This month’s blog, like the month of February, is appropriately short. Little is left to be said of this ruddy pandemic – but when I look out of the window or take the dogs for a stroll I am reminded everywhere of life’s renewal. From the soil thrust daffodils, buds of tulips heads, primroses, wild garlic, fragile snowdrops and hyacinths. It all looks so fabulously hopeful. Our parents have been vaccinated, it will be my friends, mine and the Husband’s before too long. The children will be back in school next week, the sun is shining, the evenings are getting longer and Spring is around the corner.
It all makes me hopeful and a little excited! Last March was such a punch in the gut, and every month the news got worse – until the nadir after Christmas when one felt that it was the end of the world. Mother Nature knows better, though doesn’t she? No matter how we are feeling, or what a mess of things we may have made, she resolutely and reliably gets on with it – year in, year out. We can almost set our watches as to when our favourite tree will burst into blossom, the race of daffodils along the verges – which ones will toss their heads in sprightly dance first? The ponds are are already teeming with frog spawn, and mama ewe’s will soon be proudly showing off their baby lambs, bleating at them to not wander far. Mother Nature makes us look idiotic – if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is this: we can rush around imagining how important we are, but we have little control of any of it. Human beauty, wealth and power are fleeting. What we need is love, our health, time and the capacity to remember this. By June, when life as we knew it hopefully restarts, it would be good to remember that by then we will have lived alongside peonies, magnolias and pansies. Wisteria will have dripped and drooped outside our houses, bushes painted myriad colours by hydrangeas, woodlands scented by lily of the valley and carpeted by bluebells. It’s all so comfortingly predictable.
I am busying myself with some new scented product development and finishing the painting in the house. In the meantime, I have also been searching for our perfect little holiday home as a blissful escape when we emerge from this never ending lockdown. After much hunting and virtual viewings, I think we may have found one, I can but hope …
And so dear friends, this is where I sign off. Joyful for having been reminded that life continues apace and reassured that, come what may, we are nurtured by nature.
Here we are again then. Dry January has been far more of a challenge than any other year. Déjà vu doesn’t even cut it. Last March we collectively girded our loins, in the naïve notion that by doing so, by summer, we would emerge having conquered the virus. It’s a good thing that we do not know what the future holds, because had they told us that it would get a darned sight worse, then our already fragile mental health would be absolutely shredded. I can hardly believe that a year ago I had just returned from a yoga retreat in India oblivious to what calamities lay before us. Who would have thought that ‘Next Slide Please’ would have become the catch phrase of 2020?
Like so many people, we are once again, holed up at home with children, who are, once again, doing online school. No. 2 son is due to sit his A levels this summer – watching the chaos ensue around the current proposal for examining these children, on the cusp of the next chapter of their lives, makes me want to reach for the gin. Mantra: Dry January, Cathy, dry January. The OFQUAL consultation clearly states that there should be no allowance made by teachers for the impact of the pandemic on their learning as this would apparently be too difficult. How can this be right? I can see the impact on my own children– and they have laptops, WIFI and a school that is providing robust digital teaching, yet some children – a million of them apparently, do not even have the basics with which to start.
I offered several months ago, under the Government’s new scheme, to take one of the young unemployed to mentor and teach them everything I know. I am ready, able and willing. It could be quite transformative if every business did this, but I have just had an email telling me that there’s a delay and they will be in touch as soon as they can with details of the applicants. It would be terrific if the Kickstart scheme could be implemented as quickly as the roll out of vaccinations – that would be tangible progress and hope for 2021.
In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy, starting by polishing every inch of our limestone floor so it looks brand spanking new. I’ve also redecorated our bedroom in the calmest shade of ‘Skimming Stone’. THe Hubby was too quick to comment,
“If only the serenity radiating from these walls mirrored your own.”
