A VERY odd year finally ends.

Well, it’s not the actual year end, it’s my blogging year end. I have bored you all with another twelve months of my ramblings. Thank goodness things are changing, I’m virtually out of fresh things to say! Trying to find stuff to write about when every day felt like Groundhog Day, has been tough and I’m sure makes for dull reading, but hey ho, it’s a year that we all shared and experienced. I’ve worked lots, helped with our brood, dealt with unwanted drama, cooked, shopped online, dieted and slept. Rinse. Repeat. I am going to try and sum up this very strange year – I do talk about all manner of things in my blog, because I don’t care if anyone sees my underbelly (not a pretty sight!) and sometimes putting thoughts in writing is cathartic – important though, it’s all here as it’s my family’s history. Peeking into the last 12 months blog isn’t always jolly and somewhat repetitive, as a result of being stuck at home for so long. However, I gained SO much! A beautiful grandson, a boob, weight, an award from Amazon for being their best ever customer in the entire world, new friends, a sewing machine, a hairless cat (soon), conquered Sibelius (not hard, but I had put it off for years), made brilliant videos for the choirs and somehow, we still managed to raise lots of money for charities with online campaigns and an outdoor viewing of our mini movie, Grease. I thankfully lost a daughter in law (rotten fruit falls by itself and perishes) and my tummy, so all things considered, that’s ok.

Swamp play. Amigo II and his daddy.

Something in me believes that my life is about to make another turn – goodness, I hope it’s good, but who knows…whatever it is, I’ll keep on humming while I clatter away on my keyboards. This seems a perfect place to end this years blog, as we are about to return to evening choir rehearsals (al fresco) for the first time in a year! This is for the Rockits and Hearties. Can’t wait! Oh dear, though, I have this new found problem! Historically, I have NEVER been a crier. Through my life I have very rarely cried, other than a few times when in sheer despair or anger. Films never made me cry, neither did emotional outpourings, funerals, weddings, divorces etc. I thought I had some kind of wall around me. However, a couple of years ago, I started to notice that simple things really touched me – just random acts of kindness, a beautiful song, or watching my little ones. I was with Amigo II at swimming the other week and I watched him paddling towards me in his little shark swimsuit with a huge smile on his face (this was before he caused all the chaos) and before I knew it, I had tears in my eyes! WHAT??!! My dad has lots of criers on his side of the family (especially the Whites), it comes with age, along with massive ears and deafness. I have inherited all these embarrassing things. The problem, is going to be the choirs and Beth’s wedding next year. It’s like my tough outer shell has somehow become porous! What will I be like when I am 70? How will I cope with a return to singing and all the lovely harmonies that somehow get right inside me, or to see my littlest one in her wedding dress! Hhhmmm…sunglasses!

We are coming to get you, Ashford! xxxx

For me, 2020 brought some incomprehensible moments. A rollercoaster I didn’t want to ride, that still makes me feel ill if I even think of it. Thank you for your support, generosity, patience and general nuttiness over the last year, it honestly kept me going. I have grown even fonder of you lovely lot and seen friendship at it’s very, very best. Together, we have enriched our local community and looked out for each other through these hard months. Here’s to us…here’s to familiar places and friendly faces, days in the sun and nights out singing in the pub. “Here’s to the rebels, the ripples from pebbles…here’s to the fools who dream.” Can’t wait to see you soon at a garden near you! Love, love, love xxx

Amigo III – little cherub. xxx

Guest blogger, Butsy.

It’s impossible to believe that I am now at the end of yet another year of this blog. I like to round up with a few guest blogs from my nearest and dearest.

So, mum asked me to write a page in her blog ‘as the year ends’ and I said sure! She then said I have a few days…why does her year end in May?! Also, before I start, I’m sorry mum if I forget to do enough spaces after a full stop.  Ok, so here it goes!  Apart from the odd photo on social media, I’m quite a private person and tend only to tell my closest few any good or bad news I may have.  I do know however, that mum wants the boys to read these blogs when they are older, so that they know who Din Dins is (that’s what Rufus calls mum) and what she got up to. So I’ll keep this bit brief and get it over with. 

