A Cat in the Time of Corona

I have a pride of 3 cats. All very different in shape, size and personality. As I sit and write this, I am mindful of the head of the pride, AKA my furry wingman, AKA George Eyesapphire – to give him his full pedigree / posh name. George is clearly near his life’s end now, so I want to start to gather in our stories, to lift my heart and work through this transitioning time we still have together.

So I’m a cat person. Not anti any other animals – that’s just how it is. They’ve been in my life for most of my life, padding along its’ path with me through childhood and beyond.

I’ve grown up with moggies – rough-ty, tough-ty creatures created by a blend of genetics that chance and neighbourhood dictated. But then, one day I met 2 Birman cats who belonged to a friend. They were enchanting to look at and engaging to know, so I stored up a little desire, that one day, I would have one of my own.

It was actually many years later that the fates conspired for that desire to become a reality. I found a breeder and went to visit a litter of 6 kittens. All male. I walked in the house to be assailed by a terrier barking a greeting or warning at me – I didn’t know him well enough to decide which. At this point the mother cat strolled up to the dog and swiped him across the face, with a careful, clawless paw, then strolled away. The dog suitably admonished ceased his barking and I was left in peace to gaze at a raised basket full of sleeping kittens.

Well, when I say the basket was full, that’s true. But that fact didn’t matter, because one such creature had his head draped over the edge of the basket, sleeping sweetly. I knew right then and there, that this was my boy. I’m not sure that there was ever any choice involved, or who made the decision. It’s more that it was just so…

George at around 4 months old

So my partner at the time and the breeder woke up the sonambulant balls of gorgeous fluff and made me inspect them all. Over my head, they discussed colouration and type. They placed other kittens in my outstretched hands. But it made no difference, because I already knew…

Then the breeder’s grandson, aged about 8, swooped in to play with them, joyously mauling them about. They all took it in good stead. So I knew they were well socialised, they had grown up in a home rather than a cage and could cope with dogs and childish man-handling. We handed over a bundle of cash and stashed the kitten in a cat carrier.

I had him out of the carrier once we were in the car and we started to get to know each other. As we drove past Middlemarch Business Park on the edge of Coventry, it occurred to me that I would call my new friend George, for three reasons: in honour of local author George Eliot (a nom de plum for Mary Ann Evans); to reflect the swoon worthy, handsomeness of actor George Clooney; and not least that this was the name of my best friend’s father, who I was inordinately fond of and had recently passed away.

My mother, also a cat lover from childhood, gave me some money towards the purchase of my puss. She joked many times, over the years that followed, that his flowing, lustrous brown tail was technically owned by her, whilst giving it a stroke and admiring it, with a smile.

We took George home and I witnessed the confident evolutionary temerity of a creature who had been transplanted from mother and siblings, taken to a new territory with new guardians, yet immediately adjusted to his new surroundings, as if they weren’t anything new – just the latest game or meal or place to snuggle.

I’ve witnessed this phenomenon before and since, filtering an animal’s actions through my human senses, but it still surprises me everytime. I guess it is one of those evolutionary quirks that have made the feline / human bond so sustainable. Adult cats I notice are often not so quick to adjust, having inprinted on a territory. But basically experience and a stint as a cat sitter has taught me that most cats will accept food from any old stranger and very quickly assimilate them as a friend on that basis.

That being said, cats, like many creatures, form their favourites and it’s intriguing to see their choice at play. In George’s case, we bonded straight away, even though at the time we were introduced, I was a dyed in the wool career woman, who worked 50-60 hours a week, whilst George stayed at home with my partner Clint, who ran a business empire from his dining room table.

But George was always my boy. At the end of the working day he would sit and wait by the front door, for my return.

Two weeks after his arrival in the house, Clint bought in another kitten, a beautiful, little tabby cat we called Tigga. She was sharp and stripey. She was the antithesis of the laid back George, who absolutely hated her. But she played him, she followed him around, annoyed him and was not put off by swipes and growls. And one day, when George was purring on my lap, she crept on too and grabbed him. This time instead of growling, George started purring and they become inseparable. So different to look at, but just content in each other’s company.

