March Life Lately

Gonna be completely honest, this is nothing like the March Life Lately post I thought I'd be writing.

In this post I thought I'd be telling you all about my Birthday night out at Power Ballads with my closest friends and the Veggie Sausage Naan at Dishoom I'd had for brunch the next day. I thought I'd be telling you about the Birthday party I had with my family, my parents' house filled with balloons and the walls covered in embarrassing pictures of me as a toddler. I thought I'd be telling you about the day itself - the brunch place we'd been to, the National Trust walk I'd gone on with Phil wearing the brand new skirt I bought for the occasion, (which sits in my wardrobe with the tags still on). I thought I'd tell you about finally, FINALLY going to that vegetarian restaurant with the amazing reviews I'd somehow never been to, and how my Mum stage-whispered to them that it was my Birthday, as she does every year, and how they brought me a chocolate brownie with a candle on top and everyone sang.

I thought I'd be telling you how excited I was for my trip to Barcelona next month. The 30th Birthday present from my parents I've known about since August seeing as I was driving Phil insane mithering him about booking the trip ourselves. I thought I'd be telling you the eye-watering amount we'd paid for our Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid tickets and how excited I was to see Messi in the flesh. 

And I thought I'd be telling you how excited I was about going to see Hamilton again, a Christmas present from Phil, along with the tour of the British Library I've been desperate to do. How we were going the weekend after our wedding anniversary and calling it our first anniversary trip.

And I know these things, in the grand scheme of things, are trivial. I've gained so much perspective over the last few weeks. None of these things really matter. Sure, I'll never turn 30 again, but I'll reschedule my party, my night out, the breakfast naan. We'll get to go to Barcelona and we'll get to see Hamilton again. I'll see my friends and family again, not just on juddering video chat with out-of-sync lips and out-of-body laughs. I'll get to do parkrun again, instead of running 3 and a half laps around the nearby park. We'll get to go for dinner again, to the shops, to get my nails done, to the office again. When it's all over, we keep saying. Whenever that is.

There's a lot more I want to say about this, and to be honest, I've got a lot of time, so I'm sure I'll come back and write more about this strange time that we live in, even though we're all writing slightly different versions of the same words as we struggle to wrap our heads around the new reality.

March has been a period of transition. It feels a long, long time ago that Phil and I went away to the Yorkshire Dales in the final weekend of February. You can see it in my One Second Every Day of the month, the movement from nights out and cafe lunches to takeaways and TV.

But for all it's strangeness, there has been a lot to love, a lot to appreciate and a lot to enjoy over the month. And I'm really, really trying to stay positive and grateful!

Let's look back on March...

Where I went

Well this section is going to be pretty redundant going forward isn't it?

It feels a million years ago we could go away for the weekend and our biggest worry be whether the parkrun we wanted to do would be on! I wrote in my February post about going away to the Yorkshire Dales for Phil's birthday, but I intentionally missed out what we did on the last day, as that was 1st March - Phil's Birthday. I'm glad I did that now so at least there is some sunshine to look back on this month!

So we woke up on 1st March to our last day in the Dales and in our beautiful lodge Airbnb. I did presents for Phil (a book about Jaws, a Jaws board game (he really, really likes Jaws), a hoodie and a BluRay) and we wondered how to spend the day. Because we were spending the trip walking (and as I mentioned in my last post, the weather was quite changeable!) we made decisions a bit more on the fly than usual (yes, thanks for asking, this did stress me out).

We decided to start heading in the direction of home, but that we would stop off in Harrogate and have brunch in Betty's. We've been a few times before but it was as lovely as always. We had brunch and shared a Fat Rascal, and I mentioned to the waiter that it was Phil's Birthday, and a few minutes later he came out with a French Fancy on a plate with a candle while the piano played Happy Birthday!

Our family friends don't live far from Harrogate, so we dropped them a text to see if they were in and fancied some visitors. They are puppy walkers for the Guide Dogs and they'd just got a new pup they were looking after who we were desperate to meet, so lucky Phil got Birthday puppy cuddles!

We headed back and finished the day with a lovely Thai meal with both sets of parents. It was such a lovely day!

