Category Archives: Blog

Mum and daughter blog: Living the lockdown together

Mum Blog: Living the lockdown with my teenage daughter!

When I look back to Christmas, our thoughts and plans for the future, it feels like we are living in some weird dystopian novel.  Increasingly worried about the environment, I had started following Extinction Rebellion’s activities in the news and signed up for a local tree planting initiative.  Most of the time spent with my daughter was in driving practice, ferrying her to her local job at a pub or a friends’ party.  Week nights she was shuttered away in her bedroom studying.

By late January, it was clear the virus could become a pandemic.  An avid follower of national news: radio 4 usually switched on in the car and kitchen, Sunday papers bought each week.  Also my job working in a communications role for a membership association for day nurseries, meant I was focused every day on the implications for business.

Things are about to change…

The office telephone was now ringing continually as members sought advice on how to deal with their staff, children and parents travelling to or returning from Europe at half term.  It had now entered my daughter’s consciousness that the coronavirus might just pose a threat to her recently booked trip to Europe – the budget flight to Milan has already been booked and paid for. As a mother I defaulted into instant reassurance.  “I’m sure it will be all over in Italy by June!” I replied when questioned. How wrong could I be! 

My daughter started to take the coronavirus seriously when she started with a temperature.  We kept her off school for several days – just in case she had caught COVID-19.  We listened carefully for the dry cough that is a recognized symptom of the virus and provided tea, throat sweets and reassurance that this was merely a typical English winter flu virus. 

Lockdown arrives

The week running up to lockdown was chaotic.  While I juggled trying to work from home, communicating with my team by WhatsApp and staying positive, my daughter heard her upcoming school trip to Paris is cancelled and attended a final assembly at school.  Tears and hugs with friends and teachers followed – despite Government advice on social distancing, as she realized her school days are over and she will not be taking exams!   Emotions run high.  A planned 18th birthday party for a friend goes ahead and we make the difficult decision to allow her to attend – though with strict warnings about alcohol and hugging!

With my job furloughed one week after lockdown, our comfortable existence was turned upside down.  My daughter had to deal with many disappointments from the stream of cancellations. Paris, driving test, A Level exams. Meanwhile a prolonged “holiday” at home stared back at me as I logged disconsolately on to my computer on the first morning – not sure what to do with my day with no emails to check or deadlines to meet!

Time to fill…

But a vacuum has to be filled!  As if to somehow compensate furloughed workers and school children we enjoy days of relentless sunshine and spend time relaxing in the garden and taking family walks.

I am a creature of habit.  Determined not to fritter away my time, I still set my alarm clock for 7am each weekday.  By 8.30am I am at my computer: taking advantage of some of the excellent free online courses available right now and helping my self-employed husband with one of his charity clients.  Afternoons are spent gardening, reading and following Boris’s advice on exercise. 

My daughter meanwhile stays in bed until mid-morning – though I wake her at 8.30am with a mug of tea, books are read and French videos on YouTube French are watched before she emerges – blinking in the daylight. She spends a lot of time on social media and Zoom and keeps mostly to her bedroom.  When it grows hot she emerges to sunbathe like a tulip opening in the spring.  But I can’t complain.  She has applied to study English Literature at university – so reading D.H. Lawrence, Shakespeare and George Orwell is not time wasted.   She runs, cycles and does some yoga too.  I can’t begrudge her this time – though I worry about the future for her and for us all……………

My reflections on life in lockdown

So while I do not want to trivialize the impact of the coronavirus on lives, the lockdown has brought me benefits, one of them being time.  Oodles of time available for thinking and re-building relationships and getting to know myself again. 

My husband Phil has the ability to switch off from work and family issues, settle down with a book or TV programme and relax.  He is better able to live in the moment than me.  But I have been re-learning this vital skill – and in doing so, discovering the joy of relaxing in a comfortable chair, with a good book, a homemade cake and a cup of Lady Grey tea!

Spending time with my family has been unexpectedly beneficial.  We have talked more, enjoyed more mealtimes together, played cards and scrabble and watched TV programmes together – able to chat and banter without the pressure of frayed tempers, limited time and conflicting priorities.

I have also picked up some long forgotten skills.  I set myself a project to sew a fabric facemask, in case a borrowed sewing machine, in case they are made compulsory and have now produced five.  Meanwhile she has encouraged me to pick up my French language knowledge – which had laid dormant since my teenage years; watching videos and encouraging me to try some rather stilted French conversation with her.

