2020 – Searching for Normality in Uncertain Times

It is almost the end of the first quarter of 2020 and what a year it has been already – for various reasons. On a personal level, we moved house in February and three weeks later we got married. If our wedding had been booked for just a week later it would not have happened – due to the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus reared its head in China towards the end of last year and has swiftly progressed across the world leading to thousands of deaths and many countries on lockdown to prevent people from leaving their homes, with rules on social distancing and self isolating. It is an incredibly scary time to be living in. While the majority of people who catch this virus will likely only have mild symptoms, there will be a proportion of people who will have severe issues and will lose their lives, even healthy people with no underlying health issues.

In the UK we are on lockdown. Paul and I, like many others, are working from home now. We are lucky we are both in professions where we can carry on our jobs as near to normal as possible from home but we know that not everyone has that luxury or security. Journeys are only allowed to get food, medicines or an amount of exercise.

We were keeping an eye on the news on the run up to our wedding. We lost a couple of guests who were unable to make it due to their loved ones not being able to provide their intended childcare as they had made the decision to self isolate for health reasons – which was totally understandable.

Despite the uncertainty, we had a lovely wedding weekend. We got married at the Three Daggers Brewery in Edington in Wiltshire. Part of the wedding package was the use of a 6 bedroom house over the road from the Brewery & Inn, with a Spa Barn, jacuzzi, plunge pool, sauna and steam room, plus a “man cave” cabin complete with a dart board and TV inside with a firepit outside.

We kicked things off with some treatments in the Spa Barn on the Friday – with me having a Swedish massage followed by an Indian Head massage. Paul’s sister and my Mum also had massages. We had a nice meal on the Friday evening with those guests who were staying over on the Friday night. I relaxed in the jacuzzi in the evening with my step sons and nephew. Saturday morning we had a great breakfast in the pub and Paul had his massage. My nieces both had facial treatments and my siblings had massages too. With some help from Paul’s sister I put up the decor in the brewery for the wedding ceremony and then headed off to get myself ready.

Our wedding started around 1pm and went well (despite a bit of a hitch with the music). We had a mixture of traditional and non-traditional with my father giving me away, but I had no bridesmaids. Paul had a best man and his two sons were ring bearers. My father and the best man both read readings I had written and I read this poem:

Foxtrot from a Play by W H Auden

The soldier loves his rifle,
The scholar loves his books,
The farmer loves his horses,
The film star loves her looks.
There’s love the whole world over
Wherever you may be;
Some lose their rest for gay Mae West,
But you’re my cup of tea.
Some talk of Alexander
And some of Fred Astaire,
Some like their heroes hairy
Some like them debonair,
Some prefer a curate
And some an A.D.C.,
Some like a tough to treat’em rough,
But you’re my cup of tea.

Some are mad on Airedales
And some on Pekinese,
On tabby cats or parrots
Or guinea pigs or geese.
There are patients in asylums
Who think that they’re a tree;
I had an aunt who loved a plant,
But you’re my cup of tea.

Some have sagging waistlines
And some a bulbous nose
And some a floating kidney
And some have hammer toes,
Some have tennis elbow
And some have housemaid’s knee,
And some I know have got B.O.,
But you’re my cup of tea.

The blackbird loves the earthworm,
The adder loves the sun,
The polar bear an iceberg,
The elephant a bun,
The trout enjoys the river,
The whale enjoys the sea,
And dogs love most an old lamp-post,
But you’re my cup of tea.

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Mr & Mrs Darby

After the ceremony we had drinks and canapes in the Spa Barn while they rearranged the ceremony room for our wedding breakfast. We came back down to the Brewery and enjoyed a lovely three course meal followed by tea & coffee with petit fours (truffles and macaroons.) There were speeches by the best man, my father and Paul – who read out a few amusing sections from the book “Don’ts for Husbands” written in 1913.

We then went up to the house to relax with drinks and chat. Paul and some of the guys including the kids, went off to enjoy the sauna etc. Some guests left a bit early but later on we had a nice evening buffet back in the Brewery with some 80s music and had a good time before heading back to the house and eventually Paul and I got to enjoy the sauna and jacuzzi together. We had a relaxed Sunday morning with a nice breakfast back in the pub and generally tidying things up and getting things packed to head home.