I cared not a jot for his barbed remark and continued to hand paint the bedside tables, the wardrobes and the dressing table. Goose down is everywhere and crisp, new bedlinen adorns the bed, where a white fluffy feather ball lampshade hangs over it. Only the flickering light of candles is allowed. The husband refers to it as the Snow Queen’s palace.
“If slightly less frigid dear”, I replied. Touché.
Apart from the house, I am also working on some new Limelight products and so once again the Aga is full of wax. Jean is keeping everything going at the warehouse so I can mainly be at home with the children during school hours. I am focusing on those things near and close and trying to forget about what I can’t influence. Look after yourself, walk, read, bake and cocoon yourselves in whatever best works for you. Of course, being surrounded by gorgeous scent and the soft flickering light of a candle always helps, but, as my god-daughter recently reminded me, it isn’t always easy when she rather plaintively said, “I just want to do some snogging and go to parties”. Ah, so do I darling, so do I.
Just a very short note to say thank you so much for your loyal and continued, support. Reading your messages and the feedback on your Christmas orders has been a real boost, at the end of what has been, unarguably, the most rubbish year. As there are only a few hours to spare of 2020, its sputtering wick making me reflect on our tremendous team and amazing family, without whom Limelight would not only have met its orders but my best people also allowed us to expand, launching botanical pillar candles and providing candles for some big names like John Lewis and the Pig Hotel Group and also for smaller, more independent businesses. We’ve also luckily been in a position to support some wonderful local charities. Thank you all so very much.
As this year draws to a close, I mostly feel an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for what really matters, my family, friends, my health and theirs. 2020 has been unrelentingly tough on too many people. Thank the gods for science and the vaccines that will hopefully transform our lives in the next few months.
On that note, I raise a glass to you all and wish you, and all your beloveds, a hopeful and healthy, 2021.
If, a year ago, someone had mentioned tears, you might have remembered the last time you sobbed from sorrow or grief, or, from uncontrollable belly laughs – the sort of laughing that leaves you wheezing and begging for whatever is funny to stop. You might perhaps have thought of a wedding cake, your own perhaps, three magnificent tiers of royal icing, piped to perfection, topped by a ceramic husband and wife representing you and your newly betrothed spouse, about to embark on a lifetime of nuptial adventures. But never in gazillion years would you have conceived of the idea that in November 2020, ‘tiers’ would be associated with a level of disease-danger dividing England, from the far north to the remote Scilly Islands off the coast of Cornwall in the South West. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland meanwhile, would be doing their own thing. For so many people ‘tears’ would be a more apposite spelling of tiers.
Indeed, when I last wrote, we were looking forward to and preparing for Bath at Christmas (a pared back version of the legendary Bath Christmas Market), having been one of only twelve chalets trading. Since then, we have all been locked down and, as with so many other businesses constantly reworking how to best operate, we’ve had to roll with the punches of continuous new rules and are learning to be even more flexible than Olga Korbut was in her heyday. We have therefore remained festively undefeated and have recreated some of the magic in our little warehouse shop, by mocking up a chalet, festooned fairy lights as you can see. We are open for click and collect daily and open all day on Fridays throughout December (from December 4th) and otherwise, by appointment for safe private sniffings. And, sad as it is that we will not be meeting all our customers face to face at the Christmas market, it has been so heartening to see so many contacting us online, determined to maintain the connection. For small businesses such as ours, that loyalty really does mean the world.
We are also lucky of course that our products are not perishable. My heart goes out to the restaurateurs across the country, who, however innovative they are with delivery and takeaway, must be discombobulated with the various tiers – which one they’re in and who and what they can and cannot serve. The postcode lottery has taken on a new meaning. Chefs, cooks, cafes and restaurateurs in Tier 3 must be so terribly anxious, whilst those in Tier 1 – jubilant. Sad also, to think of all the lovely parties and get togethers that have been missed this year and especially at Christmas when all the hotels that are normally filled with reuniting families, boozy office parties, decorated trees, turkey dinners, and New Year frivolity will be hushed and distanced. High jinks in sequins, high heels and sparkly eyeshadow – seasonal must haves that are advertised for months in the glossy magazines are redundant.
