Tag Archives: family

The Cottage

I always loved coming here as a kid, when the gardens alone offered hours of adventures with my brother. I’m almost 40 and now the cottage signifies getting older and loneliness.

I don’t visit anywhere near as much as I should, this also adds guilt on to the list of overwhelmingly negative feelings I have attached to this place. It’s a ball ache to get to, but it’s worth it. Like something straight out of a wartime drama, the cottage sits in more than 10 acres of National Trust land, the nearest neighbour is a good thirty-minute walk away, and that’s exactly how Nanna likes it.

On bank holiday weekends the roads to the cottage are packed with day-trippers, same for Christmas and throughout the summer holidays. That’s bought me a fair bit of leeway over the years.

Apparently, because I don’t have a family of my own to care for, I’ve no real excuse for not stopping by more frequently than once every six months. God forbid my busy work schedule, socialising and pouring over the Sunday papers should get in the way of tea, cake, and a lambasting of my continued singledom.

Yep, Nanna doesn’t mince her words. I’m personally responsible for letting her down on the great-grandchild front, despite the fact my brother has twin girls. I literally can’t win. Yet I know I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t make the trip at least a couple of times a year to check-in on the old bird.

I pull up at the main gate and press the buzzer, “Hi Nanna, it’s me.” I call into the grey box. “Well, it’s about time” comes the curt reply, and the gate slowly swings open. Sheesh, maybe I should’ve left if another month or two. Rolling my eyes in the safety of my own car, I make the short journey up to the cottage.

The gardens are stunning. She may be pushing 85, but she’s damn sprightly with a lawnmower and pruning shears! I remember the rose buses like those from Alice in Wonderland, one plant red, the next one white. My brother chasing me through the knee-high hedgerows like the Mad Hatter. Nanna was carefree then. She was never angry or bad-tempered. She’d often clip a rose especially for me, and slide it through my ponytail. Now, she’s more akin to the Queen of Hearts if I so much as admire a petal.

I park the car, switch my phone over onto silent, she can’t abide any kind of beeping noises, and taking a phone call would be considered terrible rude. Leaning over to the rear seats, I pick up a parcel and the fresh pastries and brace myself.

“Nanna, it’s lovely to see you, you look well.” I greet her. She’s stood in the kitchen doorway, surrounded by dozens of potted herbs and spring wildflowers. “What on earth are you wearing?” she bats back. And so it begins.

Sat at the patio table, I notice she looks old. I mean, she is, but it seems like life is taking its toll. When I saw her back in October, she was preparing for harvest, pumped up that her crop would be her best yet and she’d have enough to share with the groundsmen and their families. With Spring, Nanna looked tired and drawn. Like she’d not slept.

The light around the side of the cottage is the most beautiful. Dappled by the trees, the sun streams through onto the patio until late evening, making it the perfect spot to enjoy the peace and quiet. Today, the Spring sunshine only illuminated my brother’s fears, Nanna was beginning to struggle. He’d asked if I would bring my visit forward, and now I knew why.

“Have you managed to bag yourself a handsome chap yet then Maureen? I’m not getting any younger you know. This place should be full of life and laughter again, I want to be here long enough to see your little ones running about on the lawns.” That was the second time she’d called me by my mum’s name. I didn’t correct her, I played along.

“Ahh Nanna, I’m so busy with work that I don’t have time to date a man. And besides, you’ve done too good a job proving we don’t really need men to be happy. Just look at this place, it’s blooming more than ever, all thanks to you.” I leaned forward, smiling.

“Now you listen to me. I always did my fair share when Pop was alive. We were a team, I could never replace him. You’ve got to get yourself a team Maureen, you’ll be much happier.”

Peering over her glasses with a stern look, she continued: “All this work and no family, it isn’t good for you. What if you end up going doo-lally-tap, you’ll be all alone, like me.

“You deserve better Beth, don’t end up on your own, you hear. Make that a priority on your busy schedule.” She took a sip of tea and busied herself buttering a scone.

She knew. She knew her memory was slipping, her coordination slower than before. Even since before Christmas, there was a noticeable change.

“We’re going to have to make all the arrangements soon. I think it’s time you took over the cottage. I’ve spoken to the solicitors….” She was still talking but I was too stunned to hear the words.

“Nanna, why would…. Nanna where are you going?” I looked at her, panicked. Nanna was born here. 6th September 1914. The old tin bath used as a water butt at the bottom of the garden was the one she was dunked in twice a week as a child, in front of the fire by her mother.

