Friday, 23 October 2020

The Early Xmas Getaway

As mentioned in a previous post, today, we headed out of London and up to Yorkshire to visit family and deliver Xmas presents in case we don't get up here for Christmas.

Consequently, I've spent any spare time I had this week buying last minute Christmas presents for all family members that we normally buy for and wrapping them up ready to bring them with us, which has made it a busy week. I think I got it all done, although for one particular family member, I now realise I got it very wrong, but hey, I tried.

The journey north didn't start well, due to happening on an earlier accident which had closed the M11 causing standing traffic, just 20 minutes after setting off from London.  That set us back for almost an hour and we had to take a slightly longer route as a consequence. Luckily, I'd packed lots of snacks and a puff pastry pizza I'd made the night before, which kept us happy whilst stuck in traffic.

We stopped off for a quick toilet stop and dog walk at the services, but otherwise we were driving most of the day with Radio 4 for company.

We stopped off to visit OH's parents en route, being very social distancing/Covid conscious and then finally got to our accommodation at about 7pm (7 and a half hours later!!!) It's been a long day!

The accommodation is very spacious for just the three of us, we'll be rattling around here during this long weekend. It's not quite what I expected, but is very well equipped. I wasted no time in unpacking and making supper.

Organised as ever, I'd packed some pasta and sauce, so we could knock up a quick meal without the need for a shopping trip.  OH just picked up some bread, milk and treats at the petrol station and I had brought enough stuff from home to cover breakfast tomorrow and more. We were all grateful for that.

OH wasted no time in settling down to watch cycling on the TV, so I thought I'd catch up on a bit of blog reading and create a post to test out the Wifi, which seems to be working okay.

It feels good to be back up north. It feels like we've been cooped up in London all year, although we did get out to Suffolk for a few days in August. We're actually staying on the East Yorkshire coast on the outskirts of Bridlington this time around, which is further from family than we normally stay, but there was very little accommodation available, so we didn't have much choice.  It will be nice to go for a walk on the beach with the dog at some point though and maybe stop off in town for some fish and chips. 

We'll mostly be sticking to outdoor activities and staying away from crowds of people, as much as possible. We're thinking of a car boot sale visit on Sunday morning (if it's not too busy), a trip into Hull to visit old haunts and do a bit of thrift shopping tomorrow, plus maybe drop off a few more presents to family at some point. I've also got a jigsaw to do and a really good book to read (Naomi Klein's latest), that I started this morning, so I'm sorted.  Simple pleasures.

We're having to stay outside of peoples houses on this visit, which is very strange, but necessary to ensure everyone stays safe, due to us coming from a Tier 2 area. It doesn't help that the weather is colder up here than in London, but I'm sure we'll manage. It might be our only visit here for the rest of this year, so we intend to enjoy it and make the most of it. I'll keep you posted over the weekend, but there might not be many photos, as I've still not worked out how to upload them on my new Chromebook.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Tier Two & Last Minute Visits

Well, we headed into Tier Two restrictions last night, and will no longer be able to meet with others indoors.  This won't actually affect myself and OH in London, save that OH may not be able to do home visits for his work, but LB won't be able to go around to her friends houses from now on and as the weather is cold it's getting harder to meet outside too, so it will curb her social life significantly.

She is finding out today whether or not she will be made redundant from her part time job in a pub restaurant.  We're hoping it will go okay and she'll be kept on, but who knows.

On Thursday, we had an area Managers' meeting online at work, so all of the shop managers for our shop were in work together for once.  I brought up the subject of Christmas, as both the other managers will probably be visiting family in Europe and then quarantining.  

As a consequence, I requested the week before Christmas off on leave, as I will likely be the only one working after Christmas for a couple of weeks. The Shop Manager agreed in principle, which was good, as we have reserved accommodation to enable us to go back Yorkshire, but can cancel it for free up until the first week in December.

Anyway, when I got home, the realisation hit me that with London going up to Tier two last night, it is probably highly unlikely that we'll get to travel at Christmas at all this year. I then decided to look for some accommodation for this weekend to make a visit before travel restrictions are imposed.  It may be our last chance to visit this year.

