I wish I could be writing this long-overdue post under happier circumstances, but the fact of the matter is that, even without the latest lockdown and continual stream of doom and gloom in the news, the last few weeks have been horrendous for my family and me. On Christmas Eve, something really devastating happened. My dad, while out for an early morning run, had a sudden catastrophic heart attack and died pretty much instantly. He was only 61 years old, fit and healthy, and went running several times a week. To say that it’s been the most horrific shock is an understatement, and even over a month later I still can’t believe what’s happened. We’re all heartbroken and it’s going to take us a long time to come to terms with it. Here’s what his university wrote.
It would have been a devastating thing to happen at any time, but Christmas Eve in the midst of a global pandemic made it all ten times worse. I drove straight down to my parents’ house in Wiltshire and we spent a lot of Christmas Eve shell-shocked, alternating between stunned silence and talking over every detail, trying to understand how this could possibly have happened. I can’t tell you how painful and tearful Christmas Day was – the first full day without him, all the presents to and from him under the tree. Everyone else posting jolly Christmas posts on social media. And then, in the days and weeks that followed, not being able to see friends and family due to the lockdown, and the heavy restrictions of a funeral in the time of Covid. It’s all been so miserable, heightened by the backdrop of the constant rules, regulations and bad news and the anxiety that creates, plus crap weather, nothing to look forward to and not being able to do many/any of the things I normally fill my time with (flying, travelling, restaurants and cinema, in particular).
This is still only the beginning of the grieving process, and I’m not planning to write about it on here, but I did want to acknowledge this life-changing news and also to share some of the things that have been helping to cheer me up a bit at this exceptionally difficult time…
Country and village walks
They’re just about the only thing we’re allowed to do right now, and country walks continue to play an important role in keeping me sane. It doesn’t help that my favourite summer routes now resemble the Somme, but it’s been nice to don the wellies as well as exploring some of the pretty villages in my immediate vicinity, in addition to my own well-trodden paths from my doorstep. My penchant for photographing pretty cottages continues, as does my Instagram obsession.
A revelation from Lockdown 2.0 in November. I have a bad habit of spending far too long at a time scrolling through social media, which has definitely got worse since my mental capacity has been so limited. I’m finding jigsaws a satisfying and therapeutic activity that keeps me off my phone, and I listen to interesting Radio 4 programmes while I’m at it (Desert Island Discs, Great Lives and Grounded with Louis Theroux are my favourites).
Gousto recipe boxes
Restaurants are a big part of my life in normal times, and I’m missing them so much. I love not just the social aspect, but also trying different foods and not having to worry about washing up. During lockdown I’ve been continuing my Gousto subscription, so I can at least try different recipes, and that brings some variety to the day-to-day (not much I can do about the washing up unfortunately). This code gets you 50% off your first box and 30% off your first month, if you’d like to try it.
The Kangaroo Sanctuary
This is an Instagram account that brings me joy every single time they post. The Kangaroo Sanctuary looks after orphan kangaroo joeys and they are just the most delightful little creatures.
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Last weekend’s snow was a welcome break to the monotony of everyday life now. There’s something about waking up to snow that lifts the spirits. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me of childhood excitement, or because everywhere is so bright and peaceful.
Not in an alcoholic kind of way, obviously. But it’s so nice and relaxing, pouring oneself a lovely glass of red while cooking a hearty meal. I treated myself to a case from Naked Wines sometime last year and have continued it – you put £20 a month in, which you don’t even notice, and then before you know it, you’ve got enough for another case. Use this code for £80 off your first case if you fancy it – there’s no obligation to continue and it works out at £3.25 a bottle if you buy the minimum £119 case with the £80 off.
Friends have been very kind and I’ve received several wonderful bouquets of flowers in recent weeks. It’s so lovely having flowers in the house that I think I will make it a habit of buying some for myself on a regular basis when these have given up the ghost.
I have (mostly) overcome my reticence about video calls in order to stay connected with my family in the wake of what’s happened, and it’s been good for keeping in touch with friends, too – especially with no end to lockdown in sight.
Long text messages
I have several friends with whom I exchange ridiculously long texts on WhatsApp, and it’s a nice way to keep in touch. It takes ages to write them, which also means it’s great for passing the time.
Essential in this weather, and sometimes the only way of warming up after a bracing walk.
Looking out for signs of spring
Nothing brings hope like the first shoots, and they’re a reminder to look forward rather than back. A good thing to keep in mind at a time when it’s natural to keep thinking about what life used to be like before the pandemic struck – and for me, what life used to be like when my dad was still with us…