Just like that, it’s over.
No more mornings at the gates.
I wasn’t allowed to take a photo and that’s quite fine as your mam would prefer to draw you anyway.
I’ll remember more that way.
But I would like to know who stole the years from me.
The last year in particular was a huge heist.
It’s a bit hard seeing a whole stadium full of football fans shouting for their teams on the television yet you can’t leave the house because there’s been a positive Covid case in your year at school.
Last week of school before the summer and it’s back to online learning with the cats.
Today on the menu, AstraZeneca part two.
Part one was four days of feeling a little rough and a sore arm, not much to get concerned, I grew no second head and disappointedly I didn’t develop an affinity with anything Microsoft.
I drove to the same building as I originally went to for part one, a small community centre, one way in and one way out. I waited 5 minutes before being ushered to a chair where a trolley was moving up and down the line of waiting people. One to inject and one to ask the questions.
Are you well?
Are you allergic to anything?
Whispers in my ear…Are you Pregnant?
My enthusiastic shaking of my head went on a little too long.
Fifteen minutes of waiting and wondering will this make a difference. Will enough of us get the vaccine? Will it work? Truth is we will have to wait and we will have to hope that it will. I feel very small again, insignificant in the bigger picture.
I got my phone out and ate melted sweets from my glovebox.
There are drop in clinics running this weekend for currently the youngest portion of the national Covid vaccination program, the eighteen year olds.
Millie had her text through a few days ago notifying her she could attend one of these clinics.
She had to take a photographic identification so we dug out her passport.
I drove down with her to the enormous film studios on the outskirts of the city, it was quite something driving into it, lots of run down industrial units colonised by flocks of noisy seagulls.
We parked up and she put a mask on and joined the queue with lots of other young people. Red stripy tape and orange bollards, they all stood apart without being asked. Some on their own, some with mates, some with parents, most on their phones probably checking in with a nice selfie and a hashtag #gotstabbed
Our children have had many vaccines in their lives already, this one felt different. Probably because of it’s newness and it’s immediacy. The other vaccines as babies you knew there was a slim chance of them getting the said diseases. This one is different isn’t it?
I waited an hour in the car watching other parents in their cars, watching the shuttle bus pull up bringing more young people. It was busy.
Millie texted me while inside, in her words:
There was no daylight inside, the building was really big but the ceilings were low and everywhere was white..
Corridors were white too with small windows in where I could see people sat inside. Lots nurses and doctors walking around in their uniforms often wheeling trolleys with large computers on and stacked up carts with the medical supplies on.
I sat in a waiting area next to another girl (well 2 metres next to her) and we chatted about stuff. When it was my turn, I was taken through to a station and they asked me some questions about if I was well. Then I received the injection and waited for a few minutes to make sure I was feeling fine.
And then out she came, clutching an information sheet and asking for lunch.
The council weed killers were out last week spraying down the walls and pavements to get rid of the weeds.
Most unfortunately, it poured down right after and washed most of it away judging by the explosion of colour between the cracks and the gutters.
The smallest little flowers, easily ignored by big feet but loved by little bees and insects. I never really noticed myself until I was drawing on the pavements last year during lockdown. They grew through discarded masks and broken bottles.
Last year, because of the pandemic, we had less spraying and as a result, the most beautiful wildflowers grew on the pavements and the gaps between the old walls.
Beats all the grey any day.
Four days back in school.
One positive Covid test in the year group and it’s back to isolation for the whole of that year and back to online learning.
This is very hard, this is very frustrating. We understand but it’s not easy.
Masks have been handed out to each school child to wear. Shops have free masks in their entrances.
Hand gel in every pocket, mask in the other. Don’t forget your car keys, your phone and your mask and know the year you live in.
Covid is here to stay.
Late last night I had my first shot of the Astrazeneca’s Oxford vaccine for Covid 19.
Got my little card with a date and a batch number on it for when I need my follow up dose.
Hope in a little vile but with so much media opinion.
When it came down to it, just quietly administered with small talk and a smile.
Twelve hours on, just feeling tired and a little peaky, nothing more.
I had a lovely hair cut and colour the other day. The first one in a long time too.
I wore my mask and enjoyed it being styled and cut.
Then I went home and popped it back in a bun.
The march of the dandelions and my dog is as relentless as the flying masks in the spring breezes.
