Guest post from author and journalist Rachel Bridge
It’s a been a truly horrible year for everyone but a few precious things have just about kept me on the right side of cheerfulness – here are my top seven lockdown treats.
I normally swim six times a week at my local leisure centre so when that closed last March I was in a total panic. We’ve only got a tiny garden but fortunately I managed to find a 4 metre long, 2 metre wide above-ground pool for £150 that (just) fitted into the patio area outside the back door. It’s too short to actually swim around so later on I also bought a swimming belt which attaches to one end of the pool and enables me to swim on the spot. The water is permanently freezing and it’s got lots of leaves gathering at the bottom that I can’t get out, but nearly a year later it is still going strong and a 15 minute swim still has the power to restore my equilibrium. Thank you Bestway, with all my heart. (www.bestwaycorp.co.uk)
With the pool temperature never reaching more than 16 degrees celsius even at the height of summer and generally hovering around 5 degrees during the winter months (the leisure centre pool clocks in at around 29 degrees, for comparison), my swimming costume was never going to cut it. I knew I needed a seriously good wetsuit with Arctic levels of neoprene and a hood. I found mine at the Wetsuit Outlet (www.wetsuitoutlet.co.uk) and paired it with two pairs of neoprene socks and gloves in the depths of winter. And although it makes me look like a ‘tiny crap ninja’, as one friend so kindly put it, it also stops me from freezing to death. So it’s a thumbs up from me.
At the start of the first lockdown I decided to take advantage of the sudden disappearance of any social life to give up dairy in order to see if would have a beneficial impact on my health. To my surprise it was relatively easy to give up the vast quantities of ice cream and cheese I used to eat, but when it came to giving up fudge, I really struggled.
Fortunately I discovered that dairy free fudge made with soya milk is just as delicious – actually, more so, I think – and after some trial and error I discovered my favourite, Dairy Free Fudge from the Fabulous Free From Factory (www.fabulousfreefromfactory.co.uk). I now order it in boxes.
TV show Death in Paradise
My younger son and I were searching for a long running television series that we could both enjoy watching together. We found exactly what we were looking for with the BBC/Netflix show Death in Paradise, a perfect concoction of sun, sea and mystery, plus an absurdly high body count for such a small Island. The series is set on the fictitious Caribbean island of Saint Marie, but it is actually filmed on the French island of Guadeloupe, most of it using real locations on the north west coast. We now love it so much we have promised ourselves that we will go and see it for ourselves as soon as we are allowed to. www.guadeloupe-islands.com
Whoever invented this is a genius. I love drinking sparkling wine during lockdown because it reminds me intensely of all the happy carefree times; one sip from a champagne glass and I am instantly transported back to all the parties, book launches, festivals and holidays that used to add colour to my life. But even I struggle to get through a whole bottle on my own in one go, and even with a bottle stopper it goes sad and flat in the fridge overnight. Happily Sainsbury’s Prosecco Frizzante from Treviso comes with a screw top, so the imaginary party you are having in your head need never end.
Desert Island Discs
Even I can’t bring myself to swim in a near frozen pool more than a few times a week (see above) so I’ve also been doing bursts on my rowing machine which I bought for a few hundred pounds from Argos. And because that is not nearly so absorbing as swimming, I liven it up by listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. (www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4). Everyone from John McEnroe to Sophia Loren has shared their selections, and with every podcast episode coming in at between 33 and 37 mins, it’s the perfect length of time to get a decent row in and still be able to wonder at why people choose such stupid luxury items to take to the island with them.
Trying to get my younger son away from the Xbox over the past year has been a daunting challenge and one which I have mostly failed at. Fortunately there is one thing that still has the power to do it – Lego (www.lego.com). First came the 1686-piece London double decker bus, then came the Assembly Square complete with three levels of shops, which coming in at 4002 pieces I worked out delivered the highest bricks to cost ratio. Complex Lego sets are not cheap, and they required a special emergency application to Granny’s Lockdown Fund to justify the investment. But they got my son off the Xbox for a few precious hours of absorbing hands-on creative activity. Worth every penny.
Rachel Bridge is the author of eight books about entrepreneurship and personal development including Ambition, Already Brilliant and How to work for yourself