them again.
Things I miss
As well as the obvious one of ‘popping out’ – for a drink, a chat, a coffee, a movie… I really miss fresh flowers. I’ve been reading about the collapse of the industry in both Holland and Kenya – obviously flowers aren’t an urgent need right now but I realise now how much I take them for granted.
Midlife lately quarantine – Little Loves
There are other things that I’m really appreciating though and I’ve been trying to remember some to share with you:
I ran out of the Verso retinol that I used to rave about a while ago and as an economy bought some Medik8 which I found to be absolutely useless. I’ve finally come to the end of it and replaced it with my trusted brand, Skinceuticals – and the results are amazing. This isn’t sponsored or gifted, it’s pricey but it really works. It takes about four nights before you see results and I’ve been using it every other night to avoid sensitivity but if you look at the running photo above you can see that my skin’s looking fresher and more glowy than usual. If you use it you MUST apply a good sunscreen though because you’re bringing through vulnerable new skin.
Energising shower gel
I’m not a big lover of shower gels generally, I’m perfectly happy with a bar of Dove soap but I was given this one when we went to stay at The Swan in Newby Bridge last year. As always I’ve been saving it and now seemed like the right time to use it. The quality of the fragrance is outstanding, it’s a mix of peppermint and eucalyptus which sounds harsh but honestly it isn’t, it’s like a blast of fresh air every morning and I’ll use it forever.
Energising shower gel (10% off with NEW10)
It looks as though we’re soon going to be required to wear face masks when we go out however with the current PPE shortage we’re being asked not to buy medical grade masks. Apparently they’re easy to make and a few of you have sent ideas through, here’s one.
Alternatively if you don’t want to make your own, Baukjen, who are doing so many good things during this crisis, have made some with an anti-bacterial coating that they’re selling at cost price.
They will be delivered this week and if you buy an assorted pack of five, they’ll send you another pack free to share with friends and neighbours. They’re available on pre-order and bound to disappear fast – here they are.
I’m not in the mood for heavy reading at the moment. I can report back that I absolutely loved Victoria Hislop’s Those Who Are Loved. It was a particularly apt read because it covers the years of occupation and then post war hardship in Greece and makes you realise that people have lived through far worse things than this in recent times.
And my light but well written and utterly unputdownable read last week was Magpie Lane. Again I learned a lot – about Oxford this time and it’s made me want to go back there even more. It’s a bit of a spooky thriller and it will really take your mind off things.
I’ve now moved on to Lockdown which was written in 2005 and uncannily imagined life in London under a pandemic. Ironically at the time the author couldn’t get it published because the publishing houses said it was too unrealistic. I probably wouldn’t have read it in normal circumstances but his visualisation of lockdown is quite accurate and it makes you appreciate how much worse this could be if the virus had a higher mortality rate.
Like everyone I’ve been baking a lot and most of my recipes are old family ones – it’s comforting knowing that I’m making the same treats that the women in my family have served up through the years. I even managed to get hold of some flour last week when I took the boy to collect his things from his student house. All of his friends have left now but they hadn’t cleared the kitchen (how grim will that be when lockdown ends?!) and he discovered a barely used bag of M&S flour in the cupboard.
I’m guarding it carefully though so I’m still making most things with oats and I remembered an old recipe that I had when the boys were little. It was given to me by a friend in the Surbiton school playground, she came from New Zealand and was always baking. It’s really easy and you can adapt it to include the things you like best. When we moved up here I often used to throw it together for school bake sales and so it was soon nicknamed ‘Garnetts’ Granolas’. And now I’m going to share it with you, I hope you can read my scribble and excuse the messy ripped out recipes in the back of the book, I must write them up.
I think that’s my Midlife lately quarantine for now. I’ll be back on Friday and I’ve ordered a few new things so if they arrive in time I’ll do a try on. In the meantime there’s 25% off at Boden here until Thursday with code 6T2C – the new collection arrives next week. John Lewis & Partners have also kicked off with an early clearance hub here to get rid of some overstocks. And Sézane have a very rare sale that started today here.
Keep smiling everyone and if you can’t, remember we’re here for each other. Thank you to those of you who helped me with the comments last time. I approach them chronologically and it’s taking me a while to get through them so I really appreciate you popping in to help when you spot someone who could do with a quicker answer.
Disclosure: ‘Midlife lately – quarantine’ is not a sponsored post
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