30th March 2020

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As with last Monday, this was a tough day. I guess over the weekend it’s possible to pretend things are “normal” to a large extent, but when Monday comes, reality hits: no school, no going out, no fun ­čÖü

F was restless all morning, didn’t really want to do anything except watch TV, and as she got more and more bored even the slightest suggestion of doing something else was met with tears and upset. Unfortunately F seems to blame herself when things go wrong, and so once she felt she had done something wrong (which she hadn’t, and we didn’t suggest she had) it was a downward spiral.

Lunch indoors today which was a shame, but the weather is just not as good as last week.

After lunch, it was Art for the kids, and as last week, this was a bit of a bumpy ride. F was reluctant to do it in the first place (and we gave the option for her to skip it, but she eventually, grumpily, decided she would do it), and then became upset when she felt her picture wasn’t anything like it was meant to be.

I really empathise with her on this because I know the feeling of not achieving the outcomes you want, especially artistically, and how bad that can make you feel. I became convinced I was ‘no good at art’ when I was younger, and that feeling stays with me even though I know that all this does is limit myself – I don’t want F to fall into that trap.

I had my own teary moment during the afternoon, when the fact I couldn’t make things better for F right now hit me hard.

B had his moments of trauma today as well, as he felt he wasn’t coping with the work being set by school. The truth is he’s doing great generally but he’s struggled with exactly how to organise himself, and the way the teachers are setting work due is not entirely consistent which has left him missing submitting a couple of pieces of work – and he really hates feeling like he’s not doing the work right.

And through this poor D had to support us all – she is amazing as always and keeps us all going.

Happily things picked up when F, then B, had their one-to-one sessions with a tutor from Explore Learning (they’d usually go to this maths & english tutoring centre once or twice a week). This was by a long way the best online interaction they’ve had because it was one-to-one – it was just so nice to see them getting on with work, chatting to the tutor in a relaxed way.

Also welcome was a delivery of tea and coffee from The Golden Monkey Tea Company – which was a relief as I finished the last of my existing coffee this morning and we were running short on tea (and I didn’t actually manage to get out to the shop today – that treat will have to wait until tomorrow).

D and the kids had done some rainbow drawings for the tea shop window:

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Drawing rainbows for local tea shop

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And final good news of the day is that we finished off the “Fantastic Beasts” jigsaw (bar three missing pieces) and so we can move on to the next challenge … Ook!

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Weekend plans….just one more day….

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29 March 2020: Leaving the house

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We left the house today for the first time since St Patrick’s day (17th March). We didn’t go far and were probably only out for about 20 minutes. It was odd to see other people out walking (and felt very strange that we were trying to plot a course that avoided them as far as possible).

Going back to the start of the day, I woke around 4am and found it hard to settle again. Eventually I moved downstairs and did manage to get back to sleep on the sofa listening to the “No such thing as a fish” podcast.

When I woke again it was after 8am, and it turned out both D and I had the same thought on waking: “how lovely to have slept until after 8”, until we realised the clocks had gone forward and it was really only just after 7!

We got up at a very leisurely pace and it wasn’t until after 10am I got out in the garden to pick up from where I left off yesterday. It was cold out and I needed my woolly hat and coat first thing. I managed to tidy up some of the junk I’d found in the hedge on Saturday, avoiding starting trimming our other hedge until as late as possible so as not to disturb our neighbours. Eventually I got the trimmers out and went into battle with the hedge, taking several feet of growth off the top!

I couldn’t reach all the way across the top of the hedge to completely trim the top, and I don’t really want to try going around to the neighbours to work from that side at the moment – I think I need to find a way of hooking or looping the growth to pull it over to our side – I’ll have to think how I can do this.

I wasn’t quite up to tackling the leylandii that makes up the rest of the hedge today – it will be a bit of a tough job, but I’ve got plenty of time.

F has been struggling today. She’s had several melt downs, and was crying as it was time to go to bed claiming it was “too early”, until after questioning she explained that “there wasn’t anything happy to think about” when she went to bed. To try to cheer her up I’ve downloaded series two of Cabin Pressure for her to listen to (I’d originally promised this as a treat for when we drove to Wales for our Easter holiday. She’s also been enjoying John Finnemore’s (writer of Cabin Pressure) “Cabin Fever” videos which he has been posting on YouTube to entertain people (and possibly himself!) during the lock down.