And now after six weeks at home, I am anxious about the rhythm of my daily life returning to its pre-lockdown beat!

Daughter Blog: Living the lockdown with parents over 50!

The coronavirus first floated into my consciousness in its early stages, as it did for many. I treated it with little concern, ploughing on with my life and thinking back to similar circumstances in the past that had never affected me personally. I had more to worry about anyway: A Levels, school drama – things that have paled into insignificance now.

So to bring things up to date, the corona virus has cancelled or postponed my A levels, my social life and consequently any motivation to leave my bed. Perhaps what I find so strange about this is how young I feel. When I was 7 or 8 I would spend the whole summer holiday like this, wandering about, finding things to do. There was no end goal, I lived in the moment and this is hard to return to.

At eighteen I want to travel, meet friends and gain independence. Yet I have been shuttled back to early childhood. With no siblings to annoy, it’s just me, my parents and the cat. So how am I filling this gaping void?

Time with my parents

Mornings are mostly spent waking up, so I avoid my parents quite often as this is not when I am at my best. My Mum kindly finds a task for me to do and my parents work, so until lunch we have little interaction. Food has been our saviour for the duration of March and April.  A desire to eat it is something we all have in common, and all of this time means that more preparation goes into meals and we can chat over food, however little there is to say. Taking turns to cook meals and trying different recipes that are compatible with flour shortages and a smaller range of veg keep this entertaining and will certainly prepare me for university.

On most days I exercise with my parents, a run with my Mum or a take a bike ride with my Dad. On some days I am not in the mood or we go for a family walk.

Afternoons are leisurely, if the weather is nice we sit out and talk. The afternoon can drag though, so finding small tasks to do with my parents fills the time nicely. We use the sewing machine sporadically or join the legions of banana bread bakers, the more domestic the better. 

After dinner we will often watch television together with a cup of tea and pudding. We also spend some time on Zoom with family and friends. 

Time with myself

This is the important one for not going mad. Everyone needs time alone, and even though isolation can be a lonely experience, it can be suffocating to be in close proximity to the same people always. 

As a family we converge for food and tasks and diverge for relaxation and work. Yes, I have no work right now but schools are encouraging us to do some, to keep us from regressing into the Netflix-binging slobs the teachers presume we all must be. Most of this work is done in my room, which is a place I go to do things on my own: sleeping, schoolwork and listening to music. Mum has the office and Dad has the lounge.

I do sometimes exercise on my own, although it is reassuring to be with a parent if I am going further afield. I call my friends on Zoom regularly, this often makes me feel much better if I’ve had a frustrating day or feel low.

When I finally emerge from my room to help around the house, I listen to yet more music or podcasts. It is nice to have things to entertain me that are personal, that I have discovered and grown to love on my own. My parents listen to the radio and read the paper which is their version of this. 

The age gap between myself and my parents is typically bridged by food, television and our one hour of daily exercise. There are other things that tie us together: the strange adaptation taking place to this new regime, an empty calendar and an uncertain future. Although it’s nice to forget the future for a minute, enjoy being safe and healthy as a family and relax together in front of a detective series with no pressing need to do anything.

BLOG: Dandelions or daffodils – the choice is yours!

Forum Chair Malcolm Kielty compares the challenge of beating the coronavirus with a gardener’s travails with weeding out the humble dandelion.

Some folk just don’t get it do they?  Keep consistent with social isolation and we can beat this pandemic, and keep thousands of people alive!

Just like the gardener’s travails with the humble dandelion?

It’s the end of April and dandelions are bursting out all over the place: bright yellow, hard to ignore and arguably as a classified  ‘weed’ they are just a flower in the wrong place?  But they compete for space against our spring flowers: bluebells, forget-me-not and the beloved daffodil.

Attractive at first, but In a week or so the dandelion turns into the demon which is a ball of seeds wafting in the wind.  Even a light breeze or a puff of air from one of us blowing clocks for some doting grandchild allows millions of seeds to spread.  Millions more dandelions will be with us next spring, and so on ……….

So what can we do?  Deadhead them NOW, ensure our spring flowers can flourish for us all to enjoy again next year and stop this dande-pandemic!

And stop the coronavirus too.  JUST STAY IN DOORS,SAVE LIVES and stop this virus spreading out of control.

Now, where is my half full beer glass??

BLOG: Surviving the enforced lockdown!

Read our latest blog from Forum trustee Michael Riley on how he is dealing with the enforced lockdown!

