April A-Z: H is for Hugs

Say hello to my Mother’s Day Hug from my youngest daughter and her family!

Thankfully Mother’s day fell on the very first weekend we were allowed to meet outside in the garden (hooray!) but sadly we were still not allowed to touch or stand too close (boo…!) so they all arrived outdoors with this perfect heart shaped hug cushion as a Mother’s Day gift for me. Its arms are folded across here with its fingers entwined but it can open out to a full, love-you-this-much stretch.

My grandchildren each gave it a big open-armed hug then gave it to me and then I gave it a big open-armed hug too – it was the nearest we could get to sharing a real hug, and my lovely red hug cushion is a permanent reminder of this never-ending Covid pandemic and the loving sacrifices we’re all having to make. We’re usually a very huggy family, so for us this not-touching malarkey is a bloody nightmare.

Still, needs must… 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: D is for Distancing

One year on the signs are maybe showing their age, but no matter – we’ve definitely all got the message by now. And we may be quite comfortably used to keeping our distance with strangers now when out and about, but with those we love it still feels plain wrong to be keeping apart, especially after so long.

It hurt so much being prevented from seeing people from any other households at all for extended periods of time, but it almost hurts more now that we’re allowed to see some people in very limited numbers outdoors only, but not be able to touch, not allowed to hug, not even supposed to stand too close together. Outdoors in the North of Scotland, sometimes even in Spring, neither the temperature nor the weather are necessarily conducive to comfortable gatherings in the garden for more than about five minutes at a time. I mean, we woke to a covering of snow again this morning!

So at this time of year being apart as a family feels almost harder now than it did during the last lock-down. Yes, we’re now legally allowed to meet outside again, but in practice it’s just too damned cold for the kids for that to be a workable solution much of the time. And then even when all other things are favourable and they can come round to visit, not being able to hug someone you love who just isn’t there is one thing, but not being able to hug someone you love who is standing right in front of you so tantalisingly close is almost unbearable… ❤

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Scents and Scents-ability

I don’t ever remember either of my grandmothers wearing any kind of perfume at all. My dad’s mum was a farmer’s wife and had no opportunity for anything more fragrant than scented soap to get rid of the everyday smells of the farm from her person. And my mum’s mum was born with no sense of smell at all so the whole point of perfume was entirely lost on her.

My mum always kept her sparing use of scent strictly for special occasions, so for mum the rarity of wearing perfume went hand in glove with the rarity of wearing make-up and jewellery and fancy clothes. Her favourite perfume was L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci, a rich, strong childhood smell I associate even today with lipstick and powder and fur coats and heels – because I grew up in a time where women still wore fur to dress up.

L’Air du Temps is a ‘modern’ perfume, first introduced in 1948, with a traditional spicy/ woody/ floral scent, and although it suited mum well enough it smells awful on my skin so I never felt the desire to steal a sneaky spray or follow in her fragrance footsteps. If anything, it put me off – too over-bearing and cloying, but it was the one-and-only example I had. So I find it strange that someone who grew up with truly minimal interaction with perfume should have developed such an intense personal relationship with it in adulthood.

Fragrance fascinates me, the way the initial heady top-notes in that first sharp haze give way to the softer mid-range heart-notes that in turn surrender to the deeper base-notes, and then the final dry-down. It amazes me how fragrances can smell so different on different people – and how even the same fragrance can smell so different on first application than when it finally fully settles on the skin’s surface, blending with body temperature and body oils. And how some scents seem to cling close for hours while others evidently evaporate into thin air after only the briefest of bonding.

I just love the way perfume makes me feel good in myself, for me it’s intoxicating, a perfect mood-enhancer. Sometimes I prefer something a bit sweeter, at other times something a bit fresher. Sometimes something fun and feminine, at other times something more sensual and sexy. I find I don’t stick to one recognisable signature scent, but own several similar perfumes that I love to mix and match depending on my mood and the time of year and how formal or informal my day ahead may be. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t spritz on a little scent on my pulse points, whatever I’m doing.