As a toddler she had ‘brothers and sisters’ from the cities as evacuation brought scores of children from inner cities to the peace and tranquility of the countryside. Her parents were kind, hard-working people. Her father worked the land for the local country house and her mother a cook, before the children came. The cottage was lined with more than 100 years of family history, births, marriages, and deaths. Nanna had lived alone since Pop succumbed to cancer almost 15 years ago.

“Listen, don’t try and play me for a fool. I know I’m not as able as before. I’m getting clumsy. It’s harder to get up in the mornings. I know when I’m beat, and it’s time I moved on.” She said matter of factly.

“Nanna, don’t be daft. This is your home. Where are you going exactly.” I almost laughed, but knew better of it.

“I’m going to die, probably within the next month or two. I don’t want this place to slip. I’ll expect you’ll have to give notice on your fancy apartment, so we’ll call today 4 weeks notice.” She nodded.

 

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Homeschooling – Take Two

It’s day 34 for us and I’ve made a real effort to get back into the swing of things after the Easter break. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for the kids this week and some handy links if you want to give any of the activities a go. 

I gave the kids (and myself) the Easter break off homeschooling.

I won’t lie, it’s pretty exhausting trying to source new ideas and activities every single day, especially if you have kids of different ages. Now that we know lockdown is being extended until at least 7th May, I realised I was going to have to up my game.

Having created back garden artworks, livingroom motorways, made our own pizzas, did PE with Joe and worked on our footy skills, it was time to get back to English and Maths. I have three kids, aged 14, 8 and 5. All the previous activities we’ve done can be found here. 

 

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Luckily, the 14-year-old has a full online learning program which is monitored by her teachers. She’s also a complete legend and I know I can trust her to crack on. Which leaves me the task of organising fun/educational stuff for the younger two.

They have an hour a day of TT Rockstar, Mathletics and Purple Mash, which again is monitored by the school. Aside from that, it’s up to me. The purpose of these worksheets – the majority of which I have ‘borrowed’ from Pinterest, is to do something fun together. It’s quality time. It’s family learning.

So, to keep me off the chocolate and the kids’ brains stimulated, these are the sheet work ideas I’ve come up with, plus a couple of handy online learning sites to break them up.

Read All About It

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Independent learning is an important step for all kids. I’ve devised this idea that my 8-year-old is a reporter and she’s to fill her newspaper front page with an exciting story and picture. Once I’ve explained what she needs to do, and the time frame, I know this is something she can get on with while I do some maths with her little brother. The exercise covers handwriting, research and a little bit of art.

World Wide Word Search

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I’ve made a word search for both of the kids. 8-year-old Cleo will focus on countries of the world while the little dude gets the months of the year, something he’s still not quite got in the right order yet. Cleo will also fill out an additional sheet with a fact about each of the 12 countries. Something she can use her Ipad for.

What’s The Time Mr. Wolf

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Parenting fail o clock! Well, they’re still young but, time is something my eldest daughter didn’t grasp until much later than most, and she’s pretty good with maths. So I’m making an effort to start early with the younger two.

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We’re making a spinning clock together (a la this one above from Mum in the Mad House blog) and we’ll fill in these super easy sheets with terminology such as: quarter past, half past, quarter to and the hour. They’ll number them, cut them out and add them to a bigger display. I’ll then routinely ask them what time it is throughout the day. I’ve bought them both a Lego watch each to wear too. Get them on Amazon, here.

Dollar Bills Y’all

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Money is another concept that took a little while to catch on in our house. Well, they’re all bloody fantastic at spending it, less so at appreciating its value (not unlike myself, ooh shoes).

I’ll use these basic sheets to lay-out the coins in order (how I’ll chuckle when they ask why we don’t have a £20 or £50 note!) and then move on to some good, old fashioned money questions: If you have £1 and you buy 3 x 10p sweets, how much change will you have? Playing shop at home is equally effective!

Aquatic Maths

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I hate, actually hate those sheets of sums in long rows that the kids are given at school. They’re so uninspiring. With times tables taken care of online, I’ve tried to be a bit more creative with Logan’s sums and drawn them into either fish or octopus shapes. I made some Sudoku puzzles for Cleo to get to grips with. More ideas welcome.

Eggsperiments

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Awwww man, I love a bit of science! I told the kids I could make square eggs. They think I’m nuts but it’s a really easy and fun science experiment you can do at home. Providing you have eggs! Give em a boil, peel them and while they’re still warm, stick them in a square container or box (use the Youtube Kids app here to learn how to make an easy card/paper box). Once they’ve cooled, they take on the form/shape of the box! SCIENCE!