The sun is coming back…well now, in a minute, as we say.
The first invitation for a vaccine has landed on our doormat.
Millie and her classmates are testing for Covid 19 twice a week before school. They do it themselves. For the record I have tried a test to gain some empathy for this process.
There will be sneezing and retching.
Do not touch the fuzzy bit of the swab.
Do not let the dog touch the fuzzy bit of the swab.
Do not let the dog touch the test.
No silica gel is not the liquid.
Did I mention do not touch the fuzzy bit of the swab?
Enjoy your day at school.
The cats love home learning, piles of paper and warm laptops.
Makes essay writing a challenge but I have it on good authority they have never missed an assembly.
Our lockdown restrictions are slowly starting to lift. We can stay local, schools are opening next week on a gradual slow return, more people are receiving the vaccines and Covid infections are for now, very low.
This three months of lockdown has felt an awful lot longer. Two of mine are taller, one has got into college and one dog has grown gangly legs.
Feels like spring is coming and with it, more changes.
Not sure really, it’s a strange dog, lady creature clutching milk bottles and dressed in pyjamas. Blinking at the bright morning light and scowling at a passer-by for daring to look at her and her two dog heads peaking out of her legs.
The schools in Wales are starting up for the older children, staggering the return until full time education resumes after the Easter holidays. They have been learning from home for three months this time. It’s been challenging and lonely for them, the lack of interaction has been hard.
There will be years ahead when we will see this play out I think.
Summer catch up school brings a look of sheer horror to my three’s faces. I can’t imagine there will be much enthusiasm at the prospect of that.
Covid infections are now at levels we saw in October 2020. The vaccination program brings me hope we will see normality of some sort and a return to leaving the house very soon.
Nearly a year in a new captivity, a new world of masks, home learning and fear of getting close.
A year of extremes.
A year that screens became the window to the world.
A year of superheroes in blue.
A year that saw my children grow out of their shoes and I didn’t need to replace them.
A year of insomnia and stars I didn’t know existed, early morning breath and bird song, dogs racing through discarded masks and gloves.
A year where the doorstep and the sky outside felt too big.
A year we are still here, lucky to continue, reluctant to move forward for fear of leaving behind that which we’ve lost.
It’s the art of making things look funny when really I’m hating every minute and would rather be sipping espresso martinis on a beach in Barbados with sunburn and giving no hoots about beach body ready or any of that rubbish.
The news has caught more people going to parties, having their hair dyed in car parks or actually being outside and having the audacity to drive somewhere nice and drink a coffee. We are told we must wait another few weeks and see if we are allowed out to travel to a destination for exercise without infecting each other with more variants named after nice places.
But the sun is shining!
Do you not know how lovely it is in Swansea when the sun shines? It’s so rare that a day without rain would be classified as a drought. I walked to my local park and felt the warmth and smelt the fumes from a passing moped piled on with screaming teenagers.
But anyhow, children on wheels are much easier to manoeuvre.
Last week Boris Johnson gave tentative dates for England to come out of the lockdown.
Wales, where we live, gave a more tentative approach to lifting the restrictions we have been living under since before Christmas. We are still under lockdown, we are still very much restricted to no travel and no unessential journeys, meet ups or socialising.
The media have erupted into euphoria.
I can’t share that sentiment. I am not euphoric, I am far from euphoric, I am tired and I am fed up and my hair is resembling an aged Rapunzel. My children are all still at home, their school lessons are still on a screen. They struggle, they can’t see their future as all they can see is the back of their bedroom door.
But moan as I do, Hope has been lobbed at us, like a big floundering fish that might flop away and slide slowly back into the water while I in slow motion grab it with both hands and miss.
Frannie is a year old now and in the middle of being a beautiful terror in our lives.
But when she runs, she flies. If she had wings, I don’t think we’d see her again. Once this lockdown is over, we are going to walk for miles on long sandy beaches. Until then it’s apologies to the *seagulls in the park.
*No seagulls were harmed. She just enjoys the chase, if it was a crisp packet it would be equally fun.
Stepping outside in a sideways ice blast to get those milk bottles is as far as I’m reaching today.
Dog print pyjamas, bobble hat and complete the outfit with some fluffy socks. A passer-by scurries on past either oblivious or terrified at the sweary mess of a women trying to keep her glasses on and picking up milk bottles with hair writhing in the cold wind like the wicked witch of the morning.
