Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Marvellous May

The advent of May heralded a new normal, a good settling into routine and the chance for many celebrations.

The three teachers in the house worked intensively with online teaching and pre-recorded lessons. Jonny and Adele began their days with lessons starting at 6.30 am before moving on in the afternoon to prepping for the next batch. For Angie, hours were spent sitting in front of a computer screen, answering queries from students, liaising and meeting online with colleagues or marking assignments. The latter proved to be an absolute nightmare: multiple documents needed to be opened or downloaded, then deciphered. Work was submitted upside down, sideways, out of focus or illegibly faint. What could have taken a minute or two 'in real life' could take up to 10 minutes onscreen, especially when marking maths. How the children expected their teachers to understand their work when questions were not numbered, ot submitted haphazardly in any sort of random order, was a mystery...

Online teaching, was, however, fun in many ways. Individual 'chats' or actual calls with children, helping them with completing or managing their assignments, were very rewarding, albeit not sustainable in real life. Having spent half an hour working through a variety of problems with one child gave me pause for thought: doing that with every pupil would mean a 10 hour working day just on conversations... Some wonderful work was submitted and parents, too, gave feedback on the lessons. Indeed, my Year 2 RE lessons were some of the best planned and most satisfying, for both my pupils and me, which I have delivered for a long time.

There were many benefits to working at home: most of all, the opportunity to be flexible. So lunch breaks were taken sitting on the patio; a cycle ride before work was possible, or a  midday dog walk; and there were many opportunities to take a brief break and then return, refreshed, to a very challenging work situation.

When not working, we took advantage of the weather, which was tremendous: no rainfall at all during the whole month meant clear, sunny mornings, beautiful cliff walks and stunning flowers.

Shopping became a rare occurrence: we ordered online and ventured out only every ten to fourteen days, early in the morning before the queues started. A new rhythm to life...

Two birthdays - Richard's and Adele's - were celebrated in style with, firstly, drinks with Nicky and Richard over the fence, complete with birthday banner, and then, for Adele, a special meal. Pizza night, with the discovery of gluten-free pizza bases. The end of the month saw the first couple of barbecues - happily, we had unwittingly asked Nicky and Richard over on Nicky's birthday, spending a lovely evening together.

May saw us move out of lockdown: May 3rd, in fact, was the first day with no new Covid-19 cases on the island and by May 27th there were no active cases at all. (Nicky kept notes of all the data in her diary, updating it every day as numbers of active cases dropped.) We moved from total lockdown, where we were allowed out only for essential, infrequent shopping, medical visits, and a maximum of two hours of exercise, first to four hours of exercise and then the possibility of 'bubbling' with another household, where we were allowed to meet up in each others' homes without having to maintain any kind of distance from one another. After that, we were allowed to 'bubble' with two other households as well... and then: no bubbles at all, but unlimited meetings with any one else as long as we maintained a metre distance in our homes and gardens and two metres in public places, gathering in groups of any size up to a maximum of 30. Non-essential shops and businesses prepared to open, and schools were given permission to return after the half term break. But that is next month's story....

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Ponderings on grief

I have been musing wordlessly on this for several weeks, mulling over Stan's untimely death and all it means to those who love him, wanting to express, to clarify, to organise my cluttered thoughts. Grief has been likened to a tangled ball of wool, and so it is. These are just a few of those untangled thoughts. The rest, leaden, stay deep within my heart. For now.

This, sometimes, is how I feel. When I remember. When an email arrives from Tami. When I see references to Central Asia; or Colorado; or Kenya; or ....just anything. Anything can remind me.

The shock of Stan’s sudden passing has stayed with me and, sometimes or so it seems, almost intensified. I find myself more teary, more upset and more unable to talk about it. This morning, in church, I was in pieces afterwards. We sang an old hymn, reminding me of an incident with Stan and Tami in Africa Gospel Church we attended together all those years ago. Sharing a hymn book, I saw Tami smile at Stan – and of course he smiled back, with that wonderful kind grin he had – as they sang together. Now they can do that no longer.

