Getting the Boot in the Time of Corona

~ Or… Life in the Slow Lane…

I blog therefore I am…
I feel and I think and I write.
And for me this is a process of creativity, working things through and then letting them go…

My style is to write very honestly about how I feel and this is not always easy to write, or read for that matter. At times it feels as if I am literally riding the rollercoaster of life, with more devastating, screaming lows than highs, but when I get to the point to where I can write about what ever is going on for me, it’s because I’m at the point of working things through, assimilating them and moving on.

It’s a style I’ve unconsciously developed as a gateway to sanity – a junking and unloading of all my emotional crap, so I can learn, create and release.

By the medium of blogging, my inner life has become public property, being something I can both splurge and share. So it seems that many human experiences and emotions are common, and by sharing them, you can touch and teach others; or at the very least, let them know they are not alone, in their times of trial and triumph.

I put this out there not as some got together guru, but as a dreamy realist, who has worked on my own self development, and quickly discovered that I wanted to share the lessons I’d learnt. So on the road to learning and sharing, I became qualified and have worked as a Life, Career, Corporate, Performance and Development Coach. Whilst the labels have varied and the intended outcomes potentially differed, many of the processes employed with each client has fundamentally been the same: namely questioning and then working through issues, blockages and emotions to get to a new, desired state of being / doing.

Sometimes when I make painfully honest posts, the response I receive is a reaction to the pain, offers for help, or sympathy. And in truth, that annoys me. Such responses seem to undervalue the process I have clearly undergone and the positive place I have finally reached.

But then my coach-ly knowing has to assert itself and I realise that different people read things differently, and have their own filters through which they experience the world, or indeed my words. Fundamentally I have to accept that I may not have expressed myself in a way that touched those readers in the way that I intended. And that can be down to me or to them. Ultimately which, doesn’t matter. I’ve always felt that if something I have written touches or changes even one person’s psyche for the better, then it’s hit the mark, perfectly.

This particular post has been sowed and germinating in my brain for a few days, as the latest in my series of blogs on ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ – a chronicle of life in lockdown and beyond. Sometimes the posts are directly related to the effects of COVID-19 on my life and sometimes are purely circumstantial. Albeit, at this point in time, with lockdown slowly unwinding, the pandemic still is virtually all consuming on so many levels.

But the circumstance of this particular post is that I hurt my ankle 2 weeks ago, which changed my life changed subtly and dramatically, in a variety of ways.

The injury came about in what for me feels like a particularly familiar, clownish, fashion. I was leaving a friend’s house late one evening and crossed the road to my parked car. I stepped up to a narrow pavement, missed it and fell headlong, immediately knowing that I’d twisted my ankle. It hurt… a lot. I swore… a lot. And I cursed myself because I knew right there and then that I would not be able to run for a while.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you will know that running has been my ‘thing’ during lockdown. I have hated and loved it; been challenged and stretched by it; and both retreated from and been attracted to it. But regardless of its multifarious roles in my life, it was my lockdown thing and suddenly it had been taken away from me.

In the moment it happened I was with another friend who I needed to take home, so I got in the car and drove. It was agony. I knew that that level of pain would not just evaporate quickly – inevitably the ankle would swell and bruise. The pain throbbed and ebbed. When I got home I read up treatments online. I iced, raised and rested. Still the next morning it hurt. But I decided that within days and continued care, it would be better soon. I would get on with my life and my hurt ankle would be a minor incident, soon forgotten.

So I quickly expended my efforts at care, strapped it up and limped on with my life. After a week when I decided to chance taking a long walk, it rewarded me with hurt. The bruises had finally come out and they were spectacular – a rainbow of dead blood shaded from delicate yellow, through grainy green, to dire purple. The swelling had not receded.

And then my back gave out. It decided to join with the ‘ouch party’ going on below – first trying to adjust and then giving up, and complaining loudly / painfully instead. Where I could at least stand before, now I would have to hobble and wobble until I got a grip of pain vs gravity, and was able to propel myself forward.

Clearly I was in pain, although that would ebb and flow. But it took me a while to realise that I was living with pain constantly, as a low level constant hum, just beyond my consciousness – yet ever present and poisonous.

The physical pain took a while to assert it self in that sense, because the mental pain was overshadowing it. I felt low, exhausted and stressed. I tried not to limp my way through life, but could not help myself.

Odd now, just days from this stage, I realise that I was cursing myself for doing something stupid and having to slow down. I felt I had self-sabotaged somehow, which will be an omni-present theme for someone like myself who has done any kind of ‘self-development’. So it was that I had a low grumbling blame game going on – criticising myself for doing nothing in those days, except survive. I worked, I rested and nothing else. But ‘nothing else’ in my world is actually a lot! I fed myself healthily, got myself to work, worked hard, kept the house to a basic level of cleanliness and tidiness, did the laundry, took care of my cats, engaged with my friends and kept my life going. All despite the pain I was barely acknowledging.

Been then I realised that the pain – either physical or mental was not going to just dissipate. It was still ever present and was bringing me down, on every level. I couldn’t go it alone any more and needed to get it properly checked. When I finally called my GP 8 days after the injury, he was disinclined to diagnose a fracture, since he said, I could put weight on my ankle. And remember that this was a COVID consultation, done by phone at a distance and without the benefit of seeing the level of bruising and swelling, which other experts in my life, said could mean that it was indeed fractured. But I explained this to him and the fact that it was still so painful. So, if you’ll pardon the pun, I stood my ground and asked him to make an appointment for an X-Ray.

By now the pain was ever present and now longer ‘humming’ quietly in the background. I had to wait 3 days to get an X-Ray. When the call finally came, I spent the best part of day at my local hospital, waiting for a definitive diagnosis, sat in socially spaced chairs, along with other injured and sick lone wolves, all of whom had to wait solo, because of Coronavirus risk and space and control.

Each stage took an age. X-ray. Wait. Referral. Wait. Triage. Wait. Examination. Wait. Consultant… Being talked about by the staff, though I was feet away from them. “Who’s dealing with Sandra Peachey? Has Ortho been called? Yes.” Right: So I’ll sit here then, moving through a well oiled system; apparently invisible, yet the object of discussion and action, though right now I’m actually inactive, yet listening.

Eventually I was acknowledged and actually talked to, by the Orthopaedic specialist. In fact he explained the X-ray to me, in very thorough detail. It turned out that I could bear weight because the X-ray showed my leg and foot bones were all whole and exactly where they should be. The pain and swelling was due to what even my untutored eyes could see, was a fractured ankle bone. Then we discussed treatment options and, being posed with questions, eventually I asserted an answer and so I got the boot. A Support Boot that is, to immobilise and protect my ankle whilst it completed the process of healing.

My Regal Ankle,
revered on its cushion,
& clad in a support boot

I had finally got an expert opinion. I had external validation of my situation. In reality, I knew from the minute I did it, that I hadn’t simply twisted my ankle. But instead, I followed old patterns, laboured on and ignored my intrinsic wisdom. I limped quietly about, until I had ‘real’ recognition of my situation. Finally, a medic had confirmed the source of my pain, and given me a range of solutions. But fundamentally, what happened next and how I handled this, was up to me.

