dear diary :: settling into a new normal

Hello everyone, just thought I would stop by and let you know all is well here and I hope it is with you too. Isn’t the weather just glorious – I so want to have a picnic but it will have to be in the back garden?

We went shopping last Monday teatime for the first time in two weeks, so I will be holding my breath for the seven days of incubation time and crossing fingers in the hope I did not come into contact with anything – but so far the virus is not with us.

I see it isn’t getting any better in the shops though – still no flour and very few baking items, empty shelves where there was once pasta and eggs and it is hit and miss in the veg department with missing produce. Added to which social distancing seems to go out of the window in the supermarket and it becomes a test of wills of who will move out of the way when two trollies are headed towards each other – of course it is always me – I have no interest in having a battle or catching this virus at any cost.

We continue to use up every last morsel of food and have produced one or two happy accidents. This soup was made from the very last piece of a wrinkled red pepper, a rather soft carrot and sprouting potato with the last of the leeks and a handful of red lentils thrown in. We decided it looked far too nice and colourful to put through the blender and it tasted so good too so we will be making it again but maybe next time from fresh ingredients.

It is a strange world now but I do like some of the benefits – staying home and getting projects finished for one and being able to cross the road freely and safely down in our village ….and the total lack of traffic noise – I love the calmness that seems to surround us now – it is so peaceful on our little cul-de-sac and there is a feeling of the world slowing down a little and everyone becoming more observant of what is going on around us.

I have now got used to doing a huge shop that will last a fortnight and the abscence of letters on the doormat each morning (they were mainly bills and statements anyway)……but I do miss some of the more familiar things like the church bells and bell practise ringing out – the silence can be disturbing at times and the half hour strained recorder practise of the little girl next door in the garden everyday is not quite the same – I have been known to time my daily walk to coincide with it! I also miss the things we would normally be doing at this time of year – going for picnics, walks along the beach at the cottage and wandering around the open gardens but most of all I miss the grandchildren.

I feel we are living in a bit of a bubble though because staying at home we are cut off from witnessing the horrors happening out in the wider world in hospital and care homes up and down the country, and other than reports on the news I have no idea of anyone’s plight, the fact they may have been plunged into financial disaster overnight, lost loved ones before their time or are facing a terrible struggle each day to keep patients alive whilst at the same time being worried about their own safety and that of their own families.

My mum feels even more cut off than we do – she has not left the building now for months and cannot see the wider world at all from her window only the grounds of the apartment block she lives in, which is of course empty of people coming and going.

Still we will endure.

Even with all this extra time I still have a growing list of jobs and projects that would keep me busy for the rest of the year. All those things I thought I would do when I stopped working are now being attended to…but very slowly, because as life seems to have slowed down so have I. And I quite like it.

This simplified life allows you to take stock and gather your thoughts – it is a bit like being on a permanent holiday where you rest a little, work a little and play a little….and eat well of course. It is what retirement, for us, might be like if we didn’t have all the pressures of normal life.

The garden has been a welcome haven to escape into. Seeds have been sown for veg and bedding plants – some have been more successful than others. I always thought it was difficult not to grow nasturtiums but I was proved wrong when the last few seeds in last year’s packet almost failed to germinate – only 3 plants decided to grow. Luckily I found another packet in Sainsbury’s and have sown another batch.

With a run of very cool nights I managed to adapt some old wire cloches we had in the potting shed so that the boxes with the newly sown salad seeds could be tucked up warmly against the cold night air.

The courgettes, now transferred into the mini greenhouse, are coming along nicely and can be planted out soon. I can’t wait to be eating some fresh produce from the garden.

I spoke before of the photograph book we are compiling for my elder daughter’s 40th birthday of her life so far – it has been an emotional trip down memory lane sifting through boxes of photos of the family’s early years up until they flew the nest. Thank goodness for Facebook too, as I have been able to copy down photos from friend’s albums of girly weekends, get togethers, holidays and other events with her friends that we were not part of or have any record of to fill in the gaps and so the book can remain a surprise.

It is wonderful to see how she has changed over the years – always the fun loving girl now grown into a beautiful young woman. Travel has always been a big part of her life and adventure – she has a sailing license, had surfing and diving lessons, can speak Greek and has been on a world trip. I wonder in amazement how she has packed it all in!

Sunday is her birthday day – we have most of the wider family on standby to link in through Zoom and have a virtual surprise party. The instructions have been given out – each participant must make a party hat and have a bun with a candle on top to light and I am hoping Little L may be able to give us a tune of Happy Birthday on her little piano with me accompanying her on the handbells. I just hope that when we start singing everyone does not rush off to wash their hands as it has become a bit of an iconic song now!

We will also be playing a party game or two – I have compiled a fun quiz with questions all about my daughter with multiple choice answers to make it easier to guess.

The card is made too – some readers may remember this one from before – I tend to make them for those big ‘0’ birthdays – it is a series of my watercolour sketches stuck together to form a tiny concertina book. They are quite time consuming but much nicer than a bought card.

I have been making other cards too using prints of old watercolour sketches taken from my sketch books that I have done over the years – there are always birthdays, anniversaries and thank you cards required every month – it is hard to keep up and my stocks of cards are quite low.

I have been snipping a few of the spring flowers to press to make more pressed flower cards too. I love the daisies and forget-me-nots that have appeared all over the garden; my borders are a sea of blue.

So that is my news at the moment – I am told the garden at our cottage is lovely at the moment – though heaven knows when we will see it ourselves.

I hope you and yours are all doing well and you are managing to cope with the new normal and that life has not been too difficult.