The sheet I’ve drawn out gives the kids a space to write down or draw what we did, what we think will happen and what was the result.

The Jolly Post Girl/Boy

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We’re really lucky to have two besties living just around the corner from us and as part of our daily 30 min bike/scooter/rollerskate exercise, we’re going to play The Jolly Postman/boy/girl. The kids are missing their friends and while they know they must abide by social distancing rules, they can write and draw letters and pictures to post to each other. Exercise, English and Art! Winner. You can buy The Jolly Postman book here. It’s a classic.

Lockdown Locks

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Bit of fun for all the family this one. We’ll be lining up all our fave Lego figures and seeing what we can style a new hairstyle out of. We’re hearing great things about grapes, raspberries, playdough, Blue Tac, mashed potatoes, Nutella and more.

Feed The Birds

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As part of our daily 30 mins government-approved exercise, we pass a whole load of pine trees and so we’re planning a little nature activity too. Collecting a few up on our next route, we’ll be slathering them in peanut butter, dipping them in birdseed and lashing a ribbon around the top to make bird feeders. Ta dah!

BBC Bitesize Daily

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This week sees the launch of BBC Bitesize Daily. A handy 20-minute programme, covering a number of different subjects for kids of all ages – each day. On days when I’ve failed to prepare any worksheets or maybe they’d rather be out in the garden playing, 20 mins and pen and paper isn’t a big ask. Check it out here. 

Pinterest

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Pinterest is a free website/app which essentially details all the cool stuff on the internet. It’s an online project book/pinboard/mood board. Simply type in key stage 1/2/3 worksheets, fun art ideas, spellings, how to teach the 7 times table, whatever and the internet shall reply. It’s visually more fun that just googling and you’ll be surprised at just how many ideas there are.

How are you getting through lockdown with your little ones? Any bright ideas to make learning more fun? Drop me a line, like, please, share your ideas! I can’t help but think the kids aren’t going back to school any time soon! KateJamesBlogs@gmail.com

Good luck everyone, have fun and enjoy. Plus, there’s always gin. 

 

 

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Oh The Places You’ll Go

On NYE 2018 I made a resolution to spend at least 30 days of the brand, spanking new year out of the country. It’s March 2020 and I still haven’t achieved it, however, if I could jet off right now…

I travelled 12,000 miles around the world when I was 8 weeks old. My mum flew us from Australia to Liverpool to meet the family. My Aussie passport stamped, I arrived in the city for the first time in 1983. Since then I’ve been back to my native Sydney, walked the streets of NYC, tanned on the beaches of Turkey, Greece, Spain, Germany, watched shooting stars streak across the Nevada desert, sipped cocktails in Hong Kong, explored wartime history in France, chased dreams in New York, done the Disney thing twice over and made London, the northeast of England and Cumbria my temporary homes.

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It’s not bad going for someone who started a family at 22. Travelling with kids makes things slightly more complicated, but not impossible. In her first 18 months of life, my eldest daughter boarded no less than 17 Ryanair flights (I know, tantamount to child abuse) as we nipped over to France to see my folks.

She was the token 1 year old getting me all kinds of disapproving looks on a long haul flight to Las Vegas. Only to sleep for 8 hours and behave like a freaking angel for the rest of the flight! The little one clocked up some miles in Manhattan at just 2, saw the Statue of Liberty and a love of Ghostbusters was born early on. She’s hung out on the Four Seasons fairways in Portugal, she’s paddled in the warm water at Padstow. In short, we’ve had some amazing adventures.

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Travel took a back seat when the other two little legends came along. I’ve never been a jet setter but we did okay. Now I trawl through Instagram accounts of families who have sold everything to go travelling around the world together with their young kids, educating them on everything from religion to languages, science, and nature, a truly 4d experience. The only reason I’ve regretted not buying a house is that I can’t sell it and bugger off to globe-trot. Sake!

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That old adage – If I won the lottery, or came into some money, the very first thing I would do is pack us up and get on a flight. Right now it’s near impossible to go to the corner shop without being questioned by the police.

But, there’s a big old world out there, waiting to come to life from the travel magazine pages and websites. This is my ‘stage one’ itinerary.

Around the world with Katie James, if you will.

Casablanca, Morocco

Leave the tourists in Marakesh and head north to Casablanca for incredible Moorish and European art deco architecture. 20 degrees in Spring, a fresh Atlantic breeze and phenomenal photo opportunities. I’m going straight in for a culture shock on my first stop and I think the romance of Casablanca is a great start.