So being armed with knowledge, my actions altered. I stopped and considered. I rested. I sat still for a change. I literally elevated my right foot to regal status – resting it royally on a plump cushion, cossetted and pompous, far above any other part of my body – day and night. There it drains and heals from within; and from without is externally receding from a rainbow bruise palette, to pale skinned normality.

After 5 straight days of rest and elevation, this morning I woke up full of energy and almost free of pain. This time of stillness has been boring and frustrating, but ultimately nurturing and restorative. My ankle is still stiff and sore, but the swelling is finally shrinking. It will still be a while before I can run again, but I can walk a little, swim and do yoga, and so work my way back to picking up the pace (in every way), again.

So apparently I needed a break and quite literally, got one! I had to be stopped in my tracks, to take stock and gauge what was truly important at that point in time. And of all the things in my life, it turned out that the road to recovery for me, was creativity.

My life had centred on many things, all of which led away from, not towards my inescapable need for creativity. So it was time to return to my writing. After months away from the pen, it always seemed easiest, with the few physical and mental resources I had left after work, to just binge watch TV, then go to bed. Then then start again and so the same, the next day. Even though, intrinsically I knew that creativity is fundamentally at the heart of me, and that my desire and destiny is to write. And not just that, but to use my writing to right… my issues, to share my soul and move me ever forward.

And the voice that told me to stop doing this was keeping me small, in order to keep me safe within defined parameters of routine and misery. But then I got that oh so clichéd wake up call, and picked up my ‘pen’: I went back to my fiction writing and spent a day lost in my own authorly world of voices, places and stories. These were not the whispered conspiracies of my stone-age brain, but conscious stories of creation and imagination, entertaining, occupying and completing me. And this creative process for me could never be complete without a blog to record those slow steps; to anchor the lessons, and ultimately share the experience.

Some may say that on some level I created this break, but that’s not how I interpret what has happened. Ultimately I know that my actions, combined with fate and circumstance, led to my ankle being fractured. But what I have created as a result, is a series of lessons: I must listen to myself deeply, knowing that at the core of me, I inevitably have the right answers. I know my body and having become a runner in recent history, I know what it is capable of.

I could and should give myself credit where it’s due, since I achieve a lot in my life; despite the fact that my self doubt often emotionally paralyse me; along with the fact that I’m chronically sensitive to how I perceive those around me, respond to me. As a result I spend far too much time and energy focussing on perceived criticisms, including those that I unintentionally inflict upon myself…

These lessons are not the end of this particular story. There are yet more, both in this, and for the future… some new, and many to be repeated and re-learnt.

But for now, I shall continue to revere my healing ankle, and elevate it to the status it deserves – high on its cushion; whilst my head and fingers work happily at making stories, blogs, tears, dramas, laughter and what ever springs from my creative core, into ‘more’.

And that more as it happens, is me.

Yours,
Sandra Peachey
She of the Fractured Ankle and Creative, Optimistic, Spirit

PS: You can buy the paperback or Kindle edition of the book of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on Amazon or you can get an author signed copy on my website for just £7.99 including P&P.  You will also find the book on all good book selling websites around the world.

Featured on the BBC, as well as local and national media (including Psychologies Magazine and The Lady), the book was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. 

Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a sweet bookish structure. 

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here

How does my garden grow? / Leaving Lockdown in the Time of Corona

I‘ve been silent on here for some time, concentrating on work in the adult world, which left me with little time and energy for anything else. After a break and time to recalibrate, I’m on this page again… Seeing metaphors in my growing garden and this strange time of semi-lifted lockdown.

So.., sew..? How does my garden grow?

Unlike the nursery rhyme, apparently:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells,
And cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Well, I’m not Mary, though at times I could be described as ‘contrary’… And in the elongated, strangulated times of COVID, my garden grew in pretty much the way it had always done – soaking up sun and rain and reaching higher into the sky. The garden is split into upper and lower levels and below, nature tended towards wild, whilst I tamed and pruned and mowed, just every now and again, to keep some sense of man-made order in the tangles of sap and seed that nature decrees.

Buddha looks on in my garden

My upper garden is a terrace and in that I seek colour and variety by planting up pots every year with a mixture of annuals and perennials. These are purchased from favourite independent plant nurseries in May, when the frosts start to thaw out and I can plant species of exotic origin, which will thrive for the short band of summer in the centre of England where I currently live.

But not in the time of Corona… In a land in lockdown I must do things differently… The garden centres were closed or restricting their custom and so, instead, I found plants at local grocery stores, where I had to stand in a long line to buy, or at supermarkets at the end of the day, dried up and wilting. By habit I shop much the same plants, but in lockdown, such choice was denied to me, so I took what I could find… Begonias, which I dislike, dried up petunias that no one else wanted: a half dead pack of lobelia, which my local Co-Op sold to me for a pound – “I can’t charge you full price for that…”

Each find was a little victory – a tiny triumph of patience, with trophies of a successful hunt which were carried home with a small smile of satisfaction.

At the end of May, when I should have been on ‘the holiday of a lifetime’ in Bali, my travel plans scuppered by COVID; I was planting up pots in my garden instead, feeling grateful for my gains, the sunshine and the soil in my fingernails.

And my garden grew through lockdown, with some human care and intermittent attention. As June peaked, the upper terrace revealed its’ treasures of bloom in a rainbow of glorious colours, jewel bright, amidst the green foliage. All this was just in time to impress the allowed number of guests who came to celebrate my birthday in the safely spaced arena of my garden.

Herbs, begonias & blue pots

The combination of plants gathered serendipitously, is decadently different to my norm, but somehow all the more special for it. All those nascent wilting plants have revived, thrived and continued to reward me with new flowers and inspiration throughout the wending UK weather, through out July and now into August, currently hot and sweet, so I spend my spare time in the garden, eating ‘out’ and engaging with the birds and my senses.

And outside the lockdown lid has started to lift. Some freedoms have slowly been restored, whilst others have clamped down, tighter. It’s an odd, jerky time and having now to emerge from my cosy COVID cocoon, I am negotiating it and the changes it brings, one step at a time. Some of the changes are jagged, sharp and unpleasant, but in this Corona time must be worked through, applying logic and compassion in strange, equal measures.

Grapes a-growing, pond and fountain

The authorities in the UK are reacting to the vicissitudes of the virus in an un-co-ordinated and clumsy way. I have some empathy with this though, as responses seem to be for me too, a weird wedding of expertise and knee jerk response. To control this , I break each situation down in to its’ base elements and build them back up again into the shape they need to be. This isn’t always easy in a world of relentless hard work, chaos and shifting sands of circumstance, but it gives a structure in this altered landscape of life and a level of controlled sanity.

And I take care to take care of myself. If I neglect this, which I have at times during the recent crazy path of the past, the madness takes over and I’m in danger of being subsumed by it. So I balance life and work. I focus on my creativity, my rest and recreation and then I have the fuel I need to focus wholly and resolutely on my work.

