Summer be kind…

Wisteria is rampant, arum lilies showing off, poppies and peonies are vying for attention and the delphiniums are looking down on then all with haughty indifference. Just small glimpses of summer after the monsoon that was May. Please June, be kind to us, warm our earth and our bones and allow us a little optimistic basking. The A levels at least were sat in school halls were the rain sluiced down the windows, unlike anything students in previous years have experienced i.e swotting in searing temperatures followed by exams in stiflingly hot halls. Second son was thankful to sit his in the gloom and pass his driving test in similar conditions.  

This last week, as the sun has hesitatingly peeked out of the clouds, it has found me fraught with activity. As I write, we are heading to pick up keys to our not only unvisited, but as yet unseen, house in Italy. It is a very quick trip – more PCR tests than you can shake a testing stick at and we will be sleeping in the van. In my head it’s all very romantic, I am Lucy Honeychurch to  Hubby’s, George Emerson. I fear the reality however will be a lot less A Room with a View and more Alan Bennett’s, Lady in the Van. I am told that he house will have electricity but, just in case, I am qualified to provide an ample sufficiency of candles. If all else fails therefore, it will at least be a fragrant failure.

One of the scents, which we have newly created for Lucknam Park, captures roses and lavender from the Estate. We are also working on scents for a renowned multi Michelin starred French chef. It’s very exciting, but gosh, the pressure! The grey hair! Ooh, la, la! 

We have also made another batch of our hand made porcelain candles imprinted with cow parsley, which were created by a talented local artist. They were evidently very desirable as they sold out almost immediately. 

I shall try, in the next 36 hours, not to think further about wicks, wax scents and trimmings as we work out what is needed to be done to the Italian house and then traverse Europe on our journey hopefully before France closes its borders and traps us there! That is little to complain about though, and I shall do my utmost to enjoy this brief, and somewhat bonkers trip.

Thank you so much for all your support and I hope the sun shines on you all over this early summer, Bank Holiday weekend.

Love, Cathy x

Saluti!

Sante! Cheers! Bottoms up! Skal! Iechyd da! My middle son, whose 18th birthday was in December and who has been pretty much in lockdown since, has had his first legal drink in a pub – well, not actually ‘in’ a pub, more on the outskirts of one. The chilly beer garden to be precise. It takes stamina and determination to go out for a drink now. Puffa jackets, thick socks and the car blanket. As far removed as drinking al fresco on the Mediterranean as one could possibly get. Hubby and I have tried it a couple of times, but have found that not only is it much cheaper to drink at home, it is so much warmer and comfortable. I can lounge in my pyjamas, favourite little snacks in bowls adjacent, the tv remote control in one hand and a glass of something cold, crisp and dry in another. It’s different for the younger generation though. After being confined to barracks for over a year, they need to let off steam a bit, even if it is only a pint of cider and a packet of Walker’s finest. Our son’s resilience to sit in a cold beer garden is matched with his dedication to study. He has worked so, so hard revising for his A levels. We barely saw him over the Easter break where he sat at his desk for hours on end pouring over differentiation and particle physics and just keeping going despite all the uncertainties that the next few weeks assessments hold. Not only have the exams themselves been cancelled, but so have his driving tests: Three to date, and so I am still accompanying him everywhere in the yellow car.

Let’s hope now that this lockdown is the very last. It’s been so tough on our young people and I fear that we have yet to feel the full effect on their mental health.  I am however so relieved to have had my first vaccine. I’ve never been so excited to stand in a queue before, well not since I waited to see Duran Duran when I was a teenager. In fact, I was so grateful to all those working so hard at the vaccination centre that I could have hugged them. Had Simon Le Bon been standing behind me, I would have hugged my vaccinator first. Hugging is of course, still very much frowned upon. I wonder if we will ever return to our previous ways of spontaneously hugging friends and people that we like. 

We will soon find out – at least as soon as we are allowed to travel abroad. There are none more affectionate than the Italians and just recently we crazily bought a holiday home in Italy. All the contracts and powers of attorney have been signed so that we should complete in a few weeks time and all on the strength of a virtual visit. I’d like to say that it was after a few too many glasses of Chianti that we did something so rash – but no, just a long lived dream to holiday in our own home somewhere that Hubby and I love. The house needs work but is affordable and is set in the most picturesque spot in the midst of rolling vineyards and olive groves in Abruzzo, with mountains in the horizon and a short drive to the lovely Trabocchi coast. It’s fairly close to Rome my favourite city and, our beloved Ravello on the Amalfi coast but it’s largely unknown on the tourist trail and so tends to be more affordable than neighbouring Umbria and Tuscany. Having been so cautious for the last year regarding Covid that any such judiciousness flew out of the window when we saw our little house on the hill.  It could turn out to be an absolute disaster – but, nothing ventured, nothing gained and it is already worth it for the pleasure it has brought me by dreaming of eventual escape, interior designing and fun with soft furnishings. Even the normally cautious and risk averse husband has thrown himself into my dream and is heard wondering around the house practicing his Italian, which makes me love him even more. Caro uomo!