It feels a long time ago we could actually go out, but in March we also went to see Phil's brother Andy in a local play, and had a night on the town to celebrate one of my best friends' Birthdays. We started in Font Bar where we spent many, many nights of our teenage years, and partied like it was 2010 with our £2 too-sweet cocktails and insanely good fries, then headed to Popworld for some cheesy tunes. Also there was a photobooth that takes contactless and I have learned that they are my weakness so we spent about 15 minutes in there. There is a reason I am not sharing the evidence here.

What I did

One of Phil's Birthday presents, as mentioned above, was the Jaws board game and we've been having so much fun playing it! Of course we played it completely wrong at least the first two times, and now we've finally figured it out we probably need to switch roles (I just want to be the shark all the time). I would definitely recommend it in these times where you probably need a new board game!

Like everyone else, we've been finding this time of social distancing quite hard, and always been looking for ways to reconnect with our friends and family. We've done lots of Facetime, Zoom, HouseParty (is it dodgy? Not sure. We've deleted it just in case). Our Military Fitness instructor has been doing live classes on Zoom. I'm playing a LOT of Scrabble Go. But one of our favourite things has been weekly streamed Bongo's Bingo. I've actually never been to Bongo's Bingo (we were meant to be going this month funnily enough!) but I've wanted to go for a while, so the last couple of Saturday nights we've joined the live stream. We've had a group chat going with anyone else we know who is playing, had a drink and some snacks, and it's felt the closest to "going out" that we've had for ages! I've started to really look forward to Saturday nights so we can play.

The night before I turned 30 I had to complete one more milestone - the last entry in my 5 year journal. I got this journal for my 25th Birthday and I've kept it going for 5 whole years and not a day missed! It's seen new jobs, new homes, new friends, an engagement and a marriage. I've just started my next one and I can't wait to see where it will take me over the next 5 years.

And finally, my 30th Birthday! So, as I said in the intro, not quite what I had planned, but I actually had such a lovely day! 

We got up early (okay, I woke up early and woke Phil up) and danced to Birthday by Anne-Marie (our official Birthday song), then I got up and got dressed and ready before we Facetimed my parents. When I came down Phil had decorated the living room with Birthday banners and the room was full of presents!

I opened my presents on video with my parents - Phil got me jewellery and a Dyson Supersonic hairdyer (!), I got jewellery from my parents (unfortunately they'd also got our trip to Barcelona which was meant to be this month, sob), a lovely bag from Phil's parents, new pans from my Nan and lots of other lovely things (another favourite being a from my Maid of Honour which had the tag "I've been sitting on this for nearly a year" which turned out to be her bouquet from our wedding, pressed and framed - I nearly cried!). 

And then I got to open my cake!

The one thing I asked for for my Birthday was a cake. I've never had a cake "of me" and I've always loved them when other people had them. This one was so perfect - the dress is an exact replica of one I have (more on this later), and I'm holding a cup of tea. There are recipe books and books and a phone with a podcast on and a Liverpool shirt and I'm stroking a dog - it was so so perfect!

The plan had been to get brunch delivered, but the place we wanted to order from ended up not being open, so we braved Sainsburys for sourdough and avocados (yes I'm basic) and made brunch at home. We spent the rest of the day on the phone and on Facetime, watching the Champion's League semi final (my pick) and Rocketman (my second pick) and going on a walk.

We ordered a takeaway for dinner, got dressed up and opened a bottle of champagne (I wore the dress from my cake!). Right before it was meant to arrive, our takeaway got cancelled and we had to order another, but we were a few glasses of champagne deep by then and I honestly didn't care. We got my parents on Facetime again as I blew out the candles and cut the cake, and we had the most delicious Indian food (when it eventually arrived!).

No, not quite the 30th Birthday I had planned, but I couldn't have asked for anything more. It was the best day it could possibly have been.

(Also shout out to one of my best friends, Riven, who was gutted she wasn't going to be able to see me to give me my Birthday presents. Who video chatted me on Wednesday and then suddenly had to duck out for a phone call. And then I heard Phil talking to someone. And before I knew what was happening, presents had arrived. In an Uber. She sent my presents over in an Uber. And then she got to see my live reaction on video chat. How bloody lovely is that?!).

