So that was Christmas! Hello 2022 – I’m wishing a rather belated Happy New Year to you. As you’ll have gathered if you follow my Instagram account, our Christmas was lovely but not quite the one we expected because along with so many others, I went down with Covid. It meant that I took last week off to recoup some of my lost time with the boys before they went back – and to recover a bit. So there aren’t as many photos of Christmas as usual but let’s have a quick catch-up before we move into 2022 and what it might hold.
So that was Christmas!
My last post here was on 22nd December. The following morning I woke up with a sore throat but it went away after a cup of tea so I carried on with my planned day of baking, filling the cake and biscuit tins to the brim. On Christmas Eve my throat was worse so I did a lateral flow test. It was negative and we went ahead with our plans which, as you know, had changed because our trip to The Lowry was cancelled so we were making do with Spiderman at the cinema instead. I wore my theatre outfit anyway with a new slogan sweatshirt that went over some people’s heads but made others smile.
Hush coat (AW18), Boden velvet trousers (AW19); Santé Baby sweatshirt (now in the sale); Hush boots (AW19); Uniqlo snood (AW16)
We had a lovely afternoon and then went home to await the arrival of the middle one who made it home a little wearily, just before midnight. I think Ted’s madly wagging tail here speaks for how we were all feeling – at last Christmas could really begin.
Christmas Day had a slightly later start than usual. The youngest appeared in our room at 9am, keen to wake his brothers but only too aware that they’d respond far more politely to me suggesting that they get out of bed than him! Father Christmas had been and so down we went to watch them opening their stockings and the day began. My throat was still sore but I was too busy to think much of it and it was soon soothed by a glass of fizz. We had a truly lovely day with food and games and lots of laughs – it couldn’t have been any better really, even Ted got into the spirit, proudly sporting his red bow tie.
Boxing Day and my throat was still sore. I did another test and got another negative result so we carried on with our plans to go to Zeffirelli’s in Ambleside to see the new Matrix film that Mr MC had waited so long for.
M&S coat (AW15); Warehouse sequin top (AW20); Hush velvet joggers (Aw16); Hush gold boots (AW19); Umbrella
Looking back now I’m glad that the cinema was almost empty apart from us and of course we wore our masks.
Sitting down for pizza afterwards I noticed that I didn’t have much appetite and didn’t feel like a glass of wine which is unusual at Christmas, I had a headache too so we didn’t stay very long before heading back home. The eldest’s girlfriend was due to arrive the following day so knowing that she had a seven hour drive ahead of her I tested again – still negative so I assumed I was just feeling the effect of a couple of days of indulgence.
The following morning I felt completely better. We had a relaxing day and then a special dinner with the two girlfriends joining us, followed by a furiously fought challenge of Trivial Pursuit. Towards the end of the game my nose suddenly started streaming. We were planning to host our big family get together the following evening – nephews had driven over from Harrogate and Wakefield and another was back from China with his new wife who we haven’t met – they got married in lockdown in Kuala Lumpur where they were both working at the time. So even though it was now after midnight I thought I’d better do yet another test… and this time it was positive. We quickly cancelled everything, it was so disappointing for everyone and I felt really bad that I’d exposed the girls to it that evening.
For the next couple of days I stayed away from everyone – and I didn’t feel desperately ill but it certainly wasn’t anything like the ‘bad cold’ that the press keep describing. At the end of the second day they came to the joint decision that we should just carry on with Christmas saying if they had to catch it, it wasn’t the worst time for them to be ill. So Christmas was back on, albeit with me firing on only one of my four cylinders. They did a good job of keeping things running around me – even if that meant I kept coming across things like this – which threw my aching brain somewhat!
And so the days went on, the lovely Twixmas days that I usually enjoy so much. On each one I felt Covid move through a different set of symptoms – going down my throat, onto my chest, sometimes making me feel so dizzy that I almost fell over and then, of course, there was the loss of smell and taste. I was glad that it was only four weeks since I had the booster jab in November because I could feel how nasty it would have been if I hadn’t been vaccinated. We were lucky that the youngest had had four boxes of lateral flow tests in his bedroom left over from his days at school and we had two in the kitchen cupboard so everyone was able to keep on testing – and nobody else caught it, even Mr MC who didn’t distance from me at all. I know there are readers who don’t like me talking about the vaccine but everyone was triple jabbed apart from the youngest and his girlfriend who have both had two – so surely that must show that it works for the majority of people.
I was glad that I had a couple of pairs of velvet joggers which helped to elevate my days spent on the sofa. This was on New Year’s Eve, the younger two had stayed in and isolated with me up to this point but the rules had changed. They both continued to have the required clear lateral flows so they were heading out to different parties.
Boden velvet top (AW20) Hush velvet joggers (AW16)
Happily the eldest and his girlfriend decided to spend the evening with us so that was the encouragement I needed to make a bit of an effort for the first time in a week.