Over many years’ experimentation I’ve found that as a general rule lighter florals work best for me, usually blended with cool citrus or warm fruity notes, whereas most heavier oriental woody notes just smell somehow ‘wrong’ on my skin. However it seems hitting menopause has caused a slight alteration in the way perfume reacts chemically with my skin. Some things that smelled really good on me before now smell a little… off. So I’m back to experimenting with a few new smells again in the hope that maybe I can find myself some new favourites for the future.

One thing’s for sure, the right perfume will always have the ability to soothe my senses… Ooh, it feels so good to smell good 🙂

Lock-Down Wedding

Yesterday my eldest daughter got married to her long-term partner, with none of either family in attendance but with our full blessing.

They had originally planned for a small civil wedding ceremony followed by a hotel reception for close friends and family, but as continuing current Covid 19 restrictions mean that weddings can only be attended by five people in total – the celebrant, the couple to be married, and the two witnesses required by law – and with no reception to be allowed afterwards, they were faced with a choice.

They could either postpone both aspects of their wedding – the legal marriage and the celebration, or they could continue with the legal part as planned, get married now in the local registry office and simply hold the reception at a later date once restrictions are lifted enough to allow everyone they wish to attend to be there, whenever that may be. So after much thought and deliberation they chose to get married quietly, intimately, alone.

Yesterday they both dressed up in their wedding finery and made their precious vows to each other without any distraction. Even the six children of their blended step-family were necessarily absent – the youngest stayed with me, the middle four were all at their respective schools, the eldest has already left home and is living and working away. Their mid-morning wedding ceremony was recorded on their phone so we could all watch it afterwards. They took informal photographs themselves, which they also shared with us later.

Altogether it was a beautiful day for them, with a beautiful, meaningful ceremony, and I know that when the time is finally right we will all get together to celebrate their lovely lock-down wedding with lots of hugs and an abundance of love. I asked my delighted daughter this morning – so now that it’s over did you enjoy your quieter-than-planned wedding day? ‘You know what’, she said – ‘It was absolutely perfect!’ ❤

Weekly Smile

Connecting Via the Cloud

Sometimes ordinary things just connect in the strangest way, and life makes you smile big time.

As I was closing the dining room curtains late this afternoon I saw this spectacular sunset-induced pinky-orange cloud formation sitting high in the otherwise clear blue sky. So I took a quick pic with my camera (see above), and also snapped a similar quick phone pic to send to each of my grown-up kids, just because I like to keep in touch with the everyday stuff, especially just now when we’re all necessarily so isolated from each other because of continuing Covid lock-down.

Almost immediately after the message was sent my phone beeped to let me know I’d also had a message, and amazingly it was a photo from my youngest daughter of exactly the same cloud formation taken at pretty much the same time from her son’s bedroom window about four miles away! So near and yet so far, but it felt good to know we were both looking at the same thing at the same time, especially as within five minutes the colour had gone completely and the cloud itself had evaporated into the darkening sky.

It was just one of those meaningful moments of connection that catches you by surprise – I suppose we could genuinely say we were connecting via the cloud! 🙂

Weekly Smile

What is Important

For this week’s Stream of Conscious Saturday prompt Linda wants us to open the nearest book or paper or whatever, close our eyes and point, and write about whatever word we land on. Hmmm… OK… so the nearest thing to me is a brown envelope sitting on the coffee table that arrived in the post this morning. It contains a public information leaflet from the Scottish Government and relates to the current Covid vaccination programme.

Close my eyes, open to a page and point… and the word I land on is ‘important’… OK, here goes nothing…

Covid seems to be everywhere just now. I mean, not just the virus itself of course but the dire consequences of it all, lockdowns and restrictions and facemasks and constant hand cleaning and the drastic effects on the economy and society and families and individuals and… well… just about everything. And with so many negative issues surrounding this pandemic it’s hard to look on the bright side but one thing that has become ultra-clear to me over the last year is my view on what is really important in life.