Sobering to even think of that word – redundant. Who would ever have thought last March, as the winter was coming to an end and Spring was burgeoning that so was a virus, wreaking havoc on so many aspects of our lives – jobs, businesses, study plans and travel and of course the daily tally of lives lost. Make no mistake, we are more reflective than ever as this bloody awful year comes to an end and give thanks in this time of Thanksgiving for our health, families and livelihoods.
“Eleven letters,” mused Hubby, sucking the top of his pen as pours over the crossword, “something wicked and frivolous that helps dispel gloom”. “Got it. Candlelight”.
The newspaper was wrong. The light of a candle is not wicked and frivolous (although it does contain a wick). Since time immemorial, from Diwali, Christian devotion, Jewish Menorahs and Eid, the candle has been synonymous with hope, miracle and light overcoming darkness. Whoever you are and whatever your beliefs, may that light shine upon you.
After months of planning, testing and developing over lockdown, we’ve been in the warehouse organising the photography of our new scented botanical pillar candles. I’m so pleased it’s all just come together. Let’s face it, after the year we’ve had, who doesn’t need a little bit of scented joy at the moment?
As I mentioned last month, we are also busy planning our chalet for ‘Bath at Christmas’ on Abbeygate Street, which is planned to run, restrictions permitting, from (erm) Friday 27th November to Sunday 20th December. Whilst the award-winning Christmas Market will not take place in its usual form this year, hopefully there may still be 12 festive chalets dotted around the city streets, with all the atmosphere and magic of Bath at Christmas time, albeit without the crowds. I understand there are plans for some of Bath’s iconic buildings to be brought to life with magical illuminations. Fingers crossed.
Before our David Bailey sessions with pillar candles, we stole a few days away and, as all plans for foreign travel are now a wistful dream, delegated to Sunday mornings over coffee and the Travel section of the Sunday Times my husband, youngest son and I went on another staycation, or, as my mother would argue, “a holiday”.
“Your father and I spent years with you, your brother and sister camping when you were tiny. Devon and Cornwall held wonders for you all. You didn’t need passports, visas and inoculations then. Just a thermos, a cagoule and stout shoes”.
I took her word for it, and we had a very soggy few days in Daphne Du Maurier country in Cornwall. Why is it that one’s mother is always right? Cagoules may have been replaced by Gortex, but once sheathed in waterproofs we were immune to the elements, although this time we did not return to a bunkhouse as previously booked by Hubby for our break in Devon. On the contrary, I was in charge of the itinerary and lodgings so that the hotel that welcomed us back at the end of a day’s wet adventure was everything a damp and clammy family could ask for. For instance, nothing like a fabulous hot tub overlooking an inky black and menacing sea, followed by a sumptuous bed to soothe one’s chilled bones. My feet however stayed on terra firma, soaked by a pedicurist’s foot spa, rather than Cornish rain in which our youngest enjoyed zipping high above the Eden Project on the longest zip wire in the country. Apart from my feet, the only other liquid involved, was the Negroni which slipped down my throat oh, so mercifully.
Back to life, back to reality. It is so easy to forget the misery wreaked on our planet when one has the privilege to escape it, albeit momentarily. The ‘Rona’ as it is referred to in our house, sadly shows no signs of abatement. India, one of my most favourite places in the world has one of the highest rates of infection in the world. It is heart-breaking. And in America, where my god-daughter’s brother lives with his young family, and who have been cut off from all British family members unable to visit, watch the news each day as more and more Americans are slayed by the virus. My daughter’s recent encounter with a very small child at the school that she works in is a reminder that even the little ones are also struggling with this unfamiliar life.
