Sit in my bucket

Yesterday in the middle of our government approved dog walk around the block, I saw something quite out of this world. My daughter had already raced off home, bored of the slow pace, and I was left watching the horizon.

I watched in awe, as ten, playful dolphins, danced and swirled around each other in a huge circle, leaping clear out of the water, time and time again. It was mesmerising. Yet I was alone to see it and my daughter had disappeared. Guess who had no camera that day too! In all the time we have been here, I had missed every sighting of every sea creature, every time!!

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In these magical moments, our eyes are our camera and we absorb each moment more intensely as it presents itself for us. We do this so that we can both remember it and tell someone else. As somebody who loves to take photos, it was all the more special to capture a rare and beautiful memory and savour it for the usual desperate scouring of the sea’s riches. Then my neighbour appeared, and socially distant, we stood together watching and oohing and ahhing. Somehow, an experience is more real when shared.

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Human beings need to share. For so many of us, there is thread of intimacy missing in our days right now, little shared experiences over cups of tea, a hug with a friend, knowing how people are getting on, planning local events, marking moments with others.

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And there will be people reading this, agreeing that some folk overshare their lives, their dramas and their intimate details, especially in times of internet tourism. It can be very difficult to work out who the real person is underneath layers of posts and ideals, designer personality traits and public expressions of extreme emoji filled emotion..

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We all act out of love or fear most of the time. And if someone is annoying you, think about what either you or they might be scared about. Extreme emotions are mirrors reflecting only our true selves. So we had better like who we see above the bathroom sink.

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The small daily creations we achieve must be marked and seen in some way. In recent weeks, our issue with schoolwork was magnified because there was nobody to show it to. A convoluted method of downloading 52 pieces of maths, english and art onto a memory stick, posting it to the teacher, was worth it for her feedback.

Because humans need to be seen, heard, celebrated, liked. The tiny precious moments that most people take for granted, all day every day in families and in relationships, are possibly harder to capture and share now. Especially if (like mine) your family aren’t online! Thank goodness for the daily gratitude and love from fur and feathers.

Perhaps right now you might be experiencing a little of this frustration. are you having amazing ideas, but have nobody to tell them to? Are you making delicious meals, but have nobody to eat them with? Is your inner critic making you uncertain about your daily choices? Now is the time to give it that voice a boot. It is thoroughly understandable to have extreme versions of your emotions right now. Feel them. Just don’t believe the ones that sound like your horrible old aunt that never liked you. Treat yourself like another person would treat you, a person that loves you like the sun shines out of your bahooky.

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Part of recording and sharing our photographs, is sharing the amazement and joy we feel . Instinctively as humans when something wonderful happens we crave a soul to bounce it off. If you are surrounded by family, mirroring each other’s experiences in a positive way, and sharing over the family whatsapp, you are very fortunate . It is very rare! Now, more than ever, our tribes are scattered, and our shared experiences are online, in letters, in conversations. I was quite touched that my mum said she would write in her diary, 500 miles away, that I saw dolphins. For the few minutes I was describing them, she saw them too.

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This situation is making us draw on self resilience and for some people, there isn’t anyone there. We have only the reserves we have bottled on sunny days. Keep opening those jars. It doesn’t ever run out.

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My friend Lorna is an inspiration to us all. Throughout a lonely lockdown, she has carried on baking for her own film nights, and has given herself the permission to still experience celebration, even though she is alone. Our shopping too is centered around food these days, and saving on petrol, choosing certain smaller food supermarkets, that feel safer, has enabled a restaurant menu at Liz and Leahs! One of the nicest things has been to share meals that would otherwise have been lost. Leah has become very creative in the kitchen with an egg- egg salad, french toast, scrambled eggs.. and her favourite lockdown thing she says is soup for lunch on cold days, at the table. We have even managed a couple of meals outside.

