A Toss Up

I found out the other day that I’ll be going back to work very soon, and I feel very much in two minds about it all. On one hand I’m delighted to be beginning the process of creating a new normal to get back to, but on the other hand… the reality of risk is rearing its ugly head along with the fear of the unknown.

Intellectually, I know that the country – the world – cannot go on forever effectively hiding from Covid 19, holed up in hope of a miracle vaccine that can make us feel safe again. At some point in time we all have to face our fears, adapting and making the necessary changes to society that allow us all to live with Covid 19 in the community rather than potentially die from it.

But emotionally I feel decidedly anxious and wary, because however much I’ve found it frustrating at times I’ve got used to feeling snug and safe in my own home and it seems crazily counter-intuitive after months of a very successful ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ campaign to now be told it’s OK, it’s safe out there too even though the virus hasn’t gone yet – basically it has to be OK because the economy is collapsing.

It’s all about finding a precarious balance, isn’t it? We balance the risk of going out into the scary world where a deadly invisible virus awaits by wearing some kind of protection from infection, and because full Hazmat suits are not practical daywear for most of us in our daily lives, we compromise and stick to wearing a simple face mask and using hand sanitiser and keeping our distance from others to keep us safe.

We have to balance the risk of catching a virus that might kill us against the risk of having no future income to live on, which in a very different way also might kill us in the end. So somewhere along the line we have to meet in the middle. It has to be done, and I know it’s almost time for me to get back out there and get on with it. And in a weird way I’m quite looking forward to it, except for when I’m not.

The department store I work in seems to have created a well-managed environment for both staff and customers to move around in, with plenty of safety measures in place to protect everyone as much as possible. So I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be feeling on my first day back, smiley and safe or frowny and fearful? Right now it feels like it could be either, and it’s going to be a toss up as to which actually wins out on the the day… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Not Around the World in Eighty Days

Today is our 80th day of lockdown here in Scotland. For the last two weeks we’ve thankfully had a slight easing of restrictions in that we’re allowed to meet another household out of doors only while maintaining social distancing, but as far as any semblance of ‘back to normal’ goes we’re still a long way off.

And to be honest, as much as I rail against being told I must still stay at home, I can’t imagine choosing to travel anywhere much right now. I muse to myself that eighty days is double quarantine, forty days times two, and I hear myself singing quietly in my head ‘Eighty days around the world, de-da-de-da-de-daaah…’

The original story of Phileas Fogg attempting to travel ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ was written by Jules Verne in the early 1870s, but I’ve got the theme tune in my head from a cartoon series my kids loved to watch back in the 1980s loosely based on the same story. In the cartoon the main characters are all animals, led by lion Willy Fog.

Anyway, the point is, I realised that I’ve not been further than about a mile’s radius from home in any direction for at least the past 80 days. I go out for walks locally, I walk alternately to three different supermarkets all close to home when necessary, and only once in that time I’ve ventured as far as across the bridge into town, to visit the chemist.

Like for so many others, my world for now has become my house and my garden. We don’t have a car, and the thought of getting onto a bus, a train, or a plane unnecessarily most definitely feels like a risk too far. I imagine that even after lockdown is lifted and I can go back to work (also locally) that one mile radius is going to remain for a while.

I’ve learned to feel safe in my own home, protected from outside harm, and the thought of travelling around the world just for fun no longer sounds such fun after all. It sounds reckless, almost – selfishly indulgent in the cautious mood of this current pandemic. After all our modern-day ease of travel is how the virus has spread so far around the world.

I wonder how much life will change after this – will we all go back to winging around the world on a whim without a backward glance, or will some of our current caution remain? Will this become a watershed moment in history, leading to an international paradigm shift in everyone’s psyche? Who knows, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Risk

Making a House a Home

Getting away from all the negativity and craziness in the world just now, Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-

What is the one thing in life you are most excited about right now? Why?

For me, I’m excited about the ongoing process of making our house into our forever home. We moved in last October, mid-way through the month, and decided to take our time taking stock of everything before making too many major changes too quickly. It all felt so strange to begin with, it was not only a move of 600 miles to a new house for us but also to a different city, a different country, and neither of us had jobs to go to. We’d both grown up in the local area, a long time ago, but hadn’t actually lived here for decades.

