There’s a hot tub in my garden…

Saturday 23 April 20222

Golly gosh; can my two girls shop!

As the Easter holidays draw to a close, I hardly recognise my own home! Cheered on, at times propelled on, by my daughterly duo of retail fanatics, not only does my conservatory proudly boast a new furniture but our aged plastic garden chairs have also been binned in favour of ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners.

Have I taken leave of my senses? Well I just might have done exactly that, because the shopping frenzy all began….with a hot tub!!

Gosh the hot tub! Now that is a long story which at some point demands a post of its own but for now can go down as a fanciful notion floated after some bargain deals bounced into the inbox. And now here it is, at least until my energy price fix runs out in Summer 2023, our very own outdoor spa!

It is certainly an extravagance on its own, yet, scarcely has the froth subsided on our first dip in the bubbles, when purchase number 2 is in the boot of the car. I innocently agree to potter into town with my Eldest, to pop into Boots for a new moisturiser when my girl steers me into a store promising ‘unbeatable bargains‘ on garden furniture. Before I know it, I find myself trundling to the till with four new ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners in my trolley!

Mum, you have been looking for new outdoor furniture for years!”,

my Eldest smiles reassuringly, as I appear a little flustered. This is true, but I had anticipated at least another half decade of looking and wondering and weighing-up before I actually made any daring dash to the cash-till. In addition, I am not at all sure what ‘zero gravity‘ chairs even are! But, as we try them all out upon our return home, they are very comfortable. And apparently, my offspring tell me, together with the hot tub really ‘freshen up the garden experience!

I know what you’re thinking, by now I had surely learned my lesson! But no, as Prom-dress daughter arrives home to swell the youthful and carefree ranks of the household, I am persuaded to head out to Ikea to replace a few broken glasses and try out the new plant balls’. Five minutes! We are there for only five minutes, before we are are snuggling on a new sofa and admiring the display of accompanying rug and table!

You’ve been looking for ages, Mum”

“Don’t you just love it – so comfy!”

“The poor conservatory has been completely bare for 18 months now!”

They do actually allow me to stop and consider this one, over (delicious) plant balls, mash and gravy. Possibly, I am distracted by the delights of my redcurrant jelly but equally the fact that they are correct and that my lovely, sunny, garden room has been an empty shell, for a very long time, does also register and I decide to go for it, rug, coffee table and all!

At the warehouse, things are slightly complicated. We discover that, despite endless permutations of collapsed seats and car-boot boxes plus much hilarity as the three of us career around the carpark with the weighty beast, the sofa is never going to be squashed into my car. In now rueful resignation, I wave my credit card at the cashier and fork out for home delivery!

So the time honoured clash of their youthful exuberance and that dash of ‘carpe diem’ with my single-mum (crippling) caution. There is a clear victor on this occasion. I’ll admit however that, for once, I am glad to have been defeated. Left to my own devices I would doubtless have a few more £100s in the bank, awaiting the proverbial ‘rainy day’, but the conservatory would still be an empty room and the tired old plastic chairs not up to the task of tempting anyone to sit in the garden this holiday. Whereas, we now live in the conservatory and the new garden equipment has also been fun. It has made the Easter holidays seem pretty idyllic and contributed to me falling a little bit in love with my own home again.

Nonetheless, the bank manager and I do heave an audible sigh of relief as my two shopaholic students set off back to uni-land …

The great outdoors …

Sunday 18 April 2021

Week 2 of the Easter Holidays; the sun shines, at times the snow even falls, but the big news is that pubs and cafes re-open for outdoor hospitality. Our politicians and leaders caution us to be careful and ‘take this next step safely’, but it is hard not to feel just a teeny bit giddy…

In our household, we all get out to meet our friends! Lunches, brunches, take-out picnics, shopping trips and alcoholic tipples. Gosh it does feel great …. even though it is all in the fresh air. Because, I had previously dismissed the notion of ‘outdoor hospitality’ as a terrible concept when it was first muted in February. How happy I am to be proved wrong! Sitting outside – I’d venture that it actually adds to the experience.  But why?

Here in the bracing North of England, we are a perfect stomping ground for your ‘good muddy walk’, but are not traditionally associated with alfresco dining, so is it just the novelty? Very possibly. Re-thinking, re-invention and innovation are very much part of our 21st Century world and the phenomena of falling a little bit in love with the pandemic driven pavement culture has been seen in other urban areas too.  In December 2020, in his Guardian article “Outdoor dining has been a Covid bright spot. Let’s make it permanent”, Gene Marks reports on the decision to extend outdoor permits in New York and the drive to address some issues so that this can be replicated across other US cities too. Marks recognises that eating outdoors isn’t actually new, rather,  like ‘like work from home, e-commerce and virtual meetings‘ it is a trend that has been accelerated by lockdown restrictions. Additionally,  it offers cities a chance to re-invent themselves as we emerge into the ‘new normal’

“As we begin a long-term recovery, we’re proud to extend and expand this effort to keep New York City the most vibrant city in the world. It’s time for a new tradition.”

City Mayor New York City

In an era where we have been drilled to ‘follow the science’, the glad tidings are that scientist too support the benefits of the outdoor culture. Countless articles suggests that being outdoors boosts our mood, our creativity, our vision and our immune system.  It makes us feel better and also be better! The Huffington post, in its article ‘Here’s proof that going outside makes your healthier‘ finds that exercise feels easier and is proven to be more motivating when outside.   An ‘Ask the Scientists‘ summary by Sydney Sprouse, claims that it can even help us to live longer!

A 2015 study followed 108,630 American women to determine the relationship between nature and longevity. Women who lived near parks, lawns, trees, and forests had significantly lower mortality than women living far from nature. 

And it doesn’t have to be about venturing far or extreme physical challenges, bringing nature and the outdoors closer to us, via gardens plants and even views of the natural world from a window will also bring benefits. Essentially there seems to be no right or wrong way to get outside, so as it is currently our only way to start re-connecting with all the people we have missed for so long I say what better combination than fresh air and… delicious refreshments?

Yes, chinwagging over an alfresco latte, can be a touch chilly at times, but for me it’s a big thumbs up to digging out the layers and popping a pair of mittens into my handbag. Feel a bit continental! Feel the outdoor glow on those cheeks. Feel a frisson of excitement as you balance those sunglasses on your head once more. Outdoor hospitality – I am a definite convert…