Hello Darkness My Old Friend

And we are officially in lockdown lockdown. The real deal. “Tier 5” in what was a 3-tier system just a few weeks ago. It now feels like we’re back where we were last April (but with worse weather). We’ll be doing at least half a term of homeschooling/virtual learning, as Bo-Jo announced that children won’t go back to school until after the February half-term break, meaning March. At the earliest. Now is the winter of our discontent.

Stress-eating through the announcement that made me a homeschool teacher again

January is always a dreary month, after the holidays are over. Time to cut back on the excesses and do Dry January, or Veganuary, or Nothing-Funuary. The twinkly lights come down and it’s just… dark. The street corners become Christmas tree graveyards (which then become dog-pee hotspots).

But at least in past Januarys I’ve had trips planned, and friends visit, and other things to look forward to. We can’t plan any trips, or really anything at all. We can’t go anywhere right now, other than the parks within cycling distance. So this will most likely be the dreariest January on record. The weather certainly hasn’t helped. It’s really cold, but not quite cold enough to turn the rain into snow. Blah.

And though pretty much everyone in the world was eagerly counting down to 2020 ending, the calendar flipping to 2021 didn’t magically make things better or easier.

Brexit actually happened, after all this time. My home country of America is attacking itself from within; like a cancer, which the patient was warned about, but refused to treat, allowing it to grow and spread.

And with this new (homegrown right here in the UK!) fast-spreading variant of coronavirus easily outpacing vaccine dispersal, the numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are higher than ever.

My predictable coping mechanisms have ranged from binge-eating chocolate to drinking wine to going for runs on muddy paths in the near-freezing temps just to escape my house and have some alone time for half an hour. I crank up the ragey music in my earbuds and try to dodge all the other people (and their exhalation droplets) out there, who are probably also trying to escape their houses and/or children.

So where can we find some rays of light in this dark time?

Well, for starters, how about on our very own street? (Can’t really go anywhere else anyway.) A few nights ago, when I was taking the recycling out to the front garden, I heard people singing, very loudly, about a block or two up from our house. I just thought it was drunk people, carousing in the streets, since the pubs are closed. Turns out it was out-of-work West End performers, performing in our street!

And of course, I had to do my small part to attempt to bring some smiles to some masked faces, with a new Victorian boot scraper/mouse hole winter scene.

Nothing was going to top my lighted Christmas mouse hole, so I scaled back a bit. But I think this little guy is still pretty cute.

Besides, by the time I cleaned out the Christmas stuff from the mouse hole, quite a few things had been added, and it was looking as busy as a Waitrose on Christmas Eve. January is the perfect time to Marie-Kondo your mouse hole.

I took the dog for a walk today, and spotted people stopping to take pictures of it. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I see people enjoying it.

Here’s my 2021 new year’s resolution for all of us, one that doesn’t make me cringe at the sacrifices it requires: If you can think of a way to life people’s spirits, do it. Whatever it is, however small.

UPDATE: January 18: E and I checked on the mouse hole this afternoon, and as I was tidying it up a bit, a man walking towards us yelled out, “You aren’t meant to touch it!” Taken aback, I replied, “Well, I’m the one who made it”… and it turned out he is the homeowner.

I thanked him for being a gracious host for our mice. He said he and his wife call it “the shrine,” because it has so many worshippers coming to see it every day. He said he estimates about a hundred(!) people a day stop by. And that often it’s adults without children, armed with cameras. Pretty incredible.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Lockdown, Everywhere We Don’t Go

Last night, PM Boris Johnson held an emergency press conference to announce that London and much of Southeast England would be moving into Tier 4, effective at midnight. This came as a surprise to most of us, because as far as we knew, it was a 3-tier system. Tier 4 was a totally new level they’d just added. The new strain of the virus they’ve discovered here in the UK seems to be even more highly transmissible than the original coronavirus.

For some, this meant canceling their Christmas plans to get together with family or friends. For others, such as my friend Amelia, this meant a mad dash to pack up the car and get to Granny’s house in the countryside before midnight, when their family Christmas plans would turn back into pumpkins. So now instead of isolating for a few more days between the end of school term and mixing with extended family in other households for Christmas, many families will just go for it and hope for the best.

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What a Week: Half Term, Halloween, Election Day, Bonfire Night, and Lockdown

As we anxiously await the results of the election in the Divided States of America, here’s what else has been going on for the Walks Between the Commons.

Last week was the half-term school break. We’d had flights and a place to stay booked in Italy, but obviously that was cancelled. So the challenge became: How can I give the girls a normal-ish fun half-term/Halloween/4th birthday in a pandemic?

We started by borrowing a car from a very generous friend for a couple days, so we could do some day trips out of the city.

Ready to go pick out our pumpkins!

I chose places that were all outdoors, and which claimed they were capping the numbers of visitors allowed in and had staggered entry times and all the other measures attractions are having to take now to make them seem safe.

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Keep Masked and Carry On

Well, the kids are back in school (hallelujah!) and life is taking on some form of return to normality, or what counts as normal in Autumn 2020.

There are many things we still can’t do, or shouldn’t do, or just don’t feel personally comfortable doing even though other people are; but then there are some things we can do again, with certain precautions, that we haven’t been able to do since mid-March. You follow?

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