On the work front, we are starting to see our shops in the main, smaller, independent gift shops, order again which is a sure sign that things are getting back to more normality. Given how busy Bath is, people seem to be back out there shopping and getting their hair done and supporting local independent businesses. Limelight Bath is also very close to launching a new fragrance and I can reveal it features Orris, the fragrant root of the Iris, a spring flower with obviously with strong Italian heritage as the iris is the flower of Florence.

Saluti!

Cathy x

Hello Spring…

The clocks have sprung forward into Spring and I am quite delirious with the anticipation of what this may herald. Lighter evenings, warmer days and, dare I hope, the reopening of the world around us – a little light shopping, a glass of wine in a country pub, a slice of cake, a coffee and a chat? Chatting! That thing we did without a thought. With the lady you meet with a similar dog; with the couple pushing a pram and herding a few toddlers; with café staff and of course, our friends. My God I miss my friends; all those hours we’ve lost spent talking everything and nothing, putting the world to rights, having a laugh over something daft. I am so very lucky to have a large family and a business to run, but even I at times have felt the need of a good old friend with whom to chew the cud. 

As I write however, we can now meet another family outdoors, and should the fancy take us, play a game of tennis. Soon, we will be able to have our hair cut and show off our coiff at a zoo or theme park. I’m taking this advice from the gov.uk website and I feel rather giddy with excitement at the options available to us in a couple of weeks. 

Before that we have the Easter holidays. Returning to school has been quite an adjustment for our youngest – the early mornings, the uniform, the discipline, the sitting up straight. We have expected so much of children this past year, they have had to cope with readjustment, adapting, isolation and change and then, at the behest of the government, that change, changes again. It is no wonder then that our youngest is not altogether delighted to be back at school and has found aspects of yet another new routine, a struggle. There is now two weeks to chill out in his joggers, and eat chocolate before once again, he goes returns to school. His elder brother, meanwhile, is already revising like mad for the exams which aren’t really exams, but which will decide his next step. It’s so tricky, “Is this it?”, “Will school be cancelled again?” Poor kids.

I, on the other hand have adjusted more readily- flying back to the warehouse with Jean where we have been making hundreds of candles which are destined for a luxury group of hotels in the UK. Hotels! Remember those?! Clandestine breaks (with our husbands/loved ones, sans enfants), breakfast made for us, wallowing in pools, spa treatments, super king-sized beds!  In fact, I have a confession. Getting away from it all whether it be in a hotel or travelling further afield, has always been my greatest delights. In fact, the TV show A Place in the Sun has become one of my pandemic guilty pleasures.  A real pick-me-up. What is not to love about the vicarious joy of house hunting abroad in the dream of enjoying some tapas on the square, a warm croissant and une biere, or indeed, a bowl of pasta and good chianti? Well, after one episode too many, the Husband and I took matters into our own hands and, after several virtual viewings we have decided to buy a little farmhouse in one of our favourite places in Italy. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much yet, suffice to say that much of my soul has gone into the process to date and the excitement within the family palpable. Fingers crossed we will hopefully sign contracts this week. In what is left of lockdown, I hope to improve my Italian, so that when we are finally able to visit, I am able to converse with builders at least a little. Ciao is not quite enough to get my cotto tiles laid just so.

Until then it’s work as usual. Apart from the hundreds of candles destined to the luxury hotel group, we have also been working on some new product development of our own which I will be able to share with you very soon. With that in mind we will be back at Green Park Station for Bath Farmers’ Market on Saturday 17th April. I can’t wait to chat to you – another of the chats that I have so missed. We have been so lucky and are so grateful to our customers for all the support you have shown us over the last few months, thank you all so much. 

See you very soon, Cathy x

Fabulously hopeful…

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.

Back soon,

Cathy x

Next slide please…

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.

Stay safe.

Hope

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.  

Cathy x

Tiers and Candlelight.

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.

Much love,

Cathy x

Blasted ‘Rona…

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…

Keep safe x

Bubble trouble…

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…

Cathy x

Cliff edge…

‘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…

Stay sane (and safe)

Cathy x