Quarantine Return

What better time to resurrect my writing hobby than in the midst of a global pandemic? 

So 50-something days into government-enforced lockdown and I’m sad to say we’ve adjusted to this new normal. Sad because it means that when we’re finally told we can go out and hug, touch and lick each other, the transition back (or forward?) will be quite hard I imagine.

How has it gone you ask? Slightly chaotic, but in the midst of it, we have a clueless 2yr old who has simply adapted to her parents becoming full-time playmates. The verdict’s still out on whether we’re suitable replacements. Everyone else she was used to seeing has now mysteriously disappeared to only appearing behind screens.

Brief moment of calm.

Have we had tantrums, regular doses of sass and interrupted work calls? Of course! But we’ve also raced around the garden in the sunshine, witnessed her vocabulary reach new heights and watched her sense of humour show us who’s boss. She’s also largely benefited from having her birthday fall in April, which has meant receiving new things to entertain her from us and additional gear coming in the post day after day from her adoring fans.

She may not come out of this having mastered the colours of the rainbow or be fully potty trained (but please try and be fully potty trained), but if I get to see her smile each day and she gives us some signs that she knows she’s loved and cherished by us both during this strange time, I’ll be happy.

Potty-training, my new nemesis

Potty-training

Verb

A near soul destroying act where a person tries to get their tiny human that little bit closer to functioning independently as an adult and adhering to social norms, by teaching them how to use a potty as a stepping stone to a full size porcelain toilet.

When my Antenal WhatsApp group blew up with the suggestion that potty-training our two-year olds now was ideal given all this “free time”, I must say peer pressure played a part in me giving it a go. I had 2 weeks off work coming up so what else was I going to do with all that time? How FANTASTIC would I feel when I’d used my time off productively, completed another level in child-rearing and returned to work refreshed? What a fool.

A week and a half in, and let’s just say using my time off to potty-train is a bit like using free air miles to unnecessarily take a tour of the lesser known UK airports, write up my findings in a beautiful leather bound notebook and then burning it. Slowly. 

Now I’m not insensitive to the fact that it is a completely new skill we’re asking them to learn. We give them 2 whole years of lovingly wrapping them up in nappies, being totally fine with them weeing and pooing in them and changing them with no complaints. Then like some twisted psychos, we start to tell them that they actually shouldn’t do that at all, and instead the right way is listen to your body’s needs throughout the day, then at the right time partially undress yourself and wee (or poo) into a plastic bowl. Simple. 

Our progress has been…not slow, just a bit up and down. The first few days I thought we were plain sailing. Watched some YouTube videos, read about how Princess Polly managed it fine and my husband even made up a rhyme for her to remember. Having her run around half naked started with some accidents (thank goodness for an uncarpeted floor downstairs), but ended with her voluntarily going and sitting on the potty when she felt the urge.

Week 2 saw the re-introduction of clothes. What a curve ball. What began with sitting on the potty weeing through clothes, has turned into just complete indifference now to using the potty at all. Our neighbours must now think we’re broken records as we’re constantly crying out “Do you need a wee?” “Can you try sitting on the potty just for a minute?” ” How about now?” “BUT ARE YOU SURE?!!”.

She’s now long forgotten about the Peppa Pig star chart I resurrected my eBay account for, and is a lot more keen on the sugary rewards she gets when she does use the potty. The clever girl is even squeezing out the tiniest trickle and proudly showing it off just to receive her payment in kind. And we oblige, rules are rules. So we’re down to a steady crawl now and I can’t help feeling like she’s somehow in control…

As a sassy 2yr old, she’s well within her rights to decide to take a break from this development course we’ve enrolled her on, but with my return to work round the corner I can’t help but sense a tinge of failure if she’s not in big girl pants by then. Oh what’s that? It’s not my achievement to take credit for in the first place? My bad. I just figured every single thing she achieves for the rest of her life is a result of my efforts. That’s not right either? I might need to reassess some things then.

If Britain Was Syria: As Britain is ravaged by a devastating civil war, British people speak out about their experiences

A very very interesting flip on events to try and force your brain to think of it all in a different way.

Emma Higgs

“I want everyone in the world to know what is happening in Britain. People are dying, children who have done nothing wrong are being killed. We need help, please don’t ignore us.”
Matthew, aged 8

The story of the conflict so far

The civil war in Britain has been raging for four years, as Britain’s President and his government fight to maintain control and prevent Westminster from falling into the hands of rebel forces. There has been widespread destruction; more than 200,000 British people have died in the conflict, and 12 million have been forced to flee their homes. An estimated 4 million are now refugees; most are in neighbouring France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. More than 600,000 British refugees have attempted to travel to the East this year, risking their lives in perilous and often fatal journeys.


In the years leading up to the civil war, life had…

View original post 3,041 more words

Hammam Experience in Morocco

On the last day of our Moroccan holiday I thought I’d go out with a relaxation bang and book myself in for a hammam and full body massage.

