November 2020 has been a month of naked trees, drizzly rain and lockdown 2.0. Normally I find that November, the cusp between late autumn and early winter, drags on and on and on. This year has been quite the opposite – I feel like I’ve barely been able to catch my breath in between doing my best to balance working, self-isolating children, family stuff, general life admin and Christmas preparation. My head has been so full that I even completely forgot to have our traditional Bonfire Night sparklers in the garden.
I honestly don’t know where these last four weeks have gone and can’t believe that it was a whole month ago that we were in Cornwall for half term. Still, despite the time passing by at warp-speed there have been lots of moments that have made me smile.
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout November…
Lady Midnight: I’ve been so ridiculously busy with my therapy work this month that I’ve been exhausted by the time the evening rolls round and simply haven’t had the headspace to concentrate on reading very much most days. As a result I’m still working my way through ‘Lady Midnight’, the first book in the Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare which I started at the end of October. It’s a big book! I’ve been making an effort to switch off my laptop to read instead of answering emails after dinner some nights and I’ve nearly finished it now, just a few chapters to go…
Strictly: I don’t generally watch very much TV at all but the one exception I look forward to every single year is the return of Strictly Come Dancing. It fills me with so much joy! I get emotional at some point during each episode without fail and genuinely can’t explain why – there’s something about it that just gets to me. I’d give anything to be able to dance like that, to tell a story through movement, to have that much fun.
It’s been a good group of contestants this year too. I love Bill Bailey, although I think HRVY is going to win – and he absolutely deserves it.
2020 seems to have introduced a new little family tradition to the mix as well. Lola has started snuggling up on the sofa and watching it with us and, even though it means she stays up past her bedtime, I kind of love it! It’s how I pictured Saturday nights when I imagined having a family – all of us cosied up on the sofa together watching a show that we all love. Now we just need to find something that everyone likes!
His Dark Materials: I loved Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy of books when I read them in my late teens. As a result I was understandably nervous about the TV adaptation of the first book (‘Northern Lights’) that aired this time last year – would it do the story justice? We didn’t get around to watching it until this summer and I’m pleased to report that it was absolutely brilliant.
I’ve been looking forward to Season 2 (which tracks the second book – ‘The Subtle Knife’) ever since. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long and I’ve been mesmerised by every single episode so far. The cinematography is beautiful, the CGI is flawless and the lighting & composition within each scene is utterly breath-taking.
Watching it has made me want to read the books all over again. I’ll need to soon anyway as I’ve asked for ‘The Secret Commonwealth’ (which is set after the trilogy, ten years on) for Christmas and need to remind myself of the full storyline before I dive into it.
Wise words: When I attended ClickAway Photography Conference in Atlanta earlier this year (just before the first lockdown happened – I’m still so incredibly grateful that I was able to go!), I attended a class hosted by Yan Palmer that changed me in ways I still can’t explain. It’s difficult to describe Yan. You can’t put her in a box or label her in any way. She’s a creative soul, an artist and, quite simply, pure magic right the way down to her bones.
When she announced that she had co-created a six-session-course all about “marketing with heart and soul”, called ‘Peep Show: Naked Marketing For Artists‘, I knew it would be worth signing up to take part.
I learned a lot; absorbed as many of the wise words she and her teaching partner shared as I could; took copious pages of notes; and actually feel fired up and excited and energised about different aspects of my work for the first time in a long time.
Yummy treats: The girls love baking and each requested to make something at the weekends when we’ve not been able to go out because of lockdown and isolating. Ella was first up and opted to make her signature Chocolate Cupcakes. She did the everything completely by herself and they turned out really well – so well, in fact, that they got devoured before I had the chance to take a photo!
Lola was next in line and chose to make Double Chocolate Brownies. She needed a bit of help but did most of it on her own and she was so proud when they looked and tasted delicious.
Mimi couldn’t decide what to make so we’re saving hers to do in December instead – she’s thinking about Red Velvet cake (something we’ve never made before) so wish me luck that whatever recipe we find actually works!
Christmas decorations: We also made the house all festive by putting the Christmas decorations up two weeks early. We usually wait until after Ella’s birthday at the start of December but the girls were positively insistent about it and I figured that if any year needs a bit more magic and sparkle, it’s this year. I love seeing the twinkly lights – there’s something about them that makes me feel all cosy and contented.
It’s going to be a different kind of Christmas for everyone this year with all the restrictions around who we can and can’t see so we’ve made some very tentative plans whilst knowing that they could all change in an instant.
Winter uniform: Late November = my standard winter mum uniform of jeans, jumpers and boots!
Furlough: A month-long lockdown means that the pubs are closed once more and Neil is furloughed again. It’s so lovely having him home full time and I know the girls are loving the extra time they’re getting to spend with him too. It’s been such an extraordinary year in so many ways – I really hope they remember all of the good things that have come out of it. Honestly, I’m kind of hoping (selfishly, I know) that once lockdown is over we end up staying in Tier 3 and the pubs remain shut until January – we’ve never had him home for the whole of the Christmas holidays before as it’s normally his busiest time of year.
Self isolating: All three girls have been self isolating at some point this month. Ella at the start of November for the second time, Mimi at the end of the month and Lola for a couple of days in the middle whilst her school got deep cleaned after several positive cases were reported amongst teachers and pupils (none in her class bubble though).
Part of me sometimes wonders whether it’s worth sending them to school at all. The online learning is so much better during this second lockdown than it was when Covid-19 first emerged – the schools and teachers have done such an incredible job of putting measures in place to make sure our children still get the best education they can given the circumstances. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of preparation, planning, thought and care that has gone into it all. Keeping children motivated and excited to learn is not easy at the best of times and yet teachers are showing up every single day and making it happen.
On the flip-side, the girls get so much benefit from being able to see and play with and talk to their friends in person when they are able to be at school. They need that social interaction, the stimulation of being in a different environment, the increased independence and time away from their Dad and I. So we keep on sending them despite knowing that we could get a call any minute instructing us to pick them up. It feels like the right thing to do.
The girls seem to have mixed opinions – they’re quite happy at home and they equally enjoy being at school. Perhaps the future will see us having a blend of time at school and distance learning at home…who knows?
Either way, I love having the girls at home. We’re never going to get this dedicated time with them back again in the same way so I’m doing my very best to soak it up as much as I can.
Sophie’s birthday: Sophie turned nineteen in the middle of lockdown. It felt difficult not being able to see her or celebrate with her in person, and we all miss her terribly. We made as much of a fuss of her as we could via video call (so grateful for technology that enables us to do this!) and are hoping that we’ll be able to see her for at least a couple of days during the Christmas holidays.
Now there is just one more chapter of 2020 left to go and that feels so surreal. This time next month Christmas will already be over and we’ll be looking ahead to a brand new year. For now though I’m trying to focus on taking each day as it comes because really, that’s all we can do. If 2020 has taught me anything it’s to stay connected to the people and moments that really matter.
I hope that you have had a positive November and that you find lots of little things to love throughout December.
Keep looking for the joy in the ordinary and stay well x
(Joining in with Sincerely, Anna and #littleloves)