In the meantime there are the new found appreciations of meeting a friend for a meal, taking a small holiday, going for socially distanced swim and seeing my garden grow. This summer I have spent so much time in that garden and we’ve grown together. I’ve taken stock, I’ve pruned carefully and pulled out the dead leaves. And I’ve pulled the dead heads off plants, so they can breath and reward me with more flowers.

And as to those begonias that I used to hate, well, whilst not invited, they’ve gone and given me an endless supply of large, beautiful yellow blooms. The wilted petunias have provided endless purple flowers and the half dead lobelia – a cascade of sky blue and white to soften the edges of my tended terrace.

So actually, in this time of Corona, my garden has grown beautifully and so, it can be said, have I, without a predictable ‘silver bell’ or ‘cockle shell’ any where to be seen.

My cat Taz, reclining in Buddha’s shade

Yours – with green fingers and dirty fingernails,

Sandra xx

PS: You can buy the paperback or Kindle edition of the book of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on Amazon or you can get an author signed copy on my website for just £7.99 including P&P.  You will also find the book on all good book selling websites around the world.

Featured on the BBC, as well as local and national media (including Psychologies Magazine and The Lady), the book was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. 

Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a sweet bookish structure. 

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here

Lessons in the Time of Corona

The global phenomenon of COVID-19 has impacted many millions of people, in many millions of ways. There are millions of stories with a myriad of changed lives; and so too, there are people whose existences have carried along, pretty much undisturbed.

If I think through my own trajectory of this time, I remember that at the beginning I was blasé about it all. It was the joke du jour amongst many people I knew that when someone would sneeze, everyone would jocularly say “Uh oh! You’ve got Coronavirus”, ha ha, hee hee…

And the news of a possible pandemic bought out anxiety for some I knew, scared of something they felt they could not control. Not me for though: I was sure that I would learn all about it, as inevitably I would have to incorporate it into my work somehow; but apart from that, everything would be fine. I had after all survived swine flu and bird flu. And I wouldn’t be ‘self isolating,’ any time soon – I had a busy life to lead. My year was all mapped out – I had holidays planned, I had weddings to go to. This COVID thing was all just news spin – a Media induced panic that would eventually blow over.

I discussed what was happening in the world with family and friends, but the turning point for me was someone explaining that self isolation, as a means to stop the spread of infection, was being mooted because it would save a critical drain on the country’s health service, which was simply not designed for such a catastrophe and did not have the resources to cope with a massive onslaught of cases. Suddenly my world view became different and I had now grasped the global gravity of the situation.

Yet still I was living a ‘normal’ life; but now it was coloured COVID and I started to feel uneasy. Like millions of others, I pried online, looking to buy gloves, masks and hand gel. I read up on infection rates and prevention techniques.

Then, one languid Sunday in March, a close friend telephoned. “Come out to lunch” she said, “it may the last time we can do this in a very long time.” So I got in my car and drove to a local pub for a roast dinner. There were 5 of us round the table – 3 generations, all of whom I regard as family. We were upbeat – all happy to be together – to chatter about and ‘chew the cud’ of our life and times. The place was quiet for a Sunday and the waitress who served us wore plastic gloves, but all else – the sights, smells and sounds, were as they had always been. Later on, when I thought of it, the memory of that day felt pre-apocalyptic…

Soon the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the lockdown gate was about to be closed and suddenly everything became serious. From being blasé, now I was anxious – it was as if my world was a triangular house built of playing cards, now collapsing and blowing away in the wind. The cards fell down one by one, starting with the social group I was an organiser for cancelling all events before I’d even managed to voice an opinion on the subject.

The week stretched on, whilst the world was shutting down. By the end of it, I was looking forward to my Friday evening ritual of going for a long swim: I swim solidly for 40 minutes, mentally working through my week and then letting it go, so I can wind down and relax into the weekend. As I left work that day, with my gym back packed, I checked my phone to find a message telling me that the Health Spa had just been closed till further notice. And that was when it all really hit home for me…

Suddenly, so many freedoms I had previously taken for granted were gone. Work became more and more frantic as all the economic and organisational ramifications hit home. All around me people were losing their livelihood; old and vulnerable people were suddenly stranded and the infrastructure that surrounded my life seemed to be crumbling. As the walls of my life closed in around me, I decided to take some decisive action.

I self-isolated. I avoided going out, even to shop, as much as possible. When I had to of necessity, I wore washable masks and gloves. These were things I had control over; yet from having felt so laisse fair at first, I now started to feel panic, breathing in the mass hysteria of a world in free fall. My mind would spin… as an asthmatic, what if I was put on a ventilator…?

In my ‘adult’ life, as a senior manager in global business, I had some empathy with the authorities, although too, they befuddled and muddled much of the messages they put out. I don’t praise or condone the actions of the UK government. But the world and I had never experienced anything like this, so from moment to moment, we largely had to make it up as we went along – cobbling together what previous experience had given us and inventing everything else from a combination of expertise and ineptitude.

As for the things I can control, I know from experience that I’m stronger when I support others, and to do that, I have to first take care of myself. Basically I had to stop panicking and make my peace with what was happening to the world, then decide how I was going to negotiate it. As such I consciously choose to control the things I could, doing my best work and ensuring my own safety and by extension – that of others.

At this time too, I made a pact with myself that if the thought of someone passed through my mind, then I would reach out to them. So it was that I messaged, emailed, texted, called and WhatsApped friends I haven’t seen for decades, Christmas Card only family members, old work colleagues and even an ex-boyfriend. Some of the responses were warm, some dismissive, some were guarded, whilst some opened up and poured out their hearts. It was a sweet and cathartic process, this reaching out and gave me a sense of doing something conscious and constructive.

Having more time to navel gaze – I navel gazed… picking up on my intermittent practise of meditation and returning regularly, to my infrequent writing of blogs and of editing my seemingly endless novel, which has been part of my life now for over 6 years.

Now that my recreational walking and swimming had been taken away from me, I had to look for new ways to maintain my physical fitness, too. Having been to group yoga classes for several years, I now moved online, practising poses and mantras on my living carpet via Zoom calls and practising workout programmes which my phone dictated to me.

But somehow it wasn’t enough. I felt I needed a challenge and so, I turned to the physical thing I hated worst of all – running. Running for me was the very antithesis of enjoyment. It’s been for most of my life an occasional, necessary evil. For decades I have taken my exercise within my own prescribed comfort and happiness zone, either doing just enough or what I loved…

But running was a stretch and it was also ‘easy’. Just pull on a pair of trainers and go… I downloaded the Couch to 5K App onto my phone, which then coached me through running for intervals of 90 seconds, until eventually I hit 20 minutes. So it was that I joined the throngs of runners, walkers and cyclists that suddenly were every where, instead of the occasional smug and svelte athletes I use to drive past with mild, seated irritation.

Despite all this exercise I was barely losing any weight. My next mission therefore was to focus on my nutrition, which was already quite healthy, but just, somehow staid. Weight loss though took its toll on my energy though, which slowed my running down to a near stop. Suddenly, having running taken from me, I decided to get educated; get all the kit; join online communities; and eat to run. As a result I devised my own running programme and gradually built my running up to 30 minutes at a time. As an asthmatic, only a few months before, running for just 90 seconds had made me feel sick and tearful. And whilst I would never claim that my running journey has been easy, it has shown me what mental mastery as well as physical training can achieve in a relatively short space of time and the sense of achievement (especially at the end of a run!) has been immense.

