Happy Mother’s Day 2022

Sunday 27 March 2022

What a lovely mother’s day weekend!

The British Isles bask in a full week of sunny weather and by glorious chance this coincides with me setting out on a weekend jaunt. I cannot believe my luck!

Saturday takes me to Hawes (I’ll skip the bit about me going via Leeds in a hapless satnav blunder) and a wonderful 10 mile trek along the Pennine Way. Oh it feels good to be out of my corner of the Northwest. Why I was becoming so dangerously domesticated I’d even bought strawberry plants for the garden! Amidst those rolling hills and mile upon mile of solitude, the grind of the week, the workload worries and the night-time niggles just melt away. Several medical studies affirm that walking is a proven mood booster and that Walking in nature, specifically, has been found to reduce ruminating over negative experiences. Well, it certainly works for me! And, as we hike back down to ground level, shop until we drop at the Wensleydale Creamery and then join the other weekend revellers enjoying beers in the afternoon sunshine, I almost feel as if I’m actually on holiday!

Alas, I am not and, on Monday will indeed return to work, but the the treats of the weekend are not over just yet. On Sunday I continue my drive North to pick up my Eldest from Uni-land for the start of her Easter vacation. Yeah – the perfect Mother’s day gift!

With much laughter and a surfeit of coffee and diet coke, we head home. After the two and a hour car journey, I actually hobble into the house, as the hiking has left me with a tricky combination of aching butt cheeks and very tight calf muscles! However, as my glutes and gastrocnemii loosen back into action, I find that flowers have arrived from Prom-dress daughter, my Eldest is ready to cook a Sunday Roast for me and my mum and even a rather jaded (from a Saturday night sleep-over) Small boy manages a card! Life feels good!

It is evening now and time to look to the week ahead. But with one last backward glance at the weekend, I am super glad that we made the most of the fine weather as the forecasters now warn of plummeting temperatures and even snow! Yikes; I do hope those strawberry plans will be ok…

Farewell little gecko…

Monday 21 March 2022

Sad times for us this week as Boris the gecko passes away very suddenly…

Our first reaction? Shock. It is true that Boris was poorly in the Autumn but, following a really successful operation and hours of careful care, medication and attention from Small Boy, he had been very much back to his usual self. So finding his little body lying peacefully, but very lifelessly, in the vivarium leaves us completely stunned and bewildered.

Then comes the realisation that he is gone and that sadly the ‘gecko years’ are over…

And what a roller coaster they have been. For lots of the time, Boris was the easiest of additions to the household. Happily hunting and feeding or basking and sleeping in his variety of caves and shelters. However, whenever anything went wrong … it was quite an adventure! And no; I am not talking about capers with the live crickets he fed on, although pursuing any nimble, high-jumping escapees around the house was certainly an experience! Nor the building of the vivarium, which, for DIY dimwits such as my son and I, was one very long evening. Far and away, our biggest challenges came with the two or three times Boris had ailments. The nearest vet for tropical pets was at least a 40 minute drive away (far longer in rush hour) and this lead to several epic trips, battling the Manchester traffic to make appointments after a long day at work.

Tense and tiring times? Absolutely … but also some of the best of times. Why? Because Small Boy and I lived this together.

My youngest child has always had a big heart, but his capacity to keep going, hold onto slivers of hope and never give up on our little gecko was utterly impressive. He definitely inspired me, on several occasions, to put aside my own exhaustion and dismay and … get on with doing what was needed. As for the long car journeys, although sometimes fraught they turned out to be lots of fun too. Singing ridiculous Gilbert and Sullivan songs (don’t ask us to explain why), treating ourselves to fast food at Maccies drive through as we finally turned off the motorway towards home and laughing our way through some utter navigational nightmares. It’s given us an extra bond, it’s given us some fine memories and , as I look back I realise that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

So tiny Boris, although we feel rather low this week, we thank you for the life and joy you brought to our household over the last two and a half years. Sometimes it takes someone so small to remind us to cherish what is truly important; hope, family and fighting for the people (and pets) who matter. Rest in peace little gecko…

Beethoven, Mozart … and bliss…

Saturday 12 March 2022

After a stuttering start back into the post-covid world of music, I am finally fully part of a great concert…

The invite to play pops into my email inbox about 3 weeks ago. Not only a concert night, but also a pretty intensive schedule of rehearsals in the preceding week. I hover with indecision. Work is manic; the weather is grim, Small boy has mocks and ex-hub is visiting meaning that I would be free-er than usual, to kick up my heels for a boozy ‘Saturday night out‘. Yet, something makes me say ‘yes’ and I am so glad that it does because …I love every minute of it.

