Week 10 – it’s a long one, grab a cuppa.

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a pandemic blog post, and what a two weeks! Full of ups and downs as well as the most terrifying experience of my life. 

Mostly we’ve been doing okay, tensions have been rising a bit and there’s certainly more niggly arguments in the house than there have been so far in lockdown. For week nine, I was mostly finding the whole food shopping situation stressful as well as trying to come up with different meals every day from what ingredients we had. It felt like a huge responsibility. Not being able to pop to the shops is harder than I thought it would be (sounds trivial I know) and screw trying to control one thing like I said a few blog posts ago, I’d quite like someone else to worry about feeding me now please. The only time someone else has fed me in the last ten weeks was the nurse who gave me a ham sandwich in hospital on Saturday.

Which brings me nicely on to this week, week ten and what I’ve learnt…

  1. The NHS is fucking amazing. On Saturday morning I woke up with a twinge in my right hand side and so distract myself I decided to ignore it and bake my friend’s 40thbirthday cake. Within ten minutes I was writhing on the floor convinced I was dying. Worse than labour – for those of you who have given birth, imagine the peak of your strongest contraction, but no tail off, no breather, just that pain constantly no matter how you lie or sit or whatever you do. And then imagine not knowing what was causing the pain. I have suffered with health anxiety from the age of five when I first thought I was having a heart attack (no word of a lie) and so I honestly thought this was it. I’m so grateful that my AMAZING nurse friend, Amanda, was on my doorstep within minutes of me calling her and screaming down the phone that I needed help. (Love you, Mand) The ambulance crew were also phenomenal. Kind, efficient, calm. Amazing. Even when I told the young 28yo male paramedic that he was ‘a lucky bugger’ for getting to look at my saggy old, have-given-birth-to-three-children, stomach. Gas and air has a lot to answer for. The staff in A&E were also wonderful. And although I was waiting for a scan for hours they managed my pain and reassured me I was in good hands. I’ve never been in an ambulance and the only time I’ve been to A&E was for a broken ankle nineteen years ago. Trust this to happen in lockdown when I am shielding two extremely vulnerable children and screaming at them to ‘be bloody careful, we can’t go to hospital right now,’ and haven’t left the house for ten weeks. But, the positives are that now the hypochondriac in me knows that if I need NHS care, I can get it. THANK YOU NHS. Ps it was a kidney stone and it has now gone into the sewage system. Thank f*ck. 
  2. My body and mind are amazing. Sounds daft when my body grew a stupid kidney stone that made me think I was dying, but when that was happening my body and my mind coped. My body was strong, my mind even stronger. I rarely big myself up but, as the lovely paramedic told me in the ambulance on Saturday, I should do it more often! And so I will. Being on my own in A&E and not knowing what was going on was really scary, but I distracted myself and focused on my breathing etc etc and without sounding like too much of a knob, I nailed it. I am brilliant. End of. 
  3. Nostaglia. I was chatting to a friend about this a week or so ago, and it’s stayed with me. We were talking about how our memories are more powerful than ever at the moment. A forgotten smell can make me feel like I am right back there in the moment, or a memorable song. I heard an old tune the other day and I was suddenly transported back to travelling on a coach to Switzerland for a ski trip when I was seventeen. I felt the exactly same as I had done then, and it was so weird. My friend and I came to the conclusion that our brains are desperately searching for new experiences because at the moment all they get is Groundhog Day. And so in searching for something to feel our brains are taking us back to real experiences and real emotions and feelings. I’d be interested to know if there was a scientific reason for this! And funnily enough, after my A&E trip, it hasn’t happened so much this week. 
  4. What are you missing? Flirting with strangers… Don’t judge me! Earlier in the week Sara Cox asked people to comment on what they were missing, but not the obvious like friends and family, the more shallow things. And this, flirting with strangers, is now all I can think about! I miss strangers, I miss interacting with them, flirting or not, I miss talking to people other than my family and friends (no offence!) The little jokes you have with people selling you coffee, or waiting staff in restaurants, bar tenders, random people when you’re out walking the dog, anyone! Male or female! Maybe it’s more that I miss spontaneity and conversations that flow and are fresh and new. And no, it is not why I told the paramedic he was a lucky bugger, like I said, gas and air. 