As a kitten, George was sweet and playful, and very little trouble. He would sleep peacefully at the end of our bed and generally act the complete feline gentleman. In delightful contrast, Tigga though rampaged through the house, hunted everything in sight (once we let them outdoors) and turned the bedroom upside down, so we couldn’t get any sleep unless she was barracaded out. Especially since, just as George had chosen me, Tigga knew that Clint was her special hu(man)-person and would insist on clawing at his head and purring in his ear instead of letting him sleep.

Clint and I broke up a few months later. It was all very amicable and we stayed friends for a few years, until we both moved on to pastures and people new. It was clear that each cat had their own hu-parent, so Tigga stayed behind, as George and I packed up house and home for our next adventure.

And so he grew from a kitten into a handsome adult cat. George is a Seal Point Birman and his beautiful long, fluffy coat and evolved, developed and changed over the years. The base colour is a creamy white. All his extremities – ears, nose, paws and tail are rich dark brown. The brown on his face was centred on his nose as a baby and over time spread like a chocolate tide to cover his noble, fluffy face.

But his stand out feature is his eyes. They are a beautiful sapphire blue – large liquid orbs of love, annoyance or demand, taking his surroundings in and regarding them with the happiness or contempt that they deserve.

Sunbathing in our garden

Now, a long haired pedigree cat is a beautiful thing and with beauty often comes a certain amount of maintenance and effort. He grooms himself constantly of course and unless I groom him too, the fur flies through the air and sticks to every surface with magnetic purpose. I could spend hours brushing him and he would happily spend hours being brushed. As far as George is concerned, being brushed is sheer heaven. One of life’s absolute great pleasures. Brush the back, brush the sides, don’t forget the tail. Turn him over and brush the belly, which if neglected turns curly and sheep like. Then pull the fur off the brush and drop it into the bin, then begin again, until one of you grows bored of the pursuit. Then I look down into the bin and there are clouds of fur – cream and brown, billowing around and I marvel at how he isn’t actually bald, but constantly regrowing to maintain his fabulous furry mien.

And as a pretty pedigree is he a soft, characterless cushion of a cat? Far from it. He is a strong willed alpha male who has put himself at the head of the pride and will see off random feline interlopers who dare to stalk across its boundaries, with tooth, claw and ear splitting war-cry yowls.

Quite apart from the war cries, is the vast lexicon of his language – a panolpoly of vocabulary delivered at a cat’s whisper or rousing howl – deep, gutteral and primal, with every shade of sound and volume in between. Sometimes he cries endlessly with existential angst, others he demands attention, then again sometimes no sound is needed and he signals his wants and affections with a head butt or a cheek rub. One of my favourite things is that in the kitchen, whilst waiting for food, he will gently nudge my leg with his nose, a joint mark of affection and attention seeking.

Underneath that dictionary of meows, is the core of communication, the purring. His is low and steady, ramping up in intensity, the happier he becomes, usually when he is being brushed or having a chin scratch – which in his world, is the height of ecstasy.

And with all this, he has yet another layer of language – a series of low grunts and winnows overlaying the purring, which to my human brain sound like quiet declarations of love – although I completely accept I may only believe that, because that’s what I also give to him, in abundance.

Like most relationships, ours is multi-faceted. Because we’re both strong willed and stubborn, we’ve fallen out frequently, yet he is always the first to forgive and want to make up. And I have no choice but to acquiese in the face of such grace, every single time…

I could tell so many anecdotes, share so many stories, because George is 15 years old now. So there have been thousands of cuddles, of whispered exchanges. So much love and affection. So much pooh to clear up and the occasional dead animal. Unlike my two moggies who regard hunting as a constant, necessary sport and will frequently home hapless live creatures which I have to wrest from them and then repatriate to the wild, George was always a sporadic hunter.