So, having graduated from Couch to 5K I stepped on the scales and along with everything else that I had lost in life because of Coronavirus, I had also shed a stone in weight. Having achieved that, my new challenge is now to improve my speed and distance.

And life despite lockdown, has gone on… I’ve continued to work long hours as a Human Resources Manager. My god-daughter had a baby girl. My cousin died. All things I have chronicled in other COVID blogs; all impacted by the parameters of contact and context. Yet all somehow negotiated and come to terms with, in my world.

And through all this, I realised that I had found a surprising contentment, by turning in on myself, spending time with my thoughts and working through the kinks of a strangely seminal situation. In my own sweet COVID cocoon, I felt safe and in control. As a mix of extrovert and introvert – whilst my extrovert felt stifled at first, my inner hermit was only too happy to retreat into her cool, safe cave, alone.

So at the time of writing, the lockdown gate has started to lift and with that comes the gratitude of such simple pleasures as meeting a loved one for a socially distanced walk and meaning that I was able to celebrate my birthday, in my garden, with a legal outdoor ‘gathering’ of six people…

I wonder just how long it will be before I get to take these things for granted again? I wonder too if things will ever be entirely ‘normal’ again, what ever that is. In fact I’ve already decided that the world will find its own normal again, as I will – either to be interrupted or cancelled or continuing on into infinity.

Yet part of me too wants to carry with me constantly what Coronavirus has given me, trusting that when I leave my COVID cocoon, that the positive impacts I have chronicled here, will imprint on me for ever.

From Sandra – student, jogger and believer…

PS: You can buy the paperback or Kindle edition of the book of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life on Amazon or you can get an author signed copy on my website for just £7.99 including P&P.  You will also find the book on all good book selling websites around the world.

Featured on the BBC, as well as local and national media (including Psychologies Magazine and The Lady), the book was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. 

Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a sweet bookish structure. 

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here

A Birthday & Scrambled Eggs in the time of Corona

A BIRTHDAY GIRL IN THE TIME OF CORONA or…
~ Grandma Peachey’s Recipe for Scrambled Egg

By the time she passed away in 1983, my grandmother Adelaide Peachey had around 26 descendants – children, grandchildren and great grand children. As a devoted Christian she prayed for each and everyone of us, every single night, before she went to sleep. I always remember that, with warmth – that I was / am loved. That I’m part of something bigger than what is just beyond my inherited Roman nose.

I knew snippets of Grandma’s life story from family anecdote, including that she grew up with her own (maternal) grandmother. And she only told a few tales of her early life, one being how, working and living in the fair grounds, her best friend was a giant shire horse she called ‘Baby’.

She left the travelling life to marry my grandfather, a horse dealer. My cousin Janet recounted how Adelaide’s new mother-in-law was less than delighted, when Adelaide started a fire in the garden to make the first dinner of her married life, not being used to the indoor contraption of a cooking range.

Only later on when I drew the family tree did I realise how hard her early life must have been. She was orphaned by the age of 6 and the family tree shows that she named her own four children (mostly) after her own siblings. And life did not go in a straight line for her after that time. My grandparents divorced after the end of the First World War. A very rare occurrence and a huge cause for scandal in those times. My father, his brother and 2 sisters were then raised by their paternal grandmother.

Yet time moved on and in 1939, my grandparents remarried and stayed together, till death did them part, some 30 years or so later.

My Grandparents

So many of the stories of Adelaide’s life are lost or stored as fragmented memories throughout the branches of the family tree, as is the simple way of these things; but here is one little legacy… The recipe for Grandma Peachey’s scrambled egg.

This comes to my mind today as it’s my birthday. A day to be spent in the semi exile of a life in lockdown.

Over the past few days, my COVID hovel of a home has been cleaned and tidied; my garden clipped, organised and mowed into green respectability.

So I woke up on the day, blessed by glorious sunshine at the zenith of a beautiful English summer. All around me was clean and calm. I fed my 3 cats a luxurious breakfast of prawns and then pondered what my own birthday breakfast should be. I have a little ritual that I will make myself a cooked breakfast and sit in the garden to eat it, soaking up the sunshine and birthday bonhomie.

And today I remembered Grandma Peachey’s method of making scrambled egg:

* Break 2 eggs per person into a bowl.
* Add a teaspoon of milk, some mustard powder, salt and pepper.
* Whisk thoroughly.
* Gently heat a frying pan or saucepan and pour the mixture in.
* As the mixture starts to solidify, add some butter into the mix.
Don’t mess or fuss with it. Just stir occasionally and gently with a wooden spoon until it is cooked through and ready to devour.

A royal breakfast

My own version of this family favourite has evolved over time… I’ve substituted grain mustard and cream. Two slices of sourdough bread are started in the toaster, later to be slathered over in goats butter. Then I cook the eggs in my microwave – literally 2 blasts of 40 seconds and I have a feast fit for a birthday queen. And as this was a royal occasion, I garnished it with deliciously regal strips of smoked salmon. It was then carried ceremoniously out to my garden table, where I ate it in the sunshine, joined by my prowling, posing cats.

As I reflected on the start to this day, my thoughts were this:
I wasn’t concerned that COVID had tempered with or short changed me in any way. The day was what it was and I accepted that – not passively, but with grace and by choice. And I prepared for it so that I could pause in it – I didn’t set the day up to be special; simply settled into it, as it was.

In this time of Corona, for me, this is about accepting where and who I am right now; and what ever day in the life this is, that I always have so much to celebrate and learn.

This years birthday was a day of slow, easy joy. I had the company – socially distanced, in my garden, of a handful of people that I love. And it started out with my grandmother’s scrambled egg, so I got to spend some time with her again, too…

So really – tell me, what could be more perfect than that gorgeous little eggy legacy?

And with that start to it, the day could just gently unfurl as it would… My big brother and 3 of my best friends met me in my garden… I ordered up a delivery of afternoon tea for lunch and we chomped on Chinese takeaway for dinner. We slurped tea, quaffed champagne, chatted, walked, and we basked in the sunshine.

And then I was another year older…

Birthday Girl

With best wishes, from Sandra – Birthday Girl xx

PS: If you are moved to make scrambled egg by suggestion of this post, I’d love to know…

PPS: To experience more of my take on life, you can also buy the book of blog, where my ‘Love Letters to Life’ explore and celebrate the tiny and titanic aspects of life:  ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ is published in both paperback kindle.  And for a special offer of a signed author copy – click here to go to my website now and buy the paperback for just £7.99…

Farewells in the Time of Corona

Well, life in lock down carries on… But sometimes of necessity, I just have to leave my cosy COVID Cocoon. So it was, a few days ago, that the time came to tame my rabid COVID hair – to put ‘my face‘, a smart dress and shoes with actual heels on, and drive into town.

One Blogateer, ready to face the day

This was the day to celebrate the life of my cousin Alan, who had recently passed away. He was the son of my father’s brother and one of three children, himself. Al was a husband, too; father to a son and daughter, and also grandfather to 6.

