As well as our travels to the Lake District this summer, we also enjoyed theatre trips, filming, beach visits, hair-cuts, boules and a journey to the moon:
The last 2 weeks have been busy both for us and for the rest of the UK. G and M have been enjoying their Easter holidays from school, not least as both have been active participants in this year’s Over The Wall Camp in the Cloud sessions once again. Every day has been a combination of crafts, challenges and nightly cabin chats and it’s been lovely to see them engaged in something other than their electronic devices night and day! I’ve been honing my face-painting skills and have discovered a new outlet for my creativity, though M has been more reluctant to let me practice now that his camp has come to an end.
We’ve been impressed once again with the #CitC offerings this year, not least as the daily activities have all been different to those they completed last summer. G in particular has connected with friends she made both through the 2020 virtual camp and from attending camp in person before and is enjoying the opportunity to chat and laugh in a safe space with some lovely individuals. I’m also really pleased to see that they will continue with the opportunity for monthly cabin chats with their teams for the next 3 months and know that both children are looking forward to that as well.
The slow easing in lockdown measures hasn’t affected us too much so far, though we did take advantage of the opportunity to see my Mum on Easter Sunday. Undoubtedly, the highlight of M’s week has been the news that our local pool has reopened and he absolutely loved his first swimming session back on Tuesday evening, something he has very much missed over the last few months. We’re not ones to rush out to our local for a swift half or a meal outside in the UK weather, and we will continue to take our own small steps in widening our world once again.
When we marked G’s sweet sixteen this time last year, we were looking forward to a year filled with next steps and new adventures. Her GCSEs were looming and plans were slowly being made for her Sixth Form choice and beyond. And then COVID-19 hit and everything started to look a little different. Weeks on lockdown at home together have flown past, the new school year arrived before we were really expecting it, long hair was cut into a stylish and far more grown-up look that I certainly was ready for and just like that, here we are celebrating G’s birthday once again.
This year continues to be unlike any other and G’s hopes for a small dinner out with her closest friends have been put on hold as we linger in the restrictions of Tier 3. Instead, it will be just as she has asked – a quiet day together as family with a film of her choice, a Chinese takeaway supper and the one thing that hasn’t changed since she was small, a birthday cake baked and decorated with all the love in the world.
Happy 17th birthday sweet girl, love you for ever and always xxx
Yesterday’s announcement of the proposed tiers that the various councils will be going into next week when second lockdown ends has left many up in arms about what central government is suggesting. Social media is buzzing with commentary, criticism and complaints about the allocations made, especially with the change to rules for the Christmas period adding to the general confusion.
The news for our area has come as no surprise to me at all as I’ve been predicting our tier for the last 8 or 9 days and have been proved correct. To be perfectly honest, the tier level we end up in makes little or no difference to us. Since lockdown began 9 months ago, we have reduced our activities outside of our local area and taken every precaution we can when we have to be out and about. I now work predominantly from home, with just 1 day in our Head Office weekly to ensure that there continues to be a finance presence there, which gives me an opportunity to catch-up with colleagues face-to-face and not just via Zoom. M and G continue to enjoy being back at school and despite the odd hiccup with required self-isolation or the alternatives to traditional learning needed, are thriving in both their academic and extra-curricular activities.
The next big question for us all is about Christmas and my Mum and I have had many lengthy conversations about this to date. We’re both very much of the opinion that having been so cautious over the last 9 months, it would be a shame to throw it all away by having our usual family get-together without due consideration. No conclusion has been reached as yet, but I’m very much leaning towards spending the time at home in our separate bubbles, with a organised present opening and family quiz via Zoom. It won’t be the celebration we would love to have, but it may be the one that will best allow us to have a better one next year.
Today on our local radio I heard this comment, which I understand was made by Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford about the opportunity to break from our assigned tiers and meet together in social bubbles specifically during the Christmas period: that we should be choosing to do the best we can do and not the least we can do in the current climate. For some, this will unquestionably be getting together with family members over Christmas for the sake of their mental health and wellbeing, but for others that decision may simply add to the anxiety they feel about an increased risk to either themselves or to loved ones and so they opt to stay at home. Both will be the right choice for those individuals and we need to not judge others on the decisions they choose to make.
My predictions weren’t quite accurate as I had thought we might be heading into a second lockdown either in the lead up to, or during October half-term, and whilst my Welsh family, friends and colleagues did so, Boris held off for another week before finally giving in to what had seemed to be inevitable to many.
I know that there are many out there who do not think this is a good idea or what is needed, but I’m not in that camp. Working for a regional care provider for adults with learning disabilities, I am seeing the increasing infection rates of COVID first-hand. Fortunately, I’m not on the frontline and despite my own health risks, can continue to work from home, much as I have been since our first lockdown back in March. For those naysayers out there, the risk is very real to those who are vulnerable and this lockdown is an attempt to help them as best we can.
Lockdown 2.0 looks very different this time round. G and M have gone back to school after half-term, and after the required self-isolation that kicked it off early for them, though all bets are off for how long that will be the case. This continued opportunity for learning as well as socialising with their friends is undoubtedly essential for their mental well-being and the benefits of being in a routine installed by someone other than Mum are also easy to see. Their out-of-school activities have paused again, though their Stagecoach classes are moving to Zoom from tomorrow. G and M are as intrigued about quite how that will work as I am, and I’ve no doubt an update will follow in due course.