We found a nice house for a long weekend and booked that too, and again we can cancel up to the last minute at the cost of just one night's stay, so it was worth taking the risk. I now just have to rearrange my hours this next week or book some more time off.

We're obviously not intending to go inside anyone's house, but we could stand or sit in the garden, if the weather is okay and at least be able to deliver Christmas presents in person and leave them with everyone. I haven't been back to Yorkshire at all this year, which seems crazy and I am looking forward to going.

Best case scenario, we'll deliver presents and have outdoor masked, socially distanced chats or worst case we'll deliver presents, talk through windows and spend most of our time relaxing in our rented accommodation and taking country walks with the dog. It's not ideal either way, but it's the best we can do. We can't take any risks with OH's parents and my sister who are all vulnerable, so if people don't want to see us at all that's fine. Just knowing we've made an effort is what is important to us and getting a break from London while we still can, before the long run up to Christmas.

I think I might at least be able to settle down into getting on with things and focus on work at our busiest time, without having to worry about Christmas shopping for family members, what happens next, etc. We'll have done our best and done what we can.

It might mean a bit of a last minute dash this week to finish my Christmas shopping, but it's doable as I've already bought a few things for family members. I think a big shopping day on Monday might be on the cards, followed by getting the wrapping paper out of the loft and a big wrapping session.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Getting Nowhere

I don't know what's going on with me at the moment, but I seem to be very unproductive in my spare time and getting very little done.

Partly, I think it's tiredness from cycling to work, and partly just a lack of focus on my part.

At the beginning of the month, I wrote a long list of things I wanted to try to get done this month, but very few of them have been crossed off thus far. Progress is very slow indeed.

Some things on the list won't get done, as they involve a financial outlay, which is fair enough.  Many others would cost nothing, but I just can't seem to motivate myself to do them.

I don't think it helps that the news about Covid is all over the place again at the moment. Talk daily swings from one idea to another to deal with the impending crisis.

Today, for example, there's lots of pressure for some sort of two or three week circuit breaker lockdown either in October or now they're talking about December, which would totally make sense, to coincide with the Xmas/New Year period.

Maybe I'm biased, as this is the only way I'd be getting any time off this Christmas, but also, how many people take the whole two weeks off work over the festive season anyway. Yes, the Boxing Day and January sales might have to be postponed for a couple of weeks, but is this really such a bad thing? Maybe, it would be better to know exactly what's coming and be able to plan for it.

I think we've more or less resigned ourselves to not being able to visit family this Christmas, and I know it will be difficult not to have big family gatherings, but these could all take place at a later date. It's disappointing, but who wants to risk giving their loved ones the virus this Christmas?

I'm sure the arguments are going to rumble on and on for the next two months, and we'll find out one way or another at some point.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to get my Christmas shopping done bit by bit, pick up some bits and pieces of food for the Festive period and try to work as hard as I can for the Charity I work for, so they can make as much money as possible whatever happens.

It's no wonder I can't concentrate, but I must try harder to get more done on my days off.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Weekend Catchup

I had a very pleasant weekend this weekend, mainly because it was my birthday, but also because I finally got to go to a solo dance class after 6 months of not dancing. I noticed the other day that classes had started up again - socially distanced, of course - so I booked myself on the next one, which just happened to be on my birthday. What a great present to myself, I thought, and it was. 

The venue has patio doors that open into an outside courtyard, so I made sure to position myself right next to them in the socially distanced spaces. It was also useful in case I got hot and sweaty too, of course. The class was very tricky, but got my brain thinking about dancing again, which was good. I felt a little stiff later in the evening, but it has almost worn off now. I'm not sure how many more I might get to before dance classes and gyms are closed again, but even if it was just the once, it was great. 

I also had to go and collect some items I bought on eBay on the morning of my birthday. It was a 2 hour round trip, but I was very happy with the items, which were vintage cobbler's lasts, that I am going to use as door stops. I'll post a picture on my next Random eBay Purchases post. The seller was a lovely gentleman and it was a nice drive out, so a pleasant way to spend the morning. 

