Normal?

I’m not going to comment on what’s going on in the world. Frankly we’ve never been great at ‘normal’ anyway and there is quite the irony in the whole world heading as far away from normal as it’s been in my whole lifetime less than a year after we aimed to rejoin normal after leaving Rum.

I think in so many ways our lifestyle was excellent training for us in lockdown. Never having used school, having always had strong ties in whatever community we lived in, conducted lots of our socialising remotely or online, being used to all being together most of the time, cooking with sometimes limited ingredients and being used to having a decent store cupboard of food. Nothing much out of the ordinary as far as we were concerned.

Some threads of life have begun to pick back up. We have been able to start looking at what we can begin to do again in terms of recreational, social, voluntary stuff once more and in our usual style we have done lots of evaluating and scrutinising all aspects of our lives to see if they are still working for us.

Ady is still really enjoying his job. It looks set to change a little with some additional hours and an altered round of clients which is great because it offers more learning opportunities for him. It has meant we have had to look carefully at the various things we do and let our housekeeping contracts know that we are no longer going to be available for our regular cleaning and gardening contracts in the fairly near future. In all cases we had some lovely responses to those communications and have agreed we are happy to stay in touch to provide back up / emergency cover if we are available and they find themselves needing help. So the end of regular cottage cleaning but not entirely the end.

Davies has started his 4th year of study with the Open University. Having passed his first units with distinction he has a good rhythm of working on his studying during term times and taking the long summer off. This year’s unit is a brand new module and is a really interesting one. He is already steaming through the course materials and finding it fascinating. He continues to do his art and is certainly worth checking out for original gift ideas (I won’t say the ‘c’ word but I suspect you know what I’m talking about….). Give him a follow on instagram to see some of his fabulous artwork. https://www.instagram.com/davies_with_an_e/

Scarlett continues to be out collecting litter daily and has signed up for a really interesting looking online course in marine litter. She also has some online training coming up for her volunteering with the local Cats Protection League. Scarlett is also a very talented artist but she doesn’t share her art online so I can’t link to it. She has also started volunteering at a local croft where she is helping to train some pygmy goats and hang out with the croft creatures including the sheep, horse and dogs. She recently did a really interesting online training session on animal tracking and is hoping to do some more of those with maybe even some real life training in that area if and when such things ever happen again.

Megan is a good chunk into her extended visit this time and is also ‘back to school’ with online studying. She is busy learning about social sciences and also science with plenty of kitchen chemistry experiments. We’re having some excellent dinner table conversations. She has also just filled out her absentee ballot for her first presidential election back home in the US. It’s so lovely having her here with us and great for her to get to really spend such an extended time with Davies and by extension with us.

My furlough for my youth work / centre supervisor period has come to an end yet with still no return date for the community centre to reopen as it is part of the local high school building so is a fully closed and contained space with no admittance to anyone outside of teachers and pupils. It certainly won’t be opening any time this year. As one door closes (very tightly) so another door opens though and I have been having a regular column in the local paper and managing to meet and interview people remotely by phone or video call.

I have also been working a few hours a month for the mental health charity that Davies and I volunteer for. I’ve been doing some practical stuff like holiday cover / back up for the volunteer coordinator along with some work on the website which is being overhauled and some writing for various publications and online places for them too. This is brilliant – working for an organisation I feel so passionate about, doing the thing I most love is the best sort of work I can think of.

I also decided during that ‘back to school’ period of the end of August that having been writing for the paper for a year now and getting paid for it along with being offered the work for the charity I probably do get to actually call myself a writer. Which is all I have ever wanted to be since I was a small girl. In the spirit of taking my own advice I know that the only way to get from thinking about doing something is to do it. So I signed up for a whole load of online writing training – The Effective Freelancer, The Entrepreneurial Freelancer, Feature Writing, The Book Route, and Creative Writing. I have done all of the first four and learned so much already, with a four week Creative Writing course still to come in a few weeks time. I have also been accepted onto a pilot programme for six months of mentoring from an amazing woman with an award winning career in journalism, a long list of brilliant writing, several published books and years of experience in the things I want to be ‘when I grow up’.

I have joined the NUJ, ordered my press card, negotiated my first scary phonecalls, set up a website and facebook page for my writing, come up with several ideas for books I would like to write and articles I want to put together and am spending a few hours most days working on that alongside my regular columns and work for the charity.

I am sure I will still do cleaning and centre supervising again at some point and obviously freelance writing is far from a certain career but it feels like an exciting time with some early initial wins. Having Ady in secure work and the children no longer children means my long ‘career’ as a Home Educator and when we first moved back to the mainland as the main earner is enabling me to have a real bash at something I’ve long wanted to do.

I am swimming pretty much every day and thanks to my own impetuous nature in seeing a challenge just beyond my reach and making a grab for it I have signed up for the Polar Bear Challenge which sets a minimum distance of swimming each month from November to March with several individual swims below certain temperatures. The rules state no neoprene so although I swam through last winter without a wetsuit just in my swimsuit (or ‘skins’ as it is termed) I did wear gloves and boots. This year those are staying in the drawer and I am bare of hand and foot too.

Today the water dropped below 10 degrees in the loch for the first time and I certainly got the cold water tingle back in full force. But I managed over an hour in the water and clocked up a distance of over 1300 metres. It will be a challenge for sure but one I think I will really enjoy rising to, even if I end up falling short and dropping to the level below.

We are massively missing not seeing family and friends though. We did manage a cinema trip to see the David Attenborough film last week which was very sobering viewing. Our second planned meet up with my parents has had to be cancelled though, as has our planned trip to meet up with friends in a couple of weeks time. We appreciate we are still much luckier than most people though and will continue with our slightly abnormal form for normal feeling grateful for all that we do have.

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