Getting away from it all

My friend and I are both single, with two kids each, so we decided to go away for a long weekend all together. We booked a campsite near to where we live because we thought the change of scene would be enough whilst still being close to home in case of emergency or forgotten items.

We left for the site on Friday evening,  my uncle kindly giving me and my two a lift in his car. My friend took her own car. We were very impressed when we got to the site as the chalet was so much nicer than we expected with proper sofas and lovely oak  furniture – it was hard to believe we were in a static caravan. We even had a hot tub on the decking, which the kids very much enjoyed.

As always seems to be the case on the first night away, my kids can’t sleep and we end up playing Scrabble with them until they finally give in. The next day we had booked the kids in for the Tarzan Trail which they were excited about. They all seemed to enjoy it to start until one by one their anxiety took over and they took turns to give up. I was very proud of them though, they were all so brave. I don’t think I could have done it at their age.

Next up we all went canoeing on the lake at the park. I was really looking forward to this, however I had not counted on the fact that my kids had done kayaking a couple of weeks previous and my daughter was very much wanting to be in charge. This caused a little friction between us but I think we all enjoyed it overall.

Sunday was a lot more relaxed. The sun came out and we went for a walk in the woods hunting for the playground we knew used to be there. Sadly it had been removed, but we had some fresh air and collected various sticks and acorns.

We treated ourselves to takeaway Sunday roast, delivered to our chalet (well, we were on holiday!). The roast arrived and was three meals short so we had to wait another half an hour for the other half before we could eat, but it was delicious and worth the wait. Then the dishwasher broke down – you can’t have it all!

All in all we had a lovely break, considering we were only a mile from home. The kids got on – a miracle in itself. As probably our only holiday since lockdown and for the foreseeable, it went very well. I am now a lot better at Scrabble, though I still haven’t managed to win against my friend!

A time for change

A few weeks ago I applied for a job. This is first time I have applied for a job outside my current place of work in the 16 years I have been there.

Somehow, I got the job!

So this really is a new start for me, doing a different job in a new place. I’m really excited to embrace something new and meet some new people (too many ‘new’s??).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the people I work with and I have several close friends in my present job, but I am always wanting to learn more. I feel I’ve achieved as much as I can in my current job and am in need of a new challenge. I will be sad to leave though.

Getting back to my original blog topic, this poses new adventures in public transport as my new job is a little bit further from my home and there are not so many direct trains. I shall keep you posted (see what I did there?…soz).

I had the joy of another taxi ride last week. I haven’t had one for a while and was immediately reminded why. The small talk lasted about a minute before the driver started grilling me on my opinion of what’s going on with COVID-19 and whether it’s all real or not. Again, at 10pm after an 8 hour shift, I was not really in the right headspace for this. Just because you know I work in a hospital, does not mean you have to have a conspiracy debate with me. I’m a scientist. You are not going to persuade me that viruses don’t exist. Or that Bill Gates is behind it all. Or that the government is lying (more than usual). Please let me close my eyes and imagine I haven’t just spent Friday evening at work.

So, yes, I have mentioned the ‘C’ word. Sorry about that. But it’s creeping back in and there is no point ignoring it. The economy has taken priority and our vulnerable loved ones may pay the price over the next few months. Only time will tell.

PHE Twitter post 13.09.2020

Homeschooling

I would just like to say, homeschooling was horrific.

To start, it seemed achievable. I work part-time so am able to spend time ‘teaching’, right? My two angels are no trouble, one is actually desperate to be at school so she’ll get on with it without much help, right?

Errr… wrong.

It started off ok. School posted work on their website for parents to view/download/print. First problem, I have two children and one iPad. So I thought, “this is fine, I can print their work off so the one iPad is not a problem”. Wrong again. By day 2, I and most of the other parents have run out of printer ink/paper or are buying a laptop.

New ink cartridges and paper purchased online. Problem solved, right? No. Of course, not all the work is printable. Some is YouTube videos or links to helpful websites. Again, this is problematic when you have two different aged kids both wanting to do their online work.

So, I became good at juggling and after week one I was exhausted but felt like we had got quite a bit done – nailed it!

Week two, the fact that I’m not a teacher starts to become obvious. I have to google certain things that my 9 year old is doing (I’m sure I was never taught the grammar that she is learning!). The constant ‘Can you help me?’ And ‘I don’t know what to do’ are starting to wear me down.

My mum-friend tells me she is working from home full-time AND looking after her two children. I can only imagine this meme was based on her…

By week 3 we have definitely lost our enthusiasm for learning from home. All the posts of people doing wonderful homeschool work with their kids is making me feel depressed and I am exhausted with the constant nagging I’m having to do to get any work out of my eldest.