I’m hoping tomorrow the promise of an Art class and an online tutoring session from “Explore Learning” will help cheer F and B up, although that said last week F struggled with the Art lesson – so it might not go to plan. Fingers crossed anyway.

Apart from our short walk, D, B and F spent quite a bit of the day inside. D made good progress with a “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” jigsaw.

Meanwhile the kids played with their “Turing Tumble” – a great toy which uses some cleverly designed plastic “switches” and ball bearings to let kids (or adults) build mechanical computing devices. The kids managed to build a machine that counted in binary today!

F has been making good use of our new Disney+ subscription to work her way throughh the “High School Musical” films, and Number 3 was on her afternoon viewing list.

This afternoon I had a call with the rest of the choir committee to discuss how we should keep the choir going while we are on lock down. We’ve done two online “virtual rehearsals” so far and we want to take the most successful elements and use them to build an approach that can work over weeks to keep people engaged and involved. It was really great to see the rest of the committee and talk to them, even though we were mainly talking business. I can’t wait until we can all meet up again and actually see each other.

Another day done, and another week done. I started this blog a week ago because it felt like I should really document a period of time that is likely to have a huge impact on everybody’s lives. Writing everyday hasn’t (so far) been a chore, although sometimes it has kept me up later than perhaps is wise. I also suspect that as we settle into our routine more, documenting the minutiae of each day will become less interesting for me and for any readers – but at the moment the idea of being able to go to the shop tomorrow seems exciting and slightly shocking!

28th March 2020: Last day of isolation

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Saturday, and in theory the last day of isolation for us because it’s now 14 days since B first developed a persistent cough. B is still coughing, and still doesn’t seem quite 100%, but the rest of us haven’t shown any symptoms thankfully.

I spent a lot of time in the garden today. First F and I cleared the rest of the grass from the path – it’s a long time since parts of it have seen the sun!

After that F and I dug a hole to sink a small trampoline into and make it level with the ground. The trampoline was one she got for her third birthday, and its been sitting unused at the back of the house for a while now – so good to see it get a new lease of life.

It was fun little project to work on together and F has discovered a love of digging and started digging holes in other parts of the garden – not sure what we are going to do with those yet!

After lunch I started to trim the hedge, but a basic trim turned into a full scale cut back as I decided to cut it all the way back in an attempt to reclaim some of the garden!

Damyanti had been up early drawing pictures of objects from the Ashmolean museum and B, F and I all wrote descriptions of them based on our own version of where the object had come from and its history. We read them out to each other over lunch and had to guess which object we were describing.

B still seems tired and not himself – I think not just being ill but also the situation – he loves school (as does F) and misses it. He is in touch with a few friends, but its not just seeing his friends that he loves, but interacting with the teachers and learning. He does like to learn by himself as well but I think he’s missing the stimulation of school.

After all the gardening B, F and I were going to have a band rehearsal, but unfortunately tiredness led to F and me both behaving a bit badly/grumpily and we didn’t manage to get to any actual practice – hopefully we can do that tomorrow.

Pizza delivery from Basement Browns and a Zoom call with my brother & sister and their families, and my Mum, was meant to cheer us up and it was lovely to see everyone, and B and I had a nice chat with them all. Unfortunately, it was a frustrating experience for F – she had something very specific in mind she wanted to discuss (planning a musical play with her cousins) but it wasn’t really the right environment for that, and she felt no-one was listening to her – so got frustrated and upset again.

However a quiz organised by C from choir (again on Zoom) was a real pick me up at the end of the day (and coming third was very pleasing) and we all enjoyed taking part (although F opted for watching a cartoon on the iPad after the first two rounds). It was a really nice way to use Zoom – just the right amount of structure with chance to see and hear each other. Big thanks to C for organising it.

One other high point of the day was finding that the Golden Monkey Tea Co. in Warwick could deliver us some much needed tea and coffee. It was lovely to talk to M even though it’s obviously a really hard time for the business.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to do the top of the hedge I started today and then attack the other hedge in the back to see if I can reduce the height. Although isolation ends today I’m not sure we will go out tomorrow with B still coughing – while he shouldn’t be infectious at this point I’m not sure people want to see someone with a cough walking around currently. I guess we’ll see how he is tomorrow.

