Second #Lockdown in the UK

London during Lockdown source CNBC

Oh well, here we go again. We’ve turned the full circle and with COVID-19 gaining the upper hand, we’ve been forced into lockdown for a second time.

My gut feeling is the government didn’t want to do this but in a worst case scenario, do we really want to see our NHS stretched to breaking point with a deluge of COVID patients before Christmas?

The way things are going, numbers have soared this autumn yet the 3-tiered system is not working. Scientists have warned the virus will spread, working its way gradually down south, so why make towns in the north suffer alone? We are all in the same boat, so it makes sense – and if the whole of the UK can buckle down for one month, let’s pray we can get the infection rate down again.

It is sad but unavoidable so what can we do?

For me personally I have to look at this as an opportunity. Our work has dried up but there is still plenty to do around the house and garden. For example, I never did get around to painting the kitchen but it really needs doing and it would be great to get another DIY project ticked off the list. I also want to look at gardening websites and YouTube videos, to adopt some new practises for my own garden. Growing Dahlias for example. Inspired by a trip to West Dean Gardens and their fabulous display of dahlias, it would be a dream to establish such healthy plants but all this requires a little work and planning.

Dahlias at West Dean Gardens

Christmas will be different this year but I like a challenge. I am already considering what home made gifts I can come up with and getting creative in the home can be very therapeutic.

Yes, it will be harder for others but my advice is it’s essential to keep yourself busy during lockdown. Long periods spent dwelling, wishing you could do things that you can’t are not good for your health. You are allowed to exercise so get out and about even if it’s just for a walk. I’ve seen many people take photos, write blogs and channel anxiety into something good. So here are some photos I took at Leonardslee Gardens yesterday afternoon, a last minute treat before the countdown started and I shall cherish the memories.

But this brings me onto the more negative side of lockdown.

Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has triggered a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe especially among young people. Much of this is down to loneliness during lockdown and in particular, a lack of physical contact with friends and family, boredom and the frustration associated with not being able to engage in activities that have been a part of their lives.

I try to put on a brave face and stay positive but some mornings I wake up with this paralysing fear – not only of the virus but the thought of losing loved ones. It has been touch and go with some family members; one elderly relative admitted to hospital with heart problems and another with Crohn’s disease (an auto-immune condition which has a tendency to flare-up in times of stress). Both are okay, but vulnerable and have to shield, since the effects of contracting COVID could be devastating. 

The true cost of COVID-19 on mental health however, has not yet been realised and something happened last week that hit me very hard.

I heard on the grapevine a friend of a friend had died. I met Graham last year and only as a result of some research I was engaged in for my current novel. I have my friend, Dan Jones, to thank for introducing us, an author who I met via Chindi (local network of independent authors in Sussex). Dan worked in a number of children’s homes in the 90s. Yet he was happy to share his experiences with me.

As the book is centred around a group of fictitious children’s homes, I was intrigued by what he could tell me, until ultimately his best friend came into the discussion. Graham was in the care system through the late 1990’s and Dan met him when he was homeless. Regardless of his problems, he turned his life around and after completing a degree in social work, ended working in care himself, looking after troubled youngsters in homes. He also won an award for being someone in care who had achieved something.

As Dan said (and I quote) “He would have stories to tell you, spent time homeless, missed education, mixed with all sorts of people, yet turned things around. So he knows what the scene was like here in Bognor during the 1990’s for teenagers in a difficult home environment and in the care system.”

I feel blessed he agreed to meet me and within the space of an hour, gave some fascinating insights into the feelings of kids being brought up in care or fostered (thank God I kept the recordings). His answers provided the last pieces of the puzzle and not only that. He shared some amazing stories and in manner that was humorous and colourful. I would even go as far as to say he was the inspiration behind Joe, one of the main characters, a great guy who turned his life around and left a lasting impression.

But I wish I had got in touch. If only I had told him how much his little anecdotes helped me and out of respect, I am definitely going to include a tribute.

News of his death weighs down heavily but brings it home to me how temporary and fragile life is, especially in the era we are living in now.

Do you know anyone who might be affected? Make contact to check they’re okay and stay in touch. It might make all the difference.

To end on a positive note, I am still in the process of editing my novel and 50% through so it is all coming together very well indeed. I would also like to say a few more words about Dan, who’s heartache is unimaginable.

