Champagne, cake and Christmas (49.20)

This week we reached the end of Lockdown 2.0! Now, back to what passes for normal life these days.

This week I celebrated my birthday, and it was a good day.

It started in the morning when I went out for a run as the sun came up. My friend thought I was mad, but this is the day I run, birthday or no, and so I ran. It was a slow run, but I found a new field near the canal to run around, and it was a beautiful morning, and I ran for three miles. In the morning, I had some time to sit and read, and then we had an amazing afternoon tea at home, with sandwiches, scones, champagne and tea. (I made the scones and did most of the sandwiches – just because it was my birthday doesn’t mean I spent the whole day slouching around doing nothing.)

Having eaten too much, (those sandwiches were really good and it was my birthday so it was an open ticket to overdose on carbs), we couldn’t even attempt the birthday cake, so we had a rest in the afternoon, before having dinner of canapes in the evening with more champagne and finally opening the cake. Taking Covid19 into account, we lit some candles on a candlestick for me to blow out, so I didn’t have to blow on the cake.

Seven tiers of cake with sprinkles on top, because part of me is 5 years old. Served with champagne, because the rest of me is not.

The cake was a wonder. Husband and Household-bubble-friend were cooking it all day while I was working and kept telling me to stay out of the kitchen. And then I had to stay out of the dining room on my birthday while they did the structuring and the icing. I asked for a rainbow cake and I got a rainbow cake. All seven layers of intensely bright joyful colour of it. And nearly a kilo of icing on top. I can only imagine the effort they put into making this, and I’m very grateful for it. It really was amazing and I felt stupidly five-year-old excited about it.

The. Best. Cake. Ever.

This week, in the midst of my birthday days off, I had my team Christmas party – online – which was weird. I’m not always feeling terribly social at this time of year and the fact that we were just so many faces on a screen in a Zoom call made the thing stranger. We were given a budget to order food (in lieu of the company paying for us to have a meal out as they would in normal years), which meant we were so many faces on a Zoom call watching each other eat, and then we watched a magician, and after that we had an awkward chat. Although I was technically on holiday I joined the meeting to see everyone and be social, although how do you be social on Zoom when there are 30 of you? It was all very bizarre and I can’t say I enjoyed the experience.

A different social experience was had when we went to the pub on Friday. This was my first post-Lockdown pub experience with compulsory substantial meal purchase (although the substantial meals on offer were Japanese dumplings or vegan burgers). This pub is attached to the new Truman’s brewery that has opened up along the Walthamstow “Beer Mile”, and it’s a huge space, but obviously only partially full due to social distancing rules. Everything was low contact – order by app, and when the staff bring drinks to your table, you have to take them from the tray to reduce contact. However I noticed that when we reached the 10pm closing time, everyone was shunted out of the building all at once, so people were clustered on the footpath without masks waiting for their taxis, or chatting to their friends, so all that social distancing only goes on inside the building. Outside, it’s all chaos and contact.

This week we booked tickets for a comedy event. The pub that usually hosts the Red Imp comedy events is closed, as it’s not an eating pub so hasn’t been able to re-open under the current restrictions. So Red Imp has moved (hopefully temporarily) to another venue just down the road, and Husband was so excited that he’s booked tickets for all three comedy events coming up. It’s going to be strange, watching comedy in a mask and socially distanced from other patrons instead of elbow to elbow in narrow rows as it was in the room above the pub (in The Before). But it’s going out to an event, and that feels like a thing of wonder these days.

This week I tried something new: taking a walking work call. I have a regular call for one of my projects in Tuesdays and it’s scheduled at 1pm. I don’t usually have much participation in this call, I’m there more to listen and get an update on project progress. This usually means that during this call I start getting distracted by something else and not paying 100% attention to what’s being said. So this week I tried something that management have been talking about for a few months now – taking a walking meeting. I rugged up and left the house and then connected to the call. It meant (i) I got some exercise and (ii) I paid proper attention to the call because I had no screens to distract me. And I had a piece of paper with me to make a note of the one action that came up for me to deal with when I was back at the desk. I liked this technique and I think I’ll use it regularly for my Tuesday call.

Lunchtime walk by the reservoir.

This week I’ve been learning Portuguese. I’m using two free apps – Drops and Duolingo – although Duolingo is more persistent about getting me to do my daily lessons. To complicate things further, Drops is European Portuguese, while Duolingo is Brazilian Portuguese. Same words, different pronunciation. I’m learning Portguese because we’ve booked a holiday to Madeira for Feb/March 2021. Yes, we’ve decided to express confidence in the future and make plans for 2021. Any readers who have been to Madeira please get in touch with your recommendations!

This week I went for a walk in Epping Forest. Another part of my birthday celebration. I think we were last there in October, before lockdown 2.0, and it was still very green. Now, in December, we seem to have missed autumn and the forest was looking stark and leafless and wintry. And muddy. Another day to be grateful for my hiking boots as I sink up to my laces in mud but my feet stay dry.

Muddy boots. Is it worth cleaning them at this time of year?

This week, we launched Christmas. Tree – lights – decorations – tinsel. And that means I got to bring out the Mega Christmas Playlist which I think is up to 10 hours long now. Christmas never made a lot of sense back home in Australia but here in the cold northern hemisphere weather it makes more sense. Making the house warm and cosy, eating too much, having sparkling lights everywhere – it makes more sense when it’s cold and dark outside. Every year we seek out new ornaments for the tree – the aim is to cover up as much of the green as possible. We are doing pretty well, with six new things this year – one sea shell from our trip to Margate, and four ‘shop’ ornaments which Husband is usually against, but when I saw a Humpty Dumpty in TKMaxx I wasn’t going to walk away without it.

I hope you all find something of wonder and joy in the week ahead.

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