There is quite a bit to do long-term in the house – we need to replace all the windows, the kitchen units and the boiler and renew the loft insulation, and also do a bit of re-routing of wiring in the loft while the area is temporarily cleared of storage flooring, so decided not to start decorating anywhere until we’d completed all the messy background work first. And we’ve also left the old floor coverings in situ throughout the house – so once the bigger changes are made, and the painting and wallpapering is done, we’ll replace the carpets at that point, but until then we’ll live with what was already there. Not at all to our taste, but definitely livable with in the meantime.

We could of course have just bought a brand new property in walk-in condition, but this was the house we both fell in love with, regardless of what needs doing to it. This is where we want to create our new home, whatever it takes and however long it takes us to get there. For us, moving from a Victorian one-bedroom first floor flat conversion in London, England with no outside space at all to a 1930s three-bedroom detached bunglow in Inverness, Scotland with a mature garden front and back has been a masive change in environment for us to get used to, however welcome a change it may be.

The timing of our move in mid-October meant we missed all the warmer summer weather and instead hit the start of cooling down towards winter, so planned initially for a quiet time spent simply settling in to our vastly increased living space during the coldest months, deciding to really get going in the spring once the weather picked up enough to start making some of those big changes. Except of course just as that time appeared on the horizon coronavirus and lock-down happened, and much of our advance planning came to an abrupt halt for the duration. And everything is still pretty much on hold even now.

So since moving in almost eight months ago we’ve changed all the blinds and curtains and all the lighting, and have taken off a couple of unnecessary internal doors between the kitchen and dining room. We’ve chosen and bought wallpaper for the living room, master bedroom, and dining room, and have removed the built-in under-counter fridge and freezer which had both seen better days, replacing them with a super-energy-efficient free-standing fridge-freezer. We’ve bought a sofa, a set of six dining chairs, two large oak wardrobes, an oak chest of drawers and two oak bedside units.

And the extra three months of frustrating lock-down down-time effectively kicking our heels workman-wise has actually turned out to be surprisingly beneficial as far as the long-term house and garden planning goes. The longer we live here, and the more we get a proper feel for the space we inhabit, the more the house is subtly indicating what it wants, showing us what might work best for us all. We’re seeing how the natural light coming in changes along with the seasons, getting a real sense where our original plans might need to be tweaked here and there to best attain our particular vision of what ‘home’ means to us.

Just being here at all is still exciting for me, living in all this wonderful space, dreaming and planning and enjoying what we have already achieved so far as well as feeling full of hope for the future. This is what we spent a long time aiming for in life, and here we are at last living in our own four house walls within our own four garden walls. Making our house into our forever home, our way, one amazing day at a time… 🙂

Homecoming

I must admit this wasn’t exactly the homecoming experience we expected when we sold up our London flat at the end of last summer and relocated back to Inverness. To be honest I don’t think we really knew exactly what to expect once we moved, but I know coping with the Covid-19 crisis definitely wasn’t part of our plans!

It’s probably good we didn’t have any fixed ideas as such, beyond (1) finding somewhere to live and (2) finding work to be able to pay for it. Amazingly we found the house we wanted to buy very soon after we moved up from London, and have now both found jobs, so in that sense we’ve achieved what we hoped for.

We were already in a state of flux, already out of our comfort zones, and were just getting to the point of starting to feel properly settled into our new life after five months in our new home when lockdown began. So in a sense we’ve probably had less of an adjustment than many, because in a way life already felt up in the air for us.

Now everyone else’s life is up in the air too, no-one knows what will happen next, many businesses in many countries have been completely closed down for weeks, and world economies have suffered greatly. So right now we’re just focusing on being thankful at living here in Inverness instead of London, and taking it all step by step from there…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Homecoming

April A-Z: H is for Home

Ideally, H would have been for hospital, the location where not only my children but also my grandchildren were born, but of course the coronavirus has put the kibosh on that idea, so thankfully our house has come to the rescue, and instead H is for home 🙂

Home for us is a lovely old 1930s bungalow in Inverness with garden front and back, pleasantly situated between the river and the canal within easy walking distance of the town centre. We moved in six months ago and have lots of long-term plans for doing it up but to date haven’t quite got as far as we would have liked – but we’re planning for this to be our forever home, so hopefully we have plenty of time.