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My gratitude for our network has been enormous recently. We are very much alone here, a long way from family and long term friendships have been tested by distance and disability. We have an incredible online circle but as many of you will now understand, it isn’t quite the same as sitting on the sofa laughing at the tv. together. In recent weeks, this has been even harder on a very personal level.

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This week, after a short battle with cancer, we lost my stepfather Dave . For a few weeks before it happened, we knew what was coming, and we were a long way away. We had to watch from the side, while life did what life will do. A few people knew, but facebook doesn’t hug you. And when you and I and all the other parents Aunties, Uncles, grandparents out there are managing a daily survival routine, you don’t crumble, you can’t crumble. Even though you want to.

When the time came for him to be at peace, the distance from relatives got so much bigger. So many of you will be reading this and understanding the pain of separation from loved ones, in times of both joy and sorrow.

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When we are really sad, when life happens, it is essential to let your loved ones know you are there. Grief and sadness, flooding memories and feelings of pain and anger will course through at different times for each person. Nobody will know the exact right thing to say. Or when you’ll need it most. That’s ok. If you are feeling overwhelming sadness , tell someone this; that all you need is for them to sit in your bucket with you. When pain, or fear or any emotion which has gripped your brave heart is overpowering; you don’t need to be told how wonderful life is outside the bucket.

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You will come back to yourself soon enough. What you really need is someone in your bucket with you. Just being there in the water.

Lorna reminded me of those chads we used to draw in the 80s. peering over walls, peering out from under duvets, over buckets.

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Grief has to be sat in sometimes, to feel the loss of someone dear, and the pain of the unfairness of it all. People that love you do so for all your rollercoaster emotions, powerful, beautiful, funny, strange, colourful and they know that you already see the world beyond your bucket. And being under a cloud for a while will only make the rainbow brighter.

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Human beings need to be. It is a reflective time for us all, and we will have times of great sadness and great comfort. Don’t judge each other. The switch on your phone or the tv is there for a reason. Feel what is the right thing to do in your heart. And most importantly, don’t judge yourself.

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Too many others will do that for you! In recent months and weeks the money put aside from art classes (£5 A week!) and any sales; to build a space for helping others was taken from our kitchen. And the grass I had grown from seed into a lush green carpet for the fairy garden, has been sprayed by someone with weed killer. We have been tested. But we aren’t giving up on anything that we believe in. The abundance of creativity and hugs will just burst out some other way. We hope the person who does these things can see it might feel brave doing these things, but it took a lot more courage escaping our former life to build this one.

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We have carried on being and doing. Drawing, playing, watching the magnificence around us and waiting until such times as we can hug those we love.

For those of you who read this, consider yourself an essential part of our family. We always have space around our virtual table. Let’s hope it’s not too long until its a real one ! For those of you who commented on our facebook page this week, Thankyou. xx That meant a lot xx

From our hearts to yours, keep filling your buckets. Liz and Leah xx

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May the force be with you

Dear friends. Another couple of weeks in. How are you bearing up? Are you surprising yourself with your resilience in this strange new world ? Or are you struggling with groundhog day? Maybe a bit of both, with the scales weighted drastically in different directions depending on the weather…. Like the radio broadcasters we listen to on waking, talking about their outfits and their breakfasts, (instead of their premiers and parties) : we are all now more aware of the details, because it is all we have. Here are some of our moments, from scrapbook trawling, to unwrapping childhood wigwams sent from Grandma’s attic, savouring the last few Christmas soaps, quiet studio moments, learning how to cook and appreciating the time to get a few pieces of artwork finished.

Our mornings have slipped into a routine between animals and the dreaded schoolwork, which actually, has been mostly excellent, although the uploading to a required forum, not quite so easy! We keep on drawing, and stitching, and talking and trusting and hoping and believing in the things we love ……. Every day I draw an object and share this idea to a couple of groups, on facebook and whatsapp… who.. in turn… draw, or share their artwork, and in some cases, haiku, sewing or poetry . It doesn’t matter where each journey ends. The huge thing for many people, has been regular contact, communication between others in the groups and lessening the feeling of only having your own ideas to dwell on. Uploading the videos I made seems to have foxed our local internet provision. So these early morning scribbles have become a new habit for us all.