Stay safe, stay strong everyone.

27 March 2020

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Its Friday, which would usually be cause for minor celebration and the question “what shall we do this weekend?”. But instead we face another day of being at home.

F, at least, is looking forward to the weekend with the promise that the rest of the family will drag themselves away from work and do something more interesting instead.

While I think we’ve settled into a reasonable routine, I also feel like (ironically) I’ve been less ‘present’ for the kids than I usually am during the week. Work has tended to seep in at all edges and I feel like I’ve spent quite a lot of the week in my own work “bubble”. On top of that now my (limited!) social life is also online – so I go from working on the computer to doing social stuff on the computer almost without a break. I’m still looking for the right balance, and don’t think I’ve found it yet.

Doing the Joe Wicks PE with F has been fun and good for me, although it takes me a good hour to recover from the high intensity workout! Hopefully that will improve as well.

B is still coughing and although his 7 days of isolation finished last weekend I still don’t feel completely comfortable with the idea of him going out. Our own 14 days of isolation finishes on Sunday and it would be great to get out for a walk if we can, but it might need to wait until B is fully recovered.

Plans for the weekend involve spending time in the garden. I need to give the hedges a good trim, and I have an idea the kids could build a bivouac or den of some kind from the clippings if we can find some suitable wood for the basic frame. I also want to try to give a new lease of life to a small trampoline (more of a trampette really) that we bought F for her 3rd birthday. Six years later it’s just sitting in the back garden and it would be lovely if I can find a way of making it useable again. I just hope the sun shines again this weekend.

We should have been going away to Wales at the end of next week with my Mum and E & family, celebrating Mum’s birthday, nephew J’s birthday and F’s birthday, and it’s sad to be sitting here knowing we are going to miss all this, and to know this is being reflected for so many people across the country and across the world. But we have so much to be thankful for, and in the big scheme of things these are relatively small hardships. So far the overall impact on us has been about inconvenience and disappointment, not tragedy – for which I’m hugely grateful.

So I sit here sipping a whisky, listening to Shakespeare Sister, moisturising my hands, and remembering how lucky we really are. Here’s to the weekend!

26 March 2020

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I woke before 7 again. Although I’m not particularly conscious that I’m worrying about the current situation, I obviously am and I suspect that’s part of the reason I’m waking early (I know 7 isn’t particularly early generally, but it is for me!)

I let myself have a slow start to the day, getting on with the spelt bread I started yesterday. Thanks to D we got a Sainsbury delivery today – initially left on the wrong doorstep by the delivery man (luckily he phoned to say he’d left it, and D got to the door before he drove off!) and that prompted me to do a proper review of what we have in the freezer (although my ideal is to keep the freezer full and only start using stock from there if we absolutely have to). With the new supplies plus some things from the freezer I was able to cook bolognese tonight (using the chicken stock I made at the weekend) which the kids really enjoyed.

We’ve not quite got a handle on how much milk we get through (although I partly blame D as she has a tendency to suddenly decide to offer the kids hot milk/hot chocolate without first checking we actually have enough milk). We didn’t order any from the supermarket as we are getting regular deliveries from the milkman, but after B had breakfast there wasn’t much left from the bottle we got on Wednesday. As a result I had to make do with an almond milk latte this morning (oh woe is me) but I was pretty pleased with the result (although I still prefer dairy milk for tea and coffee).

Almond milk latte

The Spelt bread worked well and made a great ham, cheese, salad & pickle sandwich for another garden lunch in the beautiful spring sunshine – glad everyday that its nice enough for us to get outside in the garden.

After a relaxed morning the afternoon was more stressful but just normal work stress to be honest – too much to do and not enough time. At 5 I joined Seb (our choir music director) for a webinar on arranging music for choir. There was quite a lot to take in, and I was desperately trying to remember my grade 5 theory to keep up. I think I’ll need to re-watch the recording, although it did generally make sense as we went through it – he’s set me some homework to try to do the harmony for a short (8 bar) tune – which is a nice challenge.