Mike is also still working, despite our initial doubts as to whether he would be able to or not. We had been preparing for the possibility of a return to furlough, but he is delighted to be able to continue to work and is squeezing in as many valuations and surveys as he can at the moment. Both he and the children continue to take precautions to reduce the risk of them bringing the virus home to me and have been good at adapting to our new routines.
I’ll be honest, this lockdown is not looking all that different to the last 33 weeks or so for me. We haven’t been spending hours out shopping or at the pub, and we haven’t been spending time with anyone other than occasionally my Mum. Whilst I’ve stayed with her 3 times since March, she hasn’t set foot inside our house and nothing will change there for the foreseeable future. We will continue to do our daily exercise, although that becomes less attractive now we’re heading into winter and seeing less sun.
Whatever your thoughts about, or approach to, this second national lockdown, stay safe and keep looking after yourselves and those who are higher risk around you.
We knew it was coming, but we just weren’t quite sure when it would hit and Tuesday came and so did the phone-call from school…
A confirmed case of COVID-19 in M’s year group and so with a quick dash to school to pick him up, home-schooling has started again. I’m not quite sure if I’m glad it’s happened this week or not. Whilst both he and G now have to self-isolate for 2 weeks, which pretty much puts pay to our tentative half=-term plans, they will only miss a few days of school as we have already been told they can return on the first day of Term 2.
It’s thrown my week into disarray as I readjust to having 2 teens back in the house as I juggle remote training for my new team member, numerous mid-year budget review meetings all via Zoom and what feels like a plethora of other deadlines that need to be hit before I too go on my half-term break.
Of course, with much of the North heading into Tier 3 over the next few days and the rest jumping between Tiers 1 and 2 as numbers start to rise again, and with Wales now in its fire-break for 2 weeks, I feel like we’re in good company. Half-term isn’t going to look like what we hoped it might, but then again, what has in 2020?!
After more days off school than we ever dreamed was likely, G and M have returned to school this week. As if the move to A-levels and GCSEs was not enough, they’ve also gone back with face masks, social distancing and a very different looking timetable as their new norm. Our annual first day of school photo showed other changes that have happened in the last 6 months – a growth spurt for M, a dramatic hair-cut for G and a mop of lockdown hair that has caused much debate in the household. With less than half an inch in it, G is adamant she is still the taller and only M hitting 5’6″ will convince her otherwise.
Exams aren’t easy at the best of times and there can be no question that this year has posed the current cohort of exam students challenges that no-one could have even imagined when planning for the GCSEs and A-levels to be taken this summer. G has been working hard for her GCSEs over the last 2 years and, since the true extent of her anxieties became clear, having additional tuition and learning mindfulness techniques to help her manage the exam sittings as best she could with increased confidence in her own abilities.
Add in the stress following the fiasco with the A-level results day this time last week and it is easy to see why it hasn’t been an easy week at home. G has obviously been massively impacted by the confusion over how her final GCSE grades would be calculated and the huge sigh she gave after the latest government u-turn was announced on Monday evening showed just how heavy that burden has been. She and I have spent a lot of time talking about her results and what they will mean for this next step in her life journey. G knows what A-levels she wants to study and is fortunate to have 2 offers on the table from our local secondary schools, but still has to make up her mind as to where she wants to go for the next 2 years. It is nothing short of a miracle that I have not turned more extensively to alcohol and chocolate to see me through, although there’s still time before we’ve finished ploughing our way through the chaos and reached final decisions!
In many ways the decision to use the centre assessed grades (CAGs) is good news for G as she hasn’t had to undergo the stress of the exams, but this is a concern in itself as she will have no direct experience of how to sit an exam when it comes time for her A-levels. However, we have time to work on managing those anxieties and will continue to work with her tutor to make sure she has the opportunity to experience timed assessments to mimic the pressure of an actual exam.
More importantly, G knows how proud Mike and I are of the hard work she has put in, including her decision to continue following her GCSE revision plan during the first few weeks of lockdown without any prompting from either of us. We hope that her results will reflect her efforts, but G knows that as always we have got her back and are prepared to fight her corner if needed to make sure her next adventure starts as she wants it to.
2020 will always be the year when the exams weren’t sat, but that shouldn’t distract from the hard work and effort put in by all these young people throughout their school careers and the hellish void of information that they’ve been living with since March. No matter what their results are, they all should be commended for their fortitude and determination to succeed in the most extraordinary of circumstances.
And just like that it’s the end of the school year and the end of G’s secondary school career. From September she’ll have moved to the heady heights of further education here in the UK, although she’s still not decided as to exactly what she’ll be studying or where. It’s been an odd culmination of the last few years of hard work and has left us all feeling a little discombobulated. It’s not quite the end of the 7Y2D home-school as I have already warned both M and G that I fully expect them to keep up with some studies over the coming weeks and M has already been set some tasks by school to challenge him in preparation for his GCSE courses that will soon be starting.
They do have some fun activities planned for the summer too, with both children being invited to join Over The Wall’s “Camp in the Cloud”, something they’re both excited about as this photo of M opening his box shows. We will also no doubt take advantage of the freedom of more movement by embarking on a few hand-picked and carefully chosen day trips starting and ending at home. Our plans for a summer extravaganza to celebrate the end of G’s GCSEs have been put on hold for the foreseeable, but we will make sure that her results day is still marked in style. Truthfully it’s not the summer we had planned, but then 2020 hasn’t really been the year we were expecting it to be either. One thing’s for certain, this is a year unlike any other and we’ve all experienced life in a new way in the last 17 or so weeks.