Of course it is crazy careering out for 7 -10 pm rehearsals after a ten-hour day at work. Of course parking in a large town centre is (for me) a flustering fiasco of QR codes and scanners. Of course I often don’t find time to eat and arrive at the hall shovelling down handfuls of Walker’s crisps whilst dealing with text messages from all and sundry. But; when I do finally sink into my seat on the stage all of that stops. The orchestra is a really good one and the three hours of rehearsal time are intense, absorbing and a complete escape from the world outside.

So; the wind may be howling. Small boy may need someone to ‘test me on Chemistry’. Boris the gecko may need a new UV light and some fresh crickets. I may have lessons to plan on the cosine rule. But between the hours of 7pm and 10pm, all of this noise fades away and my focus is taken totally with phrasing and shaping the symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart into beautiful music. And it is bliss!

Bliss to know that I have given time to a real piece of me this week. Bliss to be challenged and pushed to think about how every note is placed and played. And bliss, to have shut out the clamour of the every-day for a few hours to be part of melody, music and creativity. As one article, 10 reasons to join an orchestra, outlines,

Life is full of daily stresses. Work, family, bills, and other responsibilities can take their toll. Playing in an orchestra, on the other hand, requires a great deal of focus. For that reason, rehearsals and concerts can be a great way to divert your attention away from day-to-day troubles, stress, and to-do lists

The final concert is amazing. The audience clap and cheer the climatic Symphony and an emotional rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.My mood soars. I feel happier and calmer than I have done for weeks. I am ready for the manic week ahead and, even more so, ready to say ‘yes’ to the next concert I am offered…

Mums, daughters and retail therapy!

Saturday 19 February 2022

Nipping neatly onto a train in the brief lull between Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice, my Eldest pops home for the weekend.

Hip hip hooray – let’s shop until we drop!

We may open our weekend curtains to thick snowfall. Our first taxi may be a no-show. But we are undaunted. Buttoned up to the nines, gripping umbrelllas for dear life and sprayed by countless cars, we slosh off to the bus stop.

One double-decker ride and a Manchester Metrolink later we step out into the city centre. Our mission? Sprucing up Spring wardrobes … and having a fabulous time! I am happy to report that Cottonopolis does not disappoint. After three glorious hours, we sink into comfy seats for a well earned coffee, brandishing impressive numbers of bags and purchases. Jeans, bargain-jumpers, ‘going-out’ tops, shoes…and we both feel great.

So here’s the question? They call it retail ‘therapy’ but… is shopping actually good for you?

Marie Claire report that it is, in their 2018 article, Shopping is actually good for your mental health and science proves it, and they cite a rather complex survey carried out by The Journal of Consumer Affairs, which examines the role of shopping for those battling with the very serious challenge of grief. For many of us, heading out to splash some cash, will be for more trivial reasons, however, there is definitely commonly a notion of self-care: cheering yourself up, deciding to treat yourself or just to brighten yourself up by have something new to wear. And there are plenty of studies that support the notion that a shopping spree will do just that and lift our mood for various reasons: distraction, social interaction, feeling ‘in control’ and feeling satisfaction at having saved up for a purchase are just a few discussed in WebMD’s article, Is Retail Therapy for Real?

A day of flexing the credit card is, some suggest, also great way to strengthen the mother-daughter bond, for whilst shopping with toddlers is surely a trauma most parents are only too keen to forget, trips out with your offspring, as they emerge into early teen years can be really enjoyable. A great context to allow some time together and to acknowledge burgeoning independence, as your children now start to take control over what they want to wear. Does it work for the teenagers because they like the fact that you are paying and for parents because, if you are like me, clothing choices are ones we tend to feel pretty relaxed about? I am not sure; but I would concur with, Parenthub who observe that,

This struggle for independence can be fraught with conflict and stress, yet interestingly our results indicate that the shopping environment is a safe place to express this independence.”

It can, of course, be expensive and in our household this simply meant that we only went occasionally. But I reckon that this in turn made our retail adventures seem extra special and times to be excitedly anticipated and cherished.

