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Life Chez Dee Episode #61: There's no place like home

We’ve been in lockdown for several weeks now; and I have to say if I had to sum things up, and encapsulate all my thoughts into just one sentence, then I’d have to conclude that (so far) for me it has been a really good time for us as a family. Together at times, or sometimes doing our own thing; positive, imaginative and inspirational; productive and busy, yet relaxed, calm and slow; noisy with a house full of people, and yet quiet times for reflection; insightful, enlightening and full of gratitude.

Sitting in garden, in the sunshine, this afternoon was rather idyllic; of course the minute the clouds came over it was bloody cold to be honest; there was a real nip in the air, and in that breeze. I sat for a moment, and found myself thinking (as I do), not about anything in particular, just thinking, wondering, musing, chatting to myself (quietly in my head).

It was quiet and still, and at times I could feel the welcome warmth of the sun on my back. The breeze was rustling the leaves in the trees, and I could hear the insects buzzing around, busying themselves with whatever they needed to do. The occasional siren in the distance, someone wheeling their bins back to their side passage, a dog barking, another yapping, and pigeons, sitting on the roof of the garage, flapping their wings to take off in a panic as something, probably nothing, had spooked them, maybe the cat, since the magpies were cackling in the tree. The wind chimes offering a little musical tone, a tone which we agonised over as we picked out the particular chimes we wanted in our garden.

The cherry tree in the garden is beautiful this time of year. Delicate pink flowers cover every branch, in full bloom, a special treat for us to enjoy on Edward’s birthday. So beautiful when the blossom comes out, and yet it will be gone again so soon. The first gust of wind will blow it all away, but if we're lucky we'll be able to admire the tree in all its glory for another week or so. The apple trees too are covered in blossom, teasing us with the promise of the reward that is yet to come. The Bramley prompting the thought of pies and crumbles, or maybe we’ll just cook them with a little water and sugar and serve simply with custard. A jug of birds custard with stewed apple, I consider a real treat … Justin will want the skin, which he’s welcome too … I can’t bear that bit … or maybe he’ll skip the custard and have a hunk of cheddar in his bowl. I know, it’s weird, but not to him; he thinks it’s a delicious combination.

The other tree will be laden with eating apples later this year. I’m not exactly sure what variety it is … it’s meant to be like a cox, but more disease resistant. They don’t look like cox apples if I’m honest, they’re massive … really huge … but they’re deliciously sweet, crisp and juicy. I’d love to know what they really are. I notice that we’ve got a visitor to this tree again this year; the woolly aphid is back. The ants give it away, as they march purposefully up the trunk and along the branches for their easy pickings … well not for long, as the branches have now had a good dousing of meths, which will hopefully nip this woolly blighter in the bud. I also need to focus on sorting out the ants, and they’re not easy to get rid of, the soil here is very sandy, which of course the ants love, but a couple of ant bait stops left on their route, and they’ll be carrying the sweet sticky poison back to the nest. They’ll be taking over in the compost bin next, and I’ll have to get pouring kettles of boiling water in there.

I start to go over all the other jobs I’ve got lined up for Justin during lockdown. We can’t get out on day trips, so therefore we’re ticking the jobs off the list one by one. Last weekend he (with the help of Oliver) built a new compost bin, which I think they both enjoyed doing. This week, they’ve built a new trellis for the clematis as that fell off the wall this year; finally after a decade it disintegrated, having been exposed to the elements all this time. Oliver pretty much made this by himself, under Justin’s guidance and instruction. Another one of many challenges set down by Akela, to make something out of what you could find at home or outside; once again a challenge which Oliver has risen to, so another tick for him on her spreadsheet, and another badge waiting for him to collect when cubs resumes.

We need some hard standing for the patio table and chairs, as they’re currently on the bark chips which the trampoline used to sit on; the small shed where we keep the toys needs a lick of paint, and a bit of repair work on the door; and another building project for the boys can be a cold frame, which I think would be rather useful, and I’ve now got a perfect spot for it to go having moved the old compost bin.

There are so many bees in the garden; worker bees; honey bees; mortar bees; and the big, fat, slow, bumbling bumble bees. There are so many varieties of bees, hundreds of them … rather sad really that I can only name, and identify, a fraction. Maybe I’ll try and learn to spot a few more of our furry flying friends. How wonderful would it be to keep bees I think. People do don’t they; not just people with acres of land, but people who live in cities, who only have rooftop gardens. I love honey, set honey on toast, teacakes or hot cross buns; runny honey on greek yoghurt; or honey with the comb still in … my favourite … that chewy sweet deliciousness, a real treat if you get some, a delight to see immersed in the golden liquid. We bought some comb honey from the hives which the monks look after at Buckfast Abbey once; so wonderfully delicious, that memory, that experience is etched in my mind. We once bought some honey from The Lost Gardens of Heligan, and I have to say this however, was the worst I’d ever tasted. The honey had not just set, but had become granular, and really not to my taste at all. And of course we have local honey here in Lytham, which I have yet to try, so is on my to do list to get hold of a jar. How I admire the art of beekeeping; what a privilege to be a beekeeper, and oh how brave.

Keeping bees would send the cats into sensory meltdown; Claude is already chasing insects, bees and wasps (and I’ve only seen Queens out at the moment, and they’re pretty huge). What happens if he does catch one? Will he get stung? Will it matter through his fur? Worry is creeping into my thoughts now, and I want them to stay calm and idyllic, so I’m moving off the topic of bees now.

My mind this afternoon is like I’ve taken a pencil and a blank sheet of paper and allowed the pencil to roam freely, doodling and scribbling all sorts of patterns and shapes, not controlling its direction, just going with it to see where it goes. My mind is scribbling and doodling ideas, as my thoughts meander along, like a river twisting and turning … islands of ideas pooling in the oxbow lakes formed in my meandering thoughts

I’m full of gratitude, that I’m here and marvelling at what is around me; that I’m here to see this day; that I can marvel at the beauty and simplicity of what is around me. Like rediscovering childhood again, and all the naivety which goes with that, looking for the beauty in the ordinary and the everyday; uncomplicated; without agenda, worry or preconceived ideas.

I’m thankful that Justin can work from home, that we’re able to tick along though these hard times; and I’m thinking of those who aren’t so lucky, those who are fighting this disease on the front line, and those who have fallen victim to horror of all which this virus brings; a reality check for us all. I sit here with my notebook, jotting my thoughts, grateful that I am able to sit in the sunshine in my beautiful garden and do this. We are the lucky ones, the ones told to stay at home. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is certainly here.

Close my eyes in the heat of the sun, and I nod off for a second. Home schooling resumes next week, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to spend this time educating Oliver. There are so many negatives associated with the situation Coronavirus has caused us all, but there are so many positives too, or indeed I am lucky to be able to be positive about so much. We’ve adapted to a new way of living, a new life, which as we’re adjusting, is starting to feel comfortable, and normal.

Home is a safe haven from all the unease and worry of current times … there really is no place like home.

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