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by Karen Legge

Not So Free Fridays - The Positives

Quarantine. Isolation. Imprisoment. Incarceration.

Nouns which conjure a stark image of darkness. Pictures spring to mind of sterile cells.

The picture it doesn’t paint is of crafting on steroids, CBeebies on endless stream and a steady flow of kitkats and coffee.

Let me out!

Life in self-isolation is not the easiest, but it could be a lot worse. When else has prolonged quality family time been a priority? When else has there been a reliance on play at home, in as many creative ways as you can muster (or steal from Pinterest or Instagram)?

We have been on lockdown since 5pm last Saturday and there doesn’t appear to be any hope for an appeal and early release. This is not down to bad behaviour. On the contrary – little man has been outstanding and even big man hasn’t driven me to GBH by sweeping up his sandwich-making crumbs. This is down to the fact the world has been brought to its knees.

I am in awe of those saints of society that are basically keeping things going. I’m privileged to know teachers and nurses who are exhausted, stressed, have families of their own to worry about, but keep going for the sake of others. Then there’s the food stores, the pharmacies, the medical centres, the delivery drivers – the list goes on – where would we be right now without them? How do they feel when Boris issues another directive and they step out once again regardless of exposure to this pandemic monster.

One thing we have had plenty of in the last week is time. Days have felt… long. Finding entertainment for a two year old is not the easiest when you can’t get out to run off some steam. But given this time to reflect, it serves as a reminder of how privileged we are to have a garden and space at home – I do not take this for granted. Yet I worry about the impact three month away from other people will have on Harry. So it’s my job to up my educator game – to give him new experiences when faced with familiarity all around, to give him fun and freedom to be messy, wild and essentially trash the house with toys and cardboard creations.

There is so much sadness, stress and fear surrounding us, even isolated from the world outside. So, I’ve made a pact with myself to not see this time as a negative. It’s a challenge, I won’t lie, but behind every cloud – and this is one mofo of a cumulus nimbus – the sun comes out. How poignant!

My not-so-free-friday top three this week are devoted to looking on the bright side. My top three self-isolation positives!

One – Spending

I’m not exactly flash with cash since giving up work but I’m not shy of spending. Admittedly, since being under house-arrest, I’ve rinsed Amazon and online stores of their craft wares and toddler toy fun. I’ve bought copious amount of boy pants in case we run out of nappies and I need to switch in to potty-training mode sooner than I was mentally prepared for. There might have been a slight stock-piling of Aldi’s own brand Touché Eclat but that’s purely down to the fact it’s a special buy that comes out once a year – I was all over it!

But let’s think about the things I’m not spending on. The cup of coffee every day… okay, two coffees, hands up, on a bad day there may be three. It’s enough to pay off a third world debt when you calculate it over a year. Imagine the saving with my Aldi own brand Nespresso pods! All the coffee – no overdraft!

There’s the talon upkeep. I blame my inspirational Executive Head from my last job for leading me down the path of acrylic nails – yes you Elaine! Yes, they’re not always practical with a toddler – particularly during the more gymnastic of nappy changes… I’ll leave you with that one. But the next three months will mean me going au natural. It stings. I’ll have the fingers of a bit-part Orc from Lord of the Rings but quids in!

Fuel! The guzzling beast will not need to be filled. I really miss driving but not only will it go easy on my pocket but think about the environmental impact of so many fewer cars on the roads. Is this really the planet’s ploy to get back at us? Take Venice and its clean canals. You can almost hear the earth taking a massive sigh of relief.

The soft-play sessions. You think you’re getting a bargain at £4.50 for a session and then before you know it you’ve shelled out for snacks, seven coffees to get you through the hellish experience (see Softplay – A Modern Day Vision of Hell), a bouncy ball from the ‘surprise machine’ and lunch because you know you’ll be too mentally and physically drained to cook once home. Yep – avoiding the money germ pit means we will have funds enough to holiday in the Maldives when this is all done (if I stop the Aldi/Amazon shops)!

Must. Stop. Buying! But I did get an entire hour’s peace from this easel for the cost of full set of acrylics!
Two – Facetime

We used FaceTime prior to this craziness but it was not a regular feature of our day. We now call Granny Mo once a day to check her tags and ensure she’s not been out! Prison warder duties over, Harry has taken over these conversations. With there being such a distance, she now gets to be part of our daily routine. It makes me question why we didn’t do this anyway – but sometimes it takes a pandemic to give you a kick up the arse.

When we make our daily call, I get the order “I hold it” when Granny Mo comes online. Harry then gives Granny a tour of his current preoccupation – be it trains, dragons, drawing etc. However, I think some more direction in how this FaceTime malarkey works is needed. We like to play ‘hidey’ in our house. Harry declared “you hide Mo” and promptly stuck her in an IKEA Kallax box. Reinforcing the importance of self-isolation there little man but possibly a bit too harsh? The next night she was only hidden by a cushion so he’s let up on his Guantanamo Bay tactics a tad.

I like that we have a new routine. I like that Harry gets Granny time even though she’s five hours away. One thing though mum – he’d like to know more than your chin – hold the phone up to your face!

Three – Community

We moved out of London in order to replicate the upbringing we both had in more rural settings but still allowing Chris to work in town. For the first two years we lived in our house, we went to work and we came home. We knew the neighbours and had a friendly chat but life was work and home. Having a baby changed this. It opened doors to the community we live in. It gave us friends, groups to attend and a sense of belonging. I know you don’t need a village to provide this. I was part of a community in all the places I lived through school life. And there’s one thing this vile virus has taught me: there are good people out there.

Not only have we experienced first-hand the kindness of others, from pharmacy pick ups to doorstep drop offs, (as well as copious offers of help) but I’ve seen through local online groups the myriad of support and genuine care that has been proffered. You may have seen the videos from Spain and Italy of balcony raves, rooftop aerobics and communities uplifting each other through song. If that doesn’t give you warm fuzzies then I’m not sure what will.

Is this not the best thing to find on your door ever. Brioche. Not just any brioche, but Marks & Spencer Brioche

We will overcome this. Not without some heartache and pain for the masses. But we will re-establish a normal. My feeling though is that it is essential to make time in our days for gratitude and positivity. Without them, life could be a very dark place for the foreseeable future.

What positives have you experienced so far. What has raised a smile on your face today? What can you do tomorrow to make someone else smile? Stay safe and please stay strong.

Written by Karen Legge for her blog, The Unyoung Mum. Follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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