Whatever the ins and outs, we have certainly had a lovely time today. I do smile as I compare the very different brands we have purchased. Mine bear the distinct hall-marks of established British high street stalwarts, whereas my Eldest has made a bee-line for fresher, trendier more current labels. That aside, it as been a jointly successful day and, as my ‘bargain jumper’ was such a steal, there is even some money left for a cheeky cocktail or two which is a definite “Woohoo and cheers all round…”

Crowd surfing passengers to the loo…

Monday 14 February 2022

First TransPennine Express and the industry regulator The Office of Rail and Road… have jointly commissioned this research to find out how satisfied you were with the handling of a complaint you made to First TransPennine Express…”

The message lands in my email inbox, at the start of the month. Keen to have a say on this occasion, I fill out their suggested questionnaire promptly. When, 2 weeks later I’ve heard nothing, I decide instead to share the complaint-in-question in this week’s blog. Back to November we go …

The occasion was Prom-dress daughter’s weekend trip home from the Scottish capital which coincided with Storm Arwen hitting the British Isles. And Arwen caused travel carnage. The train schedule was a catalogue of disruption and delay, so we were surprised when my daughter’s return journey was not amongst them and found ourselves setting to Piccadilly as planned.

On platform 14, we descended together … into a scene of utter chaos. Because this was one operational service in a deluge of cancellations, everyone wanted to be on it! Crowds were seething in all directions in the sort of numbers you see when Old Trafford empties out. But unlike the end of a large sporting fixture, when experienced marshals and police manage the crowds with authority, there were no rail staff to be seen.

As the slightly delayed train pulled into the station, a lone windswept and harried guard scurried out with his flag and watched the assembled passengers surging forward to cram into the carriages. Prom-dress daughter was frozen to the spot for a moment but, colour drained from her face, also scrambled aboard and I saw her standing in a corridor near the doors.

No seat mum, but I do have a space to stand…it is completely packed!”

came the text.

My horrified eyes now scanned the rest of the train, as more and more people pushed themselves through the doors. I watched the train stutter out of the station, rammed to the rafters. Faces and bodies pressed against windows and doors. And I felt fear….

Who is in charge?” I asked the guard “It looks ridiculously crowded… is it safe?”

I was told that there were only 3 members of staff, one of whom was the driver, caring for what were clearly hundreds and hundreds of passengers.

Back into the main part of the station, I queued to report my concerns. A manager was tannoyed to come and speak to me but he swiftly waived my concerns aside and reassured me that safety was his ‘number one concern’ and that when the train was judged to be full, new passengers would be stopped from boarding.

This turned out not to be the case. At each of the 9 stops, more and more people were allowed to force their way into the carriages. My daughter sent only occasional texts, as she struggled to find the room to raise her phone to eye level. No-one could move a muscle. One of the most shocking reports was that passengers needing the toilet had to be ‘crowd surfed’ in by fellow travellers. Trainline recorded a staggering 87 crowd alerts.

And this continued for hours and hours. I contacted TransPennine. I contacted the transport police. I contacted Trainline. Everyone was concerned but no-one had a plan of action. One operator assured me that she would relay these concerns onto the train personnel and my daughter later told me that for the final 30 minutes of the journey, there were regular messages giving out an emergency number for any passengers in distress. Was that due to me… no idea!

As no-one else seemed willing or able to take control, I eventually texted

“Just get off at the next station”

My child replied,

I cant…I cant even see where the exit is anymore…”

and I no longer knew what to do to help, other than pray!

Thankfully they made it to Edinburgh but my relief has now given way to real anger and I repeat the question I asked of the guard back in Manchester

Who is in charge?”

I do not for one moment want to suggest that our trains are consistently unsafe, but they were on this occasion and it cannot have been unexpected. Storm Arwen had caused over 24 hours of train cancellations prior to this service being allowed to run. Any Tom Dick or Harry could have predicted high demand for limited seats so,

Where were the extra staff to manage this and keep people safe?”

Secondly, I was told that if the train was deemed too crowded that new passengers would not be permitted to board. Well, if 87 crowd alerts, passengers being crowd-surfed to the loo and bodies and faces pressed against windows and doors are not indicators for this… what exactly are? What further metrics are we looking for? How much more shocking do the standards have to be before anyone takes action?

Thirdly I was told that safety was a ‘number one priority’. Well, on this service no-one could budge an inch and this included the 2 train staff who were unable to move through the carriages and corridors to check on passenger well-being. So how on earth would they even have known if anyone was in distress? In my daughters cramped corridor there was an elderly lady, medically advised not to stand for long periods of time. She had to abandon her fold down seat and stand as the seating simply took up too much space.