  5. I don’t like (most) people. Sounds harsh, maybe I should put it in a different context as this could get contentious. What I mean is that this experience has taught me that the reason I sometimes find people’s actions hard to understand is because I expect people to have the same standards and morals as me, and I’m disappointed when I discover they don’t. And this is where anger and frustration comes in at the moment. A few friends said on a FaceTime last night that lockdown was to be put in the same category as politics and religion, ie something that should never be discussed. And I get that I’m in the extreme having to shield two extremely vulnerable small people, and that my anxiety surrounding Covid-19 is higher due to this, but that aside it’s worth noting that I am fundamentally a rule follower. If I’m out on a walk someone wants to go off the designated pathway and walk where the little yellow arrow doesn’t point, I will not follow. I don’t speed. I park in the designated spots at all times. Blah blah blah, yes I am a saint. (rolls eyes like you all are!) It’s not because I’m a dick it’s because I’m terrified of something bad happening if I don’t do as I’m told _ I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that one. And so if the government, whether I trust them or not, tells me not to leave my house or have people round to my house (even family) or go to the beach etc etc etc then I won’t. And not just to protect my children, but to protect all vulnerable people and the yes the NHS too. There’s something called cognitive dissonance where people convince themselves that they are abiding by the rules, when in reality they are bending them. And then there is selfishness and stupidity. I won’t go into it because it makes me sound like a judgy cow and I might piss a few people off, this is certainly divisive, but these rules are in place for a reason and breaking them isn’t just about you being able to assess your own risk – it’s by far more complicated than that. If in your gut what you’re doing feels wrong then it probably is. And I know it’s hard. And I know the government guidelines have been confusing. And I know I probably need to permanently come off social media so I can’t see photos of packed beaches in Southend followed by comments about how great it is that theses people have a right to be there and aren’t giving in to fear. Or that they are probably teachers. Do not get me started. But on that note…
  6. I love teachers. They have been working their butts off and putting themselves at risk going into school to look after some of our most vulnerable children. This is much more than just teaching. They have been sorting food vouchers and driving to houses to deliver food. Phoning parents daily to check they are okay. Driving to houses after domestic violence incidences to see that the children are safe and unharmed. Delivering work in school, on line and in person. And there is so much more. They have no PPE. No protection. And now they are having to prepare for a phased reopening of schools and all that entails – not just lesson planning, but thinking about how to stop any spread of the virus. Ordering bins with lids on and toilet seats, stuff that wouldn’t even cross your mind all with no extra resources or finances. Rearranging classrooms so social distancing (how the feck you do that with four year olds I don’t know) can be implemented as much as possible. All the while parents are expecting them to keep their children safe and we all know who will be blamed if the worse happens. Who knows, maybe there’ll be a VE Day caused second wave and they won’t open on June 1st. But what I do know is that we should bloody well be clapping for teachers as well as NHS staff. I am in awe. My children aren’t allowed to go back in the first wave, and I am grateful that decision has been taken out of my hands, for now. The whole thing just sits very uncomfortably with me. 
  7. Finally, I know that you’ll all be pleased to know that I have learnt to lower my standards. Normally I never leave the house without make up on, but in the past week I have chatted to people out of my window almost naked apart form a small towel after coming out of the shower (again, not in a flirty way) and have answered the door at 3pm in the afternoon having done Joe Wicks and not showered in the morning with a large chocolate cake stain down my vest top, underneath which was no bra. Sexy. 

Right, think I’ll leave it there as my children would probably like some lunch sometime soon. And I want to go and sunbathe. 

Love to you all x

Week Eight – how are you?

Whenever I speak to people at the moment, or receive a text or a Whatsapp, the question that is always asked is… ‘How are you?’ and I think I am beginning to lose the ability to know how to answer it. Not in a bad way, just in a, I’m not sure what I’ve got to say, way. I’m fine doesn’t seem to cut it. Nor does, I’m okay. And chances are that when you ask me that question I’m exactly the same as I was the last time you asked me that question. Because nothing is changing. I have no news. 

