Exploring: Hurley Lock, Berkshire

There may be an outdoor theme to my posts recently, but the weather in the UK has turned out with ample sunshine, which means I need to take advantage of every moment.

Having said this, right now I still leave early, (around 8.00am) so that I can beat the crowds and get home in time for my coffee and mid morning relax. The sun is so bright this time of the morning, it’s the perfect time to enjoy our small family unit – mum, boy and dog. I’m glad we did arrive early, as by 10.30am there were bundles of families arriving to settle in for picnics, canoeing, and other water frivolities. Whilst my young son loves to socialise, right now is not the time to encourage his social side, as he does not understand distancing and I feel satisfied that we’ve had our fun and tranquility without the crowds before heading off home.

Hurley Lock was a find I stumbled upon when walking with a friend, and I noted it as a place to return to. With a dog and a young child it has open green spaces, a lovely waterside trail beside the lock itself (leading right to Marlowe) and then the bonus, a natural swimming area (about knee deep up to a point) where you can paddle in the sunshine.

For me personally, we drove about 30 minutes to reach the lock. It was an easy journey, and my young son was immediately fascinated by the walk, the bridges, the canal boats and then I struggled to get him out of the water when it was time to leave. Our little dog (a King Charles Cavalier) loves being off-lead, meeting other canines, sniffing various smells, and paddling in the fresh water along the water’s edge. In normal circumstances I would have brought a picnic basket or wandered to the nearby pub, The Olde Bell, on the high street (which is about 1000 years old), but this just isn’t the time for such treats.

Whilst in some ways I look forward to things going back to normal, I also know that I wouldn’t have found these amazing little scenic gems had Covid-19 never existed. Sometimes I feel like it is important to find the good in a situation. As we drove home, my son’s own words told me that the morning was ‘awesome’ and he couldn’t wait to tell all his friends about his swimming adventure. This made my entire day!

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Exploring: Coombe Hill, The Chilterns

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There is a small sense of achievement when you reach the top of a hill climb and you can stop and take in the views.  Especially straight after breakfast, before your day really starts, and while energy levels are high, and sun isn’t too strong.

We are fortunate to live in the countryside right beside the Chilterns which is a beautiful part of the English countryside with a lot of walks and places to explore. Coombe Hill is the highest viewpoint in the range of the Chiltern hills. Once you get to the top, the view is awesome, and it’s not a strenuous trek either.

I love that there are over a dozen cows feeding and roaming all about and around the hill.  They don’t seem too phased by us, and our little dog just meekly walks past the large beasts as they look up from grazing for a few seconds to give him a once over.  Just watch out for those cow paddies!

Another lovely surprise is the nature play trail, where kids can explore the dense woodland, and get a little bit adventurous.  There is plenty of space to spread out with a picnic and the weather today was just perfect for taking in all that was around us.

What is refreshing is that it wasn’t crowded (perhaps being there early was the trick). We didn’t need to navigate crowds of people and the paths are wide enough to allow plenty of space for social distancing as you pass others walking by.

Finding a place like this just needs a little research, making sure it will work for you, your fitness and your family. Whether it’s Coombe Hill in the United Kingdom, or somewhere else near to your home, it is about finding the right spot to enjoy a different bit of scenery and tranquillity.  

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Fresh Air and Exercise

When did you last ride a bike? Or go for a long walk around your town or village? You don’t need to be super fit to do these simple things, but the benefits of really stretching your legs and making your heart pump does more for you than you realise.

Our lifestyle priorities really have changed. Over the past several months we have had to forgo gyms, sports clubs, organized events and activities. Even now, as the precautions around these facilities are lifted, it makes me second guess whether we should rush back. There is no cure yet to this virus, and I’m not one to put me or my family at risk.

Personally didn’t have a gym membership (I was never that organized), but I did enjoy organized activities for my son, and sometimes myself that were focused on team sports and health and wellness. Also hearing from friends and colleagues, they are now appreciating how much they have saved in memberships and fees whilst everything has been in shutdown.

Right now the weather is warm, the sun is ‘mostly’ shining, and without the busy agenda of life we had before, there is no better thing to do than to explore the great outdoors.

Google is my friend right now as I look up: ‘places to walk with kids’; ‘places to walk with dogs’; ‘nature reserves’; ‘bicycle paths’. I sometimes even leave my phone behind on these little adventures (yes really), so I can truly take in the fresh air, the scenery and enjoy what surrounds me in a way I’ve never really done before. There is a sense of peace and mind rejuvenation when you’re just walking with no real purpose but to enjoy the surroundings. I actually can feel my brain relax for that moment in time.

