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:

I mean, really. I’ve heard of April showers but this is ridiculous. Because this wasn’t already the Longest Winter Ever. It’s a full week after Easter Monday and my kid actually wore a Christmas jumper today.

Fortunately for the pub landlords and their thirsty clientele, the snow didn’t last too terribly long, and the weather did improve throughout the day, the London skies gracing us with a few oh-so-British “sunny spells.”

As I made my way up and down Northcote Road this morning, running beautifully banal errands (such as returning some too-big running socks I got for Christmas but have not been able to return because the shop’s been closed ever since), I took in the changes. There was a noticeable charge and energy in the air. A pulse once again beating.

The dining and drinking establishments were setting out their tables and chairs on the pavement. The hair and nail salons had masked ladies in every chair. The TK Maxx looked like a Black Friday sale/super-spreader event. The queues for the barber shops were longer than the shaggy mullets of the men patiently waiting for their turn to be shorn.

My own husband was proper chuffed to be rid of his excess hair today. We can see his ears again, so he has no excuse for not hearing me.

Before and after

And another walk down the road this evening showed me many smiling people out at all the restaurants and bars, happy to be meeting up with friends for drinks again, or maybe just happy to take their kids out for pizza for a change. And for another many people, probably happy to be working again. Cheers to all of that.

I hope that this is and was truly the last of the lockdowns, and that we continue to move forward out of this, not backward, like some our European neighbours have done lately.

We still don’t know when we will be able to receive a vaccine. The UK has made good progress with vaccinations, yes, but is still on the 50-and-up age group. All we can do is try to be patient and wait for our GP to contact us to say we’re now eligible to book an appointment. Keep calm and carry on masking up. And pray that Spring hurry up and kick Old Man Winter all the way to December.

Out Like a Lamb

We made it through March. Always, always my least favorite month of the year–the dregs of winter dragging on for 31 days, so tedious after February’s brief 28–made even more dismal by the circumstances of a pandemic and lockdown; now, add in that today is the first anniversary of my father’s death.

But tomorrow will be April.

The combination of spring weather and an easing of lockdown restrictions this week has made an obvious difference in the vibe around here. It feels like we have finally made it through The Darkest Winter, and never has spring felt so much like coming out of hibernation.

Everyone is emerging from their hermitages, looking less like beautiful metamorphosed butterflies and more like hairy, hangry bears, desperate for socialization and sunlight, and probably also a roots touchup.

All four of us finally have haircut appointments, for after 12 April, when the salons and barber shops should be allowed to reopen. Some of us are in more desperate need than others, but I won’t name names.

The kids have been back in school for three and a half weeks, and today is the last day of the term. Now they have a three-week break, the “Easter hols,” and I’m back to binge-watching my children. If only ‘The Crown’ had such short breaks between seasons!

The difference from the ‘Christmas hols’ being, of course, that this time they really will be going back in just three weeks (that’s the plan, anyway), plus a few more things are allowed (e.g., the Rule of Six for meeting up outdoors), and we have a lot more daylight and warmer temps. Holiday camps can operate, so that’s a big improvement over February half-term.

We haven’t left London since October half-term. And even that was only to Windsor and Surrey. We’ve been marooned on this not-deserted island since August, sending virtual messages in bottles to friends and family abroad via the magic of technology, and just trying to stay sane.

How have I maintained my sanity this winter, where there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do? Going for long walks, bundled up against the cold and damp; either with a friend and a takeaway coffee, or alone while listening to psychological thriller novels. My weekly Zoom dance fit class. Baking batch after batch after batch of these cookies. (Vegan and gluten-free–they’re basically salad!) And of course, making tiny mice for boot scrapers. As one does.

And the kids? Friday night pizza picnics on the living room floor in front of the TV. A regular rotation of the same four playgrounds, hoping we’ll bump into some of their friends there. Making massive messes with the arts and crafts supplies. Playing/reading with the Virginia grandparents via the Caribu video calling app. We’ve listened to all the Magic Tree House audio books the library has in its collection and have moved on to the ones I have to pay to download.

Now we are optimistically making plans for the summer, in the hopes that we get our vaccines soon and the government’s ‘road map’ continues to hit the target dates it laid out last month. I’m at the point where I’m just saying yes to everything anyone suggests, enthusiastically entering it into my phone’s calendar.

Basically, if you need a wingwoman around London this spring, I’m your girl. Lunch and shopping in Chelsea? Yes, please! Boat ride on the Thames? Aye, aye, captain! Art exhibit at any of the museums? I’ll book my ticket now! Stalking your ex’s new lover? Let me just grab my trench coat and sunglasses!

No doubt I’ll reach a point this summer when I realize I’ve totally overbooked myself, and will be running on some sort of manic energy in my need to make up for lost time. My social calendar is going to go from 0 to 60 pretty soon, and it will be overwhelming.

But for now, it’s just so nice to have some things to look forward to again.

Unsolved Mice-teries

As I sit here in my house in February 2021, wallowing in the ennui of this winter lockdown and anticipating another rainy day of half-term with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I’m grateful I’ve at least got these little mouse hole projects to give me some small sense of purpose and a creative outlet.

And with the feedback I’ve recently received, I think I’m going to be busy for months to come, as people seem to enjoy the mouse hole more than I could even have guessed.

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Bernie in the Mouse Hole

The instantly iconic Bernie-Sanders-at-the-inauguration memes this week have been giving everyone something to laugh about during a difficult time, so I decided to get in on the fun.

Not much else to do on a cold January Saturday in lockdown, anyway. I made everything out of materials I already had in the house, which I think Bernie would appreciate. The chair is recycled cardboard and clothespins/pegs, and his hair is some clippings from one of my daughter’s stuffed animals (shh! don’t tell her!)

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