“Bloody ‘Rona”, the little boy cried, tears squirting “Halloween’s cancelled and I can’t go trick or treating”. My daughter kindly overlooked the bad language and comforted the child. She feels his pain, having, like so many thousands of others, had her plans scuppered. The little boy cried for his loss of sweets, my daughter to go to New York next year to do a Master’s degree. Young and old, everyone is impacted by this terrible pandemic and my thoughts are very much with those ill or alone and those facing the toughest restrictions watching their businesses or jobs disappear through absolutely no fault of their own.
So who knows what Christmas holds this year? I can only thank you, once again for your support and your orders and if allowed and you do decide to venture out for some festive shopping and mulled wine, we shall be delighted to see you in our little chalet on Abbeygate Street. Fingers crossed…
I’ve said time again: Autumn is my favourite time of year. In the past I’ve found snuggling in front of wood fires in pyjamas with box-sets and flickering candles irresistible, but not this year. We’ve all watched every box set known to humanity, downloaded every drama on Netflix and caught up with all and sundry on catch-up tv. Apart from The Crown, there is nothing left to entertain us through these next few months. Films and television just haven’t been made, well, apart from Bake Off and those contestants seem to have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of cake, giving up their families for seven whole weeks as they isolated as a baking bubble; other than those who were kicked out in the first couple of weeks. And let’s be honest, a fortnight away from family is just a holiday after all. After that you might start to miss them. Even after six months of enforced family time.
Before the conkers started to fall, and the nights had drawn in, Hubby, my youngest son and I set off on what I considered to be, an intrepid few days of walking along the South West Coastal Path, in the South Hams. Now this is old stomping ground for a recently retired Royal Naval captain and didn’t we know it. My husband booked the accommodation and it’s a good job that I wasn’t expecting a luxury spa hotel in Salcombe or I might have wept. Britannia Naval College circa 1932 was more like it. Hubby was very pleased with himself.
“Very good value. Excellent”, said he as he showed us around the bunk house, and then, before I had time to protest, he sat us down with several maps and outlined his plans for the next few days. The length of the walks, about 12 miles a day, up and down cliffs and onto beaches seemed rather arduous.
“We aren’t preparing for Normandy landings, darling” I protested.
Hubby looked dismayed, but the following day, my youngest son and I giggled conspiratorially as we emerged from a beachside café having grabbed much-needed hot coffee/chocolate, as Hubby was impatiently tapping his watch, before taking up the lead again with a commanding: “Guard by the right, band by the left, quick march….” Whilst our youngest didn’t bat an eyelid, I reminded his lordship once again that I wasn’t a recruit and this wasn’t about securing a mission objective.
Yet, whilst we had storms with lashing rain, high winds and a picnic of crab sandwiches in a steamy car overlooking a dark, swirling sea, we did also have hot summer sun, and enjoyed the very best of what the Devon has to offer – a lovely lunch at the Pigs Nose at Prawle, fish and chips on the beach, clotted cream tea with old friends and stuffing our faces with our body weight in fudge.
And now here we are, back to life, back to reality. So far, the return to school has been smooth aside from the morning panic locating a clean face mask. We are trying to do our bit, avoiding anything that might compromise the school bubble, albeit I do wonder who came up with the language that we are all now using; bubbles are temporary aren’t they, easily popped? Fragile. But, that said I am not sure what would be better.
Despite all the restrictions, we did manage a fully compliant 14th birthday party for our youngest son with just four of his school friends. However, the night before we had an unscheduled, five-hour, Friday evening trip in A&E. A wee in the wild by the birthday boy and a brush with some kind of hogweed had left him with blistery bubbles on his wrist and leg. The teasing by his siblings of what else he could have damaged, will, I suspect make him more attentive to the flora should he be caught short again!
As we waited at the hospital, I doused our hands regularly with our 70% alcohol hand sanitiser and a lovely lady, who looked as though she too had been in the wars, remarked on how nice the smell was. Her sense of smell clearly hadn’t been impacted by the mask she had over her face and I would have given her the sanitiser had we been allowed to share. As it was I managed to impart, “We’re at the Bath Christmas market”, before it was our turn to be seen.
