1 April 2020
Today could’ve been my 20th Wedding Anniversary!
But obviously it isn’t! Instead I find myself very much single, very much a mum and very much stuck indoors in the middle of a national corona virus lockdown! Covid -19 does, however, leave me with far more time than usual on my hands. In consequence I elect to battle upstairs with the rusty ladders, sway unsteadily into the loft and root around for my old wedding pictures. Eventually, I unearth them, buried in an old black briefcase and I sit down with a coffee to dwell upon life. Let’s face it, life never quite turns out as you planned!
Look at me all smiles, white frock and flowers. Blissfully unaware of the tidal wave that was to come crashing through my life just a decade after saying “I do!” Marital breakdown is a terrifying time. I felt as if someone had just swept into my life, torn it into pieces and cast them from a tall building, to see if they could find a place to land. The pain, the heartbreak, they were body blows. The dawning shock that I was now a ‘single mum‘ was difficult to comprehend. I remember the horror of having to tell people and trying not to cry. I hated being cast as a victim, and feared everyone’s pity. I remember the challenge of rethinking how to live every part of my life, how to maintain stability for the kids and how to pay for it all.
But I made it through. I rebuilt my entire world. I learned that if, like me, you don’t like being a victim then don’t be one! Take back control! The teens are successful and seem, at least for the moment, to be very happy. I have kept a roof over our heads. I have held down a full time job. I have managed, with a few personal sacrifices, to provide the kids with many of the opportunities I enjoyed as a child. I run, I read, I write, I play music, all of which is a joy. I still shudder when faced with a DIY tasks or an over-ambitious cooking quest. I still shed the odd tear over the sheer grind of daily life when you are the only adult in the house. But, having battled through the complexities of the family law courts, give me any official, legal or financial dilemma and I rise to the challenge better than most.
Do I miss the companionship and closeness? Do I miss having a ‘partner in crime’? Do I miss having a husband? In one sense, yes I do. I miss the husband the girl in the picture above was dreaming of. The daughter of a cinema manager and musician, weaned on films and tales of romance, I fear that she actually thought that life was destined to be ‘like the movies.’ Somewhere deep inside, I suspect she believed that ‘true love would conquer all,’ and that with marriage came the guarantee that everything would end ‘happily ever after.’
But no marriage breaks up because it’s happy. Towards the end of our alliance, life was very miserable for both me and Ex-hub, And I am sure that neither of us misses that at all. Life is strewn with cliches, possibly because they are wise old words, and this one always strikes a chord with me
‘It is better to be alone that in an unhappy relationship’
So whilst I did not make it to my 20th anniversary, the last 2 decades have certainly not been wasted. I emerge with great strength, determination, multi-tasking talents beyond compare and three incredible children. And I’m ready to make the most of … tomorrow! Forget anniversaries and landmarks, I have learned that it’s best to take life one day at a time …
Thursday 16 April 2020
It is the story of the day. It could well be the story of the year. Ninety nine year old, war veteran Captain Tom Moore, walking with the aid of a zimmer frame, completed 100 laps of his garden to raise over £15m for the NHS. Originally, he set out to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together by completing laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. But his story captured hearts and inspired people across the globe and, after more than 700,000 people made donations, his fund raising went stratospheric.
I’ll confess that I start most Covid-19 days feeling pretty emotional, as the radio relays yet more heartbreaking tales from those hit by this cruel virus. I pick up as the day wears on, particularly if I’m working, but it is tears for me most mornings. So this rousing tale is a real tonic. One DJ calls for Tom to ‘be knighted‘. Another suggests ‘Sports Personality of the Year‘! His former regiment, are in the garden, lining his final lap with a guard of honour. Tom is lauded as ‘inspirational’ and ‘A symbol of true British spirit’ . The NHS voice their gratitude.
Tom’s daughter however turns her thanks to those that have supported her father.
“No words can express our gratitude to the British public for getting behind Tom, for making this into a heartfelt story”
Hannah Ingram-Moore, goes onto to explain her how the ‘adventure‘ has ‘reinvigorated‘ her father ,
“I believe that life is all about purpose, we all need purpose, and, whilst he’s had a life full of purpose, he did fall and break his hip and became much less independent than he had been for the preceding 98 years, and what you have done, the British public, and everyone who’s supported him, is giving him his next purpose.”
Tom has made me smile. Tom has brought some much needed joy into my day. But his daughter has really woken me up. Perhaps rather than giving in to gloom and sadness, perhaps rather than descending into lock-down despondency, I should be channelling my efforts into supporting this national fight. What contribution could I make? Because Hannah Ingram-Moore is quite right, trying to make a difference wouldn’t only help the community, it would help me too, “We all need a purpose…”
Saturday 18 April 2020
Has is really been only 4 weeks? I am struggling …
During the first 2 weeks of Lockdown I was working. It was busy. It was challenging. It was creative; rethinking how to operate with most pupils and staff working from home. It felt strange and scary but very fulfilling. At home, the girls dyed their hair and ordered yoga mats. Small boy grew (and grew) his curly locks, jacked the basket ball stand ever higher and actually did quite a lot of school work. My brother rallied the entire family with Bingo, The Grand National and Quiz night on Zoom. And I felt optimistic about us sailing through these strange new times.