The sporadic hunter in his favourite sleeping spot

Maybe once a year, he heads off and returns with a dead creature, such as a baby rabbit, and then, makes a big ceremony of laying it at my feet, then hunkering down and flicking his head proudly, for all the world like a patriarchal lion, providing for his pride. On one occasion he bought home a stoat – quite a magificent creature, with the most amazing coat. It is almost as if he likes to demonstrate that he is ‘all cat’ underneath that fluffy pedigree exterior.

Time passed and in his 14th year, as an old timer, he’d started to forget the fastidious toilet habits that most cats have, so the bane of my life became clearing up and trying to prevent mess and smell. I mean… cat’s pee… a vile smell that hits the back of the nose and refuses to be shifted by even the most advanced of modern cleaning products. And wasn’t just forgetfulness, sometimes, if I fell short as a hu-mum by leaving him alone too long, there would be a ‘protest pooh’ And once cats start this habit, the smell draws them back and they feel compelled to become repeat offenders. After a lifetime of freedom of the house, he and the other cats were all banned from the bedroom. I read up on what to do, I posted in online cat forums, but there was no one real solution. Until one day, I’m afraid I lost my own shit and yelled at him. A little later, the little sod started to squat on the carpet – so rather than yelling again, I picked him up and carried him over to the litter tray, with encouraging words. After a few more accidents / protests, he started to use the facilities rather than my living room carpet as his loo.

Apart from ‘pooh gate,’ after a life time of good health, some tests early last year revealed he had a kidney condition and towards the autumn he started, noticably to lose weight. Towards the end of September last year he had also developed an upper respiratory tract infection. I booked him in for a vet’s visit and then he started sneezing blood.

Within a few hours he had somehow sneezed blood all over the house. I found it on floor, carpet and walls. I had to cover up all my soft furnishings as within a short space of time, the house looked like the set of an armageddon movie.

When I got to the vet, she said he looked “chipper” but that sneezing blood was bad. She could put him to sleep right there or give him ‘one chance.’ I chose the chance, bought several types of medication and brought him home.

Back at the house I carefully placed his travel basket in the hall way as usual and opened the door. He stumbled out, clearly having lost the use of his back leg. I assumed he’d had a stroke, wailed with anguish, then called the vet. She wasn’t happy and we pretty much decided that he had used up his ‘chance’, but it was late in the day, so we arranged for me to take him back the following day. His leg, although not working, did not seem to be giving him any pain and he followed me round the house on his 3 good remaining ones.

Knowing this was our last night together, I slept on the sofa that night. A few minutes after I lay down, George jumped up and draped himself across my stomach. He lay there all night, purring for much of the time. It was a long, sleepless night for me, but I was so grateful to have that time with him before I had to say good bye.

When we both woke to the light of day, George had stopped sneezing blood. He also had some mobility back in his leg. I called the vet and cancelled the appointment, changing for a few days later. He was now on his second chance.

In the days that followed I went into a tail spin of grief tinged with panic. I couldn’t stop myself from talking about him constantly, whilst also joking to friends and colleagues that I was becoming a ‘dying cat bore.’

There followed many vet visits, injections and conversations about when he should be put to sleep. I started to dread taking him there, feverishly imagining they would grab him off me and forcibly take his life.

Meanwhile he became a cushion cat, barely moving from one spot on the sofa, except to do the daily necessities. Every day for months I dropped antibiotics down his throat to treat the constant sneezing. He was put on a special diet for his kidnies and at the back of my mind I wondered if he lost weight partyly because he hated it. Sneezing was a constant fact of our lives… sometimes it would be a good old fashioned wet sneeze, other times looked infected or bloody, regardless it was constant. It wasn’t fair to let him go on like that, I was coming round to the vet’s point of view and so the question became ‘when..?’

And when I reached ‘when’, I decided that I would stop giving him pills and taking him for injections. And if he only had a short time to live, then he may as well go back to having his favourite food again…

Somehow the autumn turned colder and shifted down towards Christmas. Having reached that far, and his being no worse, I decided to wait until the New Year… Christmas is always spent with my brother. I go for 2 nights and did not want to leave George in the care of anyone else, so took him with me.