That’s not entirely true. There is no Bath Christmas Market this year because like much of 2020, it has been cancelled. Instead, there is to be a newly named, Bath at Christmas and we are delighted to be one of only twelve chalets that will be setting up stall there. You will find us near M&S in Bath from 27th November to the 20th December. It may look different but it will still be beautiful and twinkly but with all the additional safety measures that we’ve come to recognise. We have some special things planned and for those who can’t join us we will also be part of the online event, being organised by the Bath Christmas Market team.
I’ll write with more news before that, but until then, stay safe…
‘Pandemic, social distancing, face coverings, social bubbles, Covid-19, quarantine, self-isolation, new normal, and hand sanitiser’ are just some of the words that have quickly entered our lexicon in the past few months and which we use several times daily. Air-bridge is another one. Whilst so many friends have had their holiday plans cancelled at the last minute due to the list of countries being on it and off it like a toddler on the naughty step, Hubby and I silently kept out fingers crossed that a Greek Island would remain a relatively safe option. I was in two, three, four and five minds about whether we should go. We hardly needed the Vitamin D and sunshine as there has been a mini heatwave here but, it was booked and paid for and, having sat for months at the kitchen table, I thought our boys would benefit from a change of scenery.
When we arrived it was more dystopian than even Bristol’s desolate lounge. Staff, in the blistering heat of the arrivals lounge, were dressed head to toe in the kind of PPE that one sees in an intensive care unit. And, although we knew that one member of the household would be tested, it was Hubby that got the short straw. Swabbed and swiped, we were soon on our way, or so we had hoped, but Hubby, forever thrifty had hired a Fiat Panda – and whilst no doubt nippy in a city surrounds, a Greek donkey would have done a more efficient job of hauling us up the sheer cliff edge to our villa. More than once did we have to get out and walk from the bottom because the weight was too much. It was soon replaced.
At last we arrived at our mountain idyll and, floating in our pool, away from the sweltering heat of the day and the molten wax in my kitchen, it was easy to forget there was a global pandemic as we barely saw a soul thereafter. Hot summer sunshine, family time, endless games of Cheat and languorous hours spent reading was just the tonic the four of us needed. Greek salads, honey ice-creams and the coldest Mythos beer also helped enormously. The youngest son, removed from computer gaming found wonder in the nature on the mountain, bringing back the to villa five cats who had seen better days, a local and loquacious goat and several small lizards, all of which had to be shooed away on a daily basis. They knew a soft touch when they met one. As I placed myself twixt broom and protesting goat, I thought fondly of Louisa Durrell. What an extraordinary woman!
Once home, animal husbandry continued apace. Daphne, our miniature dachshund, had started her first season and quickly became rather, needy. Personally, I think all the lockdown attention has resulted in canine separation anxiety rather than the hormones, but whatever it is, it has resulted in her following me around the house like a little shadow and then, much to the boys’ disgust, Dutchy, ever sympathetic, came on her season too and so we are desperately trying to keep any amorous hounds at bay (including the rather amorous Michael the miniature poodle yesterday). I shall have to use the newly adopted broom method to shoo them away. Penny Pink (Daphne’s sister) is staying with us this week and I’m hoping we won’t get a third sympathetic menstruation, although it’s good for the boys to learn about the female reproductive system, albeit in dog terms.
The phone has also been ringing off the hook – (an odd expression given we all have smartphones – but you know what I mean) after the fiasco with A levels. Several friends have children in the same boat and I have to spoken to them at length regarding the distress their children are going through. As if the last few months hasn’t been bad enough for them. It hardly inspires much confidence about what awaits my son who is to be taking his A levels next Summer. Hopefully, brutal lessons have been learned, but nothing can make up for the crushing disappointment those 18 year olds felt when they opened their envelopes and, as far as they were concerned, believed their future plans to be in ruins. Although many grades have now been reinstated and places at Universities honoured, that sense of jubilation was stolen from them.