Where is my coffee?
The wind is bitingly cold today. Straight from the North Pole and very bitter it is. Flurries of snow in my face and my hair.
A boot full of food to last the next week, no end to the lockdown as yet but we all are holding our breath and hoping.
The house we live in was built around 150 years ago by miners and their families working in the area. That means that at one point. there were families in these very houses, going through the last pandemic of 1918 when a flu virus ravaged through the world and took out indiscriminately, from our communities.
Also a place of birth, I know Gruff wasn’t the only baby born in this house, there have been many births too. He arrived on a mid Tuesday morning cheered on by a small handful of midwives (and a few neighbours stood outside listening to my swearing).
I have dreamt of death a lot in the last year, of about people I have lost, often I have conversations in these dreams with these people and they are angry at me. I’ve got no idea why, (for probably talking too much?) In real life I have no idea what I would say as I would really rather dream about dogs or food or a nice day on a warm beach getting sunburnt.
They say death is an end, but also a beginning, and of better times ahead. I’m clinging on to that thought a little to much right now.
I see where this is going and I am powerless to stop it, my jumbled corpse and broken bones while being lovingly purred at.
Pandemic didn’t cause a washing shortage that’s for sure. I’ve lost the will to live pairing socks and everyone’s got each others and is having fun negotiating them back. Don’t say I don’t make it fun.
You going “out out?”
That, in Swansea, means out on the town, all glammed up, drinkies, heels and hair done.
No I am not. I’m dressed in yesterday’s jumper, my shoes are muddy, my coat is soaking and my dog is clearly delighted to be dragged around the block in sideways, January sleet.
Still no winter beach, no big sky.
My only essential travel is to buy food and growl, masked at people who come close. It’s hard to feel so anxious when people forget and reach over to take stuff off shelves. What on earth do you do?
Bonnie looks at me…
She’d growl first…
I might try that next time.
It’s going to take time for the cats to accept this bundle of puppy energy. We’re six months in and tuna is the magic that brings these two opposing parties together.
Today was let’s eat Tuna together and not chase or swipe.
We sit on the stairs as that is neutral territory, both can retreat if it gets too much.
Frannie sits as still as she can but the tail always betrays her, the faster the swoosh, I know we have imminent chase pending and to cancel negotiations quickly…
On some nights, the steelworks on the horizon in Port Talbot, light up the clouds with a fiery glow (like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings). It’s eerily beautiful, you can see flames reaching high into the sky. Last night, it was full aglow, quite something to look at and I was very much enjoying the view.
I was so busy staring, I very nearly collided into a man holding his small dog high on his head cursing my little evening day dream and accusing *Bonnie, (on the lead, by my side, looking as puzzled as myself) of wanting to eat his small furry thing.
I muttered an apology along the lines of “So sorry, miles away, lovely hat” and scurried away.
Cue a fox running across our path and I really wondered where I was, Mad Max or Swansea.
Swansea in a pandemic, Mad Max is little too sensible right now.
*Being a big sized dog, she quite often gets accused of wanting to eat smaller dogs but she’s actually a huge fan of dogs smaller than herself as she can play Queen.
School days are a strange business during these lockdown days.
No car run, no rush out the door in the morning.
Still, early to rise, in the dark for a morning check in, registration or daily work download.
Gone are the assemblies, singing and hanging up of coats and hellos to friends.
It’s find a space away from whiskers and paws and chewing mouths.
Please let mum have a coffee and I’ll figure out that maths I promise.
Dressed and ready but no where to go.
Funny, lonely business this learning on screens but there we are right now, in the midst of a pandemic and figuring out the area of Tom’s Toblerone chocolate bar.
Let me tell you a little secret, us mums are looking at you and are very glad it’s not them having to do this.
Children of 2020, you’re doing amazing, don’t ever forget that.
Very cold right now, just above freezing and it’s decided to rain so we are slipping our way around the streets tonight.
Even the billboard is half arsing the light.
There are warmer and lighter days ahead but this month is the queen of dark and cold and she isn’t shifting herself in any hurry. January won’t be rushed.
Dragging our way through this lockdown January.
Can we update the puppy training manual to include how not to chase and destroy drones please, that would be great. Frannie has had a whale of a time chasing one a hundred foot high, she’s got ambition but not wings.
