Auld Lang Syne

And so here we are, on the first day of 2022, in a totally different place than where we started 2021, and yet also in the exact same place: at home in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So many changes this year, and at the same time, not enough. Like everyone else in the world, I am suffering from pandemic fatigue. And like most everyone else–particularly in the U.S. and U.K.–I am also suffering from this especially contagious strain of COVID. Over Christmas–the cheek of this virus!

Children are still bad at social distancing

This past year has been a big one for our family in terms of life changes. There have been some happy moments: reunions with family and friends in America; getting vaccinated; falling in love with our new (but old) house (which is still a work in progress); our summer trip to Italy (to-be-blogged…sometime soon…ish).

But 2021 also had plenty of moments that were frustrating, and challenging, and disappointing, and just plain sad. After the pain of 2020, everyone had high hopes for 2021, but I daresay it fell short of expectations.

What will 2022 bring? Will we still be in this pandemic purgatory a year from now, in this state of constant anxiety over a virus that started in 2019? Will kids be able to attend school in person, without masks and weekly nose swabs? Will we finally feel settled in our new/old life back in Baltimore? Will I find a job and manage a decent balance of work and motherhood? Will M’s startup business venture yield more successes than setbacks? Mostly, I’d just like to know: Will the happy moments outweigh the sad?

My daughter’s new Magic 8 Ball has no answers for my questions. No one does. Perhaps all we can do is try to find the joy in the small moments, be more grateful for all we have, take better care of our bodies and minds and planet, and try to be more compassionate to others, particularly the ones making choices we perceive as being the “wrong” ones. We are all just trying to make some lemonade out of these lemons, right?

So I lift my glass of (mostly tasteless) lemonade to you, and everyone around the world who has had a rough couple of years, and toast to your health and your happiness in 2022. May this year bring you peace, wherever you may be.

A Few Announcements

I feel so guilty I’ve been neglecting this blog, especially considering I have some important announcements to make. I haven’t been writing blog posts lately, not because I haven’t been doing anything worth writing about, but rather, the opposite. My life has been insanely busy lately, so I have a lot of posts to write when I get an opportunity to take a break and breathe.

Pretty good self portrait of what my overloaded head feels like lately; thank you, Yayoi Kusama

The time has come for us to return to America. A two-year adventure in London turned into five years, because we’ve loved the life we’ve made for ourselves here. So it’s with some very mixed feelings that we are moving back to Baltimore, MD, after school lets out in just a few weeks. There will be a longer post on this, reflecting on our time here and what went into this decision, but likely not till August or maybe September. I want to give our living-abroad blog a proper wrap-up, but have neither the time nor the emotional energy to do it just yet.

People keep asking, “What about the mouse hole??” Well, it was time to say cheerio to the mice, too. It was coming to a natural end as the lockdown rules loosened and life started to return to something resembling normal again. And the homeowners were ready to have their home and their privacy back, particularly after it ended up on Google Maps as a “tourist attraction,” and more and more people were lingering outside their front door.

Here is the text of the open letter I wrote about the end of this particular era:

Dear Wakehurst Mouse Hole Fans,

This week marks a year since my daughters and I first added a little felt mouse to a hole in the wall—which I now know was intended to be a boot scraper once upon a time—with the hope that it would make passersby smile during the difficult time we were living in.

I never in my wildest dreams expected it to turn into something so big and reach so many people.

I’m awed and honored by the feedback (and the press!) I’ve received, and am truly grateful for all the notes and pictures and mouse-sized gifts people have left for the mice.

However, I never intended to continue it for so long, and all good things must come to an end. And after five wonderful years on Wakehurst Road, we are moving back to the United States of America this summer.

Our gracious hosts, the homeowners, have been unbelievably tolerant for the past year, but it’s time to let them have their house back, and the peace and quiet they deserve. They didn’t choose to turn their home into a tourist attraction, and they’ve been more than accommodating.

I hope you’ll join me in thanking them wholeheartedly for allowing this during lockdown, and now that lockdown is over (hallelujah!), respectfully let their property go back to being private. After next week, anything added to the boot scrapers may be removed by the homeowners.

So please enjoy this Wakehurst Mouse Hole grand finale, and do be sure to pop round the corner to check out the other two mouse holes!

And finally, an exciting announcement: As many people have suggested, I am writing a children’s book about the boot scraper mice. I’ve teamed up with super-talented local illustrator Erin Rose @erinroseillustration and we hope to get it published. (Any children’s book publishers out there? Message me, please!)

Please continue to follow me on Instagram @ewalkphoto, or at my blog walksbetweenthecommons.com, for future announcements about the book.

Happy tails and a fond farewell,

Beth (and the mice) xx #wakehurstmousehole

So as you can see from the letter, the other announcement to share is that I’ve been working on writing some children’s books! More detail to come on those soon, too, I promise. I think the lockdowns let me exercise the creative muscles in my brain, and I uncorked something in there that maybe got bottled up when I wasn’t using it enough. It’s exciting, and it feels good to let the creativity flow again.

We’ve got some massive life changes ahead of us, so I am giving myself the freedom to just enjoy what I can about being in London to the very fullest, in the short time between lockdown and moving. That means squeezing in a year’s worth of London fun with my friends here into a period of just a couple of months.

So amidst the chaos of planning an international move in a pandemic, and buying a new house sight-unseen, and selling a house, and periodic covid tests, and a basement flood, I’m somehow finding the energy to swipe on some mascara and get out there and live my very damn best London life while I can. I can sleep in September, right?

I’ll be back here then, to recap all the fun things we’ve been up to, and report on the Big Move.

Till then, I’ll leave you with the Wakehurst Mouse Hole grand finale (all three boot scrapers at once!)

Two Boot Scrapers, Three Mice

Well, we came out of lockdown, and then pretty much immediately had to participate in “surge testing” for the South African variant of the virus, which had popped up in our local area.

It was like, Happy reopening! …now go get tested. (Ours were negative.)

But fortunately, school has resumed following the Easter holidays, and pretty much all the kids’ activities have resumed as well. So we’ve been trying to get back into a routine after a very disjointed start to this year.

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Unlocking London

Today, Monday, April 12, was a big one for removing quite a few of the restrictions we’ve all been under since Christmas. Domestic travel and holiday lets are now allowed, so some of my friends and neighbours have packed up their cars and gone off to various English country- or seaside locales for the remainder of the school holidays.

Retail shops and gyms could reopen, salons and barber shops could welcome back the desperate and ungroomed (that would be a good name for a soap opera, no?), and restaurants and pubs could once again serve diners and drinkers, as long as they were outdoors. People have been very excited for this day, and are hungry for a taste of the former freedoms and simple pleasures we once took for granted.

So it seemed like a particularly cruel joke when we woke up to this:

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