For animals, life is better. They have us all the time now. Perhaps it was a conspiracy ! This week has included a spa for dogs and the chicken, including all of them being read to…and Skye’s daily walks with her boyfriend Glen. Molly and Max do what cats usually do.

Our usual noisy places are quiet. There is an eeriness where there is usually kid’s laughter. The seagulls are taking over the park as well as the overflowing bin bags from the nation’s decluttering.

We all have pain and anger.. Several people have alluded recently to positive posts or brightness in the face of adversity. It can be extremely easy to see what we want to see, when those things are what we feel ourselves. If you fall in love, love is everywhere, every flower shines it’s happy face in your direction. Currently, nobody really knows how to feel. And time spent staring into an abyss of different opinions online or listening to rumours won’t help you. We aren’t exempt from feeling sadness. Or frustration or fear. There have been tears and tantrums here, and not just Leah’s.

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We have been more aware of our isolation here now than at any other point. The brighter you shine, the darker the edges of the crowd. Usually we absorb the benefits of energetic, inspiring people around us every day. Your Vibe attracts your Tribe' - Brigitte Riley Yoga
And if your tribe aren’t about… you become more aware of those less positive vibes surrounding you. It takes a shed load of will and self preservation to maintain good mental health, and a positive life for another small human, when you live amidst some negative people. In past circumstances, I know, I have been guilty of believing the cynics, and the gas lighters. We all know people who prey on those who are less grey, unkind, self loathing than they are. Because to turn the mirror the other way , on themselves, would be too hard. So they attack other people.
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But one learns that serves no-one. I teach my daughter that we can choose. To be goaded into a response or to stand still, or float in your colourful boat in a sea of colour until you hit an island where your tribe are waiting.
At this time all our reserves are being stretched as far as they can go. All of us. .The European Central Bank Is Being Stretched to Its Breaking Point ...

We can’t replenish our soul with our friends smiling at us, our voices can’t soar in our choirs, we can’t drive to our retreats and our places of comfort. So all of that has to be done in our homes and within ourselves. It is a tall order . For us, we have terribly sad things happening in our family, which like for many of you, we can’t do anything about, or travel to be with the people we love. .

All we can do, is to carry on carrying on being there for each other and being positive for the art groups, our mental health group and our friends, to share some colour and kindness; even on the dullest day. There is another day tomorrow. There are new skills to learn and grow. If you don’t like it, don’t look. !

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I made this week bird week. This was for my mum. A prayer for the things she’s going through and I can’t be there for. She loves her beautiful garden and her birds. My friends were asked to choose their favourite bird on different days. In time, these will be prints and be shared as a tribute and as memories of this time.

As you’ll know, we recently lost our beloved friend Pumpkin. And in these times of lockdowns, no travelling, no school friends to knock about with, there is a huge surplus of hugs to contend with . So, on the first day of the pet shop opening in Berwick I had an 11 year old trailing her parent with fingers glued crossed that they had what she hoped for, then I was dragged to an x on the floor to sign a few virtual crosses for pet ownership…. and then this happened……

Meet Bonnie and Bumble. 9 wk old balls of fluffy gorgeousness. In a cage of many fur balls these two stood out as perfect for this home. They picked us . The most beautiful little guinea pigs you ever saw. One each, so no squabbling . They are already at home in Leah’s hair, and have become part of the Skye Blue zoo within hours. The cats have already given their approval. Skye loves everyone. So that’s that. The zoo is back . Bumble is sitting on my lap as I write. These days, multitasking is all…

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When you only have the people and creatures and thoughts that matter, choose them wisely.

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Well.. we’ve got carrots to chop , paints to squeeze, neighbours to annoy.. and glitter to sprinkle .

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Lots of love in lockdown, xxxx Liz and Leah!!!!