So, here I am, my last weekend in lockdown before I return to work next week. After this, I will be back to working at least one day at the weekend unless I’m on holiday, and once again will be trying to squeeze in writing my blog around long days working. Next week, I am working Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so honestly have no idea when my blog will get written. Miss F is also returning to work next week and has been asked to work 5-10 on Friday, and 12-5 on Saturday.
The Saturday shift doesn’t present any problems as there is an 11:30am bus which will get her there in plenty of time, and as I finish work at 4:30pm I can drive straight out to pick her up. But I’m not quite sure how Friday is going to work. She is at college until 4:15 so will have to run as fast as she can the moment her class ends to try and make it to the bus station to catch the 4:30 bus. I can’t help her this week because I will be at work until 6pm. Also, I’m not sure when she’s going to eat. Luckily, she only has another couple of weeks at college before her exams will be over and she will be finished for this academic year and will be off until she goes to university in September.
Imagine that – over four months off over the summer with nothing to do but whatever takes your fancy? Yes, I’ve had nearly four months off work in lockdown, but I still had a lot to do every day. I’ve told her to enjoy it because this will probably be the last time ever in her life that she can simply kick back and do nothing.
Her exam is creeping ever closer. Gradually, she has been working her way through all her assignments, I believe there is only another two to hand in. These assignments are what her tutors will be grading her on, but Miss F is quietly confident. She has worked incredibly hard this past year under very strange and difficult circumstances, and it shows in the quality of her work. Plus, rather than take the Easter holidays off she chose to crack on with her assignments and get the bulk of them done so now she is well ahead of schedule.
I am proud of her for making that decision – and with no prompting from me. I’m not in any way a helicopter parent and have very much let her set her own pace and work schedule. I have provided an environment in which she can work with the turning of the small back bedroom into her own office space, and I have been very lenient when it comes to household chores. Yes, she does a little to help around the house and I do expect her to tidy up after herself, but to be honest, I would rather keep on top of the cleaning myself and have her get the grades she needs to go to university, than pile a long list of chores onto her.
You never know, hopefully, when I’m old and infirm she will remember this and look after me in my dotage. Well, I can hope…
Today (Saturday) Miss F has gone down to the park for a socially distanced picnic to meet with her friends. It’s been a hard year for most teenagers. Denied the socialisation that had been taken for granted, they’ve probably spent far more time at home with their parents than they would otherwise have. Maybe that is a good thing, who knows, but I’m guessing most young people are desperate for the world to open back up so they can spend time with their peers again. The weather today is sadly not picnic weather, but she has wrapped up warmly and has taken the plastic-lined picnic blanket to counteract the damp grass as there’s a very high possibility it’s going to rain later. They’re all going to take their own picnics so no sharing of food will occur, and I know they are sensible enough to stay apart.
As for me? I’m sitting here chatting to you guys and thinking about all the things I still need to get done before returning to work next Thursday. One thing I must do is try on my uniform just to make sure it still fits. I’m pretty sure the top will as it’s a little on the large side and I don’t feel I’ve put any weight on up top. But I’ve been living in baggy, comfy old jeans since Christmas – and they would have me believe all is well in the kingdom – but all the same, I’d better check. In the worst-case scenario of buttons not doing up I still have time to buy another, slightly larger, pair.
There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the attention and make you whizz through your to-do list. My website is almost complete – a few last-minute tweaks and I will be ready to unveil it in all its glorious, technicolour splendour – so at least that will be one thing achieved. I have written a book – Kiss & Tell – book four in the Blackwood Family Saga. It has been edited, beta read, formatted, uploaded to KDP, and the proof copy received. All I must do now is read it all the way through to try and spot any last-minute snags. There is a lot to do when launching a book, so Sunday and Monday are earmarked to get as prepared as I possibly can, whilst getting completely up to date with all the laundry and ironing.
Tuesday has been designated a self-care day. There is a box of hair dye that has been sitting in the cupboard since Christmas; I have face and hair packs ready to deploy; a brand-new shaver ready for a mammoth deforestation project, and a manicure and pedicure will be attempted.
Wednesday, I need to sort out meals for the following three days I will be at work. It was bad enough getting home from work at 5pm tired, hungry, and with no clue what to cook for dinner. It’s going to be even worse now I won’t be getting home until gone 6pm, and I have a feeling the first week or so are going to come hard. Physically, I’ve got used to a gentler, slower pace of life. My body has adapted to eight hours of sleep each night and more time during the day for resting, it’s going to be a shock to the system going back to getting by on six hours of sleep a night and being on the go all day with no time to draw breath, let along sit down and rest. Ah well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I must work to pay the mortgage and the bills, so that’s that.