Stay safe and well x

31 Replies to “dear diary :: settling into a new normal”

  1. Lovely to hear from you, I too love the quiet surroundings although like yourself I dread going food shopping, just dash in and out although some people feel the need to get something from a shelf when you are already there! It’s certainly made us reevaluate life .


    1. I know what you mean – I patiently waited the regulation 2 metres behind a man by the frozen peas while he self-scanned his bag of peas, then checked off his list then rearranged his trolley items and finally checked his mobile – I seemed to get him in every aisle!


  2. Your garden looks a picture and that concertina card is brilliant. I did a kind of book for my son’s fiftieth birthday with photographs from ten days old up to fifty (he is over sixty now) and I got as much pleasure from making it as he did from receiving it.


  3. Your garden is coming along beautifully. So nice to see all the changes. I know your daughter will appreciate everything you are doing for her special birthday. Hope you all enjoy the day.


  4. All the things you make are beautiful – your garden, your watercolours, your daughter! Love her sari.

    I am also enjoying the quieter surroundings, although we have more movement here than the UK. I find myself holding my breath as I walk past people in the supermarket! I just feel a bit “itchy”. Stupid, I know, especially as I will be back with colleagues and students in a few days.


    1. Hi Lucinda- glad to hear from you – it has been a while – glad to hear you’re OK too. The sari was for her cousins wedding – we are a very multi-national family now of Russians, Indians and Italians – with Scottish and irish thrown in. I wish you well on your return to work.


  5. We are quite enjoying the slower pace of life in lock down as well Viv and are grateful we’re not affected by it with jobs and finance etc. Apart from the shopping and social distancing aspect it’s not much different from our usual daily life. Thankfully we don’t know anybody who’s been affected by the virus but I do know people who are feeling the knock on effect of hospitals not running normally.

    The birthday card is gorgeous and you are a very talented artist. I’ve just been reading we may be able to choose a handful of family and friends to visit so maybe you’ll be able to see your Mum again soon.

    Take care of yourselves. xx


    1. I hope we can travel to see mum and my daughter – there is a chance it might just be if they live locally. I suppose nothing is certain yet and it would only take one of the ‘opening up’ countries to have a relapse and we would be back where we started I expect. xx


  6. You seem to have been keeping busy! I do hope all goes well for your daughter’s birthday tomorrow, she shares a birthday with my niece who will be 22. It is hard to have a birthday in lock down isn’t it? It is a social occasion, we are a social species so it is not surprising we are struggling with not being able to get together.


    1. Funnily enough I don’t feel to have been busy at all – I feel I have been going at a snail’s pace and rather enjoying it. It is remarkable that even though I have slowed down the house is tidy, the washing done and I have managed some good stints in the garden and still made time for some crafts. How does that work then because normally I am whizzing around and get less done??


  7. You are an inspiring example of how to make the best of the difficult times Viv! Still busy, still creative. Thanks for sharing and stay well. x


    1. Hi Freda – I have never suffered with depression – I cannot imagine what it must be like – but feel very lucky that I don’t because these are testing times – but I suppose my faith, as always, holds me together and I know most of us will come through this and perhaps stronger, but certainly changed. I can see you now sitting on your porch, cup of tea in hand, admiring your beautiful garden and know that one day when normality returns and we can travel again we will be able to visit again and maybe sit with you. Take care x


  8. Many happy returns for oldest daughter. I have to say (and she might agree) that besides her own children the best gift she ever got was having parents like you and your husband. Hope that her day is a good as it can be–knowing she is loved and that so many others are thinking of her is a treasure in itself.

    Your cards are sublime–as is your garden. Take care and stay safe.


    1. Thank you Mary for such kind words – I wish we were the good parents you surmise but I can say we always tried our best bringing them up. It may have helped that we didn’t have much money so we had to do a lot of free things like picnics and walking and days at the beach. It was a real treat for them when we went over to explore France on holiday for 3 consecutive years staying in different gites and it obviously gave them both a taste for travel. I hope she will enjoy the make shift party – shame that the weatherv is so lovely at the moment – we could have had another garden party again this year. x


  9. What a glorious post – thank you for sharing the photos of your garden (which looks wonderful) and the stunning cards you are making.

    Sorry your shopping trips are so fraught, I guess we are fairly lucky up here in that [generally] people seem to be behaving quite well in all the shops I have visited (a couple of which had dried pasta and tomato puree!)


    1. The checkout lady in Sainsbury’s told me that Mondays are their busiest day – but didn’t really know why. I managed to get a packet of white bread flour yesterday for the first time since before lock down.


  10. That soup looks delicious. I love the card you made for your daughter. She is very beautiful. Have a lovely celebration today.


  11. Your garden is worthy of being featured on Gardeners World Vivien! It is gorgeous! Happy Birthday to your lovely daughter. You are a very talented water colour artist – it would be nice to see more of your art work. Hope you have a lovely week ahead – despite the lock-down. x


  12. I so enjoyed visiting your garden today. It is beautiful.
    The party you have planned for your daughter sounds so lovely with every detail planned out so well. It may not be exactly as you hoped, but it will no doubt be memorable. The card is so pretty too.


  13. THank you or the tour of your life. The garden is stunning and the cards very creative. I hope the birthday went off fantastically well.


  14. Your art is totally wonderful – you have such a sure personal style. Your daughter is gorgeous and adventurous and I hope she has a wonderful birthday.
    Everything chugs on here. Husband is just back from the weekly shop and says supermarket is reasonably stocked i.e. they had everything on our list, except yeast for bread making. With 10 days of cloudless skies I’ve been full tilt in the garden and fall asleep every night within minutes. I worry about our son, alone in a city in the south of Scotland, but we keep in touch. Apart from that I refuse to take on the world’s worries. Gardener’s World once a week keeps me on an even keel.


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