And I just wonder how Tami is feeling. Unimaginable: for I must feel only a fraction of the grief. Surely she must wish to be with him.

The world was a better place with Stan Brown in it. Fortunate is heaven, now, to have him. His body may have entered the decay process, but his soul continues on forever. I regret there were not, in latter years, enough shared moments. Life. moves on. until life ends. Gladly, for us, that is not the end of The Story.

Yet in the here and now, we carry grief still within us. While we strive to live in the present moment, mindfully focusing on what just IS, not what was or will be, the past informs the present. What has happened, or not happened, changes us. The present influences the future. The grief remains.

So, for now: just don’t ask me how I am. I may not be able to choke out a reply. Because this, sometimes, is how I feel. Even when I do not remember. This grief is me.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

April advances...

Because of Covid-19 and all the ramifications, implications and consequent connotations associated with it, April began with uncertainty and a certain degree of unhappiness and dis-ease. As Jonny and Adele adjusted to their stay in Guernsey - hindered by the mandatory fourteen day confinement to house and garden of self-isolation - there were many factors all shouting for their position in all our hearts.

I can't say which was most prominent. Concerns varied, not just from day to day but sometimes from hour to hour. Feelings of constraint; unknowns about the future, both immediate and further off; difficulties in creating online lessons. Too many 'topics' within those categories to even begin listing. Perhaps one day. The conversations of 'not', 'probably not' and 'maybe not' occur in my head as I am gardening. too much to verbalise in concrete words, remaining as fleeting thoughts which permeated my entire being.

And, of course, the uncertainty and unknown changes constantly.


And yet. And yet: there were many, many joys. The comfort and delight in being together as family. Frequent photos from or chats with Cat, Cara and Andy. The beautiful  house and garden we are privileged to share. Escape on cliff path walks or cycle rides through the lanes. The satisfaction of being involved in gardening, tidying up, catching up on long-neglected projects. Creativity in creating, whether it be online lessons, writing, drawing or painting. Even a little crochet project, hats for Cara and her 'bubba' doll. And, of course, online meetings and chats with colleagues and friends, keeping connected.

I was drawn to Twitter and the BBC for information, to instagram and facebook for encouragement. (One of the many positives is the immense humour of funny cartoons and stories and the creative inspiration of many around the world as they deal with the fallout of the virus.)

Above all else, there was time to listen: to wisdom online; to praise and worship music; to the goldfinches singing at breakfast, the thrush at lunch, the blackbird giving his heart in the evening. Buzzards called overhead while gulls shriekeded as they swoop and dived around the cliffs. A kestrel hovered.

At the beginning of the month there was time to stop and stare, to pause and pen a few words, to reflect and respond. We advanced, one day at a time...

Easter arrived, Holy Week a reflective, quiet time. These days were for filling my time, as much as I could, with praise and worship and wise words. Easter Sunday up for sunrise overlooking the cliffs with #lectio365. Watched Alive church from NZ online; then HTB Easter service: and then our own church's short recorded service. Emmaus Rd was up on my screen but didn't get round to it - hopefully, recorded. Moving on to Louie Giglio at Passion City Atlanta today and Spring Harvest. The world seemed too strange to feel at ease with 'normal' activities...

April accelerated. Before I knew it, we were at the end of the month. The latter two weeks had been all-consumed with online teaching. There was room for little else in the day, save for preparing and eating meals and trying to manage exercise. Work days were sometimes 12 hours long...

Yet we managed. Slowly, the software became more familiar; the demands of children and parents less, as they settled into the new regime; and my mind became more focused as the curriculum once more came alive with the new term. There were many encouraging emails; satisfying conversations, both in chat and in real-life calls; and light moments. As a team, we worked together, helping and supporting one another.

There were still sociable moments: WhatsApp calls and chats, tea with dear Nicky Over the Hedge, bumping into friends as we went on cycle rides or the rare shopping errand.