13 April 2020

So as one of a group of people which it appears will be locked down for 12 weeks, and this is only week three – here is what have I been doing with myself to pass the time.

Well at the start of lockdown I spent two weeks trying to add myself to someone’ s delivery for groceries!   We have two daughters and of course they were keen to try and get everything we are short of, but they have families of their own and it was all getting a little too complicated.

So I tried all the usual suspects myself: Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Aldi but none of them was really geared up in the early part of the lockdown to deliver to me at home. Eventually we signed up with Sainsbury’s and now have a grocery delivery coming on Friday.  So one problem sorted  (we hope)!

Then I decided I would paint those bits of our house which had started showing their age. Unfortunately when I inspected our internal white paint, most of it seemed to have “yellowed” somewhat with the passage of time!

I picked up my paintbrush, and having some paint in stock, I have now painted all our internal doors (both sides), the stairway balustrade and all of our window sills a brilliant white.  To be honest I am rather pleased with the results and the house looks quite marvellous inside – compared to before.

So now for the outside in week two.  A rather harder task as its mostly high up and for a 75 year old just a bit more dangerous!  I have though now painted all the external wood work I can reach from ground level!

This brings me to this week (week three of the lockdown). What else could I do?   I started by listing out all my rugby league programmes, then I repaired all the rotting wood outside and now I have tidied our garden.   So what next!!!

Time for me now . . . . I’m going to learn my guitar!!!   Is there really another ten weeks still to go?

BLOG: Why do we say such peculiar things?

Why do we say and do such peculiar things?

At a time of national crisis, when every news headline is about the coronavirus, here are some light-hearted reflections, from a reader, on the strange things we say and do.  We hope some of them make you smile.  

Share them with friends and family and we’d love you to send us your own “why’s” as well to:

Why do supermarkets make sick and infirm walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions whilst the healthy folk can buy cigarettes at the front?

Why do people order double cheeseburger, large fries and a DIET COKE!

Why do banks leave their vault doors open but chain their pens to the counter?

Why do we leave cars worth thousand of pounds in the driveway and fill the garage full of junk?

Ever wondered Why the sun bleaches your hair but darkens the skin?

Why don’t you ever see “Psychic wind lottery“?

Why is it that Doctors and Lawyers call it a “Practice”?

Why Lemon juice is made with ‘artificial flavourings’, whilst washing up liquid is made 2with fresh Lemons”?

Why is the time of the day with slowest movement of traffic called ‘ rush hour’?

Why is a company that invests money called a ‘ Broker’?

Why isn’t there a ‘ mouse ‘flavoured cat food’?

Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for a lethal injection?

Why don’t sheep shrink when they get really soaked through?

Why don’t they make all of a plane from the same material as the indestructible black box?

Why are apartments called as they are when they are all stuck together?

Why if flying is so safe are airports called TERMINAL?

Why aren’t ‘TOUCH JUDGES’ prosecuted for sexual harassment ?


Letters to the Editor – Riding on Electric Avenue

Phil has noticed a quiet revolution that’s starting to get a hold in Calderdale!

Just a few quick thoughts on a quiet revolution that has been happening under our noses in the last couple of years.

Cycling has always been a marginal activity in Calderdale. The hilly terrain and our weather make it a pastime for the hardy and the fit.

Commuting by bike is no less challenging, again due to the hilly terrain and a road infrastructure built for cars and lorries and not for vulnerable road users.

Well, our terrain won’t change and the weather looks like becoming even less friendly at times. But there is one significant change that is making cycling a lot more accessible. The advent of the e-bike has finally tilted the odds a little more in favour of the two-wheeled warrior.

E-bikes are stunning pieces of kit. They only provide help when you are pedalling, so there’s no throttle to manage, only a surge of reassuring power when you push on the pedals. This power is more than enough to take the sting out of hills, making them no more hard work than gently riding on the flat.

So, e-bikes are ideal for the less physically fit people who still want to enjoy the pleasure of cycling. Older cyclists are turning to them in droves, so they can keep cycling with their younger friends. And, in small but significant numbers, commuters are turning to them as a practical way of getting to work.

Some of the classic cycle commuter problems are removed, not least the issue of turning up to work sweaty and unkempt from the effort of riding a hilly route. The e-bike makes such a difference to the effort levels required that you no longer need a shower when you arrive at your workplace.

And, outside work, the e-bike is a great leisure tool, with a battery range well beyond that of all but the most enthusiastic rider.