For some reason, I thought I was in for a muddy treat, but a quick google later and I realised it was more of a body scrub experience. Fair enough, I bought a pumice stone a few weeks ago for my feet because dead skin is not your friend. I was game.

Their spa was situated underground somewhat, and was candlelit when I ventured down which only added to my growing anticipation of the unknown. A young woman met me and told me to take a seat in that soothing “nothing can go wrong with me around” voice that spa staff are all schooled in. After removing everything I was wearing except my bikini bottoms an older woman came to lead me to where it was all going to go down.

What followed was relaxing in a strange way. We went into a big stone wet room, I took my robe off and she started dipping a little bucket into a shallow well with hot but pleasant water, and throwing it at my body from every angle. She earned a new level of respect from me when she asked if she could pour water on my head with my braids in. In a moment of weakness I said yes and almost immediately regretted it. My braids retain water for hours after a measly shower and so being treated to buckets of water meant there was a permanent waterfall cascading over my face and half drowning me.

Soaking over, I lay on a concrete slab and she whispered that she’d be back in 5 mins. With no clock in there, after what I thought was 10ish mins I sat up, stopped relaxing and realised my robe was gone. Maybe something was lost in translation and she meant 15mins? Or maybe I was meant to “be at one” with myself and the washroom and I was just being super highly strung and rubbish at doing that? Anywho, after a few more minutes and my mind had run so wild as to even suggest I may be on a Moroccan prank show where the clincher would be me running out topless, she returned all smiles and I quickly started to relax again.

Without warning she started scrubbing every inch of my skin with an exfoliating glove and some nice smelling stuff. She did NOT hold back. If there was any slightly dead skin lurking about, it was rapidly removed. Some more nice smelling, black and murky stuff was rubbed all over my body and then she asked me to get up and sit in a plastic chair next to the well. Oh-oh, more drowning.

This bit felt weird because it I imagined this was what it would feel like when my children abandoned me to a nursing home and a very attentive and thorough nurse was getting me clean. I sort of had to sit limply as she rubbed stuff on me then poured water over me to rinse.

Then I stood up and she (without warning) opened the front of my bikini bottoms and chucked some soapy water in there. Then turned me round and did the same. Silly me, she wasn’t going to do half a job and only leave me slightly cleansed.

We were done. I said “thank you” and “that was great” but somehow I don’t think those statements carried the amount of weight they should when said to someone who’s just scrubbed down and washed a fully capable grown adult……

It was an experience nonetheless. An interesting, slightly uncomfortable experience.

Long awaited live performances

Modest Mouse are one of those bands that were pretty big in their heyday, so much so that the gig last night was full of twenty and thirty – somethings eagerly awaiting a nostalgic trip into their youth. I must confess, back then I wasn’t a fan of them but I knew they existed, were doing well and had a large fanbase. My husband and his friends however, were big fans which explains my attendance at the gig.

I’d listened to some of their back catalogue on the preceding months. Songs carefully chosen by my husband to give me a good spread of their journey through music and prepare me for the anthems they’d no doubt play so I could heartily join in with the crowd.

I’ll start by saying I enjoyed their support acts more than them. Controversial? As an outsider, the first act seemed more my indie-pop speed  and the second (Elle King) was such a foul mouthed warrior princess type act that I was mesmerised by her screamy, yet tuneful, songs.

I didn’t think Modest Mouse were bad, I just didn’t feel overly drawn in by any of their songs. Most of the time I think I fed off the reactions of people around me whose eyes lit up when songs like Float On came on.

There was rumblings of a mosh pit in front of where we stood which prompted me to stand firmly and get ready to push back with my fists if anyone dared “fall” into me. But even that seemed to rise but slowly fizzle out each time, never quite reaching its potential. This actually made me a bit sad because even if I had ended up pissed off and elbowed in the stomach, the bevvy of moshers would’ve had an amazing time!

As the gig went on, it sort of felt like a ballon slowly deflating as they appeared to play a few songs from their new album (I assume), the crowd just felt a bit….”meh”. Yeah “meh” describes it perfectly. I couldn’t help but feel like if the same crowd had seen the same band 10yrs ago, the energy in the room would’ve been quite different.

My husband later told me that it wasn’t his best gig ever and that the sound and stage set-up hadn’t helped either.

Which leads me to wonder whether we should just hang on to our old cds and not tarnish the memory of our youth by thinking the adult version of ourselves will like whatever version of our childhood bands have grown up into? Glory tours and concerts playing all the hits are fine as they do what they say on the tin, take you down memory lane.
But if a band that 16 or 17yr old you had a poster of, decides to release a new album and tour, maybe just listening and enjoying the album is enough.

Modest Mouse probably isn’t a great example as I wasn’t even a fan with expectations, but the gig did get me thinking about artist performances and how the experience of a good one from an act you’ve followed for a while is kind of a big deal. How seeing someone live after ages of waiting can sometimes be an irreversible let down that leaves you listening to their albums with a different ear or make you crave more and more for the rest of their recording careers.