And I feel like I’m running out of things to say. Well, new things anyway. 

It’s nearly 5.30pm and normally by now my blog post would’ve been written, edited and posted, but today I am only just getting round to even attempting to write it. I’ve baked a cake. Have home -schooled the boys. Sewn some bunting for VE day tomorrow. Eaten. Done Joe Wicks. It’s been a busy day, but I have been putting off writing this in spite of that because I wasn’t sure I had anything new to write about. Let’s see shall we…

What have I learnt this week? Well…

  1. It doesn’t matter. This came up on a work Zoom meeting and I thought, oh my God yes. So much doesn’t matter right now. If we don’t do all the allocated home learning, it doesn’t matter. If my children are on their devices more than usual, it doesn’t matter. If they are up later than they normally would be, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters because this isn’t forever. We’re all getting through the best we can. There is no right or wrong (pretty sure I’ve said this before, but oh well.) All of the rules by which we used to live don’t matter at the moment. It’s all changed. We are dealing with issues we’ve not had to manage before and so the nitty gritty stuff that used to be important simply, say it with me, doesn’t matter. Soon everything is going to be okay (it will!) and who knows, maybe this strange period of time will turn out to have a positive impact on us all. Our children will learn different skills, as will we. Maybe that’s what matters.
  2. Zoom gives me a headache. I love seeing people’s faces, but boy does looking at them on a screen hurt my eyes. It is so unnatural. I’ve started to wear my glasses again because most of my day is now spent looking at a screen. From messages on my phone, to home learning on the computer, to the tv. Even the book I just read was on my Kindle, another damn screen! I’ve realised that I need to factor in some screen free time, somehow. And whilst we are on the subject of online socialising, I miss the natural way conversations flow that doesn’t work on Zoom or FaceTime – if one person jumps in the sound goes and I can’t hear anyone. I almost want to manage the sessions like I would’ve managed circle time when I was a teacher, where only the person holding the teddy is allowed to speak. It’s just not natural. I like to interrupt and be interrupted. I like to hear everyone laugh, not glitch and go silent. 
  3. Everything is better when the sun shines. Fact.
  4. We are all awesome. We really are. We are drawing on emotional reserves we didn’t think we had. We are home schooling when we’ve never taught. We are living in isolation when all we want is company. We are keyworkers risking our lives to help others. Human beings are bloody brilliant and we are doing it – we are getting through this. We are pulling together. We are helping others. We are amazing! 
  5. Children are also awesome! The way they adapt, accept, live in the here and now and not worry about the future. I have learnt a lot from my two – and I know I’ve mentioned this before – but the way they just accept the situation and stay positive is amazing. Am. In. Awe.

And that’s it. I did have something to say after all. Who knows what next week will bring, Sunday’s press conference is going to be an interesting one that’s for sure. 

But I imagine that for us – working hard and shielding the boys – nothing much will change. And I can honestly say that right now, that doesn’t matter. 

Stay safe x

Week Seven – urgh.

How, how, how, HOW is it Thursday again already? I mean, when I look back over the past seven days, last Thursday seems like an age ago (ahh the sunshine!) but then it also feels as though I’ve blinked and here I am again writing another blog post during this fucking pandemic. 

This week hasn’t been the best. My youngest son has had a tooth infection and the stress of getting him some antibiotics for it has been quite high, for me, not least because I am the one who is mum, nurse, doctor and physio 99% of the time. When the dentist tells you he won’t treat the infection until it becomes life threatening then you freak out somewhat. Anyway, thanks to Eddie having a compromised immune system on top of having PCD the dentist did give us some antibiotics and they appear to be working, thank feck. (sorry, I might swear a lot today, go with it) Getting the antibiotics was also a source of stress as I’ve not left the house for weeks and so the whole thought of driving to the dental surgery and then actually getting out of the car and interacting with someone who wasn’t a close family member was not a pleasant one. And when I did go, it was so weird to get out of the car and walk on the pavement – on ground that wasn’t in my house or my garden – wearing actual shoes. The lady at the surgery was brilliant and not at all phased by me standing back and reaching out for the medication. As soon as I got in the car I wiped it down with an antibac wipe and slathered antibacterial gel all over my hands. Then I came home, showered and threw my clothes in the wash. I’m aware this was properly over the top bearing in mind I’d touched nothing other than the medication and had seen the lady at the surgery for about two minutes. And then this behaviour got me thinking, will I always feel the need to shower after being out and about? Will I always have to make my children shower after going to school, if they ever return? Will I always wash everyone’s clothes after a trip outside, even when they’re not dirty? Or become agoraphobic and never go anywhere because that’s easier? If you’re starting to hear alarm bells about the state of my mental health then don’t worry, I have already been referred to a psychologist through the boys’ PCD team to support our family with all of this, and she is wonderful. Once again the NHS is bloody brilliant. 