And thanks to perfect timing my own front door can also be my Thursday Door for this week! 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

The Little Things That Count

My Weekly Smile this week is made up of a selection of some of the little everyday things to be grateful for in life during this difficult time of coronavirus crisis and lockdown limbo – so for me, that includes tasty comfort food in the form of chicken stew and creamy garlic mash, beautiful bright flowers cheering up my conservatory on a spring-showery day, a multitude of yellow daffodils waving in abundance in my front garden, and the beautiful blue skies of the Scottish Highlands while out for a walk close to home ❤

Living Room Window

This is my living room window, all 2.5 metres width of glass pane, and I just love the way the light streams through it from morning till night. My sofa is sitting right in front of it, and sitting on my sofa is where much of my blogging takes place, with my laptop on a bean-bag lap tray on my lap. When we were house-hunting last year, two of my main non-physical must-have criteria were light and flow, and we’re absolutely delighted to have achieved both where we are now 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Glass

Considerations for my Conservatory

The conservatory in our house sits just off the dining room through glazed double doors with further doors leading out onto the North facing back garden, so with that particular orientation it’s never going to be a hot-house steamy jungle kind of space. But even in the cold winter months, the level of natural light it gets is absolutely amazing and I imagine the ambient temperature will be just perfect during the long warm summer days.

It’s a properly constructed conservatory, not just an external lean-to add-on afterthought, just over 3m by just under 3m in size, with cut-off corners at the garden end. It has a solid concrete floor, brick-built lower walls with patio doors at the far end, and the upper portion consists of a metal framework, double-glazed windows with lovely deep windowsills and an insulated plastic roof, which is why the natural light is so good.

It has lighting, electrical sockets and even a small radiator linked in to the central heating system, and oddly has been carpeted with the same traditionally patterned heavy wool carpet as the adjoining dining room, and had previously been furnished accordingly. So overall it feels to me like to date the poor conservatory has neither really been one thing nor the other, can’t really decide does it want to be an indoor room mainly for people, or more of a glorified greenhouse-style garden room mainly for plants?

To me, if it were intended to be more of an indoor room, it would ideally have been much better built with a proper tiled roof to keep the heat in and make it a properly usable space all year round, even in the depths of a Scottish Highland winter – Brrr…! In that way its snug carpeted floor and fully-upholstered furniture would have made more sense – but then you’d have lost all that lovely natural light, which to me would be a travesty.

If, on the other hand, I replace the current ugly carpet and thick underlay with a far more practical washable cushioned vinyl and keep the lightweight clear roof, I could perhaps fill my little mainly unheated conservatory with a selection of approriate-for-the-particular-environment potted flowers and foliage and lightweight garden-style furniture to make the most of a summer-house style garden room in the warmer months only… Hmmm…

Decisions, decisions…

History of a House

This morning we received a bulky pack of legal papers from our solicitor – our house purchase last October has now been recorded by the Land Registry and all the formal documentation held with the original Title Deeds now belongs to us.

And it seems that with these information-rich papers, all clearly dated, I can piece together the history of our house from the initial land purchase in 1925 through the first property sale in 1933 all the way through several changes of ownership to us in 2019!

I really love looking through old papers, and however convenient digital documents may be, you can’t beat the smell and feel of handling old paper and ink – it’s a real, genuine hands-on experience to be able to touch the past, an immersion in history that for me, simply can’t be replicated online 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Paper

Accommodate

One of the huge differences in living in a three bedroom house rather than a one bedroom first floor flat is having the space to accommodate multiple people at one time! Not necessarily for sleeping over just yet but definitely for socialising. We sleep in the master bedroom, the second bedroom is used as a computer room/study, and what will eventually be the guest room is currently a storage room (until we replace the old minimal loft insulation with thicker, better quality stuff, put down a section of safe flooring and store our excess boxes and bits and pieces up in the roof space).

We have a lovely square living room at the front of the house, and an open plan kitchen/ dining room across the full width of the back of the house, with a small conservatory leading off from the dining room. The conservatory is currently closed off for the winter months (and is still full of packing materials from our move that we haven’t quite got rid of completely yet) but in the summer it will hopefully be an extra social space to spend time in – and we can even overflow into the back garden!

But even without using the conservatory or garden for now it’s lovely that when people come round – especially our growing family – we have ample space to accommodate everyone without feeling claustrophobic and overcrowded. And we don’t have to worry about being too noisy and disturbing any next door party wall or above or below neighbours in the building either, because there’s only us living in a whole detached house all on our own – woo-hoo! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Accommodate