It is unacceptable and down to a clear lack of leadership. There appeared to be no-one able to make a decision. No-one with the courage, clarity and care to stand up and say

“Enough is enough! No more people on this train. It is not safe”

Why did this not happen? Was is money; fear of compensation and refunds? I have certainly been pointed towards refunds and financial claims but I haven’t made them because I don’t want a refund. I just was assurance that this will not happen again.

I await a response from First TransPennine Express and the industry regulator The Office of Rail and Road

The best laid (birthday) plans …

Sunday 6 February 2022

February arrives, bringing birthday season to our house, as within very quick succession, my eldest waves goodbye to her teenage years and Small-boy turns sixteen.

My first-born celebrates away at Uni-land, which just leaves me to plan something momentous for my son. The first treat is his other sister, Prom-dress daughter, who pops home for the weekend and certainly raises a smile. We re-unite with a Friday Chinese and a movie before Saturday dawns; she head out to meet pals for a ‘bottomless brunch’ and my son and I spruce up the house. .. because ‘the boys’ are coming round.

Now I learned a very important ‘teenage party lesson’ several years ago when my eldest turned 18! (Coming of Age). And I am happy to share it with all fellow parents,

‘Make sure you go out for the evening!’

So by 7pm, with 6 nice teenage boys happily gathered round an x-box, the table piled high with fizzy drinks and a take-away pizza menu pinned to the notice board, I grab my coat and drive into town to meet a friend for a quick bite.

‘Sorted!’ I foolishly dare to think.

For, just as I raise a first fork-full of lentil and mushroom ragout to my mouth, my mobile buzzes into life; Prom-dress daughter.

Arghh mum! Got an email to say my train to Edinburgh is cancelled tomorrow…I am so stressed. Can you pick me up?”

What.. right now?’ I ask. We compromise on a 10pm ride home and I get back to my pasta. I do actually make it through some truly, delicious desserts before the dreaded mobile flashes again. This time it is the party-boy.

Hi Mum. We’ve decided to play a bit of basketball… just letting you know so that you don’t run us over when you get back!”

‘An odd choice on a cold, wet and wild February night’ I muse, plus ‘How bad do they think my night driving is?’

But I manage to push these thoughts away and finish the rest my meal in peace. And how I cling on desperately to the memory of that civilised adult company as, having collected Prom-dress daughter, the two of us head home. And what a sight greets us…

About nine teenage boys are now on my property. Clad in sleeveless baseball tops, soaked to the skin and brandishing basketballs, they seem to fill the kitchen, with noise, laughter and limbs – it’s like a scene from a Village People confederation! What, in the name of goodness, the neighbours made of it all, I can only imagine. Behind me I hear my daughter desperately trying to suppress a giggle as the slightly sheepish troop now shuffle back into the lounge so that we can make it to the kettle.

Armed with trusty cuppas, we retreat upstairs to re-book a train journey back to Scottish Uni-land and the boys regain their swagger. The noise level rises again, so do the occasional crashes and cheers and … it actually sounds like a whole lot of fun. Some go around midnight and a few stay over but I am done and descend into a speedy slumber …

Sunday arrives and I awake to find teenage boys straightening-up my house with military zeal – who knew? Sleeping bags are tightly rolled, bedding folded and rubbish re-cycled. Someone even offers me a morning coffee. They can certainly come again! Prom-dress daughter and I bid them a brief and slightly bleary-eyed fare-well as we hit the road for …Wigan! Yes, I wave my middle child off from a bleak and windswept platform in the land of the pie-eaters.

By the time I make it home, all is quiet and, at least until next year, party season is over once more. But I’ll confess, after the dreary Lockdown years, I did enjoy seeing the house full of life and laughter again. February gatherings; they might not always go quite to plan, but may just be the perfect way to see off the gloom of January and get the new year started…

Hebden Bridge

Saturday 29 January 2022

There is just no beating a great day out and, this weekend, a trip to Yorkshire’s arty, free-spirited Hebden Bridge proves to be just that…

“The best way to arrive in Hebden Bridge, at the western edge of the Pennines, is by train…”

I read in Paul Barker’s Guardian article, Hebden Bridge: West Yorkshire’s cool and quirky corner. And arrive by train we certainly do. In fact, I boast a 100% commitment to public transport; making a double bus plus local rail odyssey to cross the border from Greater Manchester into the white rose county. Quite a trek on a windswept Saturday! From the station, it is a short walk, past the Arts Cinema and Victorian Town Hall into the town centre.