Anyway, what have I learnt this week… seven weeks into this weird, shitty, frustrating, anxiety-inducing, fucking horrible time? This…

  1. Just because you accept something does not mean you have to always be happy about it. Last week I was in a place of acceptance, or was it apathy? Did I simply have no energy to be concerned or upset about it anymore? There have been times in the past seven days when I’ve been genuinely happy and genuinely okay with staying home and not going out at all. But more recently I’ve been pissed off. I understand that we have to stay in and shield as a family, blah blah blah, but it really fucks me off at the moment. I feel trapped. Maybe that’s because the freedom carrot is being dangled for others – mumblings of a possible return to school on 1stJune (at the earliest) or suggestions of being able to have a bubble of ten people that they can see at the weekend. We won’t be able to have a fucking bubble. We can’t ask five other people to completely shield themselves just so we can see them, and so we’ll miss out on social interaction and my children will not be able to see their friends and it fucking sucks (sorry, mum, I probably am swearing a bit too much today, I’ll reign it in.) Some days I remember to take it one day at a time, and I can and I do and it’s ok. But on other days I wake up with a sense of dread and can’t help but wonder how the hell this is going to pan out for us. So do I still accept our situation and understand it? Yes. But am I happy about it? This week that’s a hard, no. 
  2. The more you are starved of something, the more you crave it. I heard someone say this on the television this week and it really resonated with me. It reminds me of when I was pregnant and wasn’t allowed runny eggs or blue cheese or various other foods I love. What I was being denied was all I could think about and my first meal after giving birth was always soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers. And it was delicious. But now I am starved of more than simple food, although flour is still proving tricky to get hold of, and I hate not being able to pop to the shops and get something I fancy at that moment in time, just because I want it. Right now I am being starved of so much more than cravings and whims. I am being starved of my family, my friends, the sea, freedom, feelings of safety and calm, reassurance that this will ever end, things to look forward to, things that make me who I am and keep me. The list goes on. And on. I am craving cuddles with EVERYONE, coffee dates, browsing in shops, long walks in the countryside or on a beach, laughter in a big group of people, someone else fricking cooking for me (I am sooooo over cooking twice a day every bloody day) time on my own. I miss my life. I’ve just read a novel about someone in prison and I identified with a lot of it. There was a line about not even being able to simply pop to the corner shop to get chewing gum. Urgh. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had enough crap in my life already and want to stamp my feet like a petulant toddler and scream that this isn’t fair. I haven’t broken the law. I shouldn’t be locked up. Yes, of course I am still grateful I have a nice house and a lovely garden, but sadly at times those things don’t always help or counteract having sick children. I imagine that even a palace can seem like a prison in time. 
  3. Expectations. Following on from the above I have learnt (well, it’s an ongoing process) to lower my expectations in many ways. I used to look forward to holidays or weekends away. The BIG things. Now I look forward to a meal I’ve planned. Last week it was a full on Wagamama meal that I cooked from scratch, this week we’re having a fake Nandos. I can’t look forward to the big things, like Disneyland Paris in the summer or a week away with my mum, my brother and his family in France and I have no idea when I will be able to look forward to these things again, if ever without the constant threat of evil viruses. So I have lowered my expectations of what brings me joy and what I look forward to. And I really am trying to find pleasure in the little things. Like looking forward to the weather improving at the weekend (where the hell has the sun gone?) or reveling in having just half an hour to myself. I’ve stopped putting stuff in the ‘what we want to do when this is over’ box because I keep reading articles (I know, I know, I shouldn’t read them) about how this is never going to be over and it just seems like I’m putting stuff in a box to be buried along with any hope of ever doing those things. So the little things are all I have to get excited about. Maybe there’s a life lesson there somewhere.  Maybe I should always learn to appreciate the little things. 

