30 day blog challenge: Rainbow

A month ago, I went to church in Aberdeen and a woman prayed over me. I knew some decisions needed to be made.

I had no idea that COVID-19 would make those decisions for me.

I went to London for work. I went to stay at my Mum’s in Edinburgh. I travelled down to Berkshire. I travelled down to London again. I walked 30 miles. We travelled back to Berkshire. I drove back to Edinburgh. I sensed the world was about to change, and I really felt the distance the further I drove. Friends were too busy to catch up or see me while I was in Edinburgh. My friends abroad were starting to go on lockdown or following strict social distancing guidelines. My friends who are still in the NHS were telling me what they were seeing. Friends with long term health issues were making the decision to self isolate rather than waiting for the government to catch up to the reality that was coming.

I drove back to Aberdeen.

The day before, I had gone onto the World Health Organisation website.

I had downloaded and read the reports.

I had looked at the graphs and the data.

Epidemiology was always what I excelled at when I was studying Public Health. So I could see what needed to be done. I knew what the implications would be.

Tears spilled down as I drove over the Queensferry Crossing as thoughts whirred through my brain.

My job is at risk.

How am I going to do my job when events inevitably get cancelled?

I may not be able to see friends for months.

The government’s slow reaction is going to put my friends lives at risk.

What am I going to do about the mortgage?

What if I can’t remortgage now that I won’t be able to sell the flat this summer?

Maybe I should rent out the flat and use the money to rent a place closer to friends.

When will I see everyone again?

I prayed to God a simple thought – I don’t know what to do.

What followed was sense that I needed to be in Aberdeen for now.

But God I don’t really want to be in Aberdeen. It’s 127 more miles away from Berkshire, from East Lothian, from Newcastle, from Manchester, from Hampshire, from the Midlands, from London. What about all the costs I’m going to have now? All the things that could go wrong?

And then I saw a rainbow appear over the Forth.

Another over Dunfermline.

Another over Kinross.

I saw rainbow.

After rainbow.

After rainbow.

One would disappear out of sight as the road meandered away from it’s view, only for another to appear on a different horizon.

There were so many during that drive that by the time I got to Dundee I’d lost count after 10 of them.

Everything will work out in the end.

I am with you.

And so since getting back, I’ve worked on the assumption that this is it. I’m hear until next year. I likely won’t be going out much until August unless a treatment or vaccine is found first.

But this isn’t the end of the world.

It might suck.

But we will come through.

30 day blog challenge: Transient

I can’t remember who suggested this word as one of my ‘prompts’ for this challenge, but it’s an important word.

Transient = lasting only for a short time; impermanent.

Though it likely doesn’t feel like it now, this period we are in as a world is transient.

I won’t lie and say that I didn’t have a moment where I felt anxious, fearful or overwhelmed when as my work day came to an end it the latest variation of the ‘guidelines’ were announced.

After a moment of ‘holy crap how am I going to cope with this’ followed by the realisation that I was by no means alone, I remembered the community I found through blogging during a period of my life where my world turned upside down.

Though the majority of my friends don’t blog anymore (social media totally killed the blogging world), there are a great many friendships that were made in the late noughties from us all having conversations in the comments of one another’s posts, folllowing one another’s lives and having ‘blog parties’ where we would either all take part in writing with the same theme on the same day each week, or guest post on each other’s blogs.

I know the power of connection online can be a very real when done with genuine heart and authenticity.

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And so tonight, 4 people from different parts of the UK joined together on zoom and introduced themselves to one another. We expressed how we were feeling. We expressed some of our worries. We talked about challenges we were facing. We listened to one another. We giggled. Some drank tea. We set ourselves some goals for the coming 7 days to do in our time in isolation.

I hope it made others feel a little more hopeful.

I felt encouraged.

I nicknamed it ‘Koala Tree Tuesdays’, and if you’d like to join a 40 minute zoom chat at 8 pm (British time) next Tuesday, do let me know in the comments. Or by messaging me via instagram or twitter.

My goal this week is to finish reading one of many books I’ve started, and to attempt the to build the tall bookcase I got in the ikea delivery last week.

30 day blog challenge: Community

In the UK it got announced this evening that we are now implementing the WHO guideline that people in households with (new) coughs and fevers have to be isolated for 14 days and all ‘non essential meetings’ are cancelled. No going to pubs, theatres or cinemas. People in at-risk groups been told they have to stay in for 3 months.

So how to stay sane and keep connected?

How to support one another in ways that may not seem as obvious?

Stay connected

I hope that there’s going to be an abundance of live events. YouTube, Instagram and facebook all do this, and it can be great!

Zoom, Skype and Google hangouts are platforms to use for free to have a group catch up with friends and family near and far.

Telephone friends and family who do not have internet.