Finery velvet top (AW16); Anthropologie sequin skirt (AW18); Boden sequin shoes (AW19)
It was a relaxed evening, Mr MC made fajitas and we played Triv and Cards Against Humanity until midnight struck. The eldest’s girlfriend is getting used to our strange northern ways now and I love this picture of her. She was a great sport, waiting outside in her shorts with whisky, coal, bread and salt to be our dark haired first footer. I know it’s supposed to be a man but I’m sure a woman must bring even better luck – this is 2022 after all.
We took a quick photo to send to the rest of the family…
… and the younger two had met up by this point so they sent one back from the club they were in – and still they didn’t get Covid!
For the next few days I felt pretty shattered but it was worth it for a fun New Year’s Eve, it felt important to say a resounding goodbye to 2021 and welcome 2022 in with open arms.
So that was Christmas! I’m now back at my desk feeling a bit newborn. I didn’t feel up to doing any of my usual new year thinking or planning while I was off and Mr MC and I didn’t have our Twixmas walk where we digest the old year and make changes for the new. So the rest of this post is just going to be me thinking out loud as I reflect on 2021 for the first time.
2021 in review
Actually can any of us quite bear to look back over 2021 just yet? As we approached it just over twelve months ago we were so filled with hope, trusting that it would be a year brimming with promise after the shock of the previous months. And yet quite quickly it turned into the wicked younger sibling of 2020. If I was a cartoonist and had to do a line-drawing of my 2021 self I think it would be smiling frantically but with gritted teeth. And I know my year was nowhere near as bad as a lot of people’s but when I scroll through the photos on my phone, two things stand out. Firstly, in terms of adventure and achievement, not much happened and secondly, lockdown went on for much longer that I realised. We didn’t really start going out and about again until August – look back at your own pictures and you’ll find the same thing. It shows how the memory plays tricks on you because if you’d asked me in December, I’d have sworn we’d been back to normal since about April.
The downs of 2021
So as always I’m going to begin with the downs and I think the biggest one for me personally is not really achieving anything on an individual level. I don’t think that’s ever happened before and as someone who was drilled by school and mother to achieve constantly, it feels like a failure. If the last two months of the year hadn’t gone wrong I’d have been able to say that I was the fittest and strongest I’d ever been but after my leg operation in mid-November I went back to the gym too soon and picked up two training injuries, then rounded it all off with Covid. So a lot of the progress I’d made on that front has turned, quite literally, to jelly.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia
At a family level the big sadness in our lives of course was Mum-in-Law’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Dementia which came just at the point when we’d finished renovating our apartment and were looking forward to spending more time with her. It will still enable us to do that but in a different way to the one we’d imagined. It’s early days and the situation over there can sometimes feel strained as everyone in the family is reacting in their own way and often it’s difficult.
Sibling relationships often polarise at times like this, I know that from my own journey with ill parents – and my family is a relatively easy one to navigate. Mr MC’s is much bigger and, as you know, four of his siblings are no longer alive (three died as adults, one as a baby). It means that as the youngest he’s having to step up and into their shoes. As the youngest daughter-in-law I’ve always been happy to acquiesce to the others but now as well as wanting to help, I’m the only one that remains officially ‘on duty’ so I’m trying to work out what I need to do without treading on anyone else’s toes. No relationship is ever fixed, you have to keep on bending and morphing and that’s what we must do this year in every way we can.
As you know, I lived in dread of the looming empty nest for the first two thirds of last year. I wasn’t worried about being left with Mr MC, it was simply because I’m very aware of the laughter and energy that the boys bring to my life. As we reach the end of our active parenting journey, in addition to being their mum and dad we’ve managed to establish a more adult relationship with them as friends and so our house is a lot of fun when they’re around.
All of this meant I wasn’t looking forward to the silence or their absence… but then we discovered that there was a lot to love about the newfound simplicity and our ability to behave spontaneously. They barrelled back into our lives at Christmas as if they’d never been away… and yet they were a new, improved version of themselves, more appreciative of everything we do (and pay for)… and a whole new love-in with the fridge and biscuit tins. They had a new appreciation of each other too, it was as if being away enabled them to come back and reframe each other as individuals rather than siblings… and they seemed to find that they really like each other. Which is a good sign for the future.
I’m telling you this because I know that as the year has turned quite a few of you are on the countdown to an empty nest – but honestly, it’s a huge change but it isn’t too bad. Obviously last term was just a practice run for us and it was pleasantly peppered by our trip to Greece and the boys’ ‘let’s handle the parents’ rota of coming home at regular intervals. This next run up to Easter is going to be different and it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to them last weekend, first in Leeds…
Wearing: Helene Berman Peacoat (AW14); Jeans; Boots (in the sale, gifted AW21), Boden scarf (AW14)
… and the next day at the station – but at the moment I feel like a helium balloon floating high with all of the laughs we had over Christmas, despite Covid.
