As my mum sat at her school desk in a little west coast town in New Zealand, the boys would dip the ends of her long plaits into the ink well on the desk behind…. if this ‘lockdown business’ goes on much longer, my hair will be long enough to reach the ink well too!
The winter season at the hostel is rather different from what most people see in the summer. It is, even in ‘normal’ times, much quieter. We have groups in most weekends; big family get togethers or a group of friends escaping the city for a few days, but often on a self-catering basis, so it does give Nick and me a chance to get some decorating done and also to take some extended time away. This time last year, I was just back from a break in Cornwall, visiting my elder son Dave. We had walked on the beaches, eaten scones in the cafés, (jam on before the cream of course), and shared a few pints in cosy pubs. One Saturday evening in Manchester, we crowded into the heaving, electric atmosphere of the Ritz to see ‘Narrow Margin’ light up the stage with their rocking, youthful exuberance.
This year, of course, has been rather different. I can’t complain though. Confined to barracks outside the Lakes with Paul, we have eased into a more gentle existence: breakfast in bed; newspaper crosswords – the easy ones; jigsaws – the difficult ones; cold, windy bike rides and walks from the door – I know how lucky we are to be locked-down in beautiful countryside. I’m one of the 32% of Britons who has gained weight, but I am definitely eating more healthily – less cake as the coffee shops aren’t open and more time to think and prepare good food. I discovered a great Thai influenced, vegan, butternut squash recipe. Perhaps we will have it on the hostel menu when we reopen. I’m trying to support small businesses with what I do spend, though this has led to more cheese than is entirely healthy.
I’ve also kept busy chatting to friends and family, especially those on their own, and this week I wrote a Zoom quiz for the Oxfam volunteer community. It is great how technology has allowed us to connect across the countries from Perth to Penzance. The Oxfam Online Shop is certainly doing its bit to minimise the losses of our high street stores, where I help out during normal times. Please do have a look – you could pick up your next ‘read’, or perhaps some delicious Fairtrade coffee.
So as Boris lays out his roadmap and the crocuses raise their heads, I’m looking forward to being able to see my boys, fish and chips at the seaside, and, just like at the end of those long, hot summer holidays as a child, I’m ready to go back to ‘school’. It will be lovely to welcome everyone to the hostel again, and to see how much enjoyment the Lakes bring to all our guests. It does seem rather a long time still to wait, but at least we have a light at the end of the tunnel and you never know I might even get my hair cut.