Happy Easter from Julia Blake

I know it’s late for my blog to be going out, for which I’m sorry. But this week has been so full on busy that by the time I stopped to even consider what I could write about, it was gone 6pm last night and I was tired, so I’m afraid I shrugged my shoulders, said “meh” and made myself a gin and tonic.

So, what has filled this third week of isolation, I hear all six of you who regularly read my blog, cry. Well, Monday I began on my mucky kitchen. Like most busy, working mothers I cruise by with a lick and a promise. I clean the bits that show and promise myself that one day I’ll have a real thorough deep clean. Now, I used to religiously do this either once a year or between lodgers, whichever came first, but, the last three years have been ones of ill health, hospital stays and upheavals in my working life, and I’m afraid spring cleaning got pushed further and further down the list.

I now had no excuse. No work to go to, no social gatherings or events to keep me occupied, this was really it. I had to prove that all those times I’d claimed not to have the time to clean were justified, because now I had the time, lots of it, so if I didn’t clean then it would show I’d simply been lazy, not busy.

So, Monday, everything removable came out of my kitchen and was piled up in the dining room. Then it began. Now, as every women (and the odd man, maybe) knows, in order to clean properly first you have to make a big mess, as I tried to explain to Miss F when she wandered downstairs later and stared in disbelief at a stripped bare kitchen and a trashed dining room.

“Thought you were tidying?” she muttered.

“I am,” I replied through clenched teeth. “But to do it properly you first have to make it worse.”

It took me two and a half days to deep clean my kitchen, and it’s not even a particularly big one, but taking every single thing out of a cupboard, scrubbing inside the cupboard, and then cleaning and putting everything back before moving onto the next one, takes time. I also didn’t push myself. There was no need, after all, I had no deadline other than wanting it all done before the weekend, so there was no urgency to start at daybreak and keep going until I dropped. I started at a sensible time and had lots of breaks.

I finished midday on Wednesday. Took a deep breath, then started on the painting. Now, I can tell you exactly when my kitchen was last painted – June 2010. I know this, because Miss F had gone away with her grandparents to Disneyland Paris for five days. I had taken the week off and everyone assumed I’d go away myself, or at the very least enjoy a much-needed rest. Don’t be silly, that’s not how we roll in my shire.

Monday morning, I did the weekly shop as usual, then went to visit my parents and then went to my goddaughter’s birthday party. Tuesday the new bed and mattress I’d ordered for Miss F arrived and my dad came in and helped me relocate her old bed into the spare room and assemble the new bed, all ready for when she came home. Wednesday, I cleaned the house from top to bottom, all except the kitchen. Thursday, everything came out of the kitchen into the dining room and I deep cleaned the whole kitchen as I’ve been doing this week. It took a single day back then. Well, it was ten years ago, I was ten years less tired, it was pre-surgery and illness days and I started at 7am and didn’t stop for anything until it was done.

I went out with a friend for dinner in the evening, enjoying a rare opportunity of not being stuck at home with a young child every night. Whilst at dinner, Miss F phoned me in a state of sugar induced excitement – yeah, thanks grandma – to happily inform me she was having a great time, and no, she didn’t think at 9pm she should be in bed yet, oh, and she now loved French food, Really? I asked. What sort of French food? French fries and chicken nuggets, she shrieked. Ah yes, those well-known French culinary delights.

Friday, I made a ridiculously early start and gave the kitchen two coats of paint and got every back in place before a sleepy, sweaty and distinctly smelly Miss F was delivered back to me at 11pm. Barely noticing her new bed, she was tumbled into it as she was and slept until almost midday on Saturday. When she woke, she scrambled into my bed and that’s where we spent most of the day and I read practically the whole of “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” to her.

So, it’s been ten years since the kitchen was last painted and although it didn’t look too bad, the opportunity was there, the kitchen was clean to its bones and all possessions were piled up in the dining room, so I decided to go for it. I got the first coat done on Wednesday and the second on Thursday. Giving it a day to dry before piling everything back in. Miss F walked in to inspect and pass judgement.

“Well, it certainly looks a lot cleaner and fresher, but the colour…” she wrinkled her nose in thought. “Isn’t it exactly…”

“The same colour as it was before? Yep.”

Somehow, even though ten years separated the purchases, I’d managed to buy exactly the same colour. Well, what can I say? I’m obviously someone who sticks to what she likes. I liked Happy Sunshine yellow back then and I still like it today.