Post letters and cards to friends and family (but obviously wash your hands before).

Things to do

My friend Laura (Faithfully Fit) is posting YouTube videos of a simple at home workouts you can do. Check them out here.

I know my friends love Yoga by Adrienne.

Here is a helpful list of lots of educational resources that are free for kids and families if your kids are having to stay home from school. My friend Caroline who home educates her 4 kids has also blogged some top tips for parents who suddenly find themselves homeschooling.

Girlguiding are currently trying to come up with ways to help girls stay connected and guiding while we can’t meet in person. I’m sure Scouts will do the same.

Duolingo is a great free app for learning languages.

Listen to live radio shows you love.

If you are able – go outside for a walk (but do keep your distance from people – 6ft at all times recommended).

Read. Why not order a book and with your friends read it together with a what’s app chat about how you are enjoying (or not enjoying) it?

Teach yourself how to knit, play ukulele, paint, draw, doodle.

Create a schedule for yourself.

How we can support one another

Popping a note through door of neighbours to give a link to a facebook group or similar (or perhaps if elderly giving a phone number) so people can call on someone to pick up something from supermarket or pharmacy if they have to self isolate for 14 days is obvious.

But also the fact is that those not working for public sector or larger businesses where things can be done with social distancing are going to be affected by this.

Retail workers are mostly all on 4 hour contracts – so though most of them work much more than this, they’ll only be allowed 4 hours a week statutory sick pay. Many in the catering industry are on zero hour contracts. Charities rely hugely on fundraising events from bake sales, to marathons. Hairdressers, beauty therapists, physios, osteopaths. Airline staff, hotel staff, cinema staff, florists, restaurant and cafe owners, writers, artists, sound techs, musicians, actors…the list could go on and on. Because the government have not ‘banned’ us, just said we shouldn’t, they have no protections for insurance coverage.

Sooo…. order books for delivery from your local bookshops. See if your restaurant will do deliveries without you having to open your door. Buy gift cards for the cinemas, restaurants, hairdressers, beauticians and all the rest if you can.

People in the Performing Arts industry – let us know how we can support you while you are unable to work.

Saving money from your commute you aren’t doing at the moment? Why not donate that to a charity or your friend’s fundraising page for that event they had being training for which is now postponed.

In Scotland, a facebook group has started to gather volunteers who can offer childcare to people who will have to continue going into work. Investigate what might be in your local area.

Got caught in the madness of panic buying and realise you don’t actually need all that formula, bleach, toilet roll and tinned food because the supermarkets are still open? Consider donating it to your local food bank who have been left short unable to give to people in desperate need of it.

But most of all – please isolate yourself for 14 days if you show any signs of COVID-19. A dry cough, shortness of breath, flu like symptoms, fever. Or any other infectious illness that could compromise someone’s immune system. I know mumps, scarlet fever and more are also doing the rounds just now!

Any more ideas or thoughts for how we can help one another through this?

Add them in the comments below.

 

30 Day Blog Challenge: Choices

One of the things that Miss Val has taught me is that life is full of choices. Sometimes they aren’t choices that we like. But we still have choices.

Right now, I have friends and family all around the globe who are being impacted in different ways by a certain virus that doesn’t have anything to do with beer (despite the name). I have a brother in law and a friend who are dealing with cancer. Friends that are transplant recipients. Friends with long term health conditions. A mother who is recovering from brain surgery. Friends who are frontline in the NHS.

For that reason, I don’t mind all the precautions that are happening right now.

Does that mean I like them?

No.

I’m 50-50 extravert/introvert. As a single person who works from home, with my nearest family member 127 miles away, I’m socially distanced from the rest of society for a good chunk of the week already. That extravert part of me craves those evenings where I get to chat to people at ballet class, writing group, Girlguiding activities and church.

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Though I don’t leave it to noon to start working and I don’t have pets this cartoon my friend sent me a while ago is pretty accurate!

I need them as much as the hours I’m hunkered down with my blankets and books for my sanity.

But will I moan that I have to be on lockdown because it sucks to be lonely?

No.

Because I’m glad that my friends get to be less scared of catching this darned virus that doesn’t have a treatment or vaccine yet. We hopefully get to live. We get to have an NHS that we can access when we need it.

And there are lots of things I get to choose to do within lockdown.

I get to read a book in the evenings.

I get to watch a DVD.

I get to sew badges on my camp blanket.

I get to write.

I get to bake some yummy cakes and crumbles.

I get to try some new recipes.

I get to chat to friends and family over phone.

I get to meet with my colleagues via video conference.

I get to be better at being kinder to the environment and less wasteful.

I get to take on the challenge of doing the job of events fundraising while no one can go to or host an event so that much needed services the charity I work for provides can continue at a time when they will be needed more than ever.

There’s always a choice.