By week 4, I have pretty much lost the will to live. I decide to adjust my expectations to a couple of subjects a day – that’s do-able, right? Sort of…

By week 5, none of us want to do it anymore. On the plus side, the eldest is allowed back to school two days a week, so I feel the pressure is off slightly with him and I can concentrate on youngest child – should be easy as she’s the enthusiastic one?

Even the school-loving child no longer wants to do schoolwork.  We decide to just get one thing done a day (usually art) and a teacher friend suggests Oak Academy online lessons, which are free and a godsend. Even though my littlest makes me do the lessons with her, it is so much better as I’m not having to try and explain everything and it’s a lot more interactive.

By the last week of term, we are managing one Oak Academy lesson a day, with both children doing the lesson at the youngest’s level, because that’s all the eldest will agree to.

I have never been so happy for summer holidays to start. Let’s never, ever do this again! Teachers – I and all the other homeschool-suffering parents have the utmost respect for you! True heroes.

Parents up and down the country collectively heaved a huge sigh of relief when it was announced schools would re-open in September. TFFT!

“It is in the darkness that the light of friendship shines brightest”

A fab friend of mine 😁

Fits & Giggles

You know the worst thing about having surgery? 

Not the risks that come with general anaesthetic, not the scars you get, and not the time it takes to recover….No, it’s having to starve yourself for so many hours beforehand. So when I woke up from surgery number 4, I was ravenous! I would have eaten anything (even cat-sick curry got my salivary glands going)! So when my family turned up with enough sweet treats to open my own chain of newsagents and my beloved Dr. Pepper, all thought of self pity disappeared and I felt like the luckiest girl alive!

Approximately 30 minutes later, a Nurse comes into my room to check on me and to offer a bit of advice, “Oh, good to see you awake and alert, just to warn you, don’t eat or drink anything too quickly because your body is adjusting after major surgery and the…

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Stay safe

So three months of lockdown has flown by, my hair is now shoulder-length and I have forgotten what it is like to just pop to town for something. My house is my safe haven and my job has become a weekly 12 hour day or night that causes me a lot of anxiety.

I have just read my brain friend’s awesome blog https://fitsandgiggles20.com, which has inspired me to update mine. I may even get around to explaining why I call her my brain friend 😂.

This blog started out with me wanting to write about going car-free, then the Covid-19 pandemic occurred and it somewhat changed focus. Not having a car definitely left me a bit more isolated and made certain things like shopping a lot more stressful, but I got through.

Before Covid-19 (hereafter referred to as BC), I got fortnightly shopping deliveries. However, when everyone started isolating, I was unable to get a slot, despite having a delivery pass, and so was forced to actually go and queue outside the supermarket in a weird socially distanced snake with all the other mere mortals.

The next challenge was doing a weekly shop then getting it home with it on foot. The anxiety involved with trying to follow the one-way system and having to go without something I needed because I’d forgotten it and was now three aisles further on; trying not to unnecessarily touch anything but also check the ‘use by’ date; trying to avoid other shoppers even though they seemed intent on not avoiding me. I even used the scanner thing so I didn’t have to go through the checkout (and then was picked for audit and so ended up going through the checkout anyway 🙄). Getting a taxi seemed excessive and risky so I took my granny trolley and loaded it as full as I could then tried not to lose anything on the walk home.

Needless to say, this was not a pleasureable experience and I went shopping as little as possible in those first few weeks. A couple of months in, people seems to calm down/supermarkets upped their game and I was finally able to get a regular delivery slot.

Work became a lot more stressful as my colleagues were split into four teams of six and changed to working a 3 days on and 3 days off (or nights) pattern. Being a part time, I was only required to work one of these shift a week and could only work when my team were in on their three days/nights. I’m not sure why I am telling you in the past tense – we are still doing it!

To start it was ok as there was little work as I work in a lab where our main workload is GP blood tests, and all the GP surgery were shutting their doors. However, once the ‘unlocking’ of lockdown began, the workload rapidly increased to a point where it was not manageable for 6 people.

So my colleagues are mostly exhausted, and for us it feels like the world has gone back to normal but we are still imprisoned in our 12 hour shifts. Thankfully the end may be in sight as talks are going on about a new rota and normalish hours may resume. Personally, I’ve had enough. I have no idea how my full-time colleagues are still functioning.

On the plus side, I have been able to get a taxi to work (paid for by work) and only had to report one driver to the police for dangerous driving. Taxi drivers are a strange species. They either don’t talk (which I wholeheartedly embrace, as usually it’s very early in the morning or I’m exhausted – or both) or insist on discussing the ins and outs of the virus and what may/may not happen – just what I want to do after a 12 hour shift!

I was going to mention home-schooling, but I’ll save that for my next post….

Two for one

Life has changed dramatically over the last few weeks.

I have now become a homeschooling parent, which certainly has some challenges. Schools were closed for two weeks before the Easter half term. Each day consisting of parents going onto the school website and class page for each child and downloading their work for the day (which the teachers thankfully prepare) and printing off the worksheets etc for them to do.