My brother, observing the cat, remarked on how alert he was, how well he seemed (despite the constant sneezing) and how he took an interest in his surroundings, including several excursions into the garden. And somehow this little holiday seemed to shake George out of his antibiotic fuelled, cushion cat phug.

He got off the cushion and recognisably became his old self… After months of slow deterioration I had transitioned through the loss of alot of his characteristic quirks – like grumpiness with the other cats, being yelled at if I was the wrong side of a door, or having my belly pock marked with claw prints as he gave a purring paw dance at bed time. And then the sneezing stopped.

He was thin, but he ate prodigiously and often. Somehow we had both got a reprieve. And I always knew that there would be no miracle cure and that his span would still be relatively short, but he was still here. And he was having a good, happy quality of life, drug free, although I did put all the cats back on a more medicinal diet.

So there were months of gratitude that we had this bonus time together. I thanked him endlessly for choosing to stay and I treasured every second of licking and purring along with the constant contextual moments of habit and happiness that he shared with me. Time trickled from Spring into Summer and we would spend our spare time in the sunshine as the gates of COVID-19 lockdown kept me more close to home than ever.

And if I was grateful that George had stayed around, then to have his presence with me through lockdown was a balm. He relished having me working from home and glued his self to my side as I worked for long hours on my laptop and mobile phone. My summer birthday came and went and then so did his – on 10 July 2020, George Eyesapphire turned the ripe old age of 15.

And so I write about him in past tense as I recall the memories and also the present tense, because he is here in this room with me, but in a sense not here too, clearly withdrawing from life as his alloted span runs its course. So I write to manage the pain of losing him, which has already started, for very soon now he will be a creature of memory, made then of fixed pixelated image. Then I will cry more and smile and grieve and be glad that I knew him.

All my cats are different, so I love them all differently. Already I start to feel his loss, where there will be his shape missing in my heart. The flavour of the love I have for George is made of time and temperament; millions of shared moments; simple co-existence; the sheer pleasure of just watching him – sleeping, grooming, being. He is a strong character who holds a definitive place in my soul, so the grieving is starting to gnaw at me and I will give myself up to it soon enough, but for now, I wish to live in the living moments. To try to understand this bond we have. This animal human co-existence is built on and yet bypasses cupboard love. This creature is part friend, part family and it’s a simple primal feeling which is possibly made all the more solid by its very simplicity.

And I’m running out of words now, like my darling George is running out of time. But then again you see, it is his time and given all the love and lessons that we have shared together these 15 years, then I know that this time has been good. And we’ve both been blessed by sharing it.

Postscript: George passed away today. In the past 36 hours he suddenly deteriorated. I will spare you the details. And for all my mixed feelings about vets and euthanasia, I asked to the vet to come to my home as soon as possible, to end his suffering.

So he left the living world with kind words and a gentle cuddle from the creature he was closest to. And I can’t vouch for him, but that surely has to be a fine way to go. He has been in the room with me now for a few hours, so I can say my final farewells to the physical part of him. I have also let the other two cats see him. They sniffed him without interest and went on with their day, so I guess that was more for my benefit than theirs.

My brother is coming over soon and he will be with me for what happens next – when George leaves the house for a while and then returns in altered form. I haven’t decided what comes after that. I can bide my time and let my subconscious and I work it all out from there.

At this moment in time, I am tearful, but calm, feeling I made the last best act of love for him. I am so very grateful to have known / loved him, and he, me, for what is almost exactly 15 years to the day, together.

As I reflect I realise too that I have been incredibly privileged to have been a first hand witness to the complete life cycle, from kitten-hood to old age, of one of the Universe’s many amazing creations. I am blessed beyond measure for the experience.

And that is all for now. I guess my feelings will flux as the shock wears off and I adjust to him not being here. But those are other moments that do not or may not ever exist… and right now, I will inhabit this moment and what ever that entails.

Good bye, my blue eyed Birman baby boy.

S xx

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

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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.

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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,


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

An Auntie in the Time of Corona

I’ve been blessed to be God Mother to two babies, who have both grown into wonderful women.  My eldest god daughter – Elizabeth, the child of one of my closest childhood friends, is nearly 8 months pregnant with her first child.  We know this craved for child is a girl.  With the permission of her mother, this is the first of my letters to her unborn baby – Lily.