Petra, Jordan

I loved Indiana Jones growing up and a visit to the lost city of Petra, Jordan could be the highlight of my worldwide trip. The ancient Al Khazneh temple, which was carved out of sandstone is at the top of my list at this 2000-year-old ancient city. Worn in Nikes, Canon, spare batteries and lensed sunglasses is all I need to roam free and step back in time here.

Rome, Italy

I’m 37 and I’ve never been to Italy! How has this happened? I’m going to visit Rome in the Autumn time to see the starling murmurations – which are annoying as hell to locals, but a sight to behold for those interested in more than just the ancient tourist attractions. COViD-19 foiled my plan to visit a couple of weeks ago, but there’s an Air BNB roof terrace and an Aperol with my name on out there, somewhere.

Venice, Italy

The floating city! Since that epic sinking sequence in Bond film, Casino Royale, Venice has held a special place in my heart. People have told me the water is stinking, the streets are always crowded and it’s like 8 euro for a coffee. Yeah but, the city floats! Planning a trip to arrive around the time of the Venice Film Festive would be pretty epic too.

Athens, Greece

I bloody love Disney’s Hercules. I loved learning about ancient Greece at school and there’s something about ancient civilisations and mythology that has to be felt. The textbooks just never did it justice. You can’t be a massive Nike fan and not want to visit Athens. Guaranteed to be humming the Hercules soundtrack the whole time.

Chennai, India

Bit of a random one. I’m a big sports fan. I always loved watching international cricket as it happens. The Ashes of 2005 was the one, got me through my first pregnancy. I adored Nasser Hussain (don’t ask, it was the way he wore the cap I think.) Anyway, he’s from Chennai in India and having read his autobiography, I just always wanted to go!

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Oh Colombo, a port city, much like my own (adopted) home of Liverpool. The Sri Lankan capital has experienced many international influences from dutch, to Portuguese, British and of course, independence. A trip out of the metropolis to The Last Kindom in Kandy is a must too.

Osaka, Japan

Me and my eldest kid are huge comic con and cosplay fans and so a stop in Japan was vital. Tokyo might seem the obvious choice and how I loved Lost In Translation. But Osaka is the one for me. The cherry blossom trees at Osaka Castle, and the contrast of the bustling Dotonbori, the food and the retro gaming – the perfect way to absorb the culture.

Sanya, China

I had the pleasure of working with the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race as it set sail from Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock. The race involves a stop in Sanya, China, a place that I’d never heard of before but once you’ve caught a glimpse of its stunning beaches (Sanya Bay, wow) and incredible cultural monuments, you have to go!

Palmerston Island, Cook Islands

I read the amazing history of Palmerston Island in The Sunday Times magazine, probably about 5 years ago. Everyone who lives on this tiny atoll can trace their image back to a man from Leicester. Yep, Leicester. William Masters arrived on this coral reef enclosed island in1863 with two wives and the rest they say is history.

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Okay, this pit stop is pure because of an Eddie Murphy line in a 90’s cop film. Nope, not Beverley Hills Cop, but Metro. ‘Naked in Tahiti’ in a rubbish English accent – along with the black sand beaches, lagoons and love of artist, Gaugin, I could take a week off to get naked in Tahiti. The island is also in the shape of figure 8, which is kind of special to me.

Cusco, Peru

Continuing my love of ancient ruins. 15th-century citadel, Machu Picchu is most definitely on the travel list for me. Nearby Cusco is the gateway to The Scared Valley. From a bustling tourist center to the tiny Andean villages, experiencing ‘The Road to Eldorado’ style Inca trail is something I’d love to do with my kids.

Miami, USA

Miami! Will Smith made it sound so amazing! The art deco hotel fronts, skating along South Pointe Pier, a lazy day on Lauderdale beach. Lunch at Boia De, cocktails at The Broken Shaker and back to the airport. Stay just long enough to capture some incredible photos and we’re off again.

New Orleans, USA

My sister and I are life-long Scooby Doo fans and there’s no finer episodes than the ones set in spooky New Orleans. Cut to 2020 and the recent season 2 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina channeled the Mardi Gras style so perfectly, that it reignited a flame to want to visit. Plus, The Princess and The Frog has us all wanting to check out the Louisiana Bayou tour!

Niagara Falls, Canada

You don’t want to know how much time I have sat and watched the Niagara Falls live stream from on top of the Sheraton Falls hotel. Seriously, I have a problem. I’ve wanted to board the Maiden of the Mist since I was about 9. Fascinated by the stories of people attempting to go over the magnificent falls in barrels etc has had me captivated for too long.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sticking with Canada, hiking doesn’t get much better of fulfilling around Halifax, Nova Scotia. Cape Breton Highlands is the place to be for a wild adventure, then it’s back into the 4km long boardwalk of the Halifax waterfront to feast on amazing seafood. I interviewed a lady who was sailing on the QM2, which en route to New York, was stopping in Halifax. She raved about it and now I want to see if for myself.