Dogs, cats, and exams aside, no sooner was back from hols I went straight into making thousands of candles for one of our clients (for John Lewis no less). As ever, these projects are weeks in the planning and so it was lovely to finally get the order completed. We do not take any of our orders for granted and still whoop and do a little dance of delight as every pallet of our precious candles heads out of the warehouse. The lovely driver from our local haulage company rolls his eyes – no doubt he thinks we are bonkers! Our youngest son, prised form the fauna of the Greek mountain, has been putting his energies into the business, especially once he realised that his parents weren’t going to oblige with his expansive and expensive list of September birthday presents. Rayban Aviators I notice, have not made the cut. Funny that.
Schooliform (as it is called in this house, a hangover from those sadly long lost Charlie & Lola days) has been tried on and abandoned. Another job. And how is Clarke’s going to work this year? My friend, who also has four children, told me that this year will be the first time in 25 years where she doesn’t have to sit among screaming, snotty children and moody teenagers for hours on end, waiting their turn to try on black school shoes, that her daughter will invariably detest.
“And now, knowing others are going through that God awful experience, well, it has been stolen from me. Bloody Covid!”
Although Hubby is punching the air at the prospect, and, if I’m honest, I am looking forward to having the kitchen table back and, I know that they need to return to the classroom and the playing fields, it has been, to coin another phrase of the Covid era, an ‘unprecedented time’. I will really miss them, feels like yet another cliff edge…
Just as my sanity and any patience for home schooling was on the wane – the summer holidays have arrived just in the nick of time. Strapping, strapping teenagers to the kitchen table for five months was jolly tough going – I cannot even contemplate a second spike more than I can countenance further maths. Adjacent maths was more than enough. Ultimately though, my youngest child seems to have flourished by learning at home – school, after all is about so much more than academics. Our daughter too, who sat her University finals at home, got superlative results in her degree, first class honours, what a superstar!
As I reflect on the last few months I must remind myself of the positives – such as having all four children under one roof (even if at times, it was rather trying). Also, Hubby and I have been so lucky to be able to work from home and it has been wonderful having him here and not be in a perpetual state of anxiety as he traverses the motorways, constantly travelling the breadth of the country. The dogs too are in their element and will no doubt suffer separation anxiety once we all return to work and school.
The lows are simultaneous though, such as the continuing worry of this awful virus and the impact on our children; the juggling, keeping everyone motivated on a forward trajectory, the endless shopping and cooking of meals and snacks. Seems silly now, but I suppose I thought that once we had done lockdown, then that would be it, we would be able to get back to normality. A V shaped exit. I have come to dislike the expression ‘new normal’ or the fact that we will be living like this for a while. We are so lucky to be just grieving for the pre Covid life, and not to be actually grieving for loved ones. Nothing – and everything, has changed.
I am also fortunate that I have thriving business that encourages me to be creative and this enforced lockdown has allowed me to work on further product development. My team and I pulled out all the stops with our new hand sanitiser – no longer will you smell like a brewery. Although it contains 70% alcohol (to kill the nasties) it is also made with aloe-vera – the result of which is a non-drying, non sticky formula, made for us here in the UK. I am also delighted to announce that we have new line of botanical pillar candles coming out soon which I’m sure will be very popular. Finally, having had the time to render beeswax from the honeycomb given to us by a local beekeeper, we have also launched a little sister company for Limelight, called Artisansathttp://artisansat.com If you, or someone you know wants to get creative, then at Artisansat you can order candle making sets and, beeswax/ candelilla wax wrap making sets. Take it from me, it’s an excellent, relaxing, scented and calming way to while away the hours! I’ve so enjoyed being back in the warehouse reunited in our small team doing exactly that. We are so lucky to do what we love.