And I choose to move forward with as much hope, cheerfulness and kindness that I can muster.

That being said, I’m wondering if it would be worth holding the occassional online meet up while others may be feeling a bit disconnected, anxious, lonely or just needing something to look forward to. I thought about having a community blog challenge, perhaps a weekly book/film club or something like that.

If you’d be interested, let me know in the comments or message me on twitter: @koalainscotland or instagram: @brunettekoala

 

What I read this winter…

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Last Christmas by various authors (curated by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson) – I started this read before Christmas but in the end didn’t finish it until after I arrived back in Aberdeen. lt is a lovely collection of writings about what Christmas means to people, their memories. Everyone has written with a very different style and purpose. It was heart warming and thought provoking.

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Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis –  This is classified as a young adult novel. When I first started blogging, I ended up becoming friends with a few people who have Cystic Fibrosis. As a result, I often get YouTube recommendations from  CF vloggers many of whom had a lot to say when the trailer came out for this film. It arrived on Netflix, and after watching it I wanted to see what the book (which was created after the film script) was like. It gave a little bit more background to certain story points and characters. I really recommend watching the film if you haven’t already seen it.

If you are frustrated with COVID-19 – well, to be honest, it might give you empathy with those who have CF, and why the guidelines being taken for the rest of us are so important.

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What is a Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander – You’ll likely have heard me talk about Rachael before. Rachael was the first person to come forward publicly as one of the many athletes who had been subjected to sexual abuse from the medical coordinator and osteopath at USA Gymnastics. Trained in law, her knowledge helped ensure that he was held to account and Rachael has worked tirelessly to push for institutions to have proper safeguarding policies in place and followed. As a gymnastics fan it has been infuriating to see how the victims in this case and so many others (as there were a huge number of coaches also sexually abusing girls reported to USA Gymnastics but allowed to continue coaching), but I also was appalled (but sadly not surprised) to hear about how Rachael was treated by her church. Her book uncovers more about what happened there, and quite honestly it’s a cautionary tale that anyone in a church, sports organisation or any organisation where adults have influence over children and young people should read. And hopefully be moved to know that it’s everyone’s job to ensure the safety of others.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – I am not a fan of the ‘classics’. I am not a fan of period drama. However, seeing the trailer for Greta Gerwig’s take on Little Women, I was for the first time interested. Like most I knew the basics of the story, I think I had a sort of abridged illustrated version of the book when I was a child and just thought it was a big yawn. However, seeing the film I wanted to go back and read the original. In UK the book is published as two separate books. I felt the film was pretty true to the story, and having read into the history of Louisa May Alcott, I  loved the way that’s been written into this latest film. It felt far more real and true to history. I only wish there had been more of the Laurences in the film. I would have loved to see how Laurie was protective of Beth and integral to her learning piano and his protectiveness of Amy when she had to go live with Aunt March.  Also in reading the book, I’m struck by how ‘old’ is not in fact old at all. It’s actually pretty darned young.

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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – The sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I put off reading this book for a while as it felt like the West has been slipping very much into this story being very, very real. In fact, the book though still quite harrowing, is far more hope giving. It was interesting to revisit familiar and new characters and have a different perspective on the ‘history’ of Gilead uncovered by the scholars of the future. I highly recommend it if you like The Handmaid’s Tale. However, if you are waiting to follow the series, you may wish to wait off reading the book in case it gives you some spoilers to how the TV show may pan out.

I know many of my friends around the world are now self-isolation or having to spend a lot more time at home than is usual due to a certain strain of Coronavirus.

Are there any books keeping you company in the meantime? Let me know in the comments!

Keep others safe.

Wash your hands.

And as Nurse Barb would say – ‘Six feet apart at all times’.

BK x

30 Day Blog Challenge: Failure

Yes, it is true.

I have failed.

I have failed at this blog challenge, because after driving all day, thinking about the huge amount of distance between me and some of my dearest friends…I just got sad.

I failed as I got caught up in work and being depressed.

I failed as I got consumed with trying to work out how to create home solo.

I failed when I had a bath and…yep, that sealant is coming away again.

I failed when I tried to put up a curtain rail.

I failed when I tried to open a tin of paint.

I failed when I painted walls and got way too much paint on the skirting boards.

I failed when I ordered furniture with no way of putting it together on my own.

I failed at some of my exams when I was at university.

I failed many times at being an adult – not realising how mortgages, student loans and so many other things work.

I have failed at being a good friend, good sister, good daughter so many times.

I am glad for grace.

Grace in the love of friends and family who come through to lend a hand.

Grace in the forgiveness when you fall short of expectations.

Grace in the eyes that don’t look to carefully at the little imperfections but see the attempt.

Grace in coming to visit your home without judging it.

Grace in generosity of others who share.

Grace in the acceptance of what you cheerfully give.