Still in lockdown, still in alert level 4 or whatever that’s come to mean as we’re all out on the covid numbers.
Graphs, charts and projections, I’ve seen more this past year than I ever did at school, all pretty like my tired looking Christmas decorations, must take them down Angie, before twelfth night.
As it’s bad luck.
I laughed a bit too much at that.
Luck rhymed with my reply.
The giant cul-de-sac that is 2020 is gasping it’s last wheezy covid filled breaths, slowly melting at the bottom of my beer.
I won’t miss you.
New year does not promise much either but we can hope and hang on through the dark months.
I’ll raise a glass to that.
Best wishes to you all and all the love from a small sketchbook in Wales.
A letter has arrived from the local council and health service reminding us to remember to stay away and stay at home. Infections here and in the surrounding areas are very, very high. Our hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed if numbers keep rising.
The electronic bill board is still promoting Christmas deals with the odd public service information asking us to keep our 2 metre distances and stay at home whenever possible.
In other news, the cats have decided Gruff’s window is wonderful to watch the birds from and bring their muddy paws in.
It’s still raining, we may need a boat soon.
The rain is playing games with me.
Every day this week, I’ve arrived at the park and the heavens have opened.
Nothing stopping Frannie lightning bolt puppy, she’s been busy herding the crows and seagulls and did attempt to herd the red kite that soared over our heads but it wasn’t having any of it.
We are now very wet, muddy but happy to see open space, (even if I’m soaked to the bone).
The news is pretty grim right now, Swansea still has stupidly high levels of infections. Social media is full of experts.
I’m just an expert in tea making and puppy drying. I don’t smell very nice right now.
Midnight last night we went into a full lockdown again.
The news was announced a few hours before and the ensuing rush in my city to the shops was like a tsunami of panic. My social media filled up pretty quickly with images of miserable queuing and cars gridlocking car parks in the rain, in the dark with the backdrop of blinking Christmas lights.
I walked the dogs later and the roads were very busy with speeding cars and honking horns, you could genuinely feel the atmosphere. One of anger and frustration.
The news says it’s a new variant, it spreads faster. We’re all to stay at home indefinitely, there will be a review in three weeks but numbers are flying here as I’ve said before so Christmas day is the only day we are ok to go out and see our other “bubble”.
A very strange Christmas this is going to be. I’m quite deflated to be honest with you as I imagine the whole of Wales is right now but I understand why.
More milk it is then.
I have a problem.
I want cakes.
But the plastic bag that I have to put my hand into won’t open and I can’t lick my finger.
My glasses are also steaming up so it could very well be a bread roll I’ll be picking up instead.
That’s going to cause riots.
Millie’s studying A- levels and Welsh Baccalaureate. Being at home means she has to study remotely with the school.
I can tell she’s doing Welsh, the pencil has been chewed and she’s ignoring the dogs while giving the laptop a stare that would make a grown man cry.
I’m going to hide in the kitchen.
The lights this year are lovely on my street. I can ignore the litter and the rain when I see the houses lit up.
Feels like forever for those who only went back recently after more isolating.
So many blaming schools for the rapid spread in our area right now.
So many not seeing how education and school life is everything when you miss your friends and chips at lunch. (Even if you have to study in the classroom with the windows wide open). Please go easy on our young people, they’re struggling too.
I think this break over Christmas will go on a bit longer as Covid infections are not slowing down.
Leave for school at 8 am.
Back home by 8.30 am because your school year has to self isolate again as there are covid positive cases.
One is mortified, one is delighted because they missed P.E.
And we wait. Again.
Back to school and here come the sniffles, (oh we are smothering with it).
Here comes a tissue eating puppy.
And a list of symptoms to check off just in case it’s Covid symptoms.
Numbers are still rising again and mask wearing is compulsory indoors in school and in public spaces for children over 11 years of age.
In schools, the children can mix in their class as a “bubble” so if in the instance of someone getting infected, only that class affected needs to self isolate at home. It makes for a strange playtime but it’s a compromise to continue education after so long off school.
Some counties are already in special localised lockdowns restricting movements. There is talk of a bleak winter ahead on the news.
Frannie found a sock in the park today and tore off like a cheetah with it, sprinting with a snotty nose at 46 years old after a puppy makes my face go a strange colour…