Our newest addition. xxxx

2020 was, in a nutshell, one of the hardest years of my life. There were three blessings, falling pregnant with Rexy, my family and mum still being healthy(ish) and Glenn asking me to marry him.  Apart from that, it was pretty awful (sorry this won’t all be depressing).  We named a baby who sadly didn’t grow big and healthy enough to join the WillyWhatmans. I wasn’t going to mention this in the blog, but actually I feel I should.  It was utterly heartbreaking, but didn’t stop me wanting a sibling for Ruru… hello Rexy 🌈❤️. Then, my brother (and my mum) had to fight to keep his son and Covid lockdown struck. This all happened within the same week. Ouch!  No singing for a year.  I’ve not missed much else because I’ve had a toddler and a baby to look after! I’ve sung with mum all my life and we have taught together since I was 18 (I’m now 31!).  I miss standing next to her teaching the choirs her most wonderful creations. Side note – I can genuinely say, sometimes mum sends me songs of parts she has written for the choir and it amazes me. How she isn’t famous for writing beautiful harmonies, I really don’t know.  So that’s pretty much the last year, I told you it wasn’t the best. Baby Rexy was my prize for getting through it though and my goodness he is a perfect prize.

The corner sofa is always full to capacity. xxxx

My days at the moment are spent being Mummy.  Luckily we have Mum/Dins. Every day she helps me. She cooks, does the boys washing, takes Ru to groups and even just comes over to play with Ru whilst I attempt to get Rexy to nap (I’m changing his name to Felix because he catnaps).  What would we do without our mums?  I’ve always said I would stay living close to mum until she’s gone, then I’m moving to Bath.  For me, home isn’t home if mum isn’t close by. 

He is now officially in a football team called The Grasshoppers. He thinks he is a grasshopper!!!

What’s to look forward to this year? 1- Wedding planning! Our boho barn wedding is booked for 2022 and I’m SO excited.  2 – Eating normal chocolate again. Thanks to Rex’s awful reflux, I’m having to go dairy free.  I miss cheese so much.  3 – Live music! Bon Iver with Glenn and Birdy with Mum. We also need to find a live band for the wedding. 4 – Work! I have decided whilst on maternity leave to really try and grow my baby classes that I teach and it’s worked!  I’m so looking forward to teaching these classes again soon.  5 – My boys. Nothing compares to watching them grow.  I cherish every day I have with them, even days when Ru draws on the piano and Rex makes me wear him in a sling all day. 6 – Isle of Wight.  Holidays with mum, Nige and my little family.  We have done these holidays since Ru was 6 months old and they are the BEST. 7 – Finally, everything opening up again.  Singing, eating out,  seeing family and friends. It’s been a long year without it all, but 2021 is looking better.  Let’s sing louder than ever! So that’s me done. I hope Mum doesn’t ask me to do this again.  I also hope she proof reads this because I tend to get words muddled, like when I muddled ‘incompetent’ and ‘incontinent’ when opening an account for an elderly man at Lloyd’s bank.  P.S love you mum xx”

The return of Merry Berry.

So, just over a year ago Max, invited me to make a guest appearance in her blog. At that time we hadn’t long been into the first lockdown and who would have thought that a year on we would still be wearing masks and distancing from each other? As my good friend Berry Medley said, “by ’eck, that was one hell of a year” and so it has been. In some ways, it seems that nothing but the pandemic has happened, but in reality that cannot be further from the truth. 

Pondering life with his e-pipe.