Due to the pandemic, much of the closest family were unable to be there, so there was room for his little cousin, who sat at the back of the crematorium chapel.

There were 14 people in that place to say farewell and celebrate – all sitting carefully apart, intent and socially distanced. As one of them, I was asked by some of the family who couldn’t be there, to stream the service online.

So I arrived, a few minutes late, trying to not curse myself, but to be calm and focus on the task in hand. I proceeded to unpack my laptop, and fiddle awkwardly with the settings, conscious that out there in the ether, members of my family waited and watched on…

There was no where to stand the laptop so I balanced it precariously on a shelf, holding up one corner and praying that my shaking hands would not affect the quality too much.

The minister spoke movingly and told of Alan’s life, also reading out contributions from his five eldest grandchildren. At this point my tears welled and I let them fall, so as not to shake the laptop anymore than I could help.

The words all told of a family man, a tradesman, a business man, a fixer / mender and clearly someone beloved by all. As a hymn played out, I swivelled the laptop around to take in everyone in the room, for those outside of it. Then we stood up to say a final prayer. Suddenly it seemed, the service was over and I whispered my goodbye to the coffin.

Al, at his wedding, in the 1970s

Having said our goodbyes to Al, we left the chapel, to go outside and look at the floral tributes. Out in the daylight, Al’s son met his fiancé who pulled him in for a tight embrace. In the pram next to her lay their 2 month old baby boy – Alan’s youngest grandchild.

I spoke with Alan’s wife Marilyn, who told me that the female minister who conducted the service was from the same church she and Al were married in. “I was there” I said and so many of the others there on that day were here on this day too, many moons later. Now we were marking a different tidemark, whilst chatting at the strange 2 metre distance that we are now all so familiar with. And in this time of Corona, there were no hugs and no wake with tea and cake. Instead we lingered on the pavement.

The next funeral was already about to start. A hearse processed slowly up the driveway with what looked to be more than 30 people, dressed in black and walking solemnly shoulder to shoulder, behind. The coffin was carried into the chapel, whereupon most of them wandered back towards the cemetery gates.

“No social distancing, then,” observed Marilyn without rancour. We turned away and carried on talking of our own connections and reminisces, instead.

So then the sharing was over – it was time to slip away, returning to my COVID cocoon and scruffy sensibilities.

Back at home, I pulled out my late father‘s collection of family photos and rifled through them to find a childhood history, some of which I’ll share here, with contributions from other family members.

A childhood picture of Alan (middle)
with his brother and sister

As is the way of life, the family tree has been shaken and now our lives continue, segwayed – Alan is gone and we all, go on…

Brothers and sister now all grandparents, smiling at the camera again

So it was a strange week in the life, not only with Alan’s funeral, but a close friend having a breakdown, which I could only support at a distance, making many calls and messages to her and her family. Then there was the business of having to carry on, with life and work, day after day…

Alan and his wife Marilyn, Christmas Day, 2019

By the end of the week I was exhausted, but Friday came round and still I couldn’t sleep. Instead at 1.00 am I found myself watching and worshipping the luscious full moon, seen through my open bedroom window.

Looking up into the strange night sky was a heady contrast to what had gone on in the days before. The moon was magnificent – so sharp and silver to see. Even with my gravity-weighted feet, planted on the earth an infinitesimal distance away and separated by space and stars; I saw her craters and crenellations.

I stood, captivated, bathing in her rays, watching as the clouds rushed and scudded across her face, veiling and then revealing her ethereal, eternity beauty. As I breathed all this in, I decided to feel rather than think, and lose myself for a little while.

And hours later, the new morning arrived, as they always do. I stayed in bed to save my energy, sharing the space with a small cat creature called Sophia. I have 3 felines and they are normally banned from the bedroom, but not today… She sat with me for nearly 2 hours and didn’t stop purring in all that time…

Sophia

So it was a small, gorgeous benediction, this creature’s simple, purring joy; yet it was one I chose to soothe my soul with on this particular day.

And finally I wish you benediction and connection too, across the ether between us, wherever you find yourself in this curious and closeted time of Corona.

PS: My first book – ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ gathers together the best blogs here into a neat paperback package that you can read from cover to cover or else dip into at whim. It’s evocative, entertaining and will make make you reflect – so you can embrace and enjoy your life – more.

In 2015 the book was a finalist in the International book awards. It’s also been featured in Psychologies mazagine, and The Lady, along with other national and local press.

Buy the paperback on my website – here for just £7.99 including P&P… 

  • Or get it from Amazon for £11.99 and from all great book websites anywhere in the world.
  • You can also buy it on Amazon in Kindle format…

If you want to get in touch with the author, please click here…

A Book Bargain in the Time of Corona

‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ can be bought in Amazon & is a collection of gorgeously penned letters to a whole panoply of people and phenomena. In them, I remember, reflect and realise that where I seek it, I can find the love and learning in EVERYTHING. And if that sounds too high faluting, well it’s just a rollicking good read, too – touching, funny and thought provoking in equal measure. And there are lots of other good reasons to buy it too:

1. It’s currently selling at just £1.99 / $2.99 for the Kindle edition – until the end of TOMORROW only.

2. You can read it cover to cover or dip into it, according to whim or which way the wind blows.

3. It’s only £1.99 for the next 48 hours 👍

4. Other readers say it will make you smile, cry and think.

5. It was featured in national and local press, with features in Psychologies Magazine and The Lady, no less…

6. You can buy it for just £1.99 today. On Monday it will be £££ more… 😬

7. It’s got masses of positive reviews, including 23 5* ones on Amazon.

8. You can lose yourself & wallow in my weirdly wonderful world for a while.

9. Let the reviews speak for themselves (see pics of a small selection, below).

10. It’s on sale till midnight tomorrow for just £1.99! 🌞 Get it at this price here, till 31 May, only.

Acceptance in the Time of Corona

I’ve chosen to acquiesce to much of what is going on in my world right now. I can’t control COVID, but there are so many other things that I can control and one of those is active acceptance.

The concept of Acceptance, if you think about it, could easily be a contradiction wrapped up in a word. As an action, it could be wimpy, waspish or even lazy, but then again, it could be the sweetest and smartest thing you could ever do for yourself.

So often when I work with my clients I find that they are fighting and resisting a situation. This be painful, as it clogs the head and heart with fighting thoughts and warring emotions. It also uses up precious time and negative energy.

I’ve been through it all too, of course… I remember one particularly protracted period where an issue – unmanaged and ignored because of its difficulty, had subsequently spiralled out of silly control.

It had been gnawing away at my consciousness and going round and round my beleaguered brain in ever decreasing circles, filling my thoughts, playing with my emotions and sapping my strength…

I had taken all the right pragmatic steps. But sometimes people and fate don’t coerce with your good intentions. Even the fact that I established some controls and attempted to move it all to a resolution, did not prevent me from being angry and dispirited. The same evil thoughts kept circling and spiralling in my head, again and again. My inner victim surfaced and it asked how it could be that I could be misunderstood and treated this way… by other individuals, by my own doing, by fate and by the Universe? It felt… so painful and so unfair…

I consciously chose not to wallow in my mental mire, nor let it lead and define me, but it was stuck subconsciously, not letting me go… So I had to seek solutions and alternatives. And at times like these, I love to replace the busy complex twistings of gut and thought, with sweet simplicity instead… I love to walk, to blow the cobwebs away – to literally move myself through whatever it is that I am working on or through.