So for those who are feeling anxious, suffering from stress and have trouble sleeping, Dan creates therapeutic relaxing sleep stories for adults and you can check these out by subscribing to his YouTube channel

I have a few favourites of my own, one being Lake Of Inner Discovery 😴 SLEEP STORY FOR GROWNUPS 💤

Stay safe and stay sane in the second UK lockdown.

HM Government poster to protect the NHS during the Coronavirus pandemic

Coming Out of #UKLockdown

Tributes to the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic

What’s been happening with UK Lockdown?

24.6.2020 Well, it’s been 3 months but some of us were getting quite used to this new way of life. Piece by Piece however, the Government started lifting some of the restrictions and by the middle of May we were finally allowed out into the countryside.

Fortunately, this has been the hottest, sunniest May I remember for years, the flowers and tree blossom prolific: foxgloves in various shades, vivid red peonies and the plumes of mauve and white wisteria flowers on our cottage a feast for the eyes.

Crowds and Queues

Brighton Beach during Coronavirus outbreak
Source: Sky News 23.5.2020

With weather this glorious though and a first phase of getting our freedom back, it was inevitable people would be out in droves. Nothing suffered the deluge quite like the beaches. West Wittering had to restrict numbers of visitors to their car park (you had to book a week in advance) while pictures on the news showed other beaches packed to the gunnels with social distancing measures well and truly ignored.

Queuing to enter shops has become something of the norm now (but I am getting through many audio books in the process); at least there are no shortages any more. With a reasonable supply of flour now, my husband has been making lovely bread , while I continue to experiment with new recipes.

The Good Life

The weather has been so gorgeous, we have enjoyed our garden more than ever as have the rest of the family. At the beginning of May I got my hanging baskets planted, seeds in the greenhouse, resulting in a very bountiful vegetable patch. The rain has been scarce but in June, we finally got some rain. Now everything is growing like crazy, we have a very overcrowded vegetable patch, not to mention an abundance of strawberries and even a few cherries, while my Mum’s is like the Garden of Eden.

In fact every facet of nature seems amplified; clear skies with barely a cloud, the sea bluer, the flowers beautiful, the bird song clearer and the air sweeter. These were my observations for the rest of Lockdown and before the month ended, we had two more walks: Halnaker Windmill and Pagham Harbour, all within easy reach.

Halnaker Windmill in Sussex

Acceptance or Denial

As time marches on however, it seems the coronavirus is here to stay and the world might never go back to what it was. But there are two types of people; those anxious about COVID-19 (which is most of us) who accept the situation for what it is and do what we can to prevent the spread. We must protect the care workers and the vulnerable.

But some think the coronavirus is no worse than flu, social distancing laws are completely over the top and “how dare they take away our freedom!” I have even heard conspiracy theorists preaching this is some sinister plot; that governments engineered this entire scenario on purpose to enslave us indoors and control our lives.

I like to keep an open mind but I personally think it’s crap. How incredibly disrespectful to all the grieving families who’ve lost loved ones, not to mention the relentless, untiring efforts NHS workers but enough said… All most people want to do is survive.

Oriental Poppy in the garden

Moving On

So finally the shops have started opening again for non essential items such as clothes. I admit I do feel very sorry for workers who are suffering financial hardship, companies on the brink of going bust and the grim possibility jobs may be lost. No one wants that and yes, the economy has to start moving again. It was good to see NEXT in Bognor getting ready for opening. For the past 12 weeks it had a forlorn look, clothes on the rails but no customers, the store swamped in darkness and windows covered with bird poo. Getting read for the grand re-opening on June 15th, most stores now have footprint stickers on the floor (2m social distancing still in place) and hand sanitising stations.

And Finally

On June 23rd, Boris Johnson announced the next phase of relaxing the measures. To be honest I am a little surprised the pubs, restaurants and hotels are opening. Good news for youngsters who want to get out socialising again, relatives such as my husband’s brother and his family who run 2 wonderful restaurants, (The Boulevard and The Riviera in Sussex). But for gyms and beauty salons, the news is not so good and they are to remain closed, people like my sister (Cariad Beauty) who did the COVID-19 training, invested in all the PPE gear in readiness to return to work and is now told she can’t!

In other words you can go out boozing but you won’t be able to get back to a regular health and beauty regime? Does this Government have its priorities right?