Right, I’m sorry I’m being more negative this week, but as always these posts are about being honest. There is no point in recording this time and being part of a research project if I’m not going to tell it like it is. And the novelty of this has definitely worn off this week. Everyone is a little bit more tired, a little more short tempered. Home learning is still going okay, but only from Mon – Weds. By Thursday everyone’s had enough and gives up, including me. The boys are saying they are bored more and more. The 18yo rarely comes out of her bedroom – she feels safe in there with her laptop and her online friends – and I get it. The husband is working harder than ever and by the time he comes down in the evening he is so tired he doesn’t really want to talk. Zoom meetings with friends are still happening, but I’m getting fed up of the slightly artificial way in which you have to communicate via them. And I am still unable to do any creative writing, which is making me feel like I’m wasting some of this lockdown time. But my brain simply cannot create at the moment, and maybe I just need to accept that, instead of battling with it and trying to force something that doesn’t actually need to happen at the moment… 

Lots of people have been saying we’re all in this together, and we are. But as a lot of people are also saying, and as time goes on I’m understanding more and more, we might be in the same storm, but we are very much all in different boats.

Stay safe everyone x 

Week Three – and so it continues.

Hello again. How are you? It’s all getting a bit real and stressful now, right? But you’re all staying at home and saving yourselves, others and the NHS, right? (Unless you are a key worker, obvs. And if you are THANK YOU!)

Yes, Jen, you say. 


This week, our third at home, has dragged in places and sped by in others. I actually can’t believe it’s Thursday again already. As always there have been ups and downs and tears – but the good news is that the 18yo is now in isolation just down the road and will be home in 9 days and counting. I am calmer knowing she’s locked away – whilst she doesn’t have the same rare disease as the boys, she is asthmatic – and that she will be home with us and properly safe soon.

Also this week my middle one turned eleven, and celebrated a very different kind of birthday. (He said it was awesome!) Although, it’s worth pointing out, that it wasn’t his worse, as that was his sixth birthday when he was into his third week of a hospital stay having all sorts of investigative tests to find out why his lung was collapsed and he was having recurrent chest infections. Every silver lining and all that…

So here’s what have I learnt in the last seven days that I haven’t learnt already during this time, although there may be some repetition… every day’s a school day…