I’ve also, between working on the kitchen, been busy with last minute preparations for the re-launch of Erinsmore next week. I am beyond thrilled with how it’s turned out, the book looks amazing and the wonderful Becky and James Wright over at Platform House Publishing have made a simply awesome video trailer to help launch day go with a bang. If anyone is reading this who follows me on social media, I would be extremely grateful for any help with the release of the book. Any shares of the video or other promo posts would be amazing. I spent all my spare pennies on the actual book and the video so there’s not really any money for advertising, so anything anyone can do to help will be very much appreciated.

I’ve been out of the house precisely twice in the whole week. Both times to top up with essential items. Being very reluctant to drive to one of the bigger supermarkets, I’ve confined myself to a quick scuttle up town and foraging for what I could carry home. Shopping now really has turned into a game of PacMan. Avoid all contact, grab the food, take any route to avoid touching others. Sometimes, in the stores though, it’s so hard to stay 2m away from people in the aisles. They are not designed for social distancing and some people don’t seem to care that they’ve crowded into you. All you can do is wear the horrible latex gloves, hold your breath, make yourself as small as possible and scurry past.

On the whole I think I am handling isolation incredibly well. In fact, I’ve been so busy I seriously don’t know how I ever managed to find time to go to work, or how I’m going to be able to go back. The key for me is having a routine and structure to my days. I get up at a sensible time, before 8am every day. I face each day washed, dressed, teeth cleaned, and hair brushed – I simply couldn’t be one of those people who slob about unwashed in their PJs for days on end. To me, PJs = sleepy time.

Over my morning cup of tea, I plan my day. For years, I’ve had a to-do list as long as my arm of things I meant to do when I had the time. Well, I have that time now, so I’m working my way through that list. When and if I reach the end of that list, if we are still in lockdown, then will be the time to relax, kick back and tackle my to be read pile and catch up on all those Netflix shows I never have time to watch. Until then, I will and must work.

We are all handling this in our own way, but for me, personally, I simply don’t see the point of sitting at home whimpering about how stressed and bored I am. Whatever awfulness is going on outside my own front door, other than obeying isolation and social distancing rules, there is nothing I can do about it. And sure, maybe spring cleaning and painting my kitchen won’t do anything to change the global situation, but it will keep me busy and active and at the end of it all, I’ll have a clean and freshly painted kitchen. What will all those coach potatoes in their PJs have? Apart from extra weight to lose and a feeling that they wasted the precious gift of time they were given.

Miss F isn’t faring so well. Like most teenagers, her life revolves around education and her friends, and although she was given a couple of projects to complete, she is more or less done with college for the year so has nothing academic wise to occupy her days. Sure, she can and does interact with her friends virtually, but as she constantly informs me, it’s not the same. She also has a real reluctance to leave the house, so doesn’t even accompany me on my once a week shopping trips. She’s even loath to venture out into our private garden unless I actively force or bribe her to go out there – and yes, I do bribe my child, frequently and without compunction.

I’m a little bit at a loss as to how to help her. All my suggestions such as read a book, tidy her room, start a project of her own based on her studies, are met with derision and scorn, so I’m afraid I’ve given up and am letting her stew in her own juices. I had thought my example of keeping busy and improving our environment would encourage her, but no, so what can I do. Hopefully, she’ll get bored of endless Minecraft sessions and will do something a little more productive with her days, but, she’s a teenager, so maybe channelling her inner sloth is her way of coping. Hey, to quote Miss F herself, you do you babe.

And so here we are on another Sunday. It’s now 9:30am, I am sitting at my little desk in my very pleasant lounge where the morning sun is streaming through dirty windows – yes, spring cleaning the lounge is on my list for the coming week. I have coffee and I’m talking to you, and it’s also sofa and snack Sunday. Every Sunday, I do essential chores until midday, then stop and put a part-baked baguette in the oven and grill lots of bacon. I then rendezvous with Miss F on the sofa in the lounge and we binge watch films all afternoon, interspersed with frequent snacking. This week I managed to source some Pringles and sweet’n’salty popcorn. And as the afternoon turns into evening, I open a bottle of wine and we have pizza, wedges and dip for dinner.

I look forward to Sunday all week, but know, if this was something we did every single day it would quickly grow monotonous and boring, but because it is a once a week treat, it’s become something special for us. We’ve been working our way through all the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and have the big finale film today. After that, it will be Miss F’s turn to choose the films we’ll binge, she was talking about doing all the Marvel movies in order and I’m up for that.

