• Wendy Radley

Life During Lockdown And A Well-Travelled Rocking Chair

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

It’s been a while since I wrote my blog and lots has happened including this awful Covid 19 Pandemic and the subsequent lock-down. Lock-down has been a real mixed bag for the Hubster and I as for many people. During the first few weeks business was slow and my orders pretty much dried up as U.K. households worried about being able to buy food when panic-buying resulted in empty shelves at the supermarkets. However despite my business concerns I enjoyed a slower pace of life; I spent hours gardening in the glorious warm weather.

I cooked and baked bread...

I’m loving having Oliver back living at home with us whilst Uni is closed: we’ve enjoyed Family Quizzes on Zoom and regular FaceTime chats with my parents and our eldest son Dan and his girlfriend Beth. We have delivered medicines and grocery essentials to mine and Andy’s parents in Warrington and enjoyed a brief chat through the window with them.

We’ve enjoyed lots of long walks through the countryside around our home with pooches Sausage and Rolo and feel truly blessed to have a garden and beautiful country walks at our front gates.

I do miss my old pre-lockdown life though, in particular the freedom to have friends and family come to visit, driving back to Warrington to enjoy chats over a Starbucks coffee with old friends and visiting with family in their homes too. And of course like many other women I am missing my hair stylist and nail salon owner friends... I feel I’m looking more like a cavewoman every day: just like the small paddock outside my flower studio I seem to have ‘re-wilded and gone to seed’ myself! Fortunately I have an appointment booked with my lovely hairdresser friend to rescue my locks and re-blonde me very soon.

Village-Life during Lock-down

Like everywhere the lock-down has meant all opportunities to socialise have ceased: for me personally this has meant no more village choir rehearsals, village Pilates group or my Weekly Walk & Talk sessions with my lovely neighbours.

Within days of the lock-down being announced a Village WhatsApp group was established and a plan was formed for each group member to offer their help to vulnerable and elderly residents. We were each given a different village location to post cards through the doors with our contact details on offering to run errands, deliver shopping or have a phone chat. Everybody has been keen to help out. Our local Posties dressed up as a different character every week to keep residents’ spirits high and as a way of thanking the NHS on the ‘Clap for the NHS’ days.

Our local counselor Martyn has kept us updated with local news and advice relating to Covid with regular emails to all residents. Our local ‘Bobbies’ called by whilst Andy and I were manning the shop to enquire how the villagers are coping and to leave their contact details for the community notice board. Shop manager Elaine has worked incredibly hard to ensure a continuous supply of goodies for the shop which has meant the shop remained well-stocked with bread, milk, eggs, flour and loo rolls even during the early panic-buying weeks in the supermarkets. The shop is a real hub of the community, even more so whilst the village pub and church are temporarily closed and many of our residents haven’t left the village for months now.

I have experienced many acts of kindness during the lock-down, there’s a real community spirit here which is very heart-warming. Although the Hubster and I have lived here less than a year we have received many phone calls and messages from our wonderful hilltop neighbours checking in on us and offering advice, swapping local news etc. We are also regularly treated to doorstep deliveries of home-made jams and freshly laid duck, goose and hens eggs with which I have baked Brownies, Scones and Meringues, delivering them to their doorsteps in return. During our hilltop walks with Sausage and Rolo we won’t see another soul, in fact for several weeks we didn’t see any cars on the country lanes below either. However we have enjoyed following different paths and trails so that we can stop by at various neighbours dotted around the hill and chat at a distance over their garden gates.

Whilst working in the shop we have seen many locals buying and delivering newspapers and groceries for their neighbours who are self-isolating. A few weeks ago it was the 80th birthday of a resident who lives alone and the whole village turned out to sing her a happy birthday from a distance outside her home and she was absolutely blown away by the gesture.