It’s good to see the country shrug itself back to life and let’s hope the worst of this era has passed (fingers crossed). This will be my last post on the Coronavirus Pandemic for a while unless there is anything newsworthy. Now back to writing my new book, which is going quite well.

Tales from UK Lockdown: Week 10

Bognor Rocks at sunset

Adjusting to a Different World

26.5.2020 So we’ve been in lockdown for over 2 months but now the government have eased restrictions a little, I wonder if life can ever truly go back to how it was.

Despite the negative press, many of us are lucky to spend quality time with our loved ones and still manage financially, thanks to the Government furlough scheme. Though I am aware that for some, this is living a nightmare. My heart goes out to our care workers, many of whom work unbelievably long shifts, surrounded by death and heartache on a daily basis. For them, the Corona pandemic cannot pass quickly enough.

The other major problem is the work place. Understandably companies cannot wait to get the economy moving which is fair enough. Though some people just want everything to go back to how it was which will ultimately mean filling the sky with aeroplanes again. But my gut feeling tells me COVID-19 isn’t done with us yet. Lifting restrictions too fast could easily trigger a second deadly wave… that being the case we’re doomed!

We're Doomed!

Alternatively, just cherish these days while you have them (if you can)

Over these past weeks I have enjoyed seeing the breath-taking photos people share from their daily walks; of flowers bursting into bloom, tranquil coastal scenes and the most vibrant of sunsets. Others continue to inspire me with their achievements.

Extra time

With more spare hours on our hands, we finally re-decorated our office. The plaster and paintwork was in a terrible state, a daunting task we put off for too long. Now it’s done (and having cleared out loads of unwanted crap in the process) we feel more productive than ever in our cleaner tidier environment surrounded by fresh white walls.

Office repainted (Cottagewebs)

Country walks and keeping fit

Another month on and we’re finally allowed to drive into the countryside for walks. We missed the bluebells but enjoyed a picnic on the banks of East Ashling Pond, blessed to see a family of swans and signets gliding across the water. Halnaker Windmill yesterday was equally awe inspiring, the only sound the ring of birdsong, the air perfumed with the first lacy blooms of elderflowers. And talking of keeping fit, I’ve been doing kitchen aerobics with a set of hand-made weights (two water bottles filled with sand from the beach) and occasionally enjoy a zoom pilates class with Sussex Physiotherapy.

Swans and signets on East Ashling Pond, Sussex

Making the most of fresh seasonal produce

If ever there’s a time to support local farmers it’s now and my favourite place is Runcton Farm Shop. This is a great opportunity to look up new recipes depending on what’s available for example local asparagus (delicious either as a side vegetable or in recipes such as Risotto Primavera). I also heard there was a surplus of products, due to restaurants being closed. Imagine my surprise when my husband brought home a kg of fresh mussels home, which cost £1.60. For the first time ever I made Moules Marinière such a simple recipe but absolutely mouthwatering, served with home made bread.

Moules Mariniere

Best of all, I am back to writing with a renewed passion

I never imagined writing a standalone psychological thriller would be so hard but there were times last year I almost gave up.

It’s thanks to the people who helped me, I wanted to keep going; inspirational people such as Dan Jones who shared his experiences of working in children’s homes in the 90s and his friend, Graham, who was brought up in care. But with a police investigation at the heart of the story, more research needed to be done.

Research: talking to various senior police officers allowed me concentrate on the plot, a time I felt indebted to my good friend, Marion Kille, whose husband, Andy (formerly an ops controller with Sussex police for 30 years) was happy to answer a list of questions I had prepared. I also spoke to Peter’s cousin, Denise, whose husband worked in the CID but kindly pointed me in the direction of a recently retired Detective Inspector who for the last 10 years was senior investigator for similar cases to the one I am writing about. With a new focus, everything is finally beginning to slot into place.

Inspiration: Furthermore, I changed to writing in ‘first person’ for one of the characters. Last year I practised this as a writing tip – to write a scene in first person, depict their thoughts and feelings more powerfully – then change back to 3rd person. Sharing this on Twitter, #WhatWorksForMe I had a reply from Terry Tyler, one of my favourite authors, saying “Ever thought of just writing in the 1st person anyway?” It’s working very well and allowing me to get right inside this character’s head.

Re-writing this book is like untangling a ball of wool but finally I am unravelling the plot and teasing the story out of my characters. But more about that in a later post…