Those of you who read last week’s blog will know I finally gave up on the cumbersome and next to worthless VAX vacuum cleaner I had and splurged out on a new Henry Hoover. He is performing excellently, thank you for all the enquiries, but that meant I was left with the old vacuum standing about the house like a mournful ghost. I also had the old printer to get rid of, a bag of Miss F’s clothes and shoes which were now surplus to requirement, a cracked plastic storage box that’s been sitting in the garden all year, and a length of metal that came with her new bed a couple of years ago but was the wrong size, so they had to send a new piece. What to do? I wanted them gone from the house – not having a garage or a shed to store miscellaneous stuff in means rubbish is seriously in the way.
Anyway, after writing my blog last Saturday, I went online and did the week’s grocery shopping at Tesco and grabbed the next available collection slot which was 12-1 on Wednesday. I had been told that you now must book an appointment to take rubbish to the recycling centre, but that it was easy to do. So, I investigated the website, and it was easy, really, easy. I put in my car’s make, colour, and registration number then looked at the available timeslots and picked one. The next available slot was 12:00-12:15 on Thursday so I booked it. Then sat there and thought about things. Hmmm. I went back onto the Tesco site. Could I change my collection time from 12-1 on Wednesday to 12-1 on Thursday? Yes, I could, so I did. Finally, I telephoned my surgery and booked to collect the repeat prescription of my hayfever meds Thursday lunchtime and felt well-satisfied with my organisational skills.
Thursday dawned. I realised it was also my niece’s birthday so popped £20 in a card and was going to put it through the door of her grandparents because I knew as their carer, she was there almost every day. I had carefully estimated how long I thought everything was going to take and set off at 11:35am precisely. First stop, the card through the letterbox. Then I drove to my surgery. A bit shocked when I got there to discover there was a fun game of “How many old people can you get in a car park in one go?” taking place. I pulled into the road leading to the small business park where the surgery is located, and it was chaos! Cars everywhere, trying to park, parking very badly and straddling two spaces, or cars just pulling up in the middle of the road to disgorge elderly people who took forever to climb out and totter unsteadily across the car park. In the end, I illegally parked in the spaces designated to the dance studio opposite. Big signs warned that clamping was in operation, but given the studio was shut due to lockdown and I was up against the clock, I decided to risk it.
There was a never-ending queue of oldies at the surgery door, and I suddenly realised they must all be there for their second jabs. I had to go through the same door to get to the separate pharmacy, so shamelessly queue jumped and marched straight to the door where a rather large and hatchet-faced lady had planted herself in the opening and was glaring at me with a “you shall not pass” expression. Excuse me, I said, very politely. I’m not going to the surgery, I need to get to the pharmacy, so could you possibly step out of the way? She stared at me over her mask and for a moment I thought she was going to give me trouble. I raised my eyebrows and coughed, very loudly. She moved. I slipped by and into the pharmacy, grabbed my prescription and a minute later was back out to find her still there, right in the middle of the doorway. We looked at each other over our masks – don’t make me cough again, missus, because I will – but then she moved and I was back in the car which thankfully hadn’t been clamped, and I was off on the next stage of my quest.
I’d never been to the new recycling centre but had been told it was a doddle to find, and it was. It was now 11:55am so I was spot on for my midday appointment and joined the queue of cars waiting to go in. A little guy was perched on a folding stool in a mask looking very officious with a clipboard and pen. He was peering at each car and ticking them off on his list. I wondered if anyone ever had the audacity to turn up without a booking, what level of authority he had to deal with them. I mean, if you’d said your car was green but he felt it was bluer, would you be turned away?
Luckily, my car passed inspection and as soon as I saw another car pull out of one of the docking bays I drove forward and reversed into it. I had to chuck the vacuum and the printer into the same ‘small appliances’ skip which looked like it had not long been emptied. Oh, the satisfaction of carrying them up the steps and then heaving them over the side to hear them smash down below. Very cathartic. The other few things were quickly disposed of and then I was back in the car and heading into town.