We settled into this New Normal which, for us having lived (or, in J and A's case, are living) in Africa, is not so different where social opportunities are far and few between. We enjoyed the time all together - a gift; skyped frequently with Cara, who now asks to speak to her 'Yaya' and the 'derg' - her grandmother and the dog; and rejoiced in spring coming and every piece of good news around Covid-19.

Because, when all is said and done, there is much good news in our world.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Covid -19: some resources

Finding myself with more time than expected and dealing with internal stress, it was a delight to find a site which advertises all kinds of free books: 45 different places, apparently, where you can download thousands of free books and journals.

I haven't actually looked into it in any detail, not beyond the first page, but I am finding it a little stressful having so many web pages open on my browser. At least now I can cross this one off as I am sure to find it again. With The Husband having at least 30 Twitter pages open, Google history wouldn't be much of a help in backtracking to all the sites I have browsed...

Friday, 27 March 2020

March Mayhem

The rain continued on into March. The rain continues on into March. The rain will very likely, most probably, perhaps certainly, continue on into March.

Four storms within a couple of weeks, dumping copious amounts of water onto our tiny rock of granite stuck in the English Channel. The peak was during the night of March 4th, where we awoke the following day to flooding.

My commute - normally 25 minutes - took 50, as I had to turn back twice before finding a lane which was not barred by a deep pond. (I may have stopped for a few minutes to photograph and film. Who wouldn't?) The first one, at the bottom of Donkey Hill, was a flooded valley, water stretching up across the fields as far as the eye could see. There was a handy abreveur situated there, manfully doing its best to channel water safely into an underground douit, but it was outclassed. The water was so deep that I didn't dare expose the electrics on the bicycle. I did, eventually, sail through a relatively shallow puddle, holding my breath and coasting across gently. To have turned around would have added yet another ten minute ride.

Meanwhile, at home, the flooded vege patch/firewood stack had spread all the way across the far side of the garden, the patio around the shed boasting an inch of water. The ground had been soggy for weeks but this was the last straw. Or the last few hundred gallons, I suppose. There was absolutely nowhere for the water to drain and it was, in any case, being topped up by water flowing from the (slightly higher) field next door.

My neighbour, Dear Nicky Next Door, started pumping out her well in the hope that the ground water would then flow into it. Richard went out and bought a pump, dug a trench and sank it into the ground. (We have great plans to dig a soakaway so that we are more prepared next time and can start to pump water before it gets to surface aka crisis level.) It took a couple of days, but the level in the flower beds started to subside, the water disappearing although the soil was still soggy. I fear for my little apple tree... the camellias, the pittosporum and the hydrangeas... but will just have to Wait And See.

We had a slight 'discussion' as to whether the dehumidifier, or leaving the shed wide open to the drying wind, was the best way of drying out the shed before it started to rot. Compromised for a bit of both.

Then we paused, and waited for the rain to stop.

Meanwhile, at school... parents' evenings looming; parents taking their children out of school on holiday, with an hour's notice, in one case; parents voicing their opinions. Sometimes, all those years of professional training and experience, not to mention successfully parenting two wonderful human beings, seems irrelevant and I obviously (in some quarters) really do not have anything to say about how A Particular Child is best taught. Hmmm.

March mayhem? Indeed. But 'in like a lion, out like a lamb'. Spring is most definitely coming as flowers start to erupt on the grassy banks. Celandines flood yellow everywhere I look; primroses stud the banks; violets hide in the hedgerows.

Then, of course, the mayhem rapidly accelerated as Covid-19 took over. Have documented thoughts elsewhere, but by the end of the month we were almost self-isolating, with a lockdown imposed by Guernsey. Not to mention Jonny and Adele occupying our newly-created tiny 'guest wing'. I'm quite proud of the lovely little suite of rooms I have created...

So, here we are. The days are getting longer - in many ways. The sun is brighter: and we try to stay bright, trusting that God will bring about great good and His glory in an overwhelmed, panic-stricken, helpless world.

Facing adversity

There is so much wonderful support out there on the web: perhaps, here, I might collect some of it.