Many of you are possibly thinking what’s so great about a walk or a bike ride. Some of you have perhaps always scheduled time for this. Some of you may live in a built up city, and this would mean a drive out of town to find that space and tranquility. Perhaps it is a riverside walk beside the Thames or sometime thing similar. Wherever you can find your space I urge you to seek it out. Try it out.

Whatever your personal situation, now is the best time to really take advantage of what surrounds us. Find your own spot (or find several) and enjoy the scenery, fresh air and tranquility it offers. Get away from the crowds, out of your home, and enjoy breathing in the sunshine, cool air and surroundings.

Trust me. For your mind, your sense, your soul, your health and your wellbeing; this will do you far more good than you realise.

Keep up to date with ideas and tips on what to do…

Work and Life Imbalance

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So, who is now working from home? Who is trying to balance childcare and work schedules? Who feels like they have been locked inside their four walls where work, life and family have become one big messy conflict of priorities that feels like it will never end?

Flexibility is one of those things we aspire towards. I’ve had people tell me, you must love the flexibility of being home with your son and being able to work around him. The thing is, there is no such thing as working around your children or your family. They become a part of the entire day’s schedule. It’s no longer a balancing act; I’m literally juggling several balls and hoping at least two of them will stay in the air for just a little while, while the rest tumble onto the ground scattering in all different directions.

I feel at times I’m neglecting my son, and then other times I feel like I’m neglecting my husband or my job. There is no perfect solution here. No one has ever said that working from home full time and balancing household and children was ever viable, and now the proof is in the pudding.

Guilt

Hands up if you’ve had to resort to more screen time than you would like to with your kids?

Hands up if you’ve had to quickly heat up some frozen food at the end of the day (maybe throwing in some frozen peas for greens)?

Hands up if you’ve been on a work call on mute while trying to entertain, educate or placate your children?

The guilt is real, and there is always something every day where I feel like I’m getting it all wrong as a parent, as a colleague and as a friend.

Time

Forget about standard work hours anymore.  It is not just your own work demands plus personal home commitments dictating your hours, but also others. What I’m quickly realising is that every other person has different demands and so the workday really doesn’t seem to end, as others are also navigating what hours, times work best for them in delivering their roles.

Sleep

With all the above going on, my mind is literally spinning at the end of each day. Yet each day almost feels the same, and so I don’t have a clear calendar of events I can work towards, and weekends no longer feel like the end of my working week. So sleep also has become an issue. It eludes me as I think about how I’m going to balance tomorrow whilst also keeping my almost four year old entertained and away from the screen. I also can’t stop the worries and anxieties that surround me as I think about this virus, the impact it is having globally, and what our future looks like for our lifestyle, our economy and our community.  

If anything comes out of this, I’ve learned that we are not ‘superheroes’ and that whilst we can still deliver our jobs remotely, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, and set our own boundaries to ensure that we do not push ourselves to the brink. I’ve also learned to lean on family, friends and colleagues (virtually of course) and many people will recognize similar feelings and potentially feel grateful that they are not alone.

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A Simple Idea

When did you last have a ‘real picnic’? Not the collection of nibbles collected from your local or Marks and Spencer, but a proper homegrown picnic.

This is such a simple, yet enjoyable day out for you, your family and friends. It is also a good option if you want to meet up with friends you haven’t seen but in a socially distanced way. In the open air you can space yourself out, and still enjoy a real catch up. So don’t wait, just do it. Get yourself a small picnic bag, or just something handy to put food in. Here’s some simple ideas of what to include…

  • Order yourself a chicken to roast – and of course cook it before hand
  • Some baguettes or bread rolls – butter them in advance
  • Chop up some salad items – tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers
  • Bring some deli meats – prosciutto, chorizo sliced, pepperoni
  • Cheese (a must) – either cheddar or sliced camembert
  • Don’t forget a yummy scrummy treat for after (cupcakes, tart, or anything that would help a sweet tooth).

Then, don’t forget the drinks…

  • Water – plenty of this
  • Wine – for the adults
  • Juices/canned softdrinks for both the kids and adults

Even more important is the vibes – if you have an iPhone with a good speaker (even a blue tooth speaker). Then finally a good old fashioned picnic blanket. Make it something you can roll up and carry easily with your food and drink in hand.

Now google! Find yourself a quiet picnic spot, somewhere you can park and walk and be completely separated from society. Don’t go for those public places, but somewhere that is tranquil, flat and just far away from it all.