Liverpool, UK

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It has to be said, sailing back into Liverpool has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences, even as an adopted Scouser. The Royal Liver Building standing tall and proud on the waterfront, those iconic Liver Birds keeping watch. Sometimes the best thing about travelling, is coming home.

Maybe I’ll buy a boat with that lottery win?

Where would you go? Send me your itinerary katejamesblogs@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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We’re All In This Together

We’ve been social distancing for 13 days today and I’ll admit, the wheels have fallen off a bit. With a 5, 8 and 14-year-old to entertain, it was never going to be easy! 

Two weeks in and today has been the laziest Sunday of them all. We’re bored, I’m tired and I have brand new respect for all educators, this shit is exhausting. That said, we’ve crammed in quite a few fun activities and having a garden and sunshine has played a major factor in our harmonious isolation.

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The weather has turned cooler this weekend and being inside the house, rapidly draining the electricity has taken its toll on us all, in just 24 hours. A reminder of how lucky we are, along with the arrival of my first delivered Sunday Times in months, we’ve had a big tidy up, we’ve made some snacks and we’re currently drawing portraits.

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Monday brings routine again. We’re back starting our day with PE with Joe Wicks, The Body Coach at 9am. Then it’s breakfast, showers dressed and ready to start home school at 10:30. At 1:30pm we stop for lunch, tidy up and then it’s free time. No Ipads or tech til 4pm. Tea is at 5:30pm, bed at 7:30pm for the little ones. Repeat.

Here are a few activities and tips for getting your hands on crafty/fun stuff without breaking the bank:

Picasso Painting

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I found some old wallpaper and wrapping paper and instead of trying to contain the mini artists at the kitchen table (it always ends up being trailed into the living room carpet or flicked up the fridge) I hung the paper over the garden wall and washing line and encouraged the kids to flick and chuck the paint. They loved it! More arty ideas here. 

Garden Circuits 

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I’m definitely loving PE with Joe more than the kids. Making the most of the garden, I set them a circuit challenge including simple things like jumping and skipping, stepping stones and collecting coloured flags (tea towels) from different places. This works on the washing line too, give them a sheet with a colour or pattern sequence on it and peg them out. Fastest wins.

Garden/Kitchen Bingo

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I made the kids some Bingo cards for the Garden. They had to find stuff like the slide, a blue peg, a tree stump, a flower, and a spider. Until they actually pointed out a spider (caused a fair bit of drama this one) I refused to declare a winner. Good fun. You can do this in the kitchen too.

Master Chef

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Getting the kids involved with cooking is usually a massive ball ache but now that there’s excess time and we’re gonna have to start making our own bread, it’s a great boredom buster. We managed to get our hands on some strong flower and yeast and so we had a crack at making our own pizzas. Ballsed up the dough but it was edible. In or around Liverpool? Get your kit delivered from Baytree Catering here.

Masking Tape Motorways

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I set this up for my little boy but it turns out the girls were willing to ‘play cars’ too! Get yourself a roll of tape, doesn’t have to be masking tape, anything will do and mark out a big old spaghetti junction on your floor. Masking tape is super easy to pull back up too. Then all your need is a car or two, or lego or hot wheels or whatever. I taped our roads up over the sofa, under the coffee table, and around a bookcase to mix things up a bit. This tape from Amazon looks ace. 

Catwalk Creations

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I stocked my little three drawer freezer up the week before last, and to make the most of the space I took everything out of the boxes. This was handy when looking for crafting bits. The kids decided to make robots from all the bits and bobs and then made them catwalk down the garden path making for some fun boomerang videos!

Diva Make Overs

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My eldest is a dab hand with a set of makeup brushes and has gotten the kids involved in some brilliant diva makeovers. Face paint, makeup, nail varnish, hair accessories have all helped to break up the monotony this weekend. Convinced my boy will end up on Drag Race!

Hope some of these ideas will prove useful. Please feel free to send me yours too, looks like we’re in this for the long haul! katejamesblogs@gmail.com 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Life Jim, But Not As We Know It

Following on from my previous blog post, A Whole New World, I did indeed make it to my first day in the new job. And in an instant, it was gone. 

