October felt like it sped by fairly quickly. Usually this autumn school term drags and seems to take forever to get through and yet time seems to be following a completely different set of rules this year. I found myself surprised to be putting the clocks back an hour on the oven and in my car last weekend, surprised to be switching on the heating for the first time, and surprised to realise that we’re really not all that far away from celebrating the plethora of winter birthdays scattered through our family.
We are firmly back in the rhythm and routine of work and school, although we are yet to manage a whole week of all three girls having full attendance – there has been one of them at home at some point every single week so far for one reason or another!
It’s been a month of yet more uncertainty and questions and rule changes: 10pm pub curfews affecting the husband’s working patterns; the introduction of the three tiers of restrictions across England; wondering if there will be a ‘circuit breaker’ mini-lockdown over half term (or even a full lockdown again); not knowing whether to make plans for Christmas or not…
Truthfully I’m almost resigned to living with the ‘not knowing’ now – it’s not something that any of us can control and so we’re just getting on with our lives as best we can day to day and finding joy and gratitude in the small things. Autumn has been showing off it’s pretty colours and it’s actually been pretty mild for this time of year. Being lucky enough to escape for a (very rainy) week by the sea. Plus we’re all healthy, the girls are happy being back at school with their friends, and Neil and I both still have a source of income for now.
“I’m so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers” ~ L. M. Montgomery (Anne Of Green Gables)
Here are all the little things I’ve been loving lately throughout October…
The Midnight Library: by Matt Haig. Confession… I haven’t actually read any of his other books yet, though we have several of them in the house: ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’; ‘Notes On A Nervous Planet’; plus numerous of his books for children – ‘Evie And The Animals’, ‘The Truth Pixie’, and the ‘A Boy Called Christmas’ trilogy. I do follow him on social media though and find him to be interesting, insightful, funny and refreshingly honest. He mentioned last year that he’d had an idea for a new story to write – ‘The Midnight Library’ – and I instantly knew that I wanted to read it. I’ve been looking forward to it being published ever since.
I decided that I didn’t want to wait even longer for the paperback version to be released, so I treated myself to a hardback copy using my Waterstone’s points and dived right in. I finished it in less than a week which, considering how ridiculously busy I’ve been with work recently, is really saying something. I couldn’t put it down and found myself reading it whenever I could, including as I was waiting in the car for the girls after school, whilst I was stirring steaming pots on the hob for dinner, and curled up on the sofa in the darkening evenings.
‘The Midnight Library’ is heart-warming, thought-provoking, life-affirming, creative and powerful. It certainly made me reflect on my life in an alternative way, which is exactly what it’s designed to do. All of the regrets and ‘could-have-beens’ and missed opportunities and wrong choices that actually ended up being powerful lessons, re-directions towards better things, right choices and blessings. There were many parallels to my own life and I came away from the book feeling warm and grateful, with fresh eyes for the life that I’m lucky enough to be living. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few weeks since I finished it – it’s really stayed with me. I’ve struggled with mental health over the years (as many of us have) and Matt Haig writes about it so eloquently and openly. It’s definitely one of my favourite books from this year.
Click Magazine: Two magazines this month (the July/August and September/October editions) as I didn’t find time to read the summer copy until now. I wanted to savour them as they’re the last ones I’ll be receiving – I’ve decided to cancel my subscription to help us save pennies and budget better given the current financial state of the world.
There were so many great articles and creative images in both of them, though the piece that stood out to me most by far was Sarah Krieg’s contribution on filmmaking. Reading her words and picking up on her passion made me realise how sad I feel to have not captured a video like I usually do during our week in Cornwall back in July and it reignited a spark within me to document things in different ways. Her article helped me realise just how important it is to be intentional with the shots you capture – it’s so much more than just picking up the camera and pressing the red ‘record’ button. All of the in-between shots tell as much of the story as the main action shots do, and the transitions are just as key. I’m already planning little mini-films that I want to make of all the things I want to remember, so keep an eye on my Youtube channel (hit the subscribe button!) for hopefully a few more videos coming soon(ish).
Lady Midnight: After a few months break I decided to dive back into the world of the Shadowhunters and continue with the next trilogy – ‘The Dark Artifices’. This mini-series is set in modern day Los Angeles (after the previous two series ‘The Mortal Instruments’ and ‘The Infernal Devices’ were set five years previously in New York and Victorian London respectively). I felt like I needed an escape from the real world and it’s comforting to be transported to a place that is both familiar and unknown. They’re big, chunky books so they’re going to keep me going for a while! So far ‘Lady Midnight’ is keeping me guessing and I’m intrigued by all the new characters that are being introduced.
Changing colours: I love autumn for the crisp, cold mornings; the low, golden light; and the dark, cosy evenings. My most favourite thing of all though is watching the landscape shift from it’s varying shades of green to a dazzling kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and golds. The transformation starts gradually, slowly and tauntingly building to a crescendo of colour until it’s completely transformed. And then just as suddenly it’s over, the leaves dancing in the wind as they scatter from the trees and are lost to the season. It captivates me every single year. Nature is so awesome.
New music: I recently discovered Australian duo ‘Hollow Coves’ through the Instagram stories music option. I looked them up on Spotify and really love their easy-to-listen to indie/folk music vibe. I haven’t heard all of their songs yet (I’m gradually working my way through them) but I do already have a few definite favourites: ‘Into The Woods’; ‘The Open Road’; and this one – ‘Coastline’ – are a few examples. I find it to be good music to listen to whilst I’m editing photos.