So, the tide may just be turning a little – the roads remain a challenge as does the weather, but the e-bike is winning back users who are prepared to try something new. Why not give one a try – most cycle shops now stock them and are usually happy to let you have a test ride. You can also hire them at some cycle venues.

Letters to the Editor: Mike Tunes Up For Old Age

Mike has found a new pastime and he’s enjoying it!

As we get older and then retire it becomes a problem as to what we might fill our spare time with?

I had been involved as a volunteer at our local rugby club but as I got even older and my joints even stiffer, I thought that perhaps I needed to be looking for new plans/ideas of ways I might spend my spare time.

For many years I had gone around singing to myself much to the irritation of family and friends. “You really cannot sing Mike” I had heard from them all and to be honest singing to oneself out loud might lead anyone to that conclusion. But I did enjoy “making music” and even singing carols every Christmas along with the rest of the congregation, but never too loudly! (It’s surprising at times when we all need to sing in public, say to join in the songs at a church or even a funeral, to see just how little noise a great number of people seem able to make!).

Anyway a couple of years ago I was in just such a situation, singing along to the school song Jerusalem, after my grand daughter’s prize giving, when a reasonably close relative said to me “Mike I didn’t know you could sing” ( I still don’t think I can really) but she went on to ask“Why don’t you join a choir?

And so a couple of years ago I went along to see if I could join up to sing.

I chose the Third Age Choir which practices every Monday am for an hour at St Judes. The first practice was a little worrying.  What would they think? Could I really sing a little? Might I have to do an audition? I certainly couldn’t read music nor did I fancy an audition!!!

Worries were soon put aside with no audition needed, just a quick hello, here’s your music, grab a chair

But that first hour of practice simply flew by. We had no sooner started than it was over. After that first practice I couldn’t wait until the next week to have another go. It was really fun. I didn’t think they could really hear me singing bass at the back. But I did enjoy it.

Since then we have sung at around half a dozen public events and I can even now read a little music. But more importantly I love singing out loud even though I am just one of 3 dozen voices. I am now confident enough to sing out loud at family events and my family now refrain from suggesting that I cannot sing.

Last Christmas a family member who has Parkinson’s said she too loved to sing but realised that perhaps she couldn’t. I persuaded her to go along and join the Parkinson’s choir locally and when we met over Christmas this year she said that she too really loved the practice and public performances. She said that she felt really good after each practice. And, that, like me, she was astounded, singing alongside other sufferers from Parkinsons, how quickly their hour was up and that it made her feel so much better

It was quite a while later in my case when we were practising carols for this Christmas when I plucked up courage to ask our conductor a question about the carol we were to practice. She announced it as “the Virgin Mary had a Baby boy” but on the music it was headed “Da Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy” so I asked her which we should sing.

Her response “Sing whatever you like Mike no one will hear you back there!!” So obviously I still have a way to go yet!!!!

Our signature Tune is “You’re not too old” and perhaps you too may find the same enjoyment in singing It really is easy to find a choir to sing in and you’ll make some good friends too.

Letters to the Editor – Malc’s New Tri-focal Glasses

Malcolm’s got a new pair of glasses and he’s not sure he likes what he’s seeing!

So now it’s official! I’ve got the certificate from Specsavers to prove it and the bifocals to show I that I’ve been driving impaired, and not recognising folk on the street until they are almost in my lap!!

Didn’t someone once sing “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”?  Well, we won’t mention the rain, but there is a new clarity to things post the visit to the optician’s! However, now I can see better, it’s just reinforcing a few things I’d been thinking already:

“Did you see that idiot drive through those traffic light on RED!! Again!“ Yes I did, it’s an epidemic of bad driving!

Then there’s the question of “which clown is parked half on the pavement? As a wheelchair user, I can’t get by and neither can the person with visual impairment ,or those people pushing a pram, who are now having to go into the road to get by!”

“And there’s the cyclist on the pavement, at such a pace too!!”

“And there’s the driver still sat at the wheel in a disabled parking bay. Yes he has is blue badge, but if he’s waiting for someone coming back with shopping, please find another space and don’t disadvantage a disable driver looking in vain for a space!”

So, there you have it. My new specs have the “Wow factor” – they make things so clear, not just visually, but in terms of social commentary too! does that make them trifocal (long range vision, close range vision, plus improved social awareness as well)?

Or am I just over-analysing things?

Now where’s my beer? Hmmmm slightly less than ‘half full’…………… order another half, by the look of it!