So, at that time, I took me a walk, taking a deliberate route of change, of calm and balm. And whilst I walked, an alternative to all this mental mayhem floated into my mind… And that was – ‘acceptance’… And my walk turned into a prayer, an incantation of softly whispered words to fill my mind with a gorgeous and easy alternative – that of acceptance. So as I walked and thought, I sought and prayed for acceptance instead…

Instead of the circles and cycles of whiplash thought, instead of the bitterness and bile of argument and incrimination, I chose the silence of sweet acceptance instead…

At any time, such acceptance is a hymn, an invocation, a whispered alternative to anger. It fills my head with positive movement and upward momentum instead of the roundels of recrimination. It’s the opposite of negativity, it is synchronous and quiet; such acceptance moves me forward – instead of stalling and circling and sticking in my brain. It breaks the negative repetitiveness and consternation, and best of all, it is a simplistic swop.

And as I walked along that day, my prayer went something like this: “I accept this day; I accept the trees and the bluebells; I accept my life and what has led me to this point; I accept that I am here and now; I accept my situation; I accept my parents; I accept my decisions; I accept other’s reactions; I accept that things will change; I accept that soon this will all be unimportant; I accept the best; I accept the sunshine; I accept the opportunities to grow and to learn; I accept that I am skilled and amazing at many things; I accept that I am also a work in progress in others; I accept my work; I accept my companions; I accept the journey; I accept the blue sky; I accept myself; I accept the others. I accept

These words were blessings to me, they lifted the weight of this strange issue off my shoulders and let the thoughts fly out of my head, instead of running raggèd around it.

And as a technique it is so simple to replicate. If you are finding something difficult or unfair or just not going your way – really commit to the concept of the sweet simple acceptance of everything. Then walk, appreciate, think; accept. It is something you can do alone, or with a trusted companion. The walking somehow gives it a fantastic forward momentum.

But if taking a walk isn’t possible, then get a pen and paper and get all out on there. Decide that you are simply going to accept and find every aspect that could have led to or have influenced the situation you want to turn, until all the words have run out…

The walk of acceptance is a simple and elegant solution to being stuck in a negative spiral. So it’s time to share it. What do you say? Walk from A to B and try it out… And… Accept it!

Yours consciously… Sandra

Sandra Peachey – Coach, Author and Walking Work in Progress

PS: “Just to let you know that your book {Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life} has arrived… As a take on Tom Cruise in Jerry Mcquire – ‘you had me at page 1’. Well done. You are an amazing writer, this book should be a film and I have only read 2 letters” ~ Beverley Jones.

For the magical month of May only, the Kindle edition of Peachey Letters is reduced to just £1.99/$2.99. So grab it on Amazon now by clicking here

Wasted Weekends in the Time of Corona

We’ve just had a bank holiday weekend in the UK. For me, this constituted days of lazing, reading, blog writing, gardening, housework and baking, so I’m ready for the week and seasons ahead.

At home alone for days on end, I’m in a delicious little hermit cave of selfish introspection, forgetting my tribe – all the people who exist outside my very own Corona fortress…

However my tribe don’t always forget me and a video call with some friends is arranged. At long last on the call I ‘met’ my goddaughter’s baby girl, which predictably, made me tear up. She’s the grand daughter of one of my oldest friends and it was a three way call with the new Nanna and my other longest serving friend. I’ve known both these wonderful women since I was 5 years old, and in the season of Corona life goes on. People pass and new babies arrive. The cycle of life is no respecter of Lockdown.

Two adoring Aunties and an oblivious baby

As a keen hermit, I’ve been staying away from shops as much as possible. Yet I’d also been pondering how to get my garden in shape this year, now I’ve done the honorary first mowing and pruning. Most Garden Centres are closed anyway. I’d been reliably informed that several local plant nurseries were taking orders for collection or delivery. However they were either crazy expensive or ignored my emails and phone calls. Many of them are simply beleaguered and stating they are not taking any new orders…

On the way to figuring out how I resolve this gardening conundrum, I’m driving to work two days a week, to man a head office and keep the commercial wheels turning. Whilst there of course, I keep a safe distance and take all precautions. At most there will be 3-4 people in the building.

Last week my normal cross country route was hampered by road closure, so I’ve had to drive through a local town. Normally this is onerous and requires patience, queuing endlessly at traffic lights, though at the moment, whilst there is some traffic out there, the level makes it tractable and pleasurable.

Driving through town I saw a local grocer’s shop was selling a plethora of plants on the pavement. I pulled in to park as quickly as I could.

Like a careful child in an outdoor sweetie shop, I browsed the wares, stepping warily around the other shoppers and carefully filling a shopping basket with my treasures of Spring bedding. It felt like a wonderful, secret discovery…

So, during the weekend I planted them out with seeds tucked away in the soil at their roots. It all looks sparse now, but in a couple of months all those fledgling plants will put on a beautiful show. And I’m trusting this will by the time I can have visitors to my garden again 🙏

Also in the weekend agenda was to bake up some healthy snacks to nourish me carefully, as along with my regular exercise of running and walking, I’m currently eating clean(ish) – my diet being fruit / vegetable smoothies, nurturing vegan soups and detoxing by giving up caffeine and alcohol for a while, too.

On the baking front I did a vegan variation of the gluten free banana muffin recipe I regularly whip up. I also roasted up a bunch of nuts and seeds, adding some Himalayan salt and dried fruit at the end to make them even more delicious.

My own home made ‘trail mix‘ of roasted nuts and dried fruit

This cooking, Along with the gardening constituted simple nurturing acts, all of which completed gave me a simple, glowing contentment.

Flourless, gluten free & vegan banana muffins. And yes, they’re DELICIOUS…

My weekend, in amongst all this, was dedicated to writing too. However, as happens so often, my plans to dedicate myself to writing slipped languorously away. By the end of it I’d edited a newsletter for my writers group which is going out to another group of writers in Uganda. I’d also written a blog (see here) on the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe Day).

By the time all this and my domestic goddess chores were done it was 10 pm of the the last day of my ‘endless’ weekend. But my stubbornness set in and so I sat and edited my novel till midnight, not wanting to go to bed in a tired hurrumph. I tried to be kind with myself and not annoyed for making no progress on the short story or planning out the Corona novel I currently have cycling through my head.

Having no where to go, means I have more time to read and I can cheat at that by listening to audio books whilst running, gardening and cooking. At the moment I’ve got ‘I can run’, The Chimp Paradox, and ‘The Signature of All Things’ on the go.