Now, as you might have suspected, the main reason for leaving the car at home, is to free both me and my companion up for sampling the local alcoholic beverages. But the beer has to wait…until I have finished shopping. Yes, famed for its independent retail, Hebden Bridge is home to an arts and crafts market, pottery shops, vintage stores, several antique dealerships plus quaint outlets for soaps and candles and confectionary around every corner. It is the perfect place to potter, browse, while away the hours and, in my case, spend spend spend! (I do have three birthdays to shop for.)

The town also has an abundance of cafes and eateries. We lunch on woodfired pizza, mine an incredible vegan chorizo combination, with peppermint tea and eventually, of course, do find our way to Vocation Brewery and the NightJar Bar for some well earned and much appreciated craft beer. (Though, enboldened by the Dutch courage, I do dive back into the arty stalls… to treat myself, check out my fabulous new glass coasters!)

And then all too soon, and by now a little tipsy, it is time to head home. We didn’t find time to stroll along the canal walk, nor for the walk to Heptonstall, resting place for Ted Hughes’s first wife, Sylvia Plath. Maybe next time? We certainly did have a wonderful day out and how needed it was after the grind of the working week. Escaping to somewhere new and something different has really raised my spirits, so I’m off to plan a February jaunt… this could definitely be a monthly feature for 2022…

Waking up to 2022 …!

22 January 2022

When your 82 year old mum announces that she has ‘taken up Tai Chi’ and your only claim to 2022-fame is a 16 day winning streak on Wordle, you realise it’s time to start taking the new year a bit more seriously!

It is on a family meal outing that my amazing mother, half-way through a recommendation for an ‘apple, spinach and ginger smoothie’ she starts each day with, pauses to casually throws in, as an aside, her foray into martial arts. The rest of us nearly choke on our nachos!

It is supposed to help me improve my balance…”

she explains calmly, with an air of innocence but a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.

Well, balance or no balance I have to say she is looking fantastic on it! And it it in that moment, right there and then that I decide to shake of the mild torpor and feeling of a ‘covid-hangover’ with which I have stumbled through January and get up and do something! So here is last week …

I run! With gloriously-perfect timing one of my run buddies re-emerges from a long, post-corona recuperation and we hit the Lancashire hills bright and early on a chilly Saturday morning. The exercise is good, if tough, but the chat is even better. It is, we agree, the loveliest of ways to kick off the weekend.

And secondly , I go vegan … well I attempt exactly one vegan meal! Towards the end of December 2021, I did go further than this and propose a ‘Veganuary’. To my surprise, Smallboy, the most committed carnivore on the planet, was very much up for the challenge. I, however, did not get my act together at all and New Year’s day came and went without so much as a carton of almond milk being added to the supermarket trolley. This week, with renewed vigour, I determine that all is not lost and that one vegan dish per week still constitutes quite a culinary change and onTuesday night, we contemplate … tofu.

The thing with tofu Mum, ” advises my Eldest confidently over the phone, “is to build in flavour and texture. I often coat it in flour and deep fry; it is really good!”

What could be simpler?’ we tell ourselves as we chop for a stir fry. Probably many things, I would now conclude. Before our horrified eyes, both the tofu and flour disintegrate into a mushy paste in the wok and feature as scarcely more than a smooth thickener in our sauce, when we eventually slop the meal onto plates. Nonetheless, we are hungry, the sauce and veg are very tasty and I am close to ticking it off as a plant-based triumph until Small boy observes,

Err Mum…I think we used egg noodles!

Arghhh; next week we will do better!

And last but not least, I, or should I say we, will also continue to play Wordle. Yes, I discover that my son has also discovered the daily word puzzle and tends to solve it at least 1attempt more speedily than me. “I always start with ‘adieu’ mother … 4 vowels…’ he explains and I have to admit; that is pretty smart!

So wisdom and inspiration from the older and younger generation for me this week. It has been a pretty good week, so long may it continue…

A New Year … with some blasts from the past!