I started my new job, met the fab new team and received a warm welcome to the office. It was something of a baptism of fire as clients began reacting to the news that a global pandemic had been announced. The boss gave the small team the option to work from home as it emerged that traveling by public transport and working in close proximity was aiding the virus growth.

We had a team lunch, tried to keep spirits high while all churning over the breaking news. Major shops closing, high profile cases being reported, death tolls in China, Italy, Spain and then at 5pm, instead of rushing home, we waited and watched the first UK government live press conference.

On Monday 16th March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation that COViD-19 had been declared a pandemic and the UK was about to take drastic measures to stop the spread among the elderly and infirm. There were tears, I felt for these girls I’d met just a few hours ago, and my boss. Caring, worried about her staff and clients as well as her own family. We went home with a plan to give clients more support than ever before.

On Tuesday, I brought my children home. My daughters and I have a vascular disease. We’re not at increased risk of contracting COViD-19, but my middle daughter had lung surgery a little while back, and I wasn’t taking any risks. Tuesday 17th March became day one of Social Distancing for us as a family.

On Wednesday 18th March, I was let go from my new job. Contract terminated with immediate effect as I was still in the probation period. I don’t blame my boss at all. It’s a scary time for everyone in business and at this early stage, the support package from the government hadn’t been announced. She assured me that once this was over, there would be a role for me.

On Thursday 26th March, we made a poster, with a rainbow on it and a message of thanks to those on the front line, our incredible NHS workers. At 8pm we stood on our front doorstep and we applauded and cheered as a way to give thanks to those making huge sacrifices for us. It won’t ever be enough.

It’s now Sunday 29th March 2020. We’ve adjusted to life, for now. My mum and step-dad, friends Michelle, Kate and Paul have become our lifeline, delivering shopping, helping with school work for the kids and my brother and sister have kept our spirits up thanks to Whatsapp. The Ble Room podcast, which I’ve contributed to for a year this month, has also kept me sane, utilising Skype to catch up with the lads and chat all things Everton and COViD-19 of course. Houseparty is a great app. Get it.

It’s day 13 and while we’re having a lazy Sunday. Tomorrow we’ll be starting a new routine. 9am PE with Joe, 10:30 – 1:30 school work, no Ipads or tech until 4pm. Everyone is helping to prep lunch and tea. There will be baths and bed and movie night on the projector thanks to Disney+ and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

I don’t know what’s to come. The prospect of it scares and excites me in equal measure. One thing I do know is that I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’. I’ve learned some serious lessons these last couple of weeks, and I’ve no doubt there are more to come. For me, going back isn’t an option.

I hope you and yours are safe and well.

To every single key worker and volunteer, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for everything you’re doing, you are incredible. 

 

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A Whole New World

Today marks the beginning of a new dawn, (ooh sounds a bit Avengers that, doesn’t it?) it’s 08:12 and I’m on the bus to work. The first day of the 9-5 beckons.

It might sound the start of millions of other Monday mornings too, but this one is pretty monumental for me. I haven’t worked a 9-5 job in almost ten years. The freelance life has afforded me the school run, leaving dishes and bed making until mid morning. Leisurely making random lunch combo’s such as Heinz Oxtail soup with a sprinkling of grated cheddar, three snack size sausage rolls and a CapriSun – it’s a winner!

I worked 9:30 -2:30pm most days, then picked up the laptop again from 6ish and worked until I fell asleep in the chair. Usually with Brooklyn Nine Nine on in the background. Then I started picking the laptop up at 4pm, the kids ensconced in front of Cartoon Network. I started forgetting spelling sheets and our regular reading routine abandoned.

I would jump up at 5:45am to put uniforms in the tumble dryer on the day they were needed. I’d begin to order in more during the week, instead of a just a Friday night treat, Pizza Hut was becoming a staple. I was failing my kids.

So something had to change. And it has. I bid farewell to freelance life. Juggling work at all hours of the day and night, trying to make ends meet and feeling like my professional exams were a complete waste of time.

This morning I was up at 6. The sun is shining, which is a great start. Weekend washing done and out on the line. Uniforms ironed, day bags packed, and everyone out the front door to breakfast club by 7:45am.

My little son shine (that’s his nickname) she’s a few nervous years going in to breakfast club with his sister, but I know in a few minutes he’ll be totally fine. In the long run, I will be too. I know that regulating my working hours, income and career expectations will benefit us all. We’ve just got to tough out this first week or so. Corona Virus pending!

By writing this I’ve stopped myself from eating my packed lunch. Although, I fear it may not make it til 12pm! To everyone starting their first day, or planning a fresh start today, best of luck to you!

