Well hello… hasn’t this been the strangest of weeks? I awoke on Monday morning to our usual routine and by Wednesday it had all gone awry. As one of my reasons for writing this blog is to connect with future generations of my family, I’m going to be logging how it feels to live through these strange coronavirus days but it won’t all be doom and gloom. I’ll be looking for the upsides wherever I can, hoping that Midlifechic can feel like a good place to come to when self isolation becomes too much. I hope you’ll stick with me, I’ll continue to cover style and beauty too as a way of supporting the retail industry and also to give us a little light relief.

For now though let’s look at the week where everything changed. I want to start by acknowledging that we’re in a relatively fortunate position, it’s easy for us to work from home and our children are probably at the best point in their educational lives for this to happen. I really feel for all of the parents out there who have younger children and of course those in the GCSE / A Level and University final years. Obviously I have no idea as yet of how this will affect our business and I feel a bit sick if I think about it but we’ve weathered recession before. We’ve run a lean business since 2009 and we’re used to working with different teams remotely.

We’re all going to experience these coronavirus days differently and I don’t want this to be a place of comparison. I’d rather that we all share our experiences and support each other through the next few weeks and months. So I’m going to be leading with what’s happening here and I hope you’ll join in by sharing what it’s like for you in the comments. I suppose that at least if my workflow becomes less busy I’ll have more time to keep up with them and I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed catching up with some of them today.

To date there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus within a 20 mile radius of us so we’ve probably been more insulated from the impact than the rest of the country but this week has hit us nevertheless. This is how it’s gone so far.

Midlife lately – strange Coronavirus days

Monday 16th March

On Monday morning a slam of the front door woke me at 6am as the middle son headed out to an extra job that he’d just taken on. He’s been working hard to pay for a June holiday in Xante with friends and he’d managed to top up the hours from his Primark job by working in the cafe at the gym that Mr MC and I go to.

I woke the youngest for a day at school that felt less exciting than planned because we should have been hosting the French Exchange student that he stayed with in Lyon. They’d forged a good friendship while he was out there in January and he’d made lots of plans for our half of the visit.

Mr MC and I had already decided that we’d base ourselves in the studio at the bottom of our garden for the next few months and so it was an easy commute to a nice environment. There’s plenty of space and we each have our own office so we’re very well set up – as is Ted who has his own bed there. The week was looking busy with lots of meetings and one last trip to London for me on Thursday to tie a few things up and have my hair cut.

As soon as we got in, the meetings cancelled, one after another. I noticed that my Inbox was dead too. On average I get over 200 emails in my work Inbox every day and a further 125 in Midlifechic but other than marketing campaigns there were only about five in each. So we left work early to head to a gym class and found that an intensive new hygiene regime had been implemented which felt good. The Academy that we’ve been part of is heading into its final three weeks and the workout was even tougher than usual. The class was full but as we drove away in good spirits, the six o’clock news began on Radio Four explaining the increased social isolation measures that were being advised.

Monday nights are always busy in our house – we have the gym, if the eldest has been home for the weekend he heads off to a ‘skint Mondays’ student night with his friends and the middle one has a three hour session with the Youth Theatre that he’s part of. This week we arrived home to find all three of them sitting together on the sofa looking glum and it was the first inkling of the impact that Coronavirus is going to have on our lives.

The eldest has been preparing to move down to London to begin his marketing career. As you know, for the last few months he’s been working for a security company with friends from his student rugby team while he’s been waiting for a particular opportunity to arise. He’s enjoyed his job because he’s been ‘head doorkeeper’ at the student union nightclub and so since September he’s been living his last student hurrah before heading into the rat race. They’ve all been sharing a student house and having a lot of fun but recently as finals have drawn closer for his chums, he’s realised it’s time to move on. Luckily he had a call at just the right time and so he was busily putting plans in place. On Monday he was told that the big brand he was going to work for had cancelled all recruitment. At the same time the university announced that the nightclub was closing and the security firm explained that the other roles he’d had managing football crowds on Saturdays were also of course over. So in a single day he’d lost both his current and future jobs.

The middle one had landed not one but two good parts in plays at two different theatres. He’s been rehearsing hard with a lot of lines to learn and was looking forward to his most tasking role yet. He’d warned us that it would be hard to watch because he was playing the main part of a rapist but we had tickets booked and were going as a family next week. The other play was a bit lighter, The Secret Garden, but it would have a broader audience and so was exciting in a different way. On Monday night, halfway through their tech rehearsal, they were told to stop. The boards of both theatres had held emergency meetings after the Boris speech and decided to close immediately until further notice.

Tuesday 16th March

On Tuesday I was busy putting everything together for the Midlifechic sale when I saw a desperate appeal from the local Food Bank who are struggling at every level. I’d planned to support Marie Curie but at least there was something I could do and as you know, I switched my charity to The Trussell Trust. A huge thank you to everyone here who supported the sale or sent donations.

At lunchtime the middle one sat down heavily in my office having just been told that all future shifts at his café job had been cancelled. I was glad of his habitual sunny nature as he acknowledged that he probably didn’t need the money now because his holiday was unlikely to happen. I always admire his ability to find the positives in difficult circumstances.

That afternoon Mr MC and I sat down with the accountant who acts as our Finance Director to go through our year end figures and look at the twelve months ahead. And of course how can you forecast at the moment? How can you know what business reserves you need to put in place? We listened to the Johnson / Sunak broadcast at 5pm but there was no help there for businesses like ours. We’re trying not to feel nervous but I wrote a few months ago about how long it took us to recover from the last recession. These are the times when you pay for the freedom of being self employed.