Of course, they won’t just sit and do the work. There is a constant stream of ‘I’m hungry’ interspersed with ‘Can you help me?’ and ‘I don’t know what to write’ against a background of fiddling, tapping and whistling/humming. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink – and I know a few parent-friends have definitely increased their alcohol intake! I certainly have a huge amount of respect for teachers.

However, I did kind of get in the swing of it (once my printer ink and paper supplies had been replenished) to the point where it came to Monday again and I was wondering why no lessons plans had been uploaded onto the class pages as usual? After a while, I mentioned this to the kids and one of them pipes up, ‘It’s the Easter holidays, Mum’. Duh!

Easter half term has been a relaxing contrast with lie-ins, sunshine and too much TV. Just when I was getting into it, I received a call from my boss (extremely rare) to give me some news about shift changes at work. As I had been using public transport to get to work, I was originally asked to work from home for my 15 hours a week, in order to safeguard my colleagues from unnecessary exposure to the virus.

My manager informed me that he was making changes to our shift pattern in order to minimise contact between colleagues, which means all staff working 12 hour days and nights in a rolling 3 on, 3 off pattern. This is a bit of a challenge for me as I can only work when my team are working and I usually work fixed days due to health issues. However, I work in a hospital lab and my boss has seen to it that I can get a taxi to and from work, so I am doing my best to be part of the team. Last week I did my first night shift in several years! I was very anxious about it in the week leading up, but thanks to my team it was actually ok and I didn’t feel too bad after.

Back to my original blog topic, life has been a little more challenging not having a car during lockdown. Normally I get my shopping delivered, but as I can no longer get a delivery slot as they are being allocated to the vunerable, I instead have to walk with my granny-trolley to the supermarket and queue, squish as much as I can in then wheel it home. I am contemplating using a taxi in future.

Speaking of taxi’s, the ones I’ve used for work have been interesting. Taxi drivers are a unique and diverse bunch. So far I have encountered both pristine and unkempt cars and drivers who are very chatty or say nothing. On the whole they turn up early, except of course when I’ve done a 12 hour night shift when they turn up 10 minutes late. Doesn’t sound long, but time slows down considerably at that time in the morning when you haven’t slept and are waiting – 10 minutes lasts a lifetime. The driver also stopped for petrol on the way home, so not my favourite driver so far. He did offer to get me a bottle of water or a coffee when he went in to pay though, to be fair to him.

WhatsApp and Zoom have been a godsend for keeping in touch with parents and close friends during lockdown. Seeing smiling faces and having adult conversation really cheers my day!

Week three

Now this shit’s getting real (pardon my language).

My hospital has had its first positive cases of Covid-19 and some of my colleagues are self-isolating in case they have it. One friend is quite poorly with it, which brings home that this is real. We can’t pretend it’s not happening to us any more.

Boris has announced this week that all schools are to closing to reduce the spread of the virus and hopefully reduce the impact on hospitals. This throws up new challenges for working parents who would normally rely on grandparents for childcare, as the over 70’s are at highest risk from the virus.

The trains are noticeably quieter this week, with people advised to avoid unnecessary travel on public transport. The few people using the trains are socially distancing from each other. Not quite so easy on the buses – bus staff are cleaning hand rails when the buses return to depot.

From Monday, my bus to and from work will be running Saturday service at all times. The trains are running a new timetable, hoping to keep morning and evening services running.

And today is officially the oddest Mother’s Day ever! I can’t visit my folks – they are stuck at home, self-isolating. It’s all very strange….

Week two

Hello Coronavirus Covid-19! Fast becoming part of our everyday vocab, a new virus has made it’s way to the UK.

Working in an NHS hospital lab, I am probably more aware than most of how viruses spread and hand hygiene, which is a bonus. However I’m also aware that travelling on public transport puts me more at risk of spreading the virus to my loved ones than being in a safe little isolated metal box (car) would.

Of course the talk of the town is… toilet rolls. For reasons known only to themselves, people are panic buying toilet rolls in case they need to ‘self-isolate’ for 7 days (another new phrase added to our vocabulary this week).

I went into a shop where a staff member had bought some toilet roll to restock the staff toilet, and she mentioned that she had never felt so guilty about buying toilet roll and was getting funny looks as she walked down the road.

I went into the zero waste shop where I have started buying my loo rolls. I looked around but couldn’t see any. I asked the owner and she said a lady had come in and bought 25! Luckily I had just enough to wait a few days for them to restock.

Later, I was waiting at the bus stop and a couple walked past, each carrying a nine-pack of loo roll. This prompted a lady to comment to her friend ‘Ooh, look at them with all that toilet roll!’.

This seems to be the theme for the UK currently – there are numerous facebook memes going around. People are funny.

Fresh start