And then it is that the working week and it’s circadian rhythms returned…

Yours supinely,

Sandra

PS: Speaking of books, a huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book so far this month and left me a review on Amazon. My gorgeous feel good book ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ is on special offer for MAY ONLY – get the Kindle edition for just £1.99 / $2.99. And it’s just one of 45 books currently on special promo at my publishing house. It would be amazing if you would buy and review. Thank you 🙏 Click here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BCOJIXI/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_NRNUEbJFMFC46

Hurrumphs & Hiccups in the Time of Corona

Things that make you go ‘hurrumph’…

Actually it was a brief hiccup and now my head is in gear, all is good, but just a short while ago I had a griping feeling of disappointment…

I’d just done my last run of week 7, following the Couch to 5K App. It was my 3rd run of a solid 25 minutes in the space of 5 days. That’s TWENTY FIVE minutes of non stop, (for me) tough, physical activity…

Except that today I failed and ONLY did 22.5 minutes of what felt like painfully slow and heavy steps. And as for 5K, well I scraped in at 3.75…

On the way up the hill that my running route takes me, the negative, nagging voice in my brain, which I call ‘the Script’ was trying to tell me it was impossible to achieve. My schizophrenic alternative and positive voice, tried to focus my head on other things. But it seemed that time was my enemy on the way back down the hill – and that last 2.5 minutes just seemed too unbearably long.

I guess it’s the ‘wall’ that runners are warned about and I hit it straight on. It’s something that the pesky ‘Script’ knows and loves only too well…

Dispirited and only just capable of walking, I reached home and was barely able to lift and move my legs to do the stretches necessary to protect against muscle strain.

And as I sat down, feeling defeated, to write this post, I was literally dripping with sweat and my face burning red… “This is too much” I thought…

But gradually my disappointment dissipated to reason… Instead it was time to analyse why that run was tougher. Was it time of day, or my diet, or ??? Maybe I need to go back to an earlier week and build back up again..?

So it was time to make a choice and so I chose to focus on what I can control. I also decided to choose success over failure: I’m giving myself credit for what I’ve achieved in 7 weeks off the couch and on the road. Was it a failure that I ran for nearly 4 kilometres, my wheezy asthmatic lungs have eased and I’m doing something I wouldn’t have believed possible a few months ago? Of course not! Then I realised that in the past five days I have run for 72.5 minutes in total… That is HUGE!!!

And despite the challenges, this is something I’m really committed to mastering. So along with the physical analysis I’m going to work on my mindset, because whilst my body has to train for this unexpected development in my life, then my brain really has to, too. I’m a coach that wanted to get off the couch, dammit, so it’s time to coach myself through the next steps!

And ultimately, success is not always run in a straight line. It has hiccups and hurrumphs, but why on earth should I let a 2.5 minute slip stop me from being a runner? Nope, I’m WAY too stubborn for that!!!

That was me – a hurrumphing squirrel…

And at the end of the day, whilst this is all very much a first world problem, all I REALLY wanted was an excuse to post a cute, hurrumphing squirrel picture, just well, because I can… 😉

So… I will choose laughter and persistence and squirrels any time over hurrumphs!

Yours stubbornly,

Sandra x

PS: If you like this blog, then you’ll love my book, called Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life – a gorgeous gathering of the best of my blogs. My book is part of a special Kindle promotion on Amazon and other ebook sites. You can grab it – in May only – for just £1.99 / $2.99 – at Peachey Letters: Love Letters to Life

PPS: I’ve also set myself the challenge of hitting 100 reviews for my book on Amazon. I’m delighted to say they are starting to roll in already and so I would be most grateful if all readers could also kindly review.

VE Day in the Time of Corona

VE Day – or ‘Victory in Europe Day’ – marks the day towards the end of World War Two (WW2) when fighting against Nazi Germany and its allies in Europe, came to an end.

At 3 pm on 8 May 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a radio announcement telling his country that the war in Europe had come to an end, following Germany’s surrender the day before.

It was an emotional day that millions had been waiting for – there were celebrations, street parties and a huge crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace in London, to cheer the royal family and the prime minister as they waved from its’ famous balcony.

But even though VE Day marked victory for Europe over Germany, it did not mark the end of World War Two.  In his VE Day announcement, Winston Churchill told the nation: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.”

Soldiers, sailors and pilots were still being sent East to fight against the Japanese, who had not yet surrendered.  This final surrender came on 14 August 1945, after two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki (9 August).

So on 15 August 1945, the allies officially defeated Japan.  This final date is known as Victory in Japan or ‘VJ’ Day.  Now World War Two was finally over.

75 years later the UK is marking the end of the War in Europe with a bank holiday and the altered celebrations that the time of Corona brings with it.

Back in the present day, on my own, I didn’t celebrate, but rather contemplated. In the evening I went out for a walk to ‘get some fresh air’ and exercise.  Walking along the streets of the village where I live, I passed by socially distancing neighbours cheerily out on their deck chairs, celebrating VE Day with beer, bunting and cake.  Members of the local vintage car society had their vehicles out on show in front of their homes and Vera Lynn – the UK ‘forces sweetheart’ played from modern day gramophones, serenading me on my way.

I had to admit to liking this aspect of lockdown…  I couldn’t imagine anyone would have been sitting out and socialising on the street otherwise.  As I walked on, gradually the barking dogs and war time soundtrack faded away to be replaced by birdsong, as I reached one of my favourite places, a local wood, both surrounded by and secreted away from the village. Here, in this quiet space, it was time for me to think about and to tell my own story of World War Two.

So here I am now, in this computer connected Corona Time, contemplating what connection I could possibly have to VE Day…

In the cold light of day I feel so far removed from it, yet it’s a relatively recent chapter in history, one which, when I think about it, touches me in so many ways.  I was born only a couple of decades after the end of the Second World War.  In fact without the war, it’s unlikely that my parents would have met and I wouldn’t be here today…

This then is the war story of my family:

At the age of 22, my father – Stanley Peachey, the youngest of four children, had passed his 7 year indentureship to become a plasterer.  As war was announced, his building skills could have kept him at home in a ‘reserved occupation’, but he felt it his patriotic duty to enlist in service of his country – first as a territorial, then in regular service.

So it was he left his Cambridgeshire village home in the East of England and became a soldier with the Essex Regiment, 1st Battalion Infantry Unit.  As a soldier my father saw active duty in Burma, serving with the Chindits – special operations units of the British and Indian armies – which saw action in 1943–1944, during the Burma Campaign against the Japanese.  And he nearly died in India – not of war wounds, but a near fatal combination of cholera, malaria and dysentery, the latter two which he contracted in hospital.

Dad Army
Private Stanley Peachey of the Essex Regiment, 1st Battalion, Infantry

And the war did not end for this soldier or his family, or indeed anyone who cared for him, on VE Day, but instead on ‘VJ’ – Victory in Japan Day, months later, on the 15th of August.

His older brother Albert, a carpenter and joiner, met and married a Coventry girl, Doris Hatfield. They settled down in Coventry and in 1939 their daughter Janet was born, followed by their sons Alan in 1940 and David in 1945.

Alan & Janet Peachey, early 1940s

At the start of the War Coventry was an industrial city with a population of around 238,000, manufacturing cars, bicycles, aeroplane engines and critically, munitions. As a result The Luftwaffe – German Air Force, targeted the city, carrying out so many bombing raids that this time became known as the Coventry Blitz.