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Delete As Appropriate

There’s an article in the Sunday Times magazine today about the new rules of midlife dating. Not gonna lie, they read as the exact same shit we’ve been putting up with for the last decade. 

I love writing about dating. Aren’t humans really weird? We are, aren’t we? Like we say things we absolutely do not mean, we go in with the best of intentions, well, most of us, and then poof, in an instant, you’re ghosted/sent an unsolicited dick pic/they’re married – delete as appropriate.

Here are some stats from the article in which researchers polled 1,000 men and women age 35+.

50% of women polled have been ghosted. 85% of men polled are open to dating someone 10+ years younger vs 40% of women. 53% of respondents want dating with no commitment. 58% of respondents agree that sex is more adventurous than when they were younger. 

Oh hey, fellow cougars! Seriously, none of those stats, or others such as 36% of respondents are looking for casual sex or 40% of daters have sexted each other, surprise me. It’s been the done thing since at least 2010. So how are these the new rules?

Ghosting needs to get right in the bin. It’s utterly shitty behavior. If you can make a connection with someone, invest in chatting, texting, emailing, sliding into DM’s or whatever and then pretend it never happened, you should automatically contract herpes. Guys and girls, find your balls and dish out the goodbyes, it’s just good manners.

Dating sites are a false economy. Yeah, they give you access to loads of single and obviously married people looking to flirt, sext and once in a while, actually get together. But from the off, you’re met with an uneasy gut feeling that you’re most definitely not the only fish in the sea. It’s a digital cattle market where dick pics are traded freely and little white lies such as height, career, and er, wives seem to fall by the wayside.

How can anyone expect to create something real on that foundation? It’s not just the likes of Tinder, Bumble or Match.com either.

LinkedIn? Seriously, sending slimy messages about meeting up for a ‘mentoring sessions’ wink, wink is not acceptable in 2020. The bottom line is, dating sites are a breeding ground for everything that is wrong with dating right now. Frivolous, commitment-free, distractions from real life. Just get Pinterest and plan a trip or redecorate your bedroom. It’ll make you happier, I promise.

For us, 35+ ers, life post first (and second) marriage, with kids and careers to juggle can be pretty heavy. I fall into a few of those stats myself. Like most of those polled, I’m not looking to get married ever again, and I don’t necessarily want to live with anyone full time again either. But it doesn’t mean I should have to settle for the likes of dirty dick Dan who’s throwing pics of his junk around like news blasts from Love Island #IGotAText sigh.

Is there no such thing as a fairy tale ending for those ticking the 35-40 box? Are we destined to be slightly less wealthy Samanthas? Are we okay with that? Slide into my inbox (bork) KateJamesBlogs@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Rescue Me

I spent some time in hospital this week but it turns out being in the comfort of my home proved more dangerous. 

I’m typing this with a concussion. Sadly there’s zero chance of a ‘No Win No Fee’ payout because the whole Scooby Doo style escapade was entirely my own fault. It all started back in December.

The lovely people at Whirpool recalled my washing machine due to some faulty whatsit or other and my shiny new, non-french speaking replacement (don’t ask), arrived today. It’s rare I move my washing machine to brush or mop behind it because I’ve convinced myself the dark corner of my kitchen resembles the set for Arachnophobia back there.

With the new arrival imminent I decided an act of heroism was required. Move the machine out, detach the overflow and cold water feed, pull out the plug and mop the empty space. Also, potentially run like hell and set fire to the house, should a spider appear.

Steps 1 – 4 went swimmingly. No spiders either which makes me more suspicious than calm. As I finished my Mary Poppins routine, my phone rang on the other side of the room. I leaped into action, forgetting the floor was awash with Zoflora and proceeded to skid, slide and tumble to the floor, hitting my head, knee and hip off the kitchen cabinets and lastly, off the floor, before welcoming swirly patterns on the inside of my eyelids.

Oh my word, it hurt so badly and as expected with any kind of trauma, my nose exploded and bled all over my top too. My poor mum is heading for a heart attack any day now with the stress I’ve caused her this week alone. Paramedics, appendixes, kidneys oh my! And that was just Sunday! Now concussion. It’s been one hell of a week.

I’m bruised and sore. I’m also in awe of the fact I’ve managed to keep three children alive and well for as long as I have considering my personal safety and spacial awareness skills are f&cked.

Here’s to the NHS, incredible front line staff who work their asses off, still manage a smile and a bit of banter throughout grueling shifts. Here’s to the bed managers at Aintree Hospital – I was parked up next to these women on Sunday night while they tried to get me a bed and I’ve genuinely never seen a work ethic like it.