My work bled into the evening until about 9:30, and D and I were both tired out and nodding off a bit as we watched TV. At 8pm there was a “clap” for all those working to keep us safe through the pandemic – especially NHS staff. D and I clapped in the house, but no-one in our crescent of houses seemed to be out clapping (maybe they were doing the same as us though!). It seems other areas were clapping away outside as Mum said her street were out clapping, and lots of people from choir had been joining in and able to hear others doing the same.

Time for bed now. Stay safe, stay strong

Spelt bread

25 March 2020

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  • Feeling: tired
  • Listening to: Postmodern Juke box
  • Watching: Sing it Loud virtual choir meeting on Zoom

I’m going to keep it short today, as I’m tired out after a series of early starts/late finishes.

It’s been a pretty good day overall. I started the day doing the Joe Wicks PE session with F – which left me exhausted!

Then a useful discussion about moving some training I do online, and generally I had a productive day work wise

Th kids have been happy, we had lunch in the garden again, and I finished the day with a virtual choir meeting via videoconference (Zoom) – it was lovely.

Unfortunately B has developed tummy problems this evening – we don’t think it’s anything he ate, and diarrhoea is another Covid-19 symptom (although only in some cases). He keeps pushing himself and I think we’ll be trying hard tomorrow to make him take it a bit easier.

On the plus side – D managed to get a supermarket delivery slot for tomorrow morning – so depending on what they actually end up having available when they deliver tomorrow, we should be stocked up with food (especially fruit which we are almost out of). I also started off some spelt flour bread – so hoping that will be ready for lunchtime tomorrow.

Now going to go to bed with a cup of Rooibos and get some much needed sleep.

Stay safe, stay strong, sleep well

24 March 2020

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I woke early again today, although I stayed in bed for a bit. D got up to do some work and I came down while the kids were still in bed (although B at least was awake and reading). I had almond milk porridge for breakfast and did an early work call (8am) with someone in Germany before kids got downstairs. F and D did the Cosmic Kids Yoga “Force Awakens” workout which covers the whole story of Force Awakens. The “death of Han Solo at the hands of Kylo Ren” is my favourite yoga move ever.

F has had hearing problems for a little while, caused by a build up of wax, so she watched some TV (Hook is her new favourite film) while I put olive oil in her ears to try to soften the wax.

After that D suggested that F should make herself a timetable for the week – which she happily got on with and came up with a really nice balance of work and breaks/treats. Although I’m guessing its easier to plan than to actually follow I think giving her as much control as we can is important.

Meanwhile B got on with school work (English, History) in his room. B has been stressing a little over his school work – despite us reminding him that he’s still not well, and that he doesn’t need to worry. I think he just doesn’t have a feel for how much he should be getting done, which means he ends up being worried he hasn’t done enough – but overall he seems happy just getting on with it.

It was a good morning. Several choir friends got in touch to check I was OK after they saw I’d been a bit down yesterday – lots of lovely messages of support – it was so nice. We also got our weekly fruit, veg, meat & fish delivered from Abel and Cole this morning which was great – even though the fruit & veg was quite limited (more kiwis!). The meat included hot dog sausages, and as we were almost out of bread but have plenty of flour (for the moment) I decided to make some “mostly white” rolls (75% white flour, 25% wholemeal) to try to make the white flour last as long as possible (although the kids prefer white bread of course).

The afternoon went pretty well. We all had lunch in the garden, and I took some time away from the computer later in the afternoon to keep F company (out in the garden again) and to try to improve the improvised setup I’ve made so that F can have kung fu training sessions on Zoom. I also tried to show F how to change a plug, but she was sceptical this was a useful skill for her to learn: “but how often have you actually had to change a plug?” – oh well!

Overall a much better day, although I’m tired now and going to go to bed early to get another early start for work. On the work agenda is planning how I can switch a training course I usually do face-to-face into an online version.

23 March 2020

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Today has been a little rough – partly I think down to us having such a great and productive weekend, while today was back to the challenge of juggling our work with the kids needs.