What was before a dream-like, fuzzy, amorphous idea that kept half-coming forward before being pushed to the back of my mind due to the ongoing business (and the sheer busyness) of ‘normal’ everyday life has suddenly come into sharp focus with dramatic effect. What is most important to me in life is the people I love. Knowing they are OK. Making time for them. Seeing them in person. Hugging them, holding them, touching them, and being hugged and held and touched in return.

That’s it, that’s all I have to say right now, that’s what is most important to me in life… the people I love most who love me too ❤

Traditions that Bind us Together

I’m not usually the most Christmassy of people, and although current Covid Christmas restrictions could potentially have given me the perfect excuse for simply not bothering much with any of it this year, I nevertheless found myself taking the box of decorations down from the loft earlier than usual and not only have I put up the Christmas tree but have also added a few festive ornaments and a string of sparkly lights to the mantelpiece.

With all of us here in the UK necessarily having an extremely pared-down minimally-numbered Christmas this year I felt a surprising longing, a need to create some kind of fun festive feeling around our home, as if we were still expecting a flurry of visitors at any time. We may all be physically apart this year, but we can all still share the emotion and experience of the same old family traditions that recognisably bind us together, but simply enjoy them separately, each in our own home.

We can still put up our usual decorations, over-indulge in the same kind of food we always eat, enjoy the myriad repeat TV programmes we usually watch every festive season, and remind ourselves that if nothing else Christmas 2020 has truly taught us to appreciate the value of presence over presents at this time of year. Being able to choose to be with those we love at Christmas is the best gift we could have, whether family, friends, fur-babies, or any other favourite loves.

To have that choice taken away from so many of us this year hurts, but hopefully it is a wound that for most of us will heal in time. We need to remind ourselves that losing someone to Covid lasts forever and so is a risk too far for many of us to take, especially with the promise of vaccines becoming available to all in the months to come. We are where we are in this current coronavirus crisis, but this too shall pass.

So for this week’s Weekly Smile here is a gallery of some of my favourite tree decorations bringing some much-needed Christmas cheer to my home and to my blog – hopefully the idea if not the actual baubles and trinkets themselves help bring a smile to your faces too. For me the ritual of trimming the tree feels wonderfully familiar, becomes a heart-warming task brimming with mementos and memories and magic, helping me feel close to those I hold most dear, however near or far, in this time of national sacrifice.

So here I am wishing a very Happy Christmas 2020 to all my blog friends, from my home to yours, and hoping for a better year for all of us in 2021 ❤

Excuse My Absence

Excuse my absence for the next few days, family life has inevitably intervened again.

Mum (Dad’s main carer) is back in hospital just now (another asthma attack) so my brother and I are doing our best between us to juggle the necessity of someone always staying with Dad and us both having to work. Usually emergency respite care from Social Services would kick in for Dad while Mum is in hospital but with the Covid situation that’s not an option just now. So my brother’s been staying with Dad for the last couple of days and now it’s my turn – I’m going straight out there after work tonight and probably won’t be online again until after I get back.

Take care everyone, see you soon 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Excuse

Cow Sheds and Sugar Refineries

Vacherie – is that like a sucrerie, but for vaches?

Thinking about my husband’s Cajun family hunkering down in Southern Louisiana tonight as they prepare for a sideswipe of heavy rain from Hurricane Laura as she potentially rages across the neighbouring state of Texas…

Remembering me on my last visit, driving with my father in law and seeing a road sign for a place called Vacherie and asking the immortal question ‘Vacherie… Is that like a sucrerie, but for vaches?’ He smiled, an amused look on his face, and said ‘Well yeah, I guess it kind of is…!’

My husband’s grandfather grew sugar cane on his family farm and so had a sucrerie, a small sugar refinery shed in the yard by his house, so using my basic schoolgirl French to work out the names of things I remembered sucre is sugar and vache is cow, so it followed that sucrerie and vacherie had to have some kind of link in meaning 🙂

One Liner Wednesday