  1. Ask for and accept help. Yep, that’s right. You’re not putting people out; you’re making them feel like they are doing something. And there is no shame in admitting there are some things you cannot do. I’m historically very bad at asking for and accepting help, but this week I’ve had to. From having prescriptions picked up, to pints of milk being delivered, to help with dog walking, to seeds being posted through the letterbox, to strawberry plants being left on my doorstep, to daily messages of links to ideas online for me and the boys to do, to housing my daughter and then driving her so she can be put up in an annex and in a friend’s back garden, to popping down on your daily exercise walk to drop of cards and banners and gifts for the birthday boy… thank you for all of it. (And apologies if you’ve helped me and I’ve missed it out, I shall come on to memory loss later!) THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. I am blessed to have the most amazing friends and neighbours who will do anything for my family and I. I owe you all BIG TIME and when I can I will return all of your amazing favours. I PROMISE. 
  2. There still aren’t enough hours in the day. Sounds daft, but it is true. I still cannot get on top of the washing, or get my children to regularly clean their teeth even though I’m at home 24/7. There are still dirty dishes on top of the dishwasher that needs emptying and I thought by now I’d at least have painted and decorated one room in the house. But no. No, no, no. I have sorted some jigsaw puzzles. And I have baked a cake. And I have achieved some other things, but there are texts I haven’t had time to reply (or have forgotten about) to cups of tea left to go cold on the side. But, you know what? I’ve learnt to let it go about it and not worry. At first I was extremely frustrated that I wasn’t achieving more each day. I hadn’t done any writing or been creative or anything. And I had all the time in the world, so why wasn’t I able to Get. Shit. Done? I thought that I must be a failure, blah blah blah. But bollocks to that. I’m surviving. I’m feeding my children and doing the best I can. And that’s enough for now. The fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day is a god thing. It means time for once is not dragging. And for that I am grateful. We’re in this for the long haul and so there is still plenty of time to get shit done. Or not. 
  3. Wiser food choices. A positive! We are wasting less food. And we are eating a wider variety of foods (sounds glamorous, it’s not – I’m just throwing random things I can find together instead of going to the supermarket and getting whatever I fancy or cooking whatever I know the boys will definitely eat) We are more careful with our portions and because of this there is less waste. The children are actually clearing their plates – they appreciate their food more – because they know we haven’t got as much food as normal or as easy access to it. (I’ve registered the boys as extremely vulnerable with the Government after getting the letter through for them, but still we have no delivery slot) I’ve recognised that it’s good for my mental health to be more creative with what food we’ve got. And I’m enjoying the challenge! 
  4. Family time. Another positive. We are eating together more as a family. With my husband here it’s no longer me cooking one meal for the boys and then another one later on for us after he gets home from work. We are sitting down together and eating the same food and it is lovely. We chat, we laugh, we talk about what things we will do when this is all over. One of which is to sit down for family meals more often! 
  5. Trigger time. I have noticed that mentally, anxiety wise, I’m generally okay during the day – as long as I avoid the news and certain social media apps. But as the sun is setting I feel unsettled and anxious. I mentioned this on Twitter and a lovely doctor I know mentioned Sundown Syndrome. I had no idea it was a thing, and haven’t Googled it, but it made sense. I can keep busy during the day and keep my mind occupied. But then once everyone is fed and the boys are doing their physio and I might catch the news or start thinking about tomorrow, I remember what is happening outside the safety of my home. Now I know that this is my triggering time I make sure I’m doing something to keep busy, or I simply recognise the feelings and say to myself that this is my bad time, and in an hour it’ll be okay again. And it always is. Know your triggers, know the times of the day when you are more vulnerable, and understand that how you are feeling during this time will pass. Feelings aren’t facts. Fact. 
  6. On that note, I’ve also learnt not to pick up my phone as soon as I wake up. Those early moments where I wake and forget what’s going on are precious. They remind me of what it’s like when you’re grieving. When you wake and fleetingly everything is temporarily forgotten, before it all comes flooding back. Not reaching for my phone delays the rush of reality and allows me to be a bit more mindful and present and calm. It’s a nicer way to start the day. I’m not being ignorant or wanting to be in denial, I just want to protect myself that little bit longer before getting up and getting through another day. The news will still be there later. I just don’t need it rammed in my face as soon as I open my eyes. 
  7. Hair. I’ve learnt that I don’t have the kind of hair that looks good unwashed, or washed and then left to dry naturally. The less said about this, the better. 
  8. Memory and concentration. This has deserted me this week. I forget what day it is. I forget to reply to texts or emails. I forget words for things. I can’t remember what conversations I’ve had with my husband – yesterday I said the same thing to him five times. I guess it’s because my mind is either so full of holding it all together that it doesn’t have time to remember the little things, or that it’s had enough and can’t be bothered anymore. Either way, if you’ve messaged me and I’ve not replied this will undoubtedly be why. Sorry. Also, now I think of it, maybe I’ve mentioned some of these points in a previous blog post and have forgotten. But who cares, right? If I’ve repeated them here then they must be important, so sod it. 
  9. Mindfulness. I’ve never really got on with this before, whenever they told me to focus on my breathing it would have the opposite of the intended effect and make me start to hyperventilate. But this week I thought I would give it another go and downloaded the Headspace app. I am now on day 6. I do it at bedtime, but first thing in the morning would work well too, although that would involve reaching for my phone. Anyway, I think it’s helping. It’s nice to have five minutes to block everything out, be in the moment and remind myself that in that very moment we are safe at home. 

And that’s where I’ll end this post because it is an important point and a mantra I keep repeating…

We’re not stuck at home; we’re safe at home.