I woke early – I’d meant to get up at 6am to do some work before the rest of the family woke, but woke at 5am instead with thoughts of Covid-19 running through my head and my muscles aching from my exertions in the garden over the weekend

The morning went well, with F following the Joe Wicks PE session on YouTube first thing, then getting herself showered, and B reading in bed, then eventually getting up (we’re being a bit forgiving as he is still coughing although improving everyday). B had no interest in getting up to do PE!

F Ready for PE
F Ready for PE

I was on calls for a large part of the day which probably contributed to it being more challenging. During the morning it seemed to me that things went well but I wasn’t really paying attention I have to admit. D got lunch ready and we all ate … but after lunch things didn’t go so smoothly.

The kids first online art class straight after lunch was very welcome but somewhat stressful because of the limited space & materials and not helped by F refusing to mix and use pink (which made the blossoming tree picture a challenge!)

B and F having a virtual art lesson
B and F having a virtual art lesson

Things went downhill after that with both D and I getting stressed by the competing demands of work and children, and F being unhappy – stress and upset all round.

However there were positives – B, F & I had a short band practice (band name: Fantasy Land – B on keyboard, F on drums, and me on lead vocals and violin). We’ve made good progress with Viva la Vida and I think might be able to record a performance off the first half to share soon.

As well as online art there was chance to get outside again (although much colder than the weekend) and then a virtual Kung Fu session for F – so plenty of exercise for her today.

I tried to join the first session of Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus at 5:30, but work, children and dinner all conspired against me. But one thing I’m realising is that there is suddenly so much going on online I have to be careful I don’t try and do everything – my own choir is running virtual rehearsals and other sessions – and it would make more sense to focus on these things that I can do with my friends and local community, rather than join a huge project for the sake of it.

The announcement this evening of a lockdown in the UK with more strict enforcement was as depressing as it was expected (and probably overdue), and I find myself trying to catch up with work this evening (although actually writing this instead!), trying to catchup a bit.

But tomorrow is another day and one on which I only have one scheduled call – so I’m hoping it will be easier for me to give the kids the attention & support they need and deserve (and I’ve signed up for Disney+ so that should raise some smiles in the house – not least with D!)

Stay safe, stay strong.

Living in isolation: Week 1

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On Sunday 15th March 2020, B (12) developed a persistent cough. By Monday evening the UK government had advised that any household where one person had either a persistent cough or a temperature (symptoms of COVID-19 infection) should isolate for 14 days. It’s now the end of the first week of our isolation as a family and it struck me (as I’m sure it has struck many others) that I should record what it’s like for us living through this – an event with a more extreme impact on our daily lives than anything I can remember.

In the house are:

  • Owen (me), dad & husband
  • D, wife, mum and amazing
  • B (12), son
  • F (almost 9), daughter

F is probably the member of the family who has struggled the most with the situation. She says when we told her about this she realised that she probably couldn’t do anything she wanted:

  • going outside
  • going to school
  • seeing her friends
  • having her birthday party
  • going on a birthday theatre trip to see “Magic goes wrong”
  • family Easter holiday to Wales

That’s a lot of disappointment for a 9 year old to take in. She understands it’s for safety but it’s still really upsetting. Finding a routine for F has been challenging this week. She generally is happy to do some Maths and English in the morning, and is quite happy until about lunch, but then things start to get more difficult.

In many ways my life is the least affected out of the whole family – I already worked at home, and I spend a lot of time in virtual meetings already. Obviously having everyone else at home has made working harder and lots of people I work with are also impacted by the situation – so it hasn’t quite been “business as usual”. My main social activity is singing in a choir and of course all face-to-face rehearsals have been cancelled for the foreseeable future – so we’ve been trying online sessions (I’ll try to do a separate post on what we’ve been doing in case it’s useful to others) – and that’s meant I’ve spent more time online this week.

D misses the luxury of being able to do what we want, and I think has found the first week quite stressful.

B was the person who got ill, and has been ill all week – not seriously, but enough for him to be tired easily (although he keeps insisting he’s “feeling better today”). He’s very self-motivated and loves doing school work and study, and creating projects for himself – so apart from the illness he isn’t unhappy. If he was at home with just me I think we’d both just work happily all day, but with four of us in the house, especially with F around as well, this is more distracting and difficult for him. But he’s very adaptable and thoughtful – yesterday he created a worksheet for him and F to do about animals, and he has plans for more worksheets for next week, including one based around “Miraculous: Tales Of Ladybug & Cat Noir” a favourite TV series with them currently.