I'm typing this post on my birthday present - my new Chromebook. OH ordered and collected it after our trip to the mall on Friday. It's very nice, quite easy to use, although I'm not sure I know exactly what I'm doing just yet. I don't seem to be having the problems I had on Windows with using different browsers, which makes life so much easier and the sound is much gentler too, which has the advantage of disturbing OH less in his basement office, when I'm watcing YouTube videos in the kitchen. Obviously, he's very happy about that. 

I also got some chocolate, a couple of new books that I picked myself and am looking forward to reading (one about Stoicism and the other the latest book by Naomi Klein), plus some spirits, which is my perfect kind of birthday. Part of my present from LB was a haircut, which I got when I got back from my dance class. It's maybe a little short for pinning up in pin curls, but it will grow. Otherwise it's great and so much cheaper and easier than going to the hairdresser. I might employ her on a regular basis in future and give her some money to do it. It just feels great to get rid of all the straggly ends and for it to feel light and healthy again. 

We were going to go out to eat in the evening, but as I'd been out all day for one reason or another, we decided to stay in and do something that we never do, order a take away Wagamama. As soon as it came I realised why we never order take out, so much plastic to recycle. We probably won't do it again. 

After a pretty sleepless night with a poorly dog (stomach upset), today, I'm on another day off, so I'm taking it easy. I took the dog for a nice leisurely walk this morning and then continued on to ASDA to do a top up shop. Every time I go out, which isn't often, I find it so busy everywhere. It's as if nothing has or is happening. I guess people are making the most of freedom while they have it, although I don't think we'll be fully locked down again like last time, this time around. 

This afternoon I've got at least four washloads of ironing to do, so I'd better go and do it. 

Hope you're having a Happy Monday.

Friday, 9 October 2020

As Promised

As promised here are a couple of photos of the rather large teddy bears donated to the shop.

As you can see they are both pretty huge and yes they are originally from Harrods, so also very posh bears. Hence why so special. I'm not sure who's going to buy them, but they are pretty adorable and in very good condition.

Today, it's another of my days off and OH and I have been to the local mall to look at Chromebooks, as OH has offered to buy me one for my birthday.  I've been having a few problems with my current netbook, as the windows operating system is far too cumbersome for the storage on it and makes it very slow and laborious.

As a consequence, I'm upgrading to a slightly larger machine, i.e. 14" as opposed to 11.6" and more storage, i.e. 64GB instead of 32. I'm looking forward to getting used to the slightly different keyboard and hopefully faster operating. It's not expensive, at just over £200, but to be honest there wasn't much availability in lower priced chromebooks, so I've gone with the same brand I have already.

The keyboard on my machine is also suffering from wear and tear, as I am notoriously heavy handed when typing and some buttons are starting to stick and are difficult to use, so it's probably the right time for a change, all things considered.

In addition to checking out netbooks, I also dropped into Waitrose to use another £8 off a £40 spend voucher.  This time I bought a bottle of Tattinger Champagne for LB's 18th Birthday in January and some Pink Gin, also for LB.  I picked up some chocolates for the Christmas tree too, and got a free newspaper for OH to boot. I've got one more chance to use one of the remaining vouchers on Sunday, so I think another visit might be in order, possibly for some more Christmas booze presents. I figure I might as well save money where and when I can, seems silly not to.

What started out as a bright and sunny day, has now turned into a grey and rainy one, so this afternoon will be spent in the house, drinking tea, reading John Lewis's free At Home catalogue that I picked up this morning, catching up on jobs and enjoying time away from work. Small simple pleasures are always the most enjoyable and after a couple of hours at a busy mall, I'm just happy to be at home and away from crowded places.

How's your Friday?

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Wednesday Afternoon

It's Wednesday afternoon, one of my days off, and I'm having a very lazy day today. I don't really feel inclined to do much at all. Work was very intense yesterday and I just need a day to come down from it and think about other things before I'm back there tomorrow.