High school application: We made Lola’s application for high school a couple of weeks before the end of October deadline. I still can’t believe my littlest baby finishes primary school in less than a year! It’s the third time we’ve been through this process now and although it was different this time around because of Covid-19 (no open evenings or opportunities to meet the teachers in person, only virtual tours and website FAQ pages), it’s still hard to judge whether we’ve made the right choice with the order we put down for our preferred schools. I hope we have. Now we have a nerve-wracking four months to wait until we find out whether she’s got into the same school as her two big sisters and we’re keeping everything crossed that she has.
Southampton vlog: After spending the weekend in Southampton last month to visit both Sophie (at uni) and my best friend (who lives there) I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t ever made a vlog from the time we were there last year in September 2019!
I thoroughly enjoyed putting this together – making vlogs is hard work but it was so lovely looking back on our time staying with my friend and reminiscing about the happy memories we made in the late summer sunshine. So very different to what things have been like this year. We packed so much into one weekend: An afternoon at the Lower Test Nature Reserve picking blackberries, discovering fairy doors and laughing at the dogs swimming in the river; trying out inflatable kayaking in Eling Harbour; crabbing; playing in the garden; exploring their local park; chilling in the hammock chair; feeding chickens; eating pizza and talking late into the evening. It really was a wonderful weekend.
New shoes: Well, they’re actually very old shoes that I bought years ago but I found them at the back of my wardrobe (with the labels still on!) whilst I was having a clear-out and I’ve been wearing them ever since. They’re just simple black and white converse-style sneakers but they’ve been perfect for the occasional dry days in between the deluges of rain. The girls said that they didn’t recognise me when I was wearing them (I’m usually in ballet pumps or ankle boots) – apparently I looked “cool”. At 37 years old, I’ll take that!
Trip to Essex: At the start of the month I had an overnight flying visit to a tiny village in Essex to visit my stepmum. She’s classed as vulnerable because of various health issues and I wanted to make sure I got to see her before another potential lockdown because I’d left it far too long without visiting.
It was actually really lovely to spend time with her, although quite emotional at times because of so many memories associated with my Dad (who passed away very suddenly five years ago). We restocked her cupboards and freezer and I helped out with a few bits and bobs around the house. It was my first time on a train, staying in a hotel and travelling solo since March, which felt a little odd and quite exhilarating at the same time. I really miss travelling. It was fine overall – I was really careful and felt safe with regards to all the coronavirus rules – and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around and exploring parts of the village that I’d not been to before.
Woodland walks: The following weekend the husband went back down to Southampton to see Sophie again at uni (we’ve promised her that we’ll try and visit every month, Covid rules permitting of course). While he was gone the girls and I made the most of a dry, sunny day and headed out for a Sunday walk on one of our favourite trails through Cannock Chase. Getting out into nature – the dappled light filtering softly down through the trees, the sounds of the birds, and some fresh air – really does make such a difference to my mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
Home-schooling (again): We found ourselves home-schooling again for part of the month. One of Ella’s good friends at school tested positive for Covid, so her half of the whole school year (about 120 pupils in total) had to self isolate for ten days and she wasn’t allowed to leave the house at all. She did amazingly well – I’d have been climbing the walls after just half a day I think! I’m very proud of her.
The home-schooling (well, distance learning is probably a more accurate description as I wasn’t actually having to teach anything this time) was a much better experience than when schools were closed earlier in the year. I guess they’d been able to prepare for this situation happening so the response was really fast and she definitely hasn’t missed out on anything at all. All of her lessons were live with her teachers, she could interact with them and her classmates virtually and it was a much smoother, more authentic way of learning for her. Plus it was quite nice having some company at home too!
Autumn in Cornwall: We are so grateful to have been able to squeeze in a week in our happy place for October half term. There was a last minute cancellation at The Beach Haven because of the rule of 6 and tiered restrictions, so we snapped up the opportunity to visit Cornwall during the Autumn for the first time ever. We wanted it to be a surprise so we kept it secret from the girls until the day before we went. The joy and excitement on their faces when we finally told them was 100% worth sneaking around trying to pack without them noticing!
It rained every single day we were there but we didn’t let it stop us. Neil, Mimi and Lola went in the sea anyway; we dodged the downpours as best as we could and took advantage of the few-and-far-between dry moments; we spent an afternoon in Padstow; we went bowling; played in the sand dunes at Summerleaze, and we also spent a lot of time at The Beach Haven playing board games and reading, surrounded by soggy clothes draped over the radiators! It was wonderful and exactly the change of scenery that we’d all been needing.
It’s definitely felt like a different kind of October. We didn’t do anything remotely ‘halloweeny’ this year whereas normally we’d be visiting a pumpkin patch; exploring the Trentham Gardens Halloween Trail; carving complicated designs into pumpkins and baking spooky cupcakes but there has been none of that this year. Partly because we were away in Cornwall for half term of course but also partly because we just didn’t feel like it. Perhaps I’m saving up all the fun and celebrations for all the upcoming birthdays instead? It didn’t matter though – we still had fun and made memories together and that’s the most important thing.
Chapter ten of 2020 has now drawn to a close and it’s less than two months until Christmas. No-one has any idea what that’s going to look like yet so although we’re hopeful that we’ll be allowed to see family, we’re mostly just taking each day and week at a time at the moment.
I hope that you have had a positive October and that you find lots of little things to love throughout November as we all navigate whatever is yet to come.
Keep looking for the joy in the ordinary and stay well x
(Joining in with Sincerely, Anna and #littleloves)