Here’s to the paramedics lining the corridors with their patients, waiting to be transferred before once again going back to fore for those in need. Including the impromptu case of my 14-year-old who collapsed watching a cannula being inserted into my wrist.

Here’s to mums. Bloody superstars.

 

 

 

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I Come From a Land Down Under

Half a billion animals have perished in the Australian Wildfires, a figure which is set to rise in the coming weeks. 

I was born in a place called Cronulla, it’s south of Sydney, Australia. It’s not currently ablaze, but the effects of the worst wildfires seen in decades are truly being felt right across the continent.

According to the latest report on CNN (2nd January 2020) more than 900 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales alone and 17 people have died nationwide. The effect on wildlife is perhaps the most shocking. Wait for this. Half a billion animals have perished since the fire season began in September, and the number is set to rise. The native Koala population has been hardest hit, a third of the population, wiped out.

I’ve often heard people say they would love to emigrate to Australia but they’re too scared of snakes and spiders out to kill them. Who’d have thought it would be wildfires that pose the biggest threat. Air quality is dangerously low and so areas unaffected by the fire line are still in trouble.

The dry weather has made the situation worse as firefighters and volunteers work around the clock to try and stop the fires spreading. Despite international help being flown in, plus support from the Australian armed forces, the summer is just beginning and there is literally no end in sight.

It’s been a long time since I was ‘back home’. Sydney 2000 was my last jaunt as a ballsy 17 year old. I adore my home city and surrounding state and to see it ravaged in such a devastating way is sad and frightening.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, their homes, businesses, possessions, everything in the fires. My thoughts and thanks to all those risking life and limb to stop any further damage and loss.

Climate change has played a real part in the fire season starting earlier and lasting longer. We all have to take action now, because it’s already too late for some.

 

 

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1, 2 Back Again

As you might have gathered from the previous post, things haven’t exactly plain sailing of late. It’s time to move on. 

I’ve been working as a freelance journalist for the last 4 years. I loved it. Until a few months ago when I realised I’d stopped being fun. I shouted at my kids, for being kids. I was living hand to mouth because I’d prioritise doing fun, work-related stuff instead of making sure I had enough money for a rainy day.

It’s hardly the crime of the century, I know. I mean who has money to save in the current economic climate? But the reason this has bitten me so badly in the ass, is because it’s now three weeks until Christmas and I have a grand total of £87 in the bank.

WHY did I stop being a freelance journalist so close to Christmas? Why not see it through until I had another job, or at least until January? Well, mainly because I was so ridden with anxiety and down about it, I walked around the Christmas Markets with my kids, randomly bursting into tears. That’s usually a sign something isn’t right.

For four years I’ve (just about) managed to juggle everything. Three kids, a full time, pretty demanding job, a house, a dog and a boyfriend. Working in the media is like having another child. 24 hour commitment and this overwhelming feeling of not being able to switch off and never quite being good enough.

Every update my Iphone spewed out about how many hours screen time I’ve accumulated (Approx 7.58 hours per day FYI) I’ve felt increasingly like I’m missing out on my kids, yet I wouldn’t put my phone down. I’d work harder to get my workload done so I could chill out, only for another deadline to arise, and another and another.

A steady stream of work is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at, again, especially not in the current climate. But my god it’s so hard to keep up. I got teary. My persistent nose bleeds got even worse. I got the shakes and then the random bouts of crying my eyes out started.

I woke this morning to the sound of my electricity metre beeping. This means it’s low on credit. No credit, no internet, no work, no money – no electricity. Who’d have thought it? Someone having such an amazing time, bossing it at work, going to parties and meeting famous people – would be wondering where the hell the next £10 electricity is coming from?

It’s two weeks before Christmas. I have £85 in the bank and I’ve spent so long applying for jobs and ticking ‘I Am Not A Robot’ Captcha boxes that I think I actually am a robot.

It’s terrifying. But it was still the right thing to do. My mental health has taken serious nose dive and while it’s going to be a really tough few weeks, it can only get better. I took the advice of a friend and looked at Universal Credit while I’m applying for jobs all over the country.

I would genuinely rather pluck my own eyes out than have to go through that absolute shit storm of an application process, which at the minimum takes 5 weeks to reach a decision. Now I can fully understand just how desperate it must be when even though you’ve worked and paid into the system, there is nothing to help you bounce back when you need it. Thank god for family and friends.

Back to square one it is. I’ve written this primarily to look back and realise how low I’d gotten before I did something. Wanting to do you best at work is a great attribute. Letting it blind you to the reality of a situation, is a curse.

Catch me on Linked In!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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