Once again, thank you so much to everyone that has ordered from us – you have kept us going over the last few months. These, no doubt, are challenging times, especially for small independent businesses– and your support means so much to all of us, thank you.
Summer is having an identity crisis. Last week saw me attempting to waft in 31 degrees in a silk sarong and flip flops, accessorised by a picnic hamper filled with Waitrose’s finest 3 for 2 antipasti offers, posh crisps and myriad dips. In fact, we’ve eaten al fresco so often that it has prompted Hubby to comment, somewhat archly, that the very expensive wicker hamper is now demonstrating a return on its investment. He has had to concur however that it’s been wonderful to finally be able to get out and take long walks, kayak along the river and simply sit out late into the evening but, now that the calendar is on the cusp of July, the mercury has dropped and, far from being Mediterranean outside, it is this morning, pouring with bloody rain and a mere 14 degrees. The only time I find grey remotely appealing is when it’s in a Farrow and Ball colour chart card.
It’s just typical that now it’s almost the school summer holidays, that the weather is a damp drip. Plus ca change. And although the children will be glad not to have to sit, plugged in at the kitchen table for hours, we’ve learned much as a family – from the wonder of Wordsworth and the indomitable spirit of the Chartists and Suffragists, not to mention pie r something to baking and building a garden shed. Our youngest son seems to have collected more merits whilst on lockdown than he did in a whole year of school.
Nonetheless, whilst I have enjoyed much of the above, our children need to get back to school. They miss it. They miss their friends and their teachers, their lessons and most of all, the competitive sport. They also miss the routine, the discipline and the downtime. It is therefore with horror that I look at the images from Bournemouth beach. Leicester is already back in lockdown. Most of us have done the right thing. We have stayed home and saved lives. How truly horrendous would it be if that mass gatherings, like those on the beach, mean that our children will not be able to go back to school in September. How do we start to explain to them? – that it’s OK to go to the beach on a school day, go shopping, go to a restaurant, go to the pub, go to the cinema but yet not to school? And when they do go back, what will it look like? Queuing outside, called by a number, sitting feet apart, few friends in the same class, escorted along corridors, eating in a bubble? It all sounds very Orwellian and I feel deeply for this generation of young people with several years of schooling ahead of them. Meanwhile I know some of my friends’ children are anxiously awaiting results from public exams that they worked towards for years, but didn’t sit. Abstract results that will shape their futures. The opportunity for them to soar at the eleventh hour, stymied. I sincerely hope that media reports that their grades will be downgraded are erroneous.
In the meantime, we are on tenterhooks about No 1 daughter’s degree results (her graduation has been postponed for a year) and we have No 1 son’s birthday, then Daphne’s first birthday party next week. We are getting all five puppies and mummy and Daddy on Zoom for a birthday party. How mad is that? Strange times, this new normal.
Lockdown has been the bonkers juxtaposition between my domestic and professional self – the weather is not the only thing with an identity crisis, but just occasionally I’ve succeeded in marrying the two – for instance, I have had the time to finally render some beeswax from honeycomb given to us by a local beekeeper and I’ve made beeswax food wraps as a lockdown project with our youngest (more about that to follow, it’s definitely something we want to share). We have also – in the spirit of a chemistry lesson, made gin (or rather infused gin, it’s illegal to actually distil it). The results of that were sadly not as good – think, more nasty, Cinzano rather than juniper infused gin, more practice required, in the meantime, as my son advised:
“You’d better stick with the Tanqueray, mum”.