It's been a lovely day weather wise, cool but lots of sunshine. As a consequence, I had a lovely walk with the dog this morning and with no time pressures.

LB has gone into college this afternoon for a couple of hours and OH is busy working in his basement office.

I've just got back from Waitrose. I had some £8 off a £40 spend vouchers, which I thought ran out at the end of the month, but then realised that they run out at the end of this week, so I'm making a few trips to the store to use them this week.  Today's was the first trip and the voucher was used for some Single Malt Whiskey for OH for Christmas, plus some chocolates for a couple of other people for Christmas. It was worth the 12 mile round trip.

On Friday, I might return and get either another bottle of whiskey for someone else, or a bottle of pink Gin for LB.  She's almost 18 (in January), so I think she's responsible enough to handle it, at least I hope so. I could keep it until she turns 18, not sure if I will.

As I'm typing this, I'm hard boiling some eggs, as I overbought them on my last shop and don't want them to go to waste. I'll happily eat them with a bit of salt or in salads/sandwiches for the rest of the week. 

Today's mail has just dropped through the letter box, so I'm going to see what's arrived.

- A double points voucher for my next two shops at Tesco

- A birthday card from my sister in Australia (it's my birthday this weekend)

- A parcel for me from eBay - very exciting - a lovely set of vintage brass nut crackers for the forthcoming festive season.  Love them. Just need some nuts now.

I'm feeling a bit pensive and reflective today. It feels strange now that the virus is picking up again, although not so much here in the south, but I'm sure it will come to us sooner or later.

I don't think I'll personally be locked down from work again, as I think that the charity I work for and the Government will want us to continue either working from the shop selling online or keeping the shop open throughout, but we'll just have to see what happens. We're now gearing up for Christmas, with all that entails. I don't really want to think too much about work and Christmas at the moment, as it's not a good thought combination.

On a lighter note, the other day, I saw a Facebook post from one of my swing dance teachers to the effect that she's started solo classes going again. I was so excited that I instantly booked myself on one on Sunday. I'm very sure that all social distance measures will be in place and the studio venue has sliding doors to the outside, so can be well ventilated.  Possibly the reason why she's the only teacher who's started up again thus far. I'm looking forward to it. It's my birthday present to myself. In some way, it's a tiny bit of normality returning, although it may not be for long, so I'm grabbing it with both hands while I can.

We watched a good film on Netflix the other night. It was called Rocks and was set in Hackney where we live. In fact, LB auditioned for a part in it when she was at secondary school, but wasn't successful. Her school friend got the main role and was brilliant in it. A sad story, but also had positives too. Made me realise how lucky we are and how you never know how much people might be struggling in their lives, beneath the surface.
We had a donation of some huge, and I mean huge, teddy bears to the shop this week.  Two of them - bigger than OH who is over 6ft tall, standing and very cuddly. I love them. They make me smile and just want to cuddle them.  I don't because of Covid, but I do talk to them and I welcomed them to the shop.

Customers keep wanting to have their photos taken with them, so they are quite the talking point. They're very special. I'll be sad when someone actually buys them, which is a rare thing for me to say about anything in the shop. I'll try to take a photo when I'm next in. Someone will need a big house or flat to accomodate them, but imagine finding one in your Christmas stocking!!

I'm thinking of getting LB to cut my hair for me. She's been cutting her own recently. I normally pay £30+ to have a wet cut at the hairdressers, but I think that LB could do a reasonable job and I don't actually wear it down much, so if it did look a bit uneven, no one would really be able to see it. Besides, I can always use the excuse of lockdown if the hairdresser mentions it when I next decide to go back. It's a no-brainer really, as I hate going to the hairdressers. I'll let you know what happens.

Anyway, I guess I'd better go and do some ironing, so that I have clothes to wear for work.

