The end of February represents the end of Winter in my eyes and that is definitely a good thing. I’m desperate for some spring sunshine and very much hoping that it’s just around the corner. It’s felt like this month has gone quite quickly and I can’t quite believe that tomorrow is March. I can’t wait for the arrival of blossom and blue skies and a little bit of warmth.
Having said that, February has been good in lots of ways. We’ve had half term, I’ve done quite a lot of reading and we’ve even managed to get out and about for a few walks as a family.
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout February…
Happy Jar notes: Opening our Happy Jar is something we traditionally do on New Year’s Eve. At the end of 2020, still mid-pandemic and with the prospect of another national lockdown on the horizon, no-one really felt like it. I figured we’d do it in January…and we didn’t. Eventually, six whole weeks after the start of 2021 I gathered the girls around and told them we were going to open it – thankfully, they were keen to join in and we all settled down together. It was grey and chilly and we all needed the injection of joy and colour from the rainbow of memories we’d collected last year.
There were fewer notes than usual but they were no less meaningful. There were some wonderful memories in there, many of which we’d forgotten about: decorating our windows with rainbows as a show of support for the NHS; walks surrounded by wildflowers; family quizzes; plus pre-pandemic times when we actually saw (and hugged!) family and friends. Reading through all of the notes, each with different handwriting on, is so much more than reminiscing – it’s about reconnecting with each other too.
Queen Of Air And Darkness: I finally finished ‘Queen Of Air And Darkness’ – the epic, almost 900 page long, last book in ‘The Dark Artifices’ Shadowhunters trilogy by Cassandra Clare – during the first week of February. It ended on a real cliff-hanger so I think (and very much hope!) there is going to be another series following each of the characters on the next parts of their journeys because I need to know what happens to them all.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire mini-series: it’s packed with adventures and action; I grew very fond of many of the characters as they developed throughout the three books; the fantasy element means it’s a fun escape from the real world; and the storyline even travelled unexpectedly to Cornwall.
I’m going to take a little break from the world of Shadowhunters now and read some of the other books I have stacked up in my ‘to be read’ pile on my bookshelf. I’ll be back though, for sure.
Where The Crawdads Sing: Delia Owens’ novel was a book that I’d heard so many good things about that I almost didn’t want to read it in case it didn’t meet my expectations. I’m so glad I ignored myself and picked it up anyway because now that I’ve read it I understand why it was so widely talked about.
I’ll admit that it took me a few chapters to get into but once I was in, I was all in and couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing in a week, stayed up late to finish it and then woke up thinking about it the next morning. I’m still thinking about it now.
It’s such a beautifully written story: the descriptions make you feel like you’re right there with the characters – it’s atmospheric, haunting and poignant all at once. The storyline is set in North Carolina in the USA and has two different timelines that gradually merge. One follows the life of a woman called Kya who lives in the marshland area on the very edge of the town. The early chapters showcase her as a child, the main body of the book takes you through her teenage and young adult years and then the final part is when she is an older woman. The other is an investigation into the death of a local man. The ending took me completely by surprise.
It’s hard to describe what ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ is about because really, it’s about everything: meaningful relationships and the ripple effects of love, friendship and family; human nature mimicking actual nature; the complexities of the human heart; and the delicate balance between love and fear, wild and caged, loneliness and connection. The observations in it are so accurate – even though Kya’s world is so far removed from my own life I often felt like the author had reached in and pulled the words and feelings from my own heart.
It’s a story that’s going to stay with me for a very long time and I already have a feeling that it’s going to be one of my favourite books of the year. I recently found out that it’s going to be turned into a movie too and I’m already excited about it – if it’s done well it’s going to be visually stunning and one of those films that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Enola Holmes: Ella and Mimi watched ‘Enola Holmes’ – a Sherlock Holmes spin-off film on Netflix where the main character is Sherlock’s younger sister – and loved it so much that they insisted Neil and I watched it too. I actually really enjoyed it, it was funny, intriguing and entertaining. Well worth a watch if you get the chance.
The Masked Singer: We randomly started watching this halfway through the series and ended up getting completely hooked! Again, it’s light-hearted and easy-to-watch – exactly what we’d been needing I think. We managed to work out who two of the celebrity singers were but the rest had us baffled! I’m pretty sure we’ll be tuning in next year when it’s on again. Lola loved it too – she kept sneaking in to snuggle on the sofa with us while it was on and in the end we gave in and let her stay up late to watch it with us each week. I hope that’s the kind of happy memories she has of her childhood when she’s older.
Snowpiercer: We saw the second series of this advertised on Netflix and it looked really good so we started from the beginning of series one and ended up watching two episodes a night until we’d finished it. It was brilliant! A little bit gory and violent for my taste but the good parts about it won me over. The cinematography and acting was fantastic, the storyline was dramatically exciting and deeply thought-provoking, and the whole concept of it had me fascinated. I’m already looking forward to starting season two.