Grace in the learning of what is and isn’t for you.

Grace in being able to try again and do it better next time.

Grace in the waiting, the wishing and the hope.

Grace that failure is just finding a better way.

30 Day Blog Challenge: Abode

Abode.

A place of residence: a house or home.

I have been greatly unhappy with my home, never really having the skills or the resources to be able to make a place of shelter feel like my own home.

It often feels like as I’m about to make a step towards making somewhere home, another obstacle to prevent it happens.

In all honestly, what makes me feel at home is when I have a place where people feel welcome to come in. To stay. To meander to my kitchen knowing exactly where the mugs will be, the teaspoons…and knowing to check if I’ve thought to buy some milk for potential tea drinking guests.

It’s that place of peace.

Of sanctuary.

It helps for it to be warm.

Full of cushions and blankets.

You know if it’s my home tidiness does not matter.

So long as you put things back in the right place.

I’ve never had pictures to hang, and then I had pictures to hang but nowhere to hang them.

Is that what makes a home?

Or is it simply shelter?

A place where you can be found.

A place to lay down to rest.

Does it matter the colour of the walls, whether there is a sofa to sit on, plates to eat from or your own mug to drink from?

What do you think when you think  of the word ‘abode’?

30 day challenge: Story

Stories.

Stories have the power to malign and ‘other’.

Stories have the power to give a voice to the rarely heard.

Stories give a door into another culture.

Stories give a door into someone else’s experience.

Stories show where we have come from.

Stories show where we could go in the future.

Stories offer an escape from our present reality.

Stories offer opportunity to learn something new.

The reason I love bookshops and libraries, is that it provides gateways into so many other worlds that I can pick up, pop in my bag and enter into at any time.

Important, hope giving, empowering, inspiring, fun, short, long, captivating….oh there’s never not room for another story.

30 Day Blog Challenge: Struggle

Apologies for the lack of blog post yesterday. After walking 18 miles with only my phone to write on, I had plugged it into charge in our hotel room and the pain of getting out my bed to get it back was something I was actively avoiding.

If you don’t know, over the last two days my friend and I have been walking a section of the Shakespeare’s Way. My friend is doing it to raise money for a fund set up through the Oxford Children’s Hospital in memory of a baby she knew. I am doing it for a charity called Bliss, as I’ve signed up to climb Ben Nevis at night this summer with people raising funds for a bunch of charities who are all involved in some way with baby and child loss.

My friend who is much more used to walking did not find it as difficult as I did. But for both of us, there was a point on the first day where we really struggled. We were just over halfway and it felt like the end was in sight.

The rain started.

The route got more difficult to follow.

Then we discovered that due to a massive development near the old Battersea Power Station, not only was the Thames Path shut, but also multiple pavements and roads.

There were cranes everywhere, half finished buildings, high fencing and we couldn’t even see the landmarks that would help us get our bearings. We choked on tar fumes. We couldn’t see where roads would take us. All the building sites meant that things weren’t properly marked on google maps never mind our guide book. And it also caused some confusion to where our blue dot appeared.

We came through it.

The rain began to stop.

We were back on track. We took pause to take a sip of water, and I tried to call a friend because I’d seen that copies of her first ever publish book totally authored by her had arrived.

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We were feeling more hopeful, and then we suddenly came across this sign. And then a second one as once again building developments had closed off the Thames Path.

My legs were aching. We were just ready to get to our finish point.

My friend took this photo which summed up perfectly our feelings.

(If you are wondering why I have a bear down my jacket, that’s Pipp the Oxford Children’s Hospital bear. We were trying to get photos of him at different landmarks on the route to help raise awareness of Ivy’s Gifts fund…and it just became easier to protect him from the rain by tucking him into my waterproof jacket that constantly taking him in and out a backpack!)

We had to take find a new way to get there.

A diversion.

Navigating busy junctions near Vauxhall station.

Signposts that could mislead us.

To find our way back to our path again from a new point.

And as I walked through Lambeth, I could only think that this is a bit of a metaphor for life sometimes.

Some days the sun comes out. Sometimes it drizzles. Sometimes it just pours.

Sometimes the path of life is set out before us and we can see the landmarks ahead – even if the path to get there is hidden.

Sometimes things outside of our control put obstacles continuing that path, so we have to find a way around before we can rejoin it.

And sometimes we think we are at the finish, and we discover to get home we have to go back the way we came for a little bit – even though we are tired and our legs are aching.

30 Day Blog Challenge: Lights

Shimmering over the surface

Shards of light wobble across the water

Glowing up

Beams of light reach upwards

Flooding the muddy sky so

Stars that lie beyond are hidden

Honks not from cars but ducks

Marching down the river

Following the downstream

Of the river we will follow

As it meanders through London to the Globe

Where our finish tomorrow will be.