Late summer 2020

Well finally some time to catch up on the last couple of months. 2020 continues to be an absolute roller coaster so we are just hanging on and doing the best we can under adverse circumstances. It’s truly a game of survival right now, both physically and mentally. While it was a relief that kids went back to school in September case numbers have risen again in the UK to more than 20,000 per day so we’re in another lockdown here in Wales for the next 16 days. The plan is that primary school children will go back to school after next week’s half term but older kids are doing virtual learning.

Here are the latest stats for the Welsh counties — Cardiff being one of the highest at about 284 per 100k (thanks BBC).

The news is depressing all over the world — let me move swiftly onto reminiscing about the short trips we took at the end of summer…

We took advantage of remote working and got out of Cardiff for the last two weeks in August. The weather didn’t look too promising so we tried to follow the dry weather — first out to Pembrokeshire to coincide with Hefin, Emma and Elis’ visit to Nanna and Taidi’s. Here are Morgy and Nanna in St. Dogmael’s by the miller’s pond.

Of course we stopped for a coffee at the abbey cafe — Nanna’s favourite!

That’s Morgy with Nanna, Aled and Uncle Hefin with abbey ruins in the background. In the afternoon, we headed down to the beach at Poppit Sands which kept the boys entertained despite the cold wind blowing.

For the last week of the summer, we swapped houses with Hefin and Emma, who live in Norwich. We thought this was a clever idea considering how uncertain the situation was with Covid. (A huge thanks to Hef and Em for letting us stay — it was an awesome way to explore the area – next time hopefully we can do some boating together!!) Some of our friends had had to cancel overseas trips due to changes in quarantine rules with only a few days’ notice 🙁 So we packed up Aled’s computer and set off for the east side of the UK. First stop was Hunstanton Beach, famous for these bright red and white cliffs! Aren’t they amazing?

The weather really turned wet and cold after that day but Morgy and I got out to explore the local area and had a few nice adventures. Here we are at the local mini golf in a lovely park not far from Hefin and Emma’s house.

We had a nice day at Banham Zoo:

The following day we headed over to Happisburgh beach and lighthouse:

The weather turned a bit in the afternoon so we explored the Norfolk Broads, a low-lying area of beautiful waterways, rivers and marshes. It is really reminiscent of the Netherlands and there are some absolutely beautiful villages dotted throughout. Morg and I stopped for an afternoon treat at a pub near this little inlet.

We then went in search of a windmill and found one down by this waterway, where I was also delighted by this thatched boat house — so picturesque!

Equally fortuitously was the discovery of this beautiful garden and thatched house. Morgy is completely obsessed by plants and seeds lately so this was a really good find.

Over the weekend, we visited Cambridge and Ely, to see what most British people consider to be the “touristy sites”. I personally love going to see these areas because they are really incredible places and what I consider to be “the Best of Britain”. I mean look at this building in Cambridge — sorry can’t remember which college it was — just incredible architecture considering it’s probably 800 years old! (We’re starting the university hunt early for Morgy! 😉 )

We knew we couldn’t drag a 6 year old around the town for too long so I had booked some tickets to get into Cambridge’s famous botanical garden. If you are ever in Cambridge I would highly recommend a visit! Here they are in the greenhouses…

And here at a lovely little rockery.

Later in the afternoon we headed over to Ely to see the famous Cathedral:

Quite breathtaking on the inside…

In particular the stained glass windows…

Have I mentioned how much I love the old buildings here?

And for the last touristy stop in the area, the Duxford Imperial War Museum. We had visited this place a couple of years ago but thought Morg would enjoy it again. It’s an absolutely fantastic collection of aircraft from the past century or so. Here are the boys in front of a Sea King helicopter. For those of you unfamiliar with this Evans family story, Aled and a friend were rescued by one of these helicopters when Aled was 15. Much to his parents’ embarrassment, they were reported in the press as “two fool-hardy teenagers”. Aled continues to purport he needed no rescuing!

We also stopped to see our friends Nic and Liz on the way back but I didn’t get a pic of them or the lovely thatched village where they live. We did take a route across the country that took us past another very famous British landmark….

Aled was driving and I hadn’t realised we were going to drive past Stonehenge… hilariously every snap I took had a traffic cone in it! Naturally I could have cropped it out of these photos but somehow I think it’s representative of life in modern day Britain. The old and the new! In New Zealand it was easy to take the amazing vistas for granted because we saw them every day out our front window — in Britain it’s just as easy to drive past sites of archaeological, anthropological and architectural significance at 70 mph. But I think I will always photograph Stonehenge (or “stone hinge” as Morgy calls it) when I pass it.

And then it was time for Morgy to go back to school and for working from home to start again – yack. Embarrassingly I don’t have a pic of Morgy on his first day of Year 2 — whoops! I think I was too pre-occupied with all the new protocols to think of it. I was one of at least 5 mums crying tears of … well every emotion possible when they went into school – relief for not having to home school whilst working, joy that my son could play with his friends again, fear that they will catch and spread the virus, sadness for all that everyone continues to endure, etc etc. Honestly, what an awful time!

With very few after school activities occurring, most afternoons are spent in the parks in Penylan and Roath — here’s Morgy with one of his good friends Zeke by a fallen down tree close to the Rec:

In September, we were still relatively free to travel further afield so had some nice days out with Paul and Anurag, first to a reservoir up by Cwmbran:

As well as a really nice hike up Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. Again a view we probably have a hundred pictures of but it’s so pretty we just take some more!

In mid-September our work offices opened, with lots of work done by our facilities team to make it “covid-safe”. There were only a handful of us in that day, as most people are still feeling nervous about using the office, and most of us can easily work from home. Because I’m leading a project on how we use our workplaces, I felt it was important to get a feel for how the office had changed. And I wanted a change of scene!!

It was a really strange exprience going back into the office again after so long working from home. While it was nice to see some colleagues face to face, I was amazed at how much extra effort was required to get to work in the same way I used to – picking out and ironing work clothes, washing and drying hair, packing lunch, packing laptop, commuting…. that seemed to take an extraordinary amount of effort…! And as a Lean Six Sigma person, I couldn’t help but question the value add… But I can tell you one thing that drastically improved in this process — it was very easy to find a parking spot under the building!!

Since going back into lockdown though, all the offices are closed again now 🙁

Now it’s nearly time to wrap up this post I think… at the end of September, I reached a big milestone… that’s right, I turned 40! Wow. A huge thanks to Aled and Morgy for trying to make my birthday special under the global and personal circumstances – and for all the well wishes and cards from around the world.

Despite all the tests and procedures showing “nothing serious” my digestive system was still not right — so at that point I was on a gluten-free, lactose-free and low-acid diet. So cake was not really an option!! So instead I had some vegan ice cream with a selection of melons and we went for a nice walk around Cosmeston Lake with Paul and Anurag on a lovely sunny day.

We even managed to get in the Medieval Village (not easy — in past its unusual opening hours have really stymied me thus far!).

I will end with a lovely photograph by Anurag which I have titled “Love in the Time of Coronavirus”. Stay safe and sane everyone XOXOXO