Then came the Easter Holidays … on Lockdown. The sun shone, the alarm was switched off, all structure fell away and it should have been idyllic. But, unable to go out, unable to meet friends, unable to do anything ‘non-essential’ everyday quickly became much like the one before and I began to find the going incredibly tough. The Government experts advocated exercise, so I ran most days. On social media, friends were cooking, cleaning and revamping so I tried those too. I baked. I spent hours spring cleaning cupboards and organising ‘useful string’, matches and batteries into recycled plastic tubs. I queued on DIY sites to order paint and rollers. I even washed the cutains! And it all used up a few hours but it didn’t lift my mood. Jobs I’d normally squeeze in between doing things that make me happy , had suddenly become the focus of the day … and I was lost.
And I still am. I know how important it is to stay at home. I am horribly aware, that those battling this cruel illness would swap their situation for mine in a breath. I do give thanks each day that my children are, up to this moment, safe and well. Nonetheless my dial is resolutely stuck on ‘sad and low’ at the moment. I love my teens, but I also miss adult company. It is really not a great time to be a single parent.
I do have my kids however. The girls, in particular, have been far more upbeat than me. My eldest found a ‘Make me a Cocktail’ app and we mixed delightful drinks for our sunny garden which was fun. Prom-dress daughter insisted that we preserve ‘Take-Away Friday’ and this week we even found a chippy to deliver, which was heavenly. So I resolve follow their example, get a grip, get inventive and rethink how I handle the next 3 weeks . I need a way to make the days count, as opposed to just counting the days. I need even more of their inspiration …
Sunday 26 April 2020
It is Lockdown Week 5. To give my day a goal, I decide to clear out my wardrobe and, in a dusty ‘memory box‘, I find our first shoes…
There is just something about shoes and the teens immediately adore these dinky specimens! Small Boy runs sound the house twirling one on the end of his finger, shrieking in disbelief that his mammoth size 11s were ever this small. I have to recount, several times, any details I can dredge up of each one taking their first steps. The ‘Whens?‘, the ‘Hows?‘, the ‘Who else was theres?“. I’ll confess, apart from a rough recollection of their ages, I am fairly hazy on most it it and thankful that I do, at least, have the footwear. What I definitely do remember, however, is that toddlers wobbling unsteadily to their feet was always one of my favourite child-rearing landmarks. I think that is why I held on to each first, precious pair of tiny loafers and sandals.
To you new parents out there, heed my warning ! Speaking? Seriously over-rated as a developmental stage . Do not seek to hasten it unduly! The day a small child first learns to say ‘No!‘ or ‘Why?‘ , rather than simply beaming with delight every time you appear, is the day your parenting challenges truly begin! But moving…walking, crawling, rolling, bottom- shuffling, however your child first begins to strike out, just marks the start of wonderful possibilities and independence . Exploration. Discovery. The desire to travel. Walking is a first step towards adventure. And our shoes will be trusty companions on most of our escapades.
Shoes are there on our first day at school, our first interview and our wedding day. I still have the walking boots I bought for an Inter-railing trip in the 1980s. I am pretty certain that I have long since discarded the flip-flops which took me around SE Asia. The glass slipper helped Cinderella to find her prince. Ballet Shoes saw Noel Streatfield’s adopted Fossil sisters strive to find their true paths in life. Hercule Poirot’s patent leathers accompanied Christie’s detective across the globe. And Dorothy’s ruby reds (silver for the purists!) took her all the way to Oz and then back home.
And, because I need to get back to my wardrobe, what better place to end than with Dorothy. The story of the heroine, of my mum’s favourite movie, is woven into the rainbows currently adorning our lockdown windows and walls. On Thursdays we not only ‘Clap the Carers’, but musicians also play ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, her iconic song. The rainbow is a familiar symbol of hope; as far back as biblical times it signalled Noah’s calm after the storm. In recent years it has also come to represent the beauty of diversity and equality for all. But additionally Dorothy is the girl who realised that ‘There’s no place like home‘ and that is a powerful message for the public at the moment. Important as it is however, Dorothy for me is the girl who may have come back to Kansas in the end, but had one hell of an adventure on the way. With her glittering slippers, she embodies the wisdom that life is not just about the happy ending, it is very much about dancing down a yellow-brick road and making the most of everyone you meet and every chance you get along way. Dorothy reminds me that when this lockdown ends, we will be invited to step back into the journey of life once more. And I, for one, cannot wait for the day it is safe to buckle up my shoes and get walking again…