The Hubster and I have enjoyed taking on extra Shop-Keeping duties in the community-ran village shop to help cover the shifts of the volunteers who are self-isolating: it feels good to be in a position to help our lovely village community and everybody really appreciates the local shop remaining open so they can pick up their newspapers, medical prescriptions, local fresh produce and freshly baked pies and cakes. Of course new safety procedures were put into place including reduced opening hours and customers are served at the doorway, not entering the shop at all and with socially distanced queuing outside. We no longer serve hot drinks and food at the little picnic tables outside either. Andy and I love volunteering there; it’s such a brilliant way to get to know everybody and make new friends in the village. In many ways it’s been a lifeline for us; an opportunity to socialise safely with our new friends during these strange times when we could otherwise go days, even weeks without seeing another person during this lock-down. Those few hours working behind the till, stocking shelves and serving customers each week have given the Hubster and I a chance to see other faces and chat with someone else, to share recipes, tips, advice and gain local knowledge from the loveliest of people during a very trying time for everyone. And boy do we had some giggles too! Andy is also a member of the Village Pub Maintenance Committee. The exterior of the pub was transformed during the first few weeks of the lock-down: local artist Annie Lloyd was helped by the children of the village to paint rainbows as a lovely way of recognising the hard work and dedication of all NHS and key workers. It looks really beautiful.

The pub has been offering a take away food service including Fish and Chips Fridays and Saturday Curry Nights however plans are now under way for it to re-open (for beer garden drinks only) soon.

The solitude and tranquility of our remote hilltop location combined with the kindness and friendliness of our fellow hill-dwelling friends & neighbours and our village friends has helped us to feel safe and in many ways made the lock-down a pleasurable experience.

Flower Studio News

So after that first few weeks of Lock-down when my orders had dropped off considerably and I made the most of having more downtime, the past few weeks have been unbelievably busy for my little business and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Hubster and I.

Unfortunately Andy rather suddenly went from busily working from home with back to back Skype meetings to one day receiving a phone call out of the blue where he was told he and his whole team were being made redundant with immediate effect. Although a real blow for us, we have learned over the years to roll with the punches and that things often happen for a reason: This is the fourth time in his career that Andy has been made redundant and we remain hopeful that as has happened before this will be a stepping stone he finding another exciting work opportunity. So for the time-being I am the sole breadwinner and I really couldn’t be more grateful to my business and all my lovely clients for keeping me distracted and busy and of course for helping us to keep a roof over our heads. In the three years that Making An Entrance has been in business I have never been as busy and I couldn’t be happier and more grateful for it. Andy has been a great support; he helps out in any way he can whether it’s bringing coffee and picnic lunches to me in my a Flower Studio or helping with deliveries to my local clients whilst I am doing my best to keep his spirits high despite his job loss/ I’ve even roped Oliver in to working in the family business as he is now hand-making some of my wreath frames for me. He’s proving a real help with the gardening too as I haven’t had much time to tackle the weeds or mow the lawns recently.

During the early days of Making An Entrance when we lived in Warrington I was worked from our conservatory with a ‘stockroom‘ in the garage. Although I enjoyed working from home my work did often ‘spread’ throughout the whole house especially during Autumn and Winter when copious amounts of glitter would get everywhere and I do mean EVERYWHERE....there were occasions when the Hubster would return from the loo and declare he had just discovered gold glitter inside his boxers and on one memorable evening whilst our walking our ‘we’ll eat anything and everything’ pooches I bent down to poop-scoop and realised that Rolo’s poop was actually glittering in the moonlight! She had clearly been ’hoovering’ up glitter from the conservatory floor that day.

I feel incredibly fortunate to now have a Flower Studio: a separate space to work in peace with my Pooches dozing at my feet and where I can happily leave trails of glitter and flowers to my hearts content without it following me home. It has taken a lot of saving and sacrifice to get to this point; for the first year of business I didn’t pay myself anything but instead reinvested in more stock and equipment and a little adverting, since then I have paid myself a wage and I’ve saved and saved and saved to reach this point where I could fund having the old stables block and paddock at the bottom of our garden here in wales where we now live converted into a Flower Studio with store rooms for my business. It is very nearly finished and I absolutely love it with all my heart, even more so because it was funded by my long hours and hard work doing something that I love. I enjoy my ’morning commute’ to work every day with my Pooches at my heels, tails-wagging as we walk down through the gardens with a panoramic view of the Welsh hills all around us then through the re-wilded paddock where wildflowers and grasses grow tall, through a rustic gate and down some even more rustic steps to my lovely log cabin style studio. I’m pleased to say it’s almost ready for me to share with you. Walls have been knocked through, windows and French doors fitted, walls and floors insulated, electric sockets and lighting fitted and timber cladding added to the exterior in keeping with our rural surroundings. Inside I have floor to ceiling shelving in my store room whilst in my studio where I work I enjoy natural light and a view of the paddock where I am regularly visited by Freddie Fox, Thumper Rabbit and his furry friends, Sammy and Shirley Squirrel, Woody Woodpecker, Bertie and Betsy Bluetit and Philip Pheasant.