15 January 2022

This is my first post of 2022, so “Happy New Year!” Uncharacteristically however, I find myself a little out of sync with the advent of this novel chapter of life. As the seasonally resolute launch into fresh starts, new regimes and forward thinking with enthusiasm, I spend much of my initial fortnight taking a trip down memory lane…

See the source image

Well, quite frankly, no-one could blame anyone for wanting to retreat from the jaw dropping January chaos of Boris’ unbelievable Britain! New channels and social media can scarcely keep apace with all the scandal and speculation: Downing Street parties, sozzled civil servants, surging omicron cases, disgraced royal princes and soaring energy prices. It feels like utter madness and misery, which why, were this the catalyst, I know that I’d be forgiven for looking wistfully back to a simpler time when I was young and wrapped up with friends, boyfriends and schoolwork. Back in a bygone century, with only 4 channels on the TV, not a mobile phone in sight and at an age when I was only half aware of anything that was happening out in the wider world.

But the reality is that I don’t find myself reliving some of my past because of any of this. No; it is all far more straightforward! I am contacted unexpectedly by some-one I went to college with; whom I have not seen or heard from for over 30 years. How exciting! We re-live classes, teachers, social exploits and gatherings (some of which I can only dimly recall.) And it is fun. So much so that I decide to really wallow in girlhood nostalgia and challenge Alexa to bring back the soundtrack of my youth.

Now, I spent most of my late teens, clad in black leggings and Ts, lying on my bedroom floor listening to The Smiths, convinced that Morrissey was the only person on the planet to truly understand me. A champion of teen angst he may well have been, but for an aging mother of three, Mozzer wailing through the house is a bit of a mood killer, so I wind the clock forward a few years and go for Alanis Morissette instead. And that is much more like it!

“And what it all comes down to. Is that everythin’s gonna be quite alright.”

I warble along lustily, dancing around the kitchen making tea; I feel fantastic. My chance re-acquaintance may have reminded me that I was once under 25, but the music … I swear that it actually takes me back to an age when I was carefree and finding my way in the world. Maybe it does? In at number 4, on Saga’s Top ten ways to feel instantly young again’, is voyaging down memory lane by looking at old photos or listening to music from that time. Similarly, Wes Baines in an article outlining how youth is defined by ‘action not age‘ suggests that,

“Looking back at your life doesn’t have to remind you of what you’ve lost—it can remind you of what you still have. It’s easier than you think to slip back into that youthful mindset when you surrounded yourself with music and photos and loves from that time of your life.”

I can certainly recommend it as an uplifting hour, if nothing else. Further, I venture a tentative ‘yes’, that a 1980s/1990s kitchen disco brightens my outlook a little and helps me start to look ahead to the new year, with some of the ambition, hope and optimism that I had all those years ago. We shall see… and in the meantime, Alanis certainly knows how to write a great song…

You live, you learn
You love, you learn
You cry, you learn ….

You Learn : Alanis Morissette

The Covid Christmas Chronicles 2!

Monday 27 December 2021

Shhh! I hardly dare say it aloud, but I think I have just recorded my first negative covid test for … what feels like an age!”

A week of isolation, that is all it has been but it has taken its toll and I am going a little bit stir crazy! Why yes, we still have our board games, but we have played them to death. Our favourite was Trivial Pursuits, gloriously updated from the original 1980s version, so that my Gen Z offspring are no longer left puzzling over the ‘Male star of Man about the House in 1974′, but have questions that they can actually answer. Nonetheless, we have now circumnavigated the board so many times that we are struggling to find a card that hasn’t been used: yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that! Want to know the second largest German city by both area and population? I’m your girl!

Mealtimes too provide little variation, as the national season of leftovers collides with our dwindling supply of groceries. A once very fine Christmas dinner attempts a plucky revival each evening but progressively loses a little bit of shine each time, as we run down the veggies and scrape around the freezer digging out oven chips and bits of quorn to make up the nutritional numbers!

Prom-dress daughter is now also positive and, in consequence, when we do gather as a quartet to watch a new festive movie, we shiver in communal harmony with the lounge window wide open for ventilation and clinging to hot drinks for warmth!

Do I need to get out here? Well let’s just say that if you offered me a quarrelsome festive family walk right here and now, with everyone trudging gloomily along in the mud looking venomous and despondent … I’d bite your hand off!

And so it is that this afternoon’s negative test almost has me dancing with joy! I still need a second to secure my ticket to freedom, so I restrict my celebrations to breaking out of my pyjamas, for the first time in 8 days, and donning enough clothing to hit the garden and rake up some wet leave.

Woohoo – living the dream!

Of course I am very grateful that we are both OK … but please… finger, toes and everything crossed here for only one pink line on the lateral flow tomorrow….