Good luck and timing meant that Max, I and a couple of Amigos and their lovely parents managed to get away for a brief holiday in between the first two lockdowns. It was such a needed break and raised our spirits to get us through the second lockdown. How strange that lockdown is a word that now so easily trips off the tongue. We ended up at Shanklin, in the Isle Of Wight and were blessed with wonderful weather, (almost) real dinosaurs, great food (cream teas out and Max’s ‘motorhome meals’ in), a lovely setting and wonderful companionship. It was so lovely that we are descending on the island again this July, so fingers crossed for another spell of great weather. 

Dr Dinosaur has an apprentice – both have top of the range glasses.

Of course, because of lockdowns 1, 2 and 3 it was the only time the Hymer Rockitship fired its engines up. Last year a field mouse had moved in, but having been in lockdown for so long I am expecting to find a family of rats curled up in the very comfy beds! It would have been easy to hunker down in these strange times and do nothing, but instead we have made plans to take the Hymer to the next level, a shuttle craft is planned to be docked in landing bay one. New decorations and even a new extension to the already bloated Hymer are all starting to materialise. To quote Ian Fleming “the world is not enough,” so keep your eyes peeled to the skies and in the backstage area at Tractorfest to see it all.

Amigo III, enjoying his daily walk.

Of course this year hasn’t been all about the Hymer and lockdowns. It’s been about thinking outside the box to keep life as normal as possible. Take away food from Hoof and Montelbano, shopping for presents instead of trips, Zoom calls instead of meeting in person and delivered food and fruit boxes, instead of grocery shopping – all little things to put a smile on someone’s face, in what could and should have been a very depressing time. In a way the timing of the pandemic has been very lucky, yes really, at almost anytime in the past had we been locked up inside, we would have only had Jeremy Kyle and Eastenders for company, but instead, we have streaming services coming out of our ears, so our TV’s have helped enormously, especially for those on their own who thrive on a good film or series. I am the king of TV recommendations for our lot and got the kids the Disney Channel (I think it’s Beth’s favourite).

His first photofit – how proud Pops is, haha. Amigo IV is going blonde.

So, whatever comes our way next, be it freedom, a fourth lockdown or a new pandemic, we will be ready. We have been tested in the most extraordinary way and we are still here, vaccinated and making plans for trips, Max’s madcap plans for shows and still eating delights from Fortnum’s. Everyone reading this blog is not just a survivor of the great pandemic, we are all winners, we are all better off for getting through this, we have found new ways of maintaining friendships and happiness and even more, we are not a dying society, we are a thriving and growing group with new shoots blooming (for new shoots read, Amigo 4). Today is the definition of hope…shops and outdoor cafes are open again, Max and I are venturing out on our usual shopping sprees, the Rockiteers are gathering in small, but perfectly formed pods and the sun is shining. Plans are being made and friendships rekindled in person. To quote Louis Armstrong, “what a wonderful world.”

A few days in the life of me.

May has arrived and along with it, a season of change. I have started to feel slightly better and making sure I am more active. I think people often perk up before they die, haha. Several little nice things happened today. I received the new Birdy CD in the post from Butsy, with ‘Mummy’ on the envelope and I found a mini egg down the side of the sofa. We love Birdy, one of the few originals among a sea of copycats. I also heard that Hugo is doing well and will be with me in 3 weeks.

My beauties xxxxx

I have taught no end of pods this week, out in the sunshine…although its bloody cold. I’ve done some bulk cooking to feed Butsy’s brood and stocked my freezer for overly busy future days. In between the pods, I recorded today’s song, Cabaret – which is one of the openers for this years Christmas cabaret! I’m very pleased with this arrangement as it’s full of life and makes me want to sing at the top of my voice, haha. The soprano part is very squeaky – sorry Sops! Some days I am out singing for up to 8 hours and then I come home and sing again. This is why I am single, well that and the fact that I can’t stand people for long and eat Ryvita in bed, haha. My days are very busy, but kind of nice too. Amigo II went to his swimming lesson and now has a grotty cold, which I am sure all kids have after a year of being stuck at home without a germ in sight. During my days, there are no hours unaccounted for. That’s fine, because right now it’s necessary to work with little groups (due to Covid) and we have a new baby in the family. So many of you are just like me too, juggling work and family. I am definitely a no nonsense, get on with it, kind of person. There are those that do stuff and those that give up when the slightest obstacle pops up. Where there’s a will, there IS always a way.