There were 17 raids on Coventry by the Luftwaffe between August and October 1940 alone, during which time around 198 tons of bombs fell, killing 176 people and injuring around 680. During one such raid in October 1940, my cousin Alan was born. A month later, the most devastating air strike of all ravaged the city, on the evening of 14 November 1940, through to the morning of the next day.

This attack, code-named ‘Moonlight Sonata’, was carried out by 515 ruthlessly efficient German bombers, with the intention of taking out Coventry’s factories and industrial infrastructure. In the process the city was almost literally flattened, including all its utilities and major roads being deliberately targeted, in order to hamper fire service and rescue.

In a city with a lineage rolling back to Roman times and beyond, centuries old monuments and buildings, including the vast medieval cathedral, disappeared forever.

Winston Churchill visiting the cathedral ruins, in September 1941

The biggest cost however, was in lives: an estimated 568 people were killed that night (the precise figure was never confirmed), with over a 1000 people sustaining injuries.  It’s also estimated that more than 4300 homes were razed to the ground.

Whilst my uncle used his skills as a builder to repair a shattered city, his two sisters – Victoria and Ruby, had left their Cambridgeshire home too. Both signed up to become Land Army girls and were assigned to Cornwall in the far South West of England – working in agriculture to keep the nation fed, whilst the men were at the front line.

In December 1940 my aunt Ruby married Joseph Toms – a sailor.  I remember my grandmother telling me how their relationship was “a real love match”.  But almost exactly a year later, the HMS Galatea, the ship Joseph was serving on, was torpedoed by a German submarine and went down in Egyptian waters, on the 15th of December, 1941.  The new bride had become a widow, and Joseph never got to meet his only child – my cousin Christine, born 7 months later…

Ruby Goat Milk-page
My aunt Ruby – Land Army girl and war widow

In Scotland, my mother – Agnes Reynolds – a 13 year old only child, begged her parents John and Helen, to let her be evacuated. They reluctantly relented and so she left her Dundee city tenement, and took a train, with hundreds of other children, to rural Fife.

Billeted in a school near the town of Auchtermuchty, she loved life in the country, where her mother would come and visit her as often as she could, since the town was only 40 minutes by road from Dundee.  Out there in the countryside though, children were thought to be safer from bombs, since as a manufacturing centre, Dundee was considered to be an enemy target.

The city was bombed, though not as extensively as had been anticipated.

Agnes didn’t want to return to her city home, when the call came less than a year later. Yet in those times children left school and started work at 14, so she had to return home to start her life as adult, through long days where she worked in a factory making fire hoses in daylight hours and volunteering as a ‘fire watcher’ by night.

Mum Child
My mother, a few years before the outbreak of war

The voluntary role of Fire Watcher was to report and deal with small scale fires caused by air raids.  In fact many thousands of fires caused by incendiary bombing were prevented or extinguished by thousands of volunteers just like my mother.

After the war finally ended, when VJ Day was announced in August 1945, my father returned home and bought a natty Ford car with his ‘demob’ (demobilisation) money and then joined his brother Albert in Coventry.

Albert had started up a building company with a partner, called ‘Peachey and Wainwright’.  As a skilled plasterer, my father worked with his brother, helping to rebuild a city which had been literally decimated by German bombs.

Dad & Car-page
Dad & his natty ‘demob’ car

My father’s sisters stayed on in Cornwall, where they lived together on a small holding with Ruby’s daughter Christine, farming goats and hens.  They also became the lay preaching mainstays of their local Methodist church, and their home ‘Satya’ cottage, was a glorious place where I would spend many happy holidays as a child.

As for my mother, at 18 years old and against her wishes, her family relocated from Scotland to Birmingham, (100s of miles away, in England). However, her father John, once a passionate labour councillor and trade union activist, had fallen out with his party comrades and into hard times. But one of his still loyal trade union contacts had found him a job far away from the shame and political in-fighting. So, in those times, an unmarried daughter of limited means would have little choice but to pack up her few belongings and go with her parents, whether she wanted to or not.

On at least one occasion my mother secretly saved up the train fare and ran back to Scotland, where she felt her life and heart still lay.  But she always returned, and in the 1950s met my father, married and moved to Coventry, where she soon had her first baby – my brother Arthur.

I was born some years later, in the post war baby boom and raised in the War’s shadow – nonchalantly playing on bomb sites, and listening to my parent’s talk of wartime rationing and upheaval.

I grew up in Coventry – once a city flattened and shattered by our German foe, but in my childhood a 1960s creation of concrete, with a proud modern cathedral, and its older history, including Tudor buildings, tucked quietly out of the way.

The Second World War was an ever present spectre in the lives of all who grew up in the 1960s and 70s.  On weekend afternoons I would sit on the sofa with my mother, and watch endless war movies on TV – seeing heroes and heroines in uniform – flying and shooting and dying for their country, or returning home to kiss their sweethearts, once again.

War documentaries and commentaries filled our heads with basic history, whilst children played at war – either being the good guys (English) or baddies (German).

Just about everyone I knew had war ‘memorabilia’ – there were trophy German helmets and bullets, and my father had his three military service medals.  These were trophies he personally didn’t care for, but which his brother’s sons – Alan and David Peachey, persuaded him to claim, when he lived with his brother’s family in Coventry for a while.

I remember too that it was an all too common occurrence for whole streets to be cordoned off, as ‘UXBs’ – Un-Exploded Bombs were discovered, usually in the attic of a suburban house somewhere…

So far from being a distant fact of history, the Second World War created my life, and in many ways shaped who and what I became.

My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncle – those characters I chronicled here, have all passed away now, and as the decades have rolled on I have fallen out of step with time and family.  My mother had few relatives and lost touch with them over time.  My small family unit was closer to my father’s family and would regularly visit his mother and sisters.

My cousins were all 20 plus years older than me, so I never became close to them, except ironically, Christine, who lived the furthest away from us, but who we visited whenever we made the long trek from Coventry to Cornwall.  A retired teacher, she died 7 years ago, at the age of 71, after her third bout of cancer.  She was my first cousin to pass – much loved by, and leaving behind her husband and two grown-up children.

My cousin Alan Peachey, father to 2 and grandfather of 6, died of cancer in May 2020, shortly after the original version of this post was published.  He and his brother worked in the family building business and continued to run it after their father died.  Their premises in Coventry (now a car rental site) and the business are now long gone and another piece of family history.  His wife Marilyn told me she had read the post to him and that he particularly enjoyed seeing the old family photos.

So that is our family story…  And what about today?  In my attempts to connect with further family I have recently taken DNA tests and grown a vast and ancient family tree.  But still within me is a vast history, and so many ties to a past close by and, as it turns out, not actually forgotten.

Now, I remember all these tales with wonder, gratitude and an acknowledgement of where I came from.  And I do this knowing that this is not completely who I am, but that I’m inextricably linked to family and history in so many ways.

And that as it turns out, was VE day for me.

Yours thoughtfully,

Sandra

PS: If you like this blog, then you’ll love my book, called Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life – a gorgeous gathering of the best of my blogs.  My book is part of a special Kindle promotion on Amazon and other ebook sites.  You can grab it – in May only – for just £1.99 / $2.99 – at Peachey Letters: Love Letters to Life 

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