Yes, well, quite…
I was more than happy therefore to leave the young whippersnapper behind at the weekend and go ‘out’ to work! It was truly wonderful to be back at our market at Bath Farmers Market, Green Park for the first time in over 3 months and fantastic to see and chat to our customers – so many of whom have become friends over the last few years and, although we have had to do things differently – no more picking up and smelling testers, instead spritzing scents onto scented cards –and strict social distancing and hand sanistising, it lacked none of the intimacy. One customer was keen to tell me that her diffuser which she opened at Christmas, had just finished – not bad for six months. It seems that there is nothing like running out of one of our diffusers to force you out of hibernation, that, along with all the home schooling – my customers are kindred spirits! Thank you to everyone who came, it truly meant the world.
Whilst the clatter of the Cummings and Goings saga unfolds at Westminster, a new hush has descended upon our house. A sort of lockdown acceptance, if you will. Now that my daughter has returned home, I’m not the only woman in a house of four men and I really appreciate having a female ally. She has been at university for four years and spent one year of that in Mexico – so it is a real treat to have her to myself. We have taken the dogs on long country walks and had the sort of chats that open minded mothers and daughters have with each other. Not the sort of conversations any of the men of the family would want any part of. Heaven forfend! We have cooked together and she has introduced me to a variety of baked, vegan delights. Yes, they do exist, I’ve had to tell the Husband. More than once.
Our long, large family kitchen table has seen its fair share of bickering over the many hundreds (thousands?) of meals that have been shared over it, but in recent weeks is has become the nerve centre of our house. A fulcrum of ideas. A normal day sees our youngest at one end at his home school station, our daughter at the other end studying hard for her finals and me in the middle on my laptop, my brain trying to be as productive as those I’m flanked by. Unsurprisingly, when snacks, teas, coffees, cakes, lunch and dinner are required, I’m the chief cook and bottle washer, but because the slower pace of life means that there is so much time to do it all in and, because I know that soon enough, we’ll be scattered once again, I’m savouring tending to them all; like some glorious belated maternity leave albeit without the cracked nipples and sleepless nights. The dogs too are in their element having all their favourite people as constant companions and of course they have to be walked regularly and isn’t the unfolding of Spring perpetually remarkable? The burgeoning of life is a constant metaphor of renewal and hope (this picture was taken yesterday). Thank the good lord that we are not in lockdown in November – I may not be waxing quite as lyrical then!
It’s quite a juxtaposition then that on the one hand we in are awe at the wonder of the natural world whilst absorbing technology with equal fervour. It has meant that the Husband has been able to work from home – and, although he is glued to his laptop and phone all day, it is quite a load off my mind knowing that he is not on yet another motorway, travelling. Technology has also meant that my youngest children’s education has not been compromised. We are so lucky that our teachers are doing their very best to keep our children inspired. I have been so impressed that mine have – almost without exception – been at their desks, headphones on at the start of each day, ready for learning. Whilst they really miss the social contact with their friends, I think they could get used to four hours of school each day and munching on a Fab ice lolly whilst in tutor time, besides, normal rules about no Playstation/ X-Box on a school day have been relaxed. I know how much they miss their friends and now that they cannot ‘hang out’ together, technology has enabled them to continue to play and chat with each other.
Besides, how could I tell them not to play on their computers when it’s been a godsend to me? Three months ago I hadn’t even heard of Zoom, and now we are in our 9th week of a regular Tuesday evening pub quiz with my parents and all our children and partners. I also actually workout on Zoom with some of the mums from school. In the privacy of my garden! It’s bliss. Zoom coffee mornings are also surprisingly enjoyable.
And thank all the gods and those wonderful nerdy brains that invented internet shopping. It means that our loyal customer base can still order what they need which means that, even though our trade orders to shops are down, our online business has grown. As a thank you, and because your orders mean the world, you can currently receive a 15% discount plus free standard shipping, if you use the code: silverlinings
Stay alert, stay home – or whatever it is that’s expected of us – the main thing is to stay safe and keep well. Being surrounded by my beloved family has made me very mindful that not everyone is as lucky and my heart goes out to the pain and sacrifices families have endured in this strangest of times. I sincerely hope that the day comes soon when we are all able to meet and embrace each other once again.