Jumper (now in the sale); Skirt (now in the sale, gifted AW21); Boots; M&S coat (AW15); Hope scarf (AW16)
So the empty nest has been nowhere near as hard as I feared so far. As I type, we have the big 20th anniversary adventure that was postponed from last year in our diaries for next month but I’m expecting a call any day to say that we’ll have to move it to 2023. That will leave us with some long-scheduled downtime that we may or may not take – it’s hard to know what next month might hold at the moment isn’t it?
The Covid grind
And that brings me to the other down of last year AND the beginning of 2022 as things stand – the inability to plan ahead… and the constant expectation of another disappointment. I’m not going to moan about it because it’s something we all have to live with – somehow we have to try not to let it damage our psyche and turn us into perpetual cynics. This situation isn’t going to last forever.
The ups of 2021
The big up of course has to be our Newcastle apartment which has opened up a whole new life for us. As well as being closer to that side of the family, it’s given us the urban outlet we needed. Living rurally worked well for us when the boys were young but as they’ve grown away it’s felt a bit too quiet for us. We can now balance the spectacular landscape of my beloved North West with the cultural options on our doorstep over there: galleries, theatre, world-class music and of course the bright lights of the toon which give me more opportunities to dress up than I think I’d have anywhere else in the country. It’s been a great decision.
Island Hopping in Greece
You know how much we enjoyed that – the adventure, the freedom, the time to reconnect. It’s something we’re itching to do again soon.
I worked so hard at this right up until 18th November and it was fantastic. My weight didn’t change but my body shape and composition did dramatically with muscle gain and tautness. Now I’ve just got to get it back and I will. I’m starting a new 10-week challenge next Monday, another boot camp and by the end of it I should be back to where I was. Last year showed me that your body doesn’t necessarily need to be on a constant downward slope in midlife. It takes longer than it used to but you can still build new muscle and change how you feel and look. Consistency is the thing, you have to keep at it, but you also have to forgive your body if it fails and have the patience to slip a few steps back which is where I am now… although I’m having to work on the patience side of things. Start small and keep going is all I’d say if you don’t know where to start – and have a goal that keeps you accountable (I’ve found that feeling a certain way on a certain date works better than any kind of weight loss goal which can just be soul-destroying).
Keeping our business and this blog alive
Always a relief during challenging times and not something I take for granted. I said thank you to all of you before Christmas but I should also thank the brands who continue to work with me both on a consultancy and a blog basis. Before Covid, retail challenges were sizeable but focused such as ‘taking shopping digital’. Now though we’re going through a bigger period of retail change than I’ve known in my entire career. Every facet of the retail journey is changing – from sourcing a product in the first place right through to the endpoint where a customer decides to keep and love something they have bought. For someone like me who dips in and out it’s fascinating but I don’t envy anyone working at the retail coalface – from designer to high street the pressure is huge.
Hello 2022… aims for this year
There seems to be a backlash against resolutions this year and it seems a shame to me to lose the energy that comes with a fresh start. I think it comes back to that fear of being disappointed though which seems to be key for everyone I speak to. We have a couple of meetings in and around Newcastle this week so we’re staying on to for the weekend and we’ll try to put a framework together for the year – well as far as we can.
So hopefully next week I’ll have plans and dreams in mind, in the meantime if there’s anything you’d like me to cover or a discussion you think we should start over the weeks ahead, do let me know in the comments. January and February are always a funny old time for blogging so I welcome your ideas. It doesn’t have to be be style related, we often get into great discussions about other things at this time of year – we could talk about menopause, loneliness, parenting, relationships, fitness, interiors, books or anything else… just not gardening – I’m not your woman for that!
A few people have asked me to cover charity/vintage shopping but given that the pieces available to buy are always one-offs, I’m not sure that it would be any more helpful than me posting the usual outfits I wear on here. I understand that you’re looking for fresh ways of putting what you already have together rather than buying new all the time but a lot of my outfits feature clothes from past seasons so I don’t think it would make a big difference – and I really don’t need any more clothes this season so I’d be buying for buying’s sake. Tell me if you think there’s another angle though and I’ll think again.
And with that I’ll wait to hear from you. Happy New Year everyone, I really do think it’s going to be a good and interesting one. I’m looking forward to living it alongside you – so many of you feel like old friends now and I really look forward to reading your comments and hearing how life is for you, wherever you are. It’s time for me to get back into a regular routine so I’ll be back next Friday… when my weather app tells me we’ll have 28 minutes more of daylight than we do as I type this. These are the things that get us through January… small… but signs of hope nevertheless.
Disclosure: “So that was Christmas! Hello 2022…” is not a sponsored post
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