Boris Johnson’s announcement: I think the whole of England held it’s breath on 22nd February, waiting for Boris Johnson’s announcement on the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ with a mix of hopeful anticipation and nervous trepidation.
Hearing that schools would be re-opening in March was definitely a good thing because as much as I love having my girls home, they need to go back. They need to be with their friends, to sit in an actual classroom being taught face to face by their wonderful teachers, to see people outside of our house, to regain a bit of independence. The twice weekly covid testing plan and it being mandatory to wear masks all day did not go down well but we’ll tackle that when we come to it.
Whether the dates for each of the stages that have been set out will actually happen or not remains to be seen – after all, previous plans and promises (ie: Christmas) were not met. I very much hope it does all go smoothly though and that by the summer we’ll be allowed to hug our family and have them in our house, be able to travel beyond our little town (maybe even internationally) and that life will be looking a little bit more positive. I have to admit I have my reservations though and will continue to be cautious for a long time afterwards I think. It’s going to take a while to readjust out of this new normal we’ve got accustomed to over the last year.
Atlanta vlog: Almost a whole year after making the long journey to Atlanta in Georgia (USA) for ClickAway Photography Conference in March 2020, I managed to make the space during February half term to put together this vlog of my time there. It was so surreal watching the clips back as I was editing it all – my trip was right before the pandemic really took hold and the whole world went into lockdown. Seeing crowds of people, no-one wearing masks, hugs (remember those?!) and being able to travel seems like a whole lifetime ago now.
I had a fantastic time in Atlanta – I loved exploring the city, spending time with friends, meeting new people and learning lots about photography. I’m already looking forward to hopefully heading to Chicago next year for ClickAway 2022!
Hospital gown: I’ve been feeling a bit unwell for several weeks now – getting breathless, aches in my chest and generally feeling exhausted. I got a Covid test to rule out the possibility that it was coronavirus (which thankfully came back as negative) then phoned my GP. After explaining all of my symptoms to him and him being able to hear me struggling on the phone, he sent me straight to A&E for a whole barrage of other tests: an ECG, oxygen saturation levels, a full set of blood tests and a chest x-ray. Everything came back clear so hopefully that means there is nothing scary going on in my body, and I’ve been referred on for further tests – fingers crossed I’ll get some answers there.
Of course I don’t love that I had to wear a hospital gown but I do love that I was looked after so well and that all the doctors and nurses who cared for me were so kind and lovely. The NHS really is an incredible thing and I’m so grateful to everyone who works within it, from the cleaners and the porters all the way up to the consultants.
Dad: I find February quite a hard month – it’s the anniversary of my Dad’s death (6 years ago this year), his funeral and his birthday all one after the other. He would have been 70 years old this month and if he was still here with us there would have been a huge party. He loved parties and I’m pretty sure that even though we’re still in the midst of a pandemic he would have made it happen somehow. I felt I needed to mark the occasion in some way so I bought a little cake (realising whilst I was in the supermarket that I didn’t actually know what his favourite cake was – I got a Victoria Sponge but it turns out it was Chocolate Fudge cake), some candles and his favourite flowers. I know it probably seems a little silly but spending those few minutes thinking about him as the candles burned really helped.
Half term: February half term was predictably quiet. It was good for the girls to have a break from their schoolwork and I managed to have a couple of days off from my work too which I was grateful for. We didn’t do much – we started a jigsaw (still working on it!) and we decorated the lounge doors with hearts for Valentine’s Day. I think I might keep them there all year because just looking at them makes me feel happy.
Fresh Air: There have been a few days of glorious sunshine in between the rain showers and it’s been so lovely – everyone’s spirits have lifted and I’ve even managed to get everyone out of the house for a few walks this month! We’ve done a couple of old favourites (Stafford Castle, the Stepping Stones and Shugborough – our local National Trust place) as well as a new walk we found at Brocton.
Plus, Neil has now had his first dose of the Covid vaccine, I’ve invested in a new camera (a Nikon Z6 full frame mirrorless, which is VERY exciting and I love it!) and I have a couple of personal projects in the pipeline that I’ll be working on in the upcoming months too.
The approach of Spring and the lighter mornings and evenings are making everything feel a little bit more optimistic. We have no plans for March beyond getting the girls settled back into the routine of being back at school – it’s just another month to get through before restrictions begin to lift. As always though we’ll do our best to notice the magic in the everyday and to make memories of this odd time in history.
Chapter two of 2021 is now closed and I’m doing my best to look forwards to all the good things that there are to come. I hope that February was kind to you all and that March is full of good things.
Stay well x
Joining in with Sincerely Anna and #LittleLoves)