I hope you're having a lovely Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Getting Back to Normal

After two pretty tiring and stressful weeks at work whilst the Shop Manager was away, life seems to be returning to some sort of normality. I'm still a little tired after the stress of being in charge of the shop, but I am gradually sleeping it off and managing to get on with small jobs around the house that got put on hold.

The first nagging job, was to put some stuff in the loft, that had been sat on the landing for many months. I managed to buy some storage boxes from work for this purpose and once I'd transferred the contents into them, it was a quick job for OH to get on a ladder and put them out of sight.

Ideally, we don't like to store stuff in the loft, but these were boxes of Lego, Playmobil and Sylvanian Families outgrown by my daughter, which we just didn't want to part with just yet, as we've spent a lot of money on them over the years, so up in the loft they went, out of sight, out of mind.  The landing now almost looks bare in comparison, but bare is good as we're hoping to re-decorate the hallway and landings next.

The original storage boxes used to house them, I decided to re-use to tidy up another landing, namely the one outside our bedroom door, where I still store some baby items that I can't bear to part with. Yes, there's quite a lot, but I do go through them periodically and let go of more each time.

I managed to fit most of the contents of the very large box and bag into two of the storage bins and I think it now looks more streamlined than before, which is an improvement. These boxes could also be put in the loft I guess, which we may do at some point in the future.

Another job tackled was to finally get around to filling the new display cabinet in the living room.  I bought it over a month ago and the job dragged out a bit, but is now completed thankfully. There is very little left to do to the living room now, so a makeover and reveal post will be coming very soon.

My autumn/winter wardrobe changeover was also completed this last week and out came all the sweaters, scarves, coats, etc. now that the weather has taken a colder turn.  I needed to be a bit warmer when cycling in to work, so the sooner I did it the better, as it had gone past the point of my being able  to commute in just a t-shirt. It's always a bit of a squeeze to get everything into the wardrobe, as winter clothes tend to be much thicker, but I did manage to declutter a good few items that I no longer want to wear and these were taken to the clothing bank.

Finally, I've started to add lots of small things to my shopping basket when I'm out grocery shopping, towards Christmas and Christmas presents, so I feel I'm finally getting ready for the months ahead. It may be a strange Christmas this year, we're playing it by ear and not going too mad with presents for family, in case we don't manage to get to Yorkshire to visit them and have to post the presents instead.

Progress has been made. Are you ready for the change in the seasons?

Friday, 2 October 2020

Display Cabinet Makeover

A month ago now, I purchased a display cabinet on eBay. I mentioned in a previous post how I decided to make it over in order that it fitted in with the living room d├ęcor and how I wanted to use it to house my mum's china tea service.

I believe the service was a retirement gift after 30 or more years working at the same company and just a couple of years after retiring she sadly died and never even got to use it. As a consequence, I've always wanted to have it on display somewhere in the house, but have never had an appropriate place to put it. It has been sat in a box and then in the vestibule cupboard for the last 18 years, so it was now the time to get it out and find a proper home for it.

We collected the cabinet from a seaside town and brought it home and here's a picture of the cabinet as it was when I bought it:

Although I liked this distressed cream colour, I decided to paint it grey and proceeded to masking tape  up the glass so I didn't get paint on it.  It was a bit fiddly and took a while (three days in total!), but eventually it was masked and then painted and I was very happy with the result.

Here's the finished result:

The only problem left was that the cabinet didn't have any legs and so was a little short. If fact, the legs had been ripped off it, leaving unsightly gauges in the base, so once I'd found and bought some wooden Queen Anne legs on eBay (again), OH painted them, filled in the damage to the base and then attached the legs and the cabinet was properly finished off.

The legs fitted perfectly and I think they really suit the cabinet. He also added an LED strip of lights inside to illuminate the contents.

Today, I finally put my mum's china tea service in the cabinet. I thought I might get a few other things in, but it was really only big enough for the tea service and keeping it simple and unfussy felt right. 

Here's a couple of pictures of the final result:

I put the lights on to demonstrate their effect and also because it was a very rainy grey day today. I'm super happy with the transformation and I hope my mum would be pleased to see her tea service displayed so splendidly.