And it’s not just any old Sunday, it’s Easter. I know a lot of people are upset that the churches won’t be open, and although I’m not religious myself, I can understand why they are upset. But it is to protect the weak and vulnerable and I’m sure Jesus would be up for that, after all, isn’t that what he and Easter are all about? Whilst working in my kitchen I had the radio on all day so listened to a lot of news, and discussions were plentiful about whether churches should be open today for private reflection or not. It was decided to keep them closed, and personally I think that’s a good call. After all, if people can’t be trusted not to keep congregating in large groups all over the place, I think if people knew the churches were open, even those who never normally set foot in them would suddenly come over all pious and crowd into them.

One minister in an interview on the radio, said this might be a pivotal moment for Christianity. Attendances at church have been steadily dropping, yet now, during these difficult times, many are turning to religion for comfort and companionship and are finding new ways to congregate and worship. There is a world of connectivity out there now, and this seems to have forced the church to catch up with all the possibilities available. Who knows, maybe virtual worship is now here to stay.

For non-Christians and those who are not religious, Easter can still be celebrated for its more pagan, ancient meaning. It is believed that the early church did its usual trick of poaching existing pagan celebrations to make this new religion more palatable to the masses. Easter probably derives from the worship of the pagan goddess Eostre. This lady was all about Spring, rebirth, renewal and fertility – where did you think all the bunnies and eggs came from – so that’s why she is venerated at this time of year.

It’s a neat theory, and one that makes sense and that I like. In the Western hemisphere this time of year is all about survival and rebuilding. In ancient times Winter was a very dangerous affair, it was cold, and the nights were long and dark, food was scarce and the sheer act of staying warm took incredible amounts of energy and time. To have emerged alive on the other side into Spring would have been a massive accomplishment, one worthy of giving thanks for.

Anyone else see the parallels with today’s situation? We are going through a long, tough and dark time, hopefully, the first small shoots of recovery are there though. We just need to hang on a little longer, stay strong and give thanks that it wasn’t worse than it was. Yes, the death rates are scary and heart-breaking, but, compared to previous pandemics (anyone doesn’t believe me, look up the numbers for the 1919 Spanish Flu outbreak) we got off lightly.

Also, there are some silver linings. People are learning a new appreciation of the small things in life, and perhaps are realising that at the end of the day what matters are your family and having shelter, food and drink, and that’s basically it. We have also gained a massive appreciation for all those amazing people working in the medical field and all other essential areas. The NHS, in particular, heard the call and answered wholeheartedly. When this is all over, they should and must receive pay rises to reflect their status in our society. After all, during the crisis, who you gonna call? Your accountant? Your banker? No, a doctor or a nurse. So, let’s stop paying them pittances and afford them the respect they truly deserve.

Also, nature is taking a long, deep breath and is attempting to renew itself without the ever-constant presence of us polluting the air, land and sea. Anyone else feel it’s almost as if the Earth threw its hands up in despair and said – “right, I will bloody make you all stop for a while”. Small things maybe, but hopefully enough to make us take a long hard look at our lives, the way we live them and the impact we are having on the planet.

Anyway, that all went a little preachy there didn’t it, the Gospel according to Julia, sorry, totally didn’t mean to go down that avenue, but then this blog is simply an outpouring of me onto the page. No filter, no editing, no read through and no pre-planning or thinking. It’s just me, now, talking to you all on a beautiful Easter Sunday morning.

It’s now 10am and my blog is really, really late being posted, but I trust you will all understand and forgive me – all six of my regular readers.

Take care of yourself and your family.

Stay safe.

Julia Blake

4 thoughts on “Happy Easter from Julia Blake

  1. I love reading your blogs and this one is very well-written, as always! The one tiny part that hits home more than anything, through this dark time or any time, must be the poor souls who do not have basic warmth, food and shelter. Thousands don’t and the world must change for the better after this. All humans deserve and should have security.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah Julia, I’m very pleased I’m one of your 6 followers, I enjoy reading your blog in bed on a Sunday morning. Now it’s 6pm and I‘ve only just sat down after a productive day. So we were both late 🤣 lovely words this week, thank you 😊 and I do hope you’re pleased with your efforts in the kitchen. See you here next week xx

    Liked by 1 person

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