Dearest Lily,

First of all I wanted to introduce myself.  Although maybe you already know me, by voice, softly drifting into the warmth of your mother’s womb.

I’m your Auntie Sandra.  How do you do?  An honorary Auntie no less, but no less for all that.  You see, we’re not related by blood, but I’ve known your mother for ever.  Well, ever since before she was born, too.

As is now, I was the soft voice beyond the womb, then.  The close friend and confidante of your grandmother – her mother in turn.  So, in so many ways, I’m someone who knew your mother from the earliest of times.

Your mother was born before the time of Corona, the strange, up-ended one which you will soon find yourself part of.  And though I’m two generations ahead of you, little Lily, I can vividly remember your mother’s entrance into the world.

She came early – as always doing things in her own softly determined way.  As soon as I could, I made my way to the Special Care Baby unit of the maternity hospital.  And there I met your mother – Elizabeth.  Tiny, but thriving nonetheless.

I remember seeing little Liz, this side of the womb, for the very first time.  She was lying in an incubuator, an unmistakably fully formed personality, looking back at me with the biggest pair of blue eyes, set in a tiny elfin face.

Your grandmother blew kisses at her tiny newborn daughter and told her she loved her.  And so it was, that before I ever spoke to your mum, I burst into tears first…

It was tears that bought me to this page too Lily, to write to you.  Because when I thought that I might not get to meet you too, in a physical way, for what could be a long, long time in the life of a baby, my eyes teared up again, but for sadder reasons this time…

But listen Lily, I’ve chosen not to cling to the sadness, since soon it will be your turn to make your way into the world.  And before that happens, I wanted there to be a little legacy of a letter or two, waiting for you.

Elizabeth & Me, in history

I asked your mother how she felt, being pregnant in the time of Corona and she told me that she wondered what kind of world she was bringing her child into.

That’s a natural protective concern, which so many mothers, along long millenia have felt too.  Precious as you are, little Lily, you’re not the first baby to be born into a time of causality and uncertainty.

And there is your father too, loving you – even though he’s living on another continent, thousands of miles away.  He so wants to be with you, my little love, but in this crazy enclosed time, a virus – something of microscopic size, but enormous magnitude, most likely means that he won’t be here to meet you on this side of the womb, very soon, either.

Whilst this all seems like such crazy, sad, uncertainty; as your great Aunt, I want you to know that actually there’s a whole lovely lot of certainty in your life, all ready and waiting to be embraced.

To begin with you already have four generations of living family who love you – quite literally spanning the globe.  So that, my dear one, is already whole world of love.

You will discover that already you have great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins closely connected to you and caring greatly about you.

There are so many characters you will come to know in your family across the world.  Some you will see yourself in and others – wonder at the differences.

And that’s just the humans – your grandmother and your mother both have a dog.  And knowing those woofling, playful creatures, I can guarantee they’re waiting eagerly to be petted and played with, when the time safely comes.  So you will know the love of animals, also.

As well as people there will be places to discover. Know that your first home is quietly waiting to welcome you.  Your room is ready.  I can tell you now that you will have warmth and food and clothes and toys.

When you arrive in this world, you’ll be cuddled by your mother and your grandmother, certain in their circle of love.  And when the time of Corona has passed, you my child, will be passed from person to post, coo-ed at, adored and exclaimed over.  Not just by a global DNA dynasty, but your mother’s myriad of friends, as well.  And between the happy horde of family and friends, between us we’ll discuss who you look like; then rattle toys at you and play ‘peek-a-boo’, many, many times over.

We will watch you gain and grow and change, and be more you, every day.  But know that already in a life short lived, Lily, that you are unique, special and cherished beyond reason.

And I don’t know if you will know of this time of Corona in a conscious sense.  I’m trusting that this viral storm will pass and it will be relegated to that thing the oldies in your life will rattle on about – how you arrived when life was locked down and we all had to keep our loving distance.