We’re lucky we’ve got enough computers in the house, and good broadband, so us all being online and working at the same time hasn’t been a huge problem (one of the computers is a bit crappy, but definitely usable).

To try and help with the feelings of frustration and to keep a routine I put up a whiteboard (which has been sitting unused and waiting for me to put it up for months!) and made space for a “wishlist” of things we all want to do while we are stuck at home, and a “daily timetable”. Realising that one of the things that had affected F most was the lack of control over things we suggested the kids create “I choose” cards that they can play each day which allows them to override whatever we are asking them to do at the time and lets them doing the thing they want. They get four “I choose” cards a day and they are things like “I choose to watch TV for 30 minutes”. I’m not sure these have been quite as successful as I hoped, but they have at least given some degree of choice to F.

“Had a band and we tried real hard”

Because we’ve been confined to the house & garden, we really haven’t been able to get out at all – so food has been a bit of a worry. Overall we have a freezer full of stuff and lots of non-perishable food in the pantry – but we’ve never been great at meal planning, and have often relied on the fact its easy to pop to the shop. Luckily we’ve got friends and relatives locally who have done some shopping for us – huge thanks to my cousin (J) and P & M at Warwick Books who have done shopping runs for us!

We already have a weekly delivery of fruit, veg, meat and fish from Abel and Cole and this week that came as usual – we are hoping this keeps going (although uncertainty about this is one of the stressful things – in terms of food planning – what can we count on for next week?). We were also lucky enough to be able to register with Milk & More so as long as they have stock we’ll have regular supplies of milk, yoghurt, juice and other basic perishables.

Door step delivery

One positive I’m taking from this situation is how much we already support small and local businesses – partly, sadly, because we are only too aware of what impact this situation is going to have on people we know locally. But there is more we can do – for example I now feel we should have signed up to Milk & More ages ago (what could be better than milk delivered to the door?) and we could have been doing more to shop locally – I’m determined that we’ll make more of an effort with this from now on.

The food situation has also made me much more aware of things we have been wasting (throwing out unused food) and start making sure we reduce our waste. I’ve been baking bread (although bread flour has been in short supply) – thanks to a course at Haddie and Trilby I’d just re-started baking bread so I was well prepared! I’ve started making jam with kiwi fruit we often get in our Abel and Cole box (and so many kiwi fruit have gone into our compost its embarrassing). Yesterday I even made brown chicken stock from left over bones & scraps (I’m planning to post recipes on this blog separately so won’t detail here). So overall we are eating well (perhaps better than usual in some respects).

Homemade bread with kiwi and grapefruit jam

Now the weekend is here I’ve had time to relax a bit (juggling work around everything else has been quite a challenge) and yesterday spent time in the garden doing some well overdue tasks (digging out the compost, mowing the lawn), and today I’m planning to do some more work (more mowing) and F has been putting together some ideas for setting up a “play area” in the garden (nothing too ambitious – chalk marks on the paving slabs for games etc.)

Where I’ve been able to make the space and time to do so, I’ve actually enjoyed being more of a ‘home maker’ – but one of the things I’ve realised this weekend is that we spend a lot of our weekend going out and maybe we should do more at home (F said “this would be a great weekend except we don’t have a choice about it”)

While there have been ups, there have also been downs – by Wednesday morning D and I were informed at high volume that we were “the worst people ever and I can’t believe I have to spend two weeks stuck here with you”. I find it hard not to just give in to demands to watch TV just so that I can get on with my work. Both D and I have tried getting up early to do work before kids are around – which sort of works, but then leaves me exhausted later in the day. So it can be tough – but I’m definitely staying positive at the moment and feel we are doing pretty well all things considered

Next week we’ll have more challenges no doubt – the kids will do their first online Art lesson from Jess at Art Group Studios and we are hoping that some online kung fu lessons can be set up for F. B is hoping to be well enough to get on with the work the school is starting to send home.

I’m hoping I’ll do some more regular updates in this diary rather than just once a week – but I know my good intentions often remain just that – we’ll see!