Wednesday 17th March

This must have been the day when everyone else started working from home because we noticed that our broadband slowed down dramatically. A downside of living in a listed building in a conservation area is that nobody has a fibre connection and so relies on BT. It isn’t usually a problem because we have three lines to the house but it’s now really impacting on everything. As a result, blog posts may have to be shorter and simpler for a while.

We’ve fallen into a new ‘working from the garden’ routine and the youngest rocks up from school at 5pm just in time to settle into a chair in my office and watch the Boris daily update on BBC News. It feels very World War 2, as though we’re tuning in to Churchill on the wireless. Wednesday’s announcement of course was that all schools were to close. I thought the boy might be pleased but he’s really enjoying his A Level subjects so his face fell. He has a great group of friends but they all travel in from villages all over the county, as does his girlfriend, so he’s going to miss the daily interactions.

Thursday 18th March

Going to London clearly wasn’t an option so I decided it was time to do some shopping – not panic buying but I needed to top up some essentials. Given that I’d been based at home all week I was stunned by how quiet it was in town and Boots and the supermarkets were stripped bare. In the end we remembered that we have a business card for the local Cash and Carry so we tried there but it was pretty empty too apart from one last 20kg sack of rice so it will be rice with everything and plenty to share for the next few months whether there are shortages or not!

Friday 19th March

My local hairdresser kindly agreed to give me an appointment. She’s a sole trader so we were isolated and she needs the income. I went armed with pictures of my Josh Wood / Hersheson colour and cuts and she’s done a good job.

From tonight we’ll have three big boys at home. The youngest’s school is extremely well prepared and they will have live lessons online with their usual teachers every day so that’s ok – as long as the broadband holds. I’m not sure whether he sees it as a good thing that his parents have degrees in the subjects he’s taking but I do! The other two will be at a loose end though so thank goodness we have our studio to retreat to because there’s no doubt that at this stage in their lives they’re going to feel the pressure of having nothing to do and nowhere to go.

The weekend

We’ll be busy packing up all of the orders from the sale so that will keep us busy at home on Saturday. I’ve reduced the prices of the last few pieces here so that I can close it and make the donation to The Trussell Trust on Monday. Hopefully the shelves will soon be full again but right now food supply is a problem throughout the country so do try and support your local Food Bank if you can.

And then of course it’s Mothering Sunday and I have to say I can really feel my mum at my side at the moment. She and my dad were married in the war and he flew Lancasters as part of Bomber Command. They never forgot the frugal habits they learned during the years of rationing and so I find I can easily slip into their mindset of making things stretch. We often had tomato sandwiches for tea on Sundays where two tomatoes would be thinly shared between the three of us on bread drenched with sugar and vinegar.

That isn’t what we’ll be eating on Sunday though. I’ll enjoy having the boys around me and it will be a simple day. As always I send thoughts to everyone else who misses their mum and also has children who weren’t born or are no longer around. I always think of the babies I lost to miscarriages and of my sister and sister in law who no longer have their daughters. Life doesn’t always make sense does it?

Strange Coronavirus days – Reasons to be cheerful

We’re lucky – our situation isn’t a bad one at the moment. We don’t know anybody who is ill and other than Mr MC’s mum, our extended family and friends are fit and healthy. Even so, having documented all of this, I feel it’s time to look for the upsides so I’m focusing on five different positives every day and today’s are:

  1. How nice it is to have this time with the boys at home when I’d expected them to be leaving.
  2. A family project. The budget from our cancelled holidays can go towards renovating our boat landing (we don’t have a boat but it’s nice to have the option). Our garden goes down onto the canal but the whole wooden deck needs replacing and so if work is quiet, it will give Mr MC a fresh air project to work on with the boys. When it’s finished it will be a lovely spot for a glass of wine in the summer.
  3. The thought of holidays in the future. This has made me realise how much we took holidays for granted, often grumbling about the nuisance of air travel and other such inconveniences. Won’t it feel fantastic to fly away again when the time comes? We’ll appreciate travelling so much more.
  4. Our community pulling together. As in so many other places in the UK a network of help is being formed and we’re all talking more at a local level than ever before, even though it’s all online. At the end of this, new bonds will have formed.
  5. History is being made and we’re living through it (again), there’s no doubt that the world will change as a result of this. Things will never be the same and although there’s no denying that we’re going to have some difficult times, good will come from it too. It’s an opportunity for each of us to really rethink our lives.

There are two more rather random thoughts that I want to leave you with:

  1. However hard the retailers are pushing it, if you’re working from home I advise you not to rush out and buy lots of new leisurewear. Trust me, wearing ‘comfies’ day in, day out soon drags your spirits down. You still need to have a marker between week and weekend so save leisurewear for Saturdays and Sundays and focus on smarter casual instead. I’ve learned that it makes a key difference to my day if I feel as though I’m dressed for work rather than slobbing around. This is an opportunity to really consider and refine your smart casual look and you’ll wear anything you buy for a long time when this is all over.
  2. Don’t worry. I know it’s hard but try not to keep on refreshing your newsfeed and worrying about how this is going to pan out. Nobody in the world knows and so there is absolutely no point in catastrophising. I was awake in the early hours this morning and found myself slipping into it so I picked up my iPad and got on with the novel I’m reading. At just the right point it included the Serenity prayer and so I’m going to remind you of it too because it’s useful now, regardless of whether you have a faith:

Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’m hoping that over the next few weeks, I can keep this as a place where we can all share and document what we’re living through and it will be great to have a perspective from other countries too. We’ve been rewriting our wills recently and I’ve been making sure that Midlifechic will survive beyond me so this will be a social document for future generations to read. And we’re going to need the friendships that we’ve built here more than ever so let’s keep them going. There are bound to be a few mad moments ahead chez Midlifechic so there will be light relief at hand too. Keep smiling everyone and remember… this too will pass.

Disclosure: ‘Midlife lately – strange Coronavirus days’ is not a sponsored post

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