That we do this is important. It’s my first gift to you, Lily, to keep my distance.  And I’m doing it with a happy heart, because that’s what it takes to keep you as safe as can be.

And I’m still here, woven into the loving infrastructure of your world.  We will just now have to do things differently from how we thought they would be.

One day we will most definitely meet and I’m storing a little stockpile of stories ready for when we have that first cuddle, exchange our first words and have that first ever game of peek-a-boo.  And all of these things will be especially special, since we’ve earned them with our loving patience.

No doubt before that day we shall meet via the modern day miracle of video chat, although I’ve already got a sense of you from soft scanned images – grey, grainy and beautiful…

Meet Lily

And as time goes on, I will chart your childhood with more photographs, just as I did with your mother – Liz, with her sister Jenny and brother, James.

And so, it goes Lily, on and on and nothing, not even Coronavirus will change all that.

Bye for now little one.

With much love from your
          Auntie S xx

PS: Peek-a-boo!!!  Just wanted to be the very first person who did that with you 😉 xxx


Running in the Time of Corona

In my series of ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ posts, today I have to record a momentous occasion for posterity…

For the first time in decades I went out for a run, (with the possible exception of being late for a train…)!!!

This shocking revelation has come about because I am left with little alternative.  You see, exercise for me usually involves:
1) Walking groups = now cancelled;
2) Swimming = yup – cancelled;
3) Yoga = cancelled, yet again. Gah!!!

Now I’ve done a bit of running over the years… But it’s really my thing… Far too much like hard work…  Too, um, heavy on the knees… Nope – I’m not one of those kick ass, slender sporty types I often drive by (sitting in my hermetically sealed car), I observe smugly pounding pavements in the latest designer trainers.

That being said, in these Corona crazy times I feel I have not only to do SOMETHING to keep myself healthy, but I’ve got to up my game to stay active and healthy.

Blimey… If you know me… times are – most definitely and shockingly – a-changing..!

So I’ve figured out the Couch to 5K App.  I’d downloaded it to my mobile eons ago, then ignored it.  Why I’d downloaded it, I can’t imagine. I have to say that I associate running with being seriously sporty, whereas I do what I do, in a personal, lazy, ‘I’ll only do what I wanna’ sort of way…  Running it has to be said, is not what I ever wanna do…

Yet I opened the App and read the instructions.  I didn’t understand them all, so I googled some questions and figured it out.  Yep – I know! Check ME out with my fancy smancy technical know how…

And so the moment (to run) came and then it went.  It went because instead of running, I procrastinated – a lot (including spending precious minutes online browsing – thinking, that if I MUST do this crazy thing, that I must buy trendy trainers and all the kick ass sporty gear).

But then I shutdown the shopping Apps and started up the music App.  I clicked  headphones into my phone and plugged the phone into my ears.  And I just, well… started! I tapped the App and started moving – just one foot in front of the other, one at a time…

The Couch to 5K App comes highly recommended and I can now see why – it (in the guise of a celebrity voice) coaches you and supports you through each, short stage. I chose the voice of Sarah Millican, who talked me through a warm up walk; then to run for a minute; then walk briskly for a further 1.5 minutes, and so on.

Oh my god… The first minute was AWFUL… I cannot lie – I felt heavy, wheezy and old!

But I kept going. I smiled to myself (a deliberate physiological ‘trick’ to signal to the body that I was happy); I looked at the scenery; and I just I kept going…

Then I realised I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I was RUNNING! Yes… I was actually running!!!

So check me out, world… Running down a country lane, in trackies and trainers (found lanquishing at the back of a wardrobe)… Kick ass sporty type that I (now, suddenly) am…

Whilst keeping a safe social distance from those I encountered along the way, I acknowledged everyone – to be met with smiles, or ignored, or avoided, or regarded with a worrying air of bewilderment (may be as a 50 something newbie jogger, I just looked weird, instead of ‘kick ass’…).

Suddenly it was time to stop.  And that was my first run, in the bag, done, at 30 minutes.  That achieved, I stopped briefly to take a selfie for posterity / public record, then kept on walking for another 30 minutes.  And if you are not impressed by that, I need to you to know that it means that I am basically awesome.