Amigo IV – nearly three months old and very tall for his age.

We are starting to put together Butsy and Glenn’s wedding for next year. It will be the last wedding for our immediate family for many years to come, so it needs to be super special. It will be a celebration of life, a real country wedding – no formal rubbish, uncomfortable shoes, tailcoats or long speeches. It will be boho-style chic, with hops and fairy lights. The Hearties will sing, there will be lovely food, a well stocked bar, barrels of beer and a gin bath (now that’s interesting!). For once, I have decided that I won’t do ANYTHING funny.

Amigo III in a rope tunnel! xxx

Cabaret, for our Christmas Cabaret! © Arr Max Wilson.

All aboard for Canary Wharf.

I’ve done well flying through the new rep for the choirs and putting together shows. I tend to devote Sunday entirely to writing scores – if I really work at it, I can do a full one in a day. The week is hectic at the moment, with all the al fresco singing sessions I attend (pods of 6) and nanny duties, one to ones, hospital appointments and all manner of other things. My evenings are usually spent putting together new songs, broken with occasional cups of tea and odd half hours watching something on TV. There is so much work that goes into running choirs – of course the music is the main thing, but there’s lots of other stuff too, like putting together events and promoting them and sorting out the legalities of it all. Thank God I get help from my homies! Phew! Every show needs artwork, flyers, banners, tickets, advertising, a venue, lighting, sound, a bar, a raffle, props…cheese! We just did our Cabaret 2021 artwork which is below. Tonight, I am working on the song, ‘Cabaret’ for it. I really love the lyrics…”start by admitting from cradle to tomb, isn’t that long a stay.” and yes…”what good is sitting alone in a room? Come hear the music play.” That’s the spirit!

This years Christmas Cabaret (with cheese), raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

I was very impressed by the first couple of episodes in a new series, Mare of Easttown (not to be confused with the Mayor of Casterbridge!), with Kate Winslet. I think it’s going to be very good and it’s so well put together and on Now TV/Sky. Kate Winslet is superb in this – very believable, very gritty. It’s HBO – that in itself is a good enough reason to watch it. If you fancy an usual film, I also liked Winslet playing the dressmaker in…The Dressmaker. It starts like a western, but instead of a sheriff arriving to sort out a troubled town, it starts with a dressmaker returning home with her Singer sewing machine. It reminds me of an Aussie version of Chocolat – with chocolate being swapped for beautiful dresses.

A walk outside. CP in pose number 47. Gorgeous weather and I LOVE the buildings too.

On Saturday, I had my very first proper trip out in SO long. CP and I went to Canary Wharf. It felt almost normal, except we couldn’t have breakfast in LPQ’s (we had a takeaway in the park instead) or a glass of wine and some bread and balsamic vinegar in Waitrose, midway through our shopping. Very few shoppers were in the centre and it had strict Covid regs in place. We were very careful and remained masked and cleaning our hands almost nonstop. Clearly, I am a city lover. When you’re in a city, the world feels as though it’s on your doorstep, with endless things to do and places to visit. I really hate dismal country pubs with dusty floorboards and muddy carparks – give me a gleaming cafe in Covent Garden any day! I don’t like country walks either, yes, I appreciate trees and green things, but once you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Everything in every city is different. If I am walking, I want to look at people and buildings and be on my way to Peggy Porschen’s for a slice of cake. Tenterden is as rural as I can manage. I definitely wouldn’t live anywhere I couldn’t walk to the shops in a few minutes or grab a coffee. I love buzzing restaurants and theatres and plush hotels…I can dream!

Canary Wharf. This is my kind of view.