I’ve installed bird feeding stations, insect houses, bird houses and a hand-made rustic picnic table on my little patio area which has been covered with five tonnes of golden shingle gravel by my lovely Hubster and is where I will work on warm days. Best of all I have a rocking chair! i have been dreaming of this little flower studio for so long and every time I pictured it in my mind I have imagined having a rocking chair to sit on outside under the overhanging roof during my coffee breaks. And this is no ordinary rocking chair for this is an extremely well-travelled and lovingly looked after rocking chair that has been enjoyed and passed between family members: the story goes that my father in law’s cousin Linda who lives in Texas and regularly visits the U.K. to indulge her passion for antiques hunting bought this old rocking chair years ago in the U.K. and paid to have it shipped back to America where her family enjoyed rocking on it. Years later the Hubster’s Uncle and Auntie were over visiting and admired the rocking chair which by now had outstayed it’s welcome and was rather in the way so Linda offered it to them. Andy’s uncle pain-stakingly dismantled it and brought it back on the plane to the U.K. in a suitcase then lovingly rebuilt it piece by piece. Fast forward a few years during which time this well-travelled chair rocked backwards and forwards in Andy’s Auntie and Uncle’s home until one day we visited and I was talking about my newly converted Flower Studio. I had no idea of this rocking chairs existence at the time as it had been stowed away in their garage for some time and I had been looking online for a second hand one. As fate would have it they had looked at some in progress photos of my studio and asked if I would be interested in their old rocking chair, when I learned of its story and how well it has been loved I knew it would be perfect for my Flower Studio. For a while I considered painting it and perhaps adding some decoupage for good measure but then I love its well worn arms and wooden rockers so I decided I wanted to keep it just as it is. And so it is now my favourite place to sit and plan my flower designs, I find the rocking motion soothing and I’ve had some of my most creative inspirations whilst gently rocking back and too, a coffee in hand with the sounds of the birds singing all around me in the trees. I now also have another key piece of furniture for my cosy log cabin style Flower Studio thanks to our lovely fellow hill-dweller & friend Pete who kindly offered to transport a beautiful (and very heavy) midi log burner from where it’s been stored in the annexe down to my Flower Studio which involved him driving his jeep through the rough and uneven terrain of the fields behind my studio. It’s now in situ looking gorgeous and ready to keep me toasty warm during the Winter months. So next week I am expecting the final few finishing touches to arrive including; personalised dog beds for Sausage and Rolo, door mats, a pair of hand-knitted bunny slippers to keep my toes warm whilst working, a couple of a Fairy Doors for the tree trunks outside to offer the garden fairies shelter and a hand-carved Making An Entrance sign on Welsh slate to be hung on the outside. I can’t wait to share it with you all very soon. In the meantime here‘s a little taster photo showing my favourite treasure: the world-travelled antique rocking chair passed down through the family.

Exciting Times Ahead

Tomorrow building work begins to transform the annex into a lovely bungalow where my mum and dad will live. And as of tomorrow the Welsh government is lifting the travel ban which means my parents will be able to travel here to visit their future home and meet with the builder on his first day. Of course we will all still be socially distancing but I’m so looking forward to seeing my parents and welcoming them to our little safe ‘bubble’. So the next few months is set to be another busy and exciting time for us and the start of a long-awaited new chapter for my lovely parents. I am incredibly grateful for all our blessings: our family and friends are healthy and safe, my little business continues to flourish and financially support us despite these troubling times thanks to my incredibly loyal clients and we continue to pinch ourselves every day that we get to call this magical part of the world our home. Keep safe, stay strong, be kind and happy everyone! Much love, Wendy x


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