So are here are the comparison pics:
1) Before – Judging myself for looking old, ugly and sickly.
2) After – Not caring how I look, but feeling blimmin proud of myself.

Running in the Time of Corona

So if I can do it – may be you can too…???
Or maybe there is something else you can try.  For example there are several online celebrities / exercise gurus currently offering their programmes for free, including:

Warning: I’m gonna climb onto my soap box now:
To have the best chance of staying healthy, we need to be active. We should do regular exercise in a way that works for us.  If we have the physical capability – now is the time to not only stretch our boundaries, but run towards them and leap over the damn things!!

We don’t need to be kick ass lycra clad atheletes, but let’s kick the ass out of this crazy Coronavirus and give it as little chance as possible of kicking us to the curb.

OK, OK… I’m clambering off the soap box and making my way back over to the sofa.
For now…
Might just smugly jog by you on another day, though…

Yours, semi-smugly,

Mothering Sunday in the Time of Corona

It is Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom – a day of family habit and celebration, now turned on its’ head by the novel Coronvirus pandemic.  Today as part of my series of ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ blogs, I’m exploring how Mothering Sunday can be ‘done differently’…

Mum Hol 2
My mum & me, in history…

So you may have a mother or you may be a mother. Or maybe not. Maybe you have a maternal relationship you wish to celebrate. And maybe not.
As a day in the life, this particular one has many layers of meaning – not only affected by status, history and a whole other myriad of variables, but also potentially your nationality and culture.
Here in the UK it originated as a Christian festival, where, since the 17th Century, people visited the ‘mother’ church of their childhood home – annually, on the 4th day of Lent. This is the Christian period of fasting which leads up to Easter – with its feasting to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and before THAT, were the pagan celebrations of the Spring Equinox.
Its’ modern day form as a more secular happening comes from the early 1900s – where in America it became a ‘Hallmark’ occasion, which the UK imitated – taking up the trend for sending cards and publically celebrating the role of motherhood.
Time travel to recent history, where in the UK it became the busiest day of the hospitality industry and florists’ year, with restaurant tables fully booked weeks in advance to cope with the demand.
It’s with a sense of unreality that I am now writing about all this in the past tense. In the Time of Corona, we’ve had to rethink our celebrations. Whilst we take action together to halt the spread of the virus – restaurants can no longer cater to families coming together to share a table in a public place.
This means that we are all reducing the chances of passing on the virus to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Conditions which put them at a higher risk than those of us who, in reasonable health may simply suffer flu like symptoms, which we would recover from usually in a matter of days.
So we are celebrating differently… Social distancing, making phone calls instead of visiting, postponing ‘till this is all over’ and more besides. This year, we can’t keep our customs in the same way, so let’s keep thinking creatively and come up with new ways of keeping the old ways going. And let’s see what clever ideas others (going through the same strange decisions) are coming up with too.
Let’s do this because the world does not need to stop turning right now. It’s time now for it to turn on its axis, differently. And that is DIFFERENTLY – not with difficulty. It’s not about being victimised by our circumstances, but rather, rising to them. Together.
My own mother is gone. And I don’t have children to celebrate me. So I COULD tell you that this day is irrelevant, or that I miss my mother and grandmothers, more than ever, on this day of days.
Or I can choose something different.
Today I’m celebrating all my female ancestors – the ones who were royal and who toiled. The ones who gave me blue eyes, blonde hair and a stubborn, creative spirit. The ones who travelled continents to beat hardships I will never know. Who came together with all my (grand and great grand) fathers to make me. The ones who worked and cried and laughed. Who made babies and lost babies and saw them grow up to have babies of their own.
So that is different for ME.
What about you? How have you been spending this day differently?
What can you learn from this day and do differently from now on?
To all my mothers – I commit to using what I inherited and learnt from you – to support those I can; to influence people positively and love my way forward.
I celebrate you all and I celebrate your child – me.
And I thank you, today, with humility, awe and love.
~ Sandra – a Daughter, differently xx

PS: I currently have a special offer… You can buy the paperback of my book of the blog – ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ on Amazon for £11.99 or you can get an author signed copy on my website (see below) – for just £7.99 including P&P…

Featured in Psychologies Magazine and The Lady, the book was also listed as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.  