A glance at the clock, it was 12:15pm. My grocery slot was until 1pm so I had time for the next part of the quest. At the end of January, my old Nokia phone finally gave up the ghost at about the same time it ran out of credit. It wasn’t worth doing anything then because I was always home so if anyone wanted to get hold of me, they could call the landline, email, or message me through social media. But now I would be going back to work and driving out on country lanes at night to pick up Miss F, so I figured it was sensible to get a new phone.
I parked outside the front of Tesco’s and joined the queue waiting to get in. I had hoped there would be no one in the tiny mobile phone shop at the front of the store, but there was a Tesco’s employee discussing phones with the staff member on duty. He was thinking long and hard about which phone to go for and took an absolute age debating the pros and cons of every single phone they sold until I was ready to scream with frustration. They could both see me standing there. Yes, I know he was technically a customer, but he was a Tesco employee so surely, I took precedence over him? Twenty minutes ticked by; I could see my shopping being taken back to the store if I didn’t get a move on; and in the end, sheer desperation forced me to do something I would never normally do.
I butted in.
Yes, I stepped forward and interrupted them. Starting by saying ‘I’m really sorry’ a couple of hundred times, I politely explained my predicament. That my click and collect slot expired at 1pm, it was now fifteen minutes until that time and was really sorry but I only wanted to buy a phone – THAT phone – I pointed to the one I’d selected in the twenty minutes they’d been faffing about. That was all I needed, just to buy that phone, and I didn’t want to have to go through the whole rigmarole of having to try and come back into the store with a car full of frozen stuff that I needed to get home.
The customer was nice about it. Sure, he said, no problem. He wanted to think some more about it anyway. But the actual staff member was very unpleasant. Glaring at me over the mask that kept slipping down under her nose, she icily informed me that even though he was a member of Tesco’s he was STILL a customer, whom she was currently serving, I would simply have to wait. Fine, I said, and put my purse back into my bag, I’ll get a phone elsewhere and stop using the Tesco mobile phone service, because I seriously didn’t have the time to wait any longer, nor did I want to hang around in a crowded shop for a minute longer than I had to. At that point, the other customer pointedly told the staff member again that it was really, honestly, absolutely fine if she served me, while he looked at the options again.
Glaring daggers at me, she got the phone I wanted from the locked cupboard, snappily confirmed that yes, the sim card from my current phone would fit and yes, I could use my Clubcard vouchers to pay for some of it, rang it through and gave me the phone. The whole transaction took three minutes – half the time it had taken her to tell me I would have to wait – and then I was out, back in the car, and hurtling over to the collection spot with ten minutes to spare. Leaving it almost to the very end of the time slot meant everyone else had already collected all their shopping so I didn’t have to queue at all – note to self, maybe do this in future – and I was home and unpacking all the shopping by 1pm, congratulating myself on for once not only knowing where all my ducks were but successfully lining them up in a row.
I like my new phone, but Miss F laughed at it and called it names. It’s a farmer’s phone, she said. It’s a flip-top one so at least I’ll no longer pocket or handbag dial people, and according to Miss F that’s the type of phone farmers use so they don’t get pig shit on the screen. Okay, I don’t care. She also says it’s an old person’s phone because of the size of the buttons. Well, I am old, and I’m tired of peering at tiny buttons and saying the wrong thing. All I care about is that it cost me £30, I got £30 of credit with it, it works, it’s sturdy and reliable, and it still fits into my pocket.
I neither want nor need a smartphone so it would be a waste of money buying myself one, and besides, they’re so big! I just want a little phone I can carry with me for emergency calls and the odd text, and that’s it, that’s all I need. I don’t care about status symbols, or how trendy something is. I want what I want, and so long as something is practical and suits my needs, I honestly couldn’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about how it looks or what other people think of me. More fool them for spending hundreds of pounds, I’m happy with my £30 bargain basement phone because you know what, if I drop this phone on the floor, it will bounce – can you say the same about your phone?
Rummaging around in the freezer earlier in the week, I discovered a lone bag of cherries leftover from last summer’s harvest. Now, most people would probably have made a cherry pie. Me? Well, I put a bottle of vodka on the shopping list and last night made a bottle of cherry vodka to drink in the summer. Lockdown liqueur, it will be a memento of the strange start to the year and hopefully, we’ll be able to drink to better things and a brighter and more hopeful future.
Take care, my friends, and I hope you have a great week. If, like me, you are emerging from lockdown, blinking in the light, and anxiously worrying about life, the universe and everything, then stay safe and stay away from idiots.
There will be a blog next week, I promise. I’m not sure how and when I will write it, but one will be written, so until then, cheers.