Trust me! Once you sit down, lay out your setting and just sit back and take in the surroundings you will find yourself relaxed, satisfied and just all round pleased with yourself for organising such a simple treat. If you haven’t tried this – you must. It takes minimal organisation and even less effort to clean up after. Just do make sure you clean up after yourself – it’s only polite to the next group that are looking for the same tranquility (and of course to the environment as a whole).

The Masked Truth

To mask or not to mask, that seems to be the question. The debate is strong, it’s emotional and it’s happening all over the world right now. How can we focus on the real issue? Preventing the spread of this virus and how we can get back to a ‘sense of normality’? Maybe that is unrealistic?

So let me start with why I wear a mask…

First of all I hate the mask. It’s hot and uncomfortable and it feels like someone is holding a cloth tightly over my nose and mouth which just feels wrong. The thing is, it is I see it as so necessary right now. This virus is just so difficult to predict, and who knows what the long term impacts are. I’m not one for gambling, but I see ‘not wearing a mask’ as the biggest gamble of all. We know masks prevent the transmission of virus, and if there is one precaution I can personally take control of, this is the one.

It’s also not just about me, it’s about everyone around me, and anyone who passes by me, especially in indoor spaces. I don’t know who is next to me in the post office queue and who they have been in contact with. At the same time, they don’t know me, and so I’m protecting them, especially as I have an almost four year old who touches EVERYTHING and ANYTHING, and as much as I instil washing hands and being safe, he may be carrying the virus for all I know.

What I don’t believe in for sure, are the examples of intimidation and bullying that I’m seeing in the media. Citizens taking to their camera phones, and recording their dispute in general stories against the policy that we should all be wearing masks. These outbursts against retail outlets, or even police – real people with families who are clearly there to carry out their normal duties. This is bullying behaviour, and whilst they may have a stance that they truly believe in (and I don’t understand but I accept everyone has a view), what I cannot comprehend is why they need to make another human being feel small or intimidated in the process? Please tell me if I’m being unfair here?

The mask debate may carry on for a while, and whilst we may have different opinions on what is our basic human right, what I do know is that we all have a ‘basic human right’ to be treated with kindness and humanity.

My main focus for me, my family and my friends right now is to do everything I can that is possible to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to hopefully start to resume life ‘as normal’ whatever that will look like moving forward. You with me?

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What Do We Do Now?

I’m not sure about you, but I loved a busy lifestyle. I love to travel everywhere and anywhere, and my calendar is always full of social outings, weekends away and I am forever planning my next holiday. I enjoy exploring the countryside and the city sights, eating and drinking out, and more than anything I love being around people.

So when lockdown happened, my weekends were suddenly cleared, my social calendar cleared, and for almost three months I was locked down in my own four walls with my little family. Don’t get me wrong, the family time has been the saving grace to my sanity, but at the same time, I have truly missed the social side to my lifestyle.

Like many others, we have had to adapt to working at home on a full time basis, with my husband doing the same, whilst balancing full time care of of our almost four year old son. Having said that I consider us having an easier experience than many others. I hear so many stories of parents with babies, or even more than one child, or living in circumstances where working from home is not possible, or even having to continue finding a way to be on site due to their role requirements, whilst balancing parenting full time. It has been a true test of our resilience for sure.

This is my new blog, I would love to keep you updated on my journey and stay connected.

This is me…

I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and more. I work hard in a busy role, I study and I write. I’m learning every day and mostly from those around me.

I grew up in Australia, in a seaside town just north of Brisbane, Queensland. I now live in the UK, outside of London but close enough to commute to catch up with friends and enjoy the London lifestyle. I love keeping busy in my life, and I enjoy travelling, exploring and just spending time with my family and friends! I have truly missed that lifestyle amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

I have always been a writer at heart, and I have created all types of stories from a very young age. My focus on my studies, my career and my life were always important to me, but my creative outlet has always been writing.

Why Embracing This Storm?

  • Because this year has been like no other I’ve experienced before.
  • Because we are experiencing the same storm, we are just in different boats.
  • Because we have to find a way through our own storms and I hope to connect with others to find ways to support each other.

My hope for this page:

  • I want to share my own experiences in the hope to connect to others feeling the same way
  • I hope to share ideas and things to do, especially as a family as I explore the ‘new normal’
  • I would love to hear from others who are experiencing the same, even host some guest blogs.

Thank you for visiting me here, and please do share with me your thoughts and observations.