Making a perfect Mother’s Day (or any other day) gift, the book takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a satisfying structure – that will make you feel the love, entertain and enlighten you.

It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which sees love in everything we do in life – from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too

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

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

Love in the Time of Corona

‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is a self-promised set of missives to a world which seems to have been turned on its’ very axis. This titular tilting will inform my musings on the global pandemic called COVID-1D, AKA novel Coronavirus, with all its’ complications and implications.

The concept came to me, as all my best ideas do – fully formed, in a flash. I’ve been feeling the keen need to reach out and touch. After mulling over what way, shape or form this touch should take, I woke up this morning with the title. I have to admit though that the original credit for that must go to novelist and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s tale of unrequited love – ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.’

7 years ago I started a blog of ‘Love Letters to Life’ – charting my musings and maunderings on how, if you look for it, you can find love in everything… So from Marquez’s concept of unrequited love to mine of all-encompassing love… Now ‘Love’ and ‘Corona’ are about to go hand in hand, as I explore the phenomena caused and created by this curious condition.  With these posts I want to go beyond coping with Corona and to learn from it, instead.

Yet ironically, I may just have been heard to say that I’m sick of the illness known as Corona. Never before have I felt so beleaguered by news, views and possible abuse of one seemingly simple subject.

For a while there, I thought it would all blow over or somehow past me. I’ve survived Swine Flu and SARS unscathed, after all…

But over the last few days the scale of the situation that this condition has caused, has dawned on me. So rather than be overwhelmed, negative or to stick my head in the sand, I have decided to do something about it…

I admit that my something is selfish. I want to cope with COVID-19, to rationalise it, and to understand how it impacts on me and the world I occupy. And in doing so, I want to reach out to you and maybe make a connection or a difference. Thank you for being here – I won’t judge the outcome, if you will spend some more time with me on the same page.

So let’s go!

The Matrix of Us

I believe that we are all somehow connected… That every single one of us is inextricably linked. I don’t know each and every one of you out there, but we are from the same deep roots in this planet we inhabit, whatever hue we are…

I know that with so many of us that we do this differently. And so often we define ourselves by our differences. And despite what I’m hippy happily writing, I’m as guilty as anyone of creating schisms with criticisms and crooning my complaints.

That is until I stop and think. Think about how I’m connected to and not divided from the world.

Look – I’m not saying that I spend my time gaily thinking about everything I have in common with, well, everyone, but that in the grand scheme of things (barring despots and demons) I have more things in common with you, than different to you.

Coronavirus is making this argument easy for me, because it is something that connects such a vast percentage of the population – the world over. We’ve all got its’ presence in our lives in common. It is affecting so much of our time, concentration and energy. We’ve experienced a range of extremes including anxiety, cancellations and revelations whilst we face a world which seems very different to what it was even a short month ago.

We all have Corona in common, so let’s remember that. Let’s remember that we are connected by it. That so many of us will be experiencing it or its influence in our lives, and the lives of those around us.

So how about a set of commitments as to how Coronavirus is going to be for me and for you?

Now is the time to:

• stand together – to acknowledge what we have in common and work from there.
• look out for each other – loved ones and strangers. Together we really are stronger.
• be honest about what we are feeling and experiencing – don’t self-isolate in your head.
• think about your role – without judgement or guilting – is it to watch or step up to the plate?

So I’ve started my list of commitments. They will grow and change and flex as the world does the same.

As for you, dear reader:

• Maybe to do this, you just need to do this for you.
• Maybe it’s your destiny to reach out.
• Maybe it’s your time to lead, distract, laugh or change.

And as for me, please help me to commit to keep my word, to keep sharing my words with you.

And that was my first blog on ‘Love in the time of Corona’…

With love to you, whatever you do.
From Sandra – author, blogger and blonde