My parents and my brother and his children came back to see our new house and stayed for a coffee before heading off. The following day we set off to enjoy our honeymoon – staying at Peacock Cottage – on the grounds of Kirby Hall an English Heritage property in Northamptonshire.

We had the place to ourselves as Kirby Hall is closed to visitors during the week at this time of the year. The sun was out when we arrived so we had a nice walk round the grounds before settling down for the evening.

On the Tuesday we went to Belton House in Lincolnshire – a National Trust property. We had an informative tour of the “Below Stairs” part of the house – where the servants would have worked and lived. There were just six of us on the tour and not many more people there at the property. We went round one floor of the house and headed back to the cottage.

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Belton House – photo by Alex

On Wednesday we decided to have a lazy day at the cottage, just relaxing, reading, doing puzzles and not doing much. We went out for a nice pub dinner at The George & Dragon in nearby Seaton.

On Thursday we went to Stowe Gardens in Buckinghamshire – another National Trust property. We had a nice sausage bap to start with before having a good walk around the grounds for about 3-4 hours. We headed back to the cottage after a drink and a piece of cake.

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The Palladian Bridge at Stowe – photo by Paul Darby

On Friday morning we headed back home via the Services to get some food to take home with us. That afternoon/evening the lockdown began more formally with all pubs and restaurants ordered to close – our wedding venue being one of those. We ventured out on Saturday morning to go to the post office for stamps and a quick shop in the local supermarket before retreating back home. I have not left home since then – although Paul has done the odd walk out to the local petrol station to get some essentials and into town to collect his prescription from the local pharmacy – which took 1 and a half hours on Friday due to the social distancing queue and the 1 in 1 out policy of the pharmacy. However we are glad he now has more inhalers for his asthma.

It has been a strange time to get married, currently all weddings have been postponed, so we really were lucky to get married when we did, but ultimately had it not happened – while we would have been very disappointed – people’s lives and health take priority over an event.

We are also very lucky to have been able to move house and be in a nice spacious home. It is allowing us both to have working areas so we can both get on with our jobs, be on calls etc without disturbing each other. We have an office in the house – which last week I used while Paul worked at the kitchen table. This week we have swapped spaces.

We don’t know how long this situation will go on for, several more weeks at the very least – but likely months. In the midst of all this we are trying to find a new “normal” with the self isolation restrictions, getting on with some jobs in the new house like a bit of decorating. We have been doing a jigsaw, doing quizzes with each other, hunting around for food delivery services to restrict the amount of times we need to go out to a supermarket – currently making use of veg and meat box deliveries but struggling to find anywhere with strong white bread flour to make my own bread. We will probably have to go to the supermarket later this week for more milk so will see what we can get.

I am also still doing genealogy – perfect time really whilst being cooped up. While I am still working during the hours of 8am – 5pm at my day job being a Project Manager, at least currently I don’t have a daily commute and can work on my own tree as well as work for clients outside of those hours. I will also be merging the trees I have done for my own family and that of my husband Paul this week. This will involve me ensuring I have both trees downloaded to my FamilyTreeMaker software – performing the merge function and syncing back to Ancestry again. I will then need to re-associate Paul’s DNA kit to him on the joint tree and send some new invites out at some point.

So already this year – so much change, change of address and home, change of surname and marital status (I’m now Alex Darby by the way!) and a change in lifestyle – change in habits, working environment… the world is changing and it is an uncertain, anxious time. I hope that you are all keeping safe and well, and that you are keeping well in your mental health too. Self isolation may be keeping you physically well, but the isolation from friends and family and work colleagues is difficult. I’m always happy to chat!

And when we finally do come out the other side of this – we will have to find a new “normal” because I believe life will be different. Many people will have been affected by this, their health, their jobs, and sadly some will have lost loved ones. It has been encouraging to see how people and communities have pulled together (whilst maintaining a 2m distance…) and how key workers such as NHS workers, supermarket staff including delivery drivers, pharmacy staff etc. have all put themselves on the front line to keep us safe, save lives and keep us fed. I am immensely humbled by it all.

Stay inside – stay safe. Do some more family tree!

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Photo by Paul Darby