No.5 – Northern Monk Brewery

Everything interesting that happens to me happens at the weekend. I just realised this when I found no inspiration whatsoever to write anything whilst I was also going to work. This is why I may actually struggle to keep up with daily posts. But will backdate and hope no one notices/cares.

Luckily my weekend this time around started on Thursday evening to take advantage of an extra long bank holiday weekend. Cue a tour of Leeds craft beer places organised by my other half. I can probably manage 2, possibly 3 pints of beer on a night without feeling like my stomach is about to expand, explode and take my brain with it. But sticking to sufficiently light and pale ales helped, also making sure to just get thirds was a wise idea. My choices were Monacus, Eternal and one I can’t remember the name of but my favourite was Monacus. A lot of people tried the Rhubarb one and rated it as well. I personally don’t like Rhubarb so couldn’t get past that taste!

image
The delights of Northern Monk Brewery in Leeds

Northern Monk Brewery has such a nice and casual atmosphere with the bar set above their brewery. Also had a taste of their brownies…de-lish!! Rich, but good. Though glancing into their cake cupbaord caused a lot of us to descend into 14yr old boy style giggles.

image
Immaturity is all of our middle names.

Would definitely return to sample some more of their choice beers.

No. 4 – Meh National Rail

Another one on trains.

Thank you Northern Rail for shaving a few minutes off the train times and only half telling us. I think I saw 1 or 2 people handing out some sort of flyer in the last week but maybe a BIG SIGN would’ve helped to let the hundreds of commuters know?!! We’re literally at the mercy of the train company in getting to work and getting there on time. I’m paying  £100 a month for this lovely service so maybe try and act like you care??

Luckily even though I don’t leave much time for a train, I do leave enough to realise my train time and platform has been rudely altered. Now I’m just watching people manically leg it over to the train at each station we stop at when they realise it’s here. The monotonous life of a commuter is actually not so at all, there’s always some level of excitement somewhere.

Oh and now it’s raining. A lot. I have no umbrella. Again. Rant over.

No.3 – In-Laws Meet

This entry shall be pretty short because the weekend has well and truly kicked me in the ass and I’m already half asleep.

I got married last year in July and our respective parents hadn’t seen each other since then. My mother-in-law went to tons of trouble to get everyone together to travel to Millington (where my husband grew up) for a sunday roast at their local pub The Gait Inn.

I won’t lie, the booking was made for 13 people and our families are pretty chalk and cheese so I was worried at how the afternoon would go when my parents arrived. What I was forgetting though, was that we both come from really nice, warm and loving families and also that everyone’s a grown-up and has experience in acting fairly normal in social situations.

So after 9 beef roasts, 2 scampis, 2 haddocks, a few beers, wines, cokes, lemonades, 1 tea, 2 sticky toffee puddings, 1 crumble, 1 banoffee pie and 7 cheesecakes I felt silly for even thinking it would be an awkward meal out at the local pub.

Sitting here extremely full of good food and all talked out, it’s a warming thought that our parents can meet up and the wedding wasn’t the last they ever saw of each other. Lots of good chat was had and lots of hugs exchanged.

No. 2 – Early Morning Reunion

image
It seems the rest of the bus station hasn't woken up yet.

I swear my posts won’t all be about travel (or should they be???), I just happen to travel a lot it seems!

After finishing uni 5yrs ago, a lot of my friends left and scattered themselves away to what seemed like the ends of the earth. After a “crap-we’re-adults-now-what-do-we-do” dry spell, we were then restricted to seeing each other at weddings and such. Another dry spell has just hit and we need to use our initiative again.

I saw one such friend over a year ago, which us strange because at uni we’d regularly meet up, sit in the union bar with chips (hers with gravy, mine with baked beans) pondering the world and comparing notes on our life experiences so far. Her now living in Southampton and me being in Leeds means meetings have to be planned months in advance and don’t come cheap! Birmingham is roughly in between us (and is neutral ground in case we now hate each other) so decided to venture over there for a day of wandering, eating, browsing, chatting and probably gossiping and/or reminiscing.

So this morning, my alarm went off at 6.30am (may I remind you that it is Saturday today, even the birds have a lie-in) and I groggily made my way to the bus station. See, one of the savvy ways of keeping costs down is to poo-poo the train and embrace budget travel also known as Megabus. Unfortunately their buses decide to ignore straightforward routes and get creative with how they get there meaning the journey seems to take a lifetime. The only way to get to your destination and still have some daylight left to do anything is to take their earliest bus which is always very packed and ALWAYS at an ungodly hour.

So here I am, blurry-eyed and cranky (which is perfect preparation for spending the day with someone you haven’t seen in 2yrs), but comforted that I saved at least £25 on this journey.

P.s. also extremely excited to see my friend after so long. Thank you Megabus for making it a lot easier to reconnect with people, even though you make the day start so bloody early.