First of all, in a situation which feels - and, to some extent is - out of control:
Wonderful advice from Psychology Today, including the old reminder:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

My dearest friend Lisa posts this today on Facebook: 

"My friend Jani Rubery wrote these helpful words for this unprecedented time... "Have been musing about all of the mixed emotions that we are experiencing as we navigate our way in this turbulent time.
We are in a time of transition which was unexpected, unprepared for and unprecedented. Therefore the depth of emotions we are feeling - both positive and negative are to be completely expected and appropriate.
During times of transition we have to let go - let go of what we know as ‘normal’, let go of of our concept of how our life works, let go of how we think things should be, and sadly for some - this even means letting go of loved ones. As we let go - we grieve and enter the time which is called the unknown. The time in between the letting go and coming to terms with the ‘new normal.’
I write this because I think it is important that we are kind to ourselves and kind to others with regards to their reactions. There will be so much disturbance in the unknown time - we must acknowledge this and recognise this is a normal human process. It is important that we recognise it for what it is and try to get through it - through listening, understanding, acts of kindness and love. There is hope in that we know that during times of unknowing there are positive things that emerge - creativity, new relationships, deeper connections, and new ways of building the future.
So while we have this new space available to us - as difficult as it may be as we had not expected it or prepared for it - let’s take the time to grieve and let go. As we let go - we need to let come. We need to let come - the unexpected, the new, the different. Let come what is there to emerge. At the moment it feels like I am doing this daily.
I myself am curious about what will come as a result of this moment - personally as well as globally. So I will continue to grieve, let go and endeavour to let come...."

Lisa has also recommended to me a wonderful blog Find Wide Places. This post from too, by Jennifer Dukes Lee  has been on my web browser for some weeks, even before Covid-19. In her book It’s All Under Control she says: “We ask for a map, but instead Jesus gives us a compass and says, ‘Follow me.’”

Joys and sadness are part of life: Jesus modelled this for us.

Mental health issues given support at VeryWellMind.

Songs, of course, are a great encouragement:

Otherwise, there is great humour to be found (albeit some of it rather rude!)
Or a parody on Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Nick Heath, sports commentator... commenting on everyday life.
And then there are the numerous acts of kindness, like this one here on Guernsey:
No photo description available.
And, last of all: even more beautiful music.

Covid-19: lockdown

So, not even a week on from Mothering Sunday and we have had a few days' lockdown already. After much stress and agonising, Jonny and Adele arrived here yesterday and are now self-isolating in the tiny guest wing I had much joy in creating for them.

They are confined to the house and garden for 14 days: we can go out for essential shopping/medical trips and for 2 hours' of exercise a day - usually walking the dog. The weather is beautifully bright and sunny, albeit still chilly - we are, after all, still in March.

Meanwhile, we watch Covid-19 news. This morning, an interview from New Zealand: John Campbell  speaking to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. NZ has, especially in this crisis, many similarities with Guernsey and so it was no surprise that our chief minister, Gavin St Pierre, had tweeted the interview.
New Zealand’s position and policy choices seem very similar to Guernsey’s. The interview with Jacinda Ardern explains it well.
Full interview: Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand can beat the corona...
The Prime Minister talked to TVNZ1's Breakfast after yesterday raising New Zealand's alert level to three, then four. Start your day the right way with a com...

In all of this, I can't help but be entertained by the wonderful round-the-world connections we have. Nearly 7 years ago, on our first visit to Cat in New Zealand, we indavertently shared air time with John Campbell. He hosted a show called Campbell Live where, once a week, he would broadcast on location around the country. That particular evening was from the World Famous Fish and Chip Shop in Mangonui, where we were staying for a night. We had eaten at the far corner of the restaurant and were about to leave when the production crew came over and asked if we would mind staying to provide some background. So there we were, in the background on Campbell Live on national television a few minutes later. :-)

The other connection was that Jacinda Ardern was attended by the same midwife when she had her baby a couple of months before Cat...

A mild diversion. The reality of being confine to home is beginning to make itself felt. Skype and WhatsApp chats and calls help, but time is beginning to drag. Time for a timetable...

Tomorrow. Otherwise, just Take One Day At A Time.