What I read

Reading has been a strange one this month. I'd already had a really heavy reading month before all this happened, and then I went through, and think I'm still in, a bit of a slump which has made it hard to concentrate (book Twitter reassures me this isn't just me). So the end of the month contains a lot of single-sitting horror stories and non-fiction, which seemed to be the only thing my brain could handle. I tried to use this time to read 700+ pages of The Cider House Rules, a book I've had for over 15 years, but my brain is struggling with the size and magnitude of the undertaking, how each half an hour reading burst only chips away at 5%. So perhaps April will be the month of short stories, of essays, of novellas. We'll see.

Here's what I read in March:

The Most Fun We Ever Had
Braised Pork
The Body Politic
My Dark Vanessa
Dear Edward
You Let me In
How to Build a Healthy Brain
High Lonesome Sound
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
You Should Have Left

It's been a really good month in terms of the quality of my reading. I was so worried I would be oh-so-slightly let down by My Dark Vanessa after all the hype it's received, but not at all. I absolutely loved it. The Most Fun we Ever Had was my perfect kind of family epic - I think about it all the time and I'm desperate to find more books like it. I also loved short story collection Multitudes and tiny horror I'm Thinking of Ending Things, whose shock twist made me want to read the whole thing again, and went from a 3.5* "I didn't really get it" to a 5* when I finally figured it all out.

How to Build a Healthy Brain was also a really helpful non-fiction if you want some practical advice on helping with your mental health. It's so incredibly science-based that I often found it overwhelming, but I also found it so much more useful than books that simply tell you to "practice mindfulness" or "do some yoga". This book goes way beyond that by explaining the structures of the brain and how they work, and why it will help to do these things. A really interesting read.

What I listened to

Big listening month in March, with lots of podcasts and audio books!

In the middle of Feb I started training for my next half marathon (which was meant to be in May and is now in September), which meant I needed some really gripping, engaging podcast serieses to get me through my hours of running every week. My first listen was The Missing Crytoqueen from the BBC which I absolutely loved, and I've just finished Uncovered: Escaping Nxivm, which was right up my street because I love anything about cults.

I've also recently discovered Strong Songs which was recommended on the Chat 10 Looks 3 podcast. It looks at famous songs and what makes them so great by completely dissecting them. Phil and I have been enjoying listening to that together.

I also saw everyone on Twitter talking about "that episode" of Reply All which I really enjoyed, so I've been going through the back catalog of that while I've been working from home.

Audiobook wise, I finally finished Catch and Kill. While I like non-fiction as audio, I actually wish I'd read this as a book. I could not stand Ronan Farrow doing impressions of people's voices! It drove me so crazy that I would be cringing waiting for it to happen, and it really distracted from what a brilliant, fascinating and horrific story this is. It took me months to finish just because I couldn't get past it. It is a brilliant book though but I really wouldn't recommend the audiobook.

Finally I listened to The Confidence Kit. I quite enjoyed it and it was very short, but compared to How to Build a Healthy Brain I didn't find it anywhere near as scientific. However it did have some good practical advice.

What I watched

Doesn't it feel absolutely ages ago we could go to the cinema? We were lucky enough to catch The Invisible Man before the cinemas closed, which was brill because we loved it (I think it's available on some streaming services - I definitely recommend it).

Obviously we've watched a LOT more films than usual this month. Here's what we watched in March:

Almost Famous
The Big Sick
Next Goal Wins
A Simple Favour

We've also been doing some rewatching, which I never normally do. I think I've mentioned before that we only watch maybe one film a week, so I always want it to be something I've not seen before so I don't "waste" the watch, but now we're watching a few films a week, I'm really enjoying the comfort of an old friend. This month we rewatched some of my favourites - The Nice Guys, Rocketman, Spy, and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

I've brought a pile of DVDs down for us to watch over the next few weeks of social distancing and I've tried to pick anything that feels comforting or films I really love. I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself with them.

Oh also we've started Tiger King because I felt left out on Twitter. W. T F.

What I read online

Some of these links will be horribly out of date now, but I still wanted to include them because I read them and enjoyed them in March.

Bon Appetit - How to make my lunch every day without losing my sanity

Yes and Yes - Three things I tell every coaching client

I love this brilliant post from Rosie - What makes a good life?  This is in a similar vein to my post on Lessons I've learned at 30

Stylist - 10 years of Stylist - what the last 10 years has taught our cover stars (worth it for Nigella confessing she didn't know how to poach an egg)

I finally made "The Stew" - which I would highly recommend, as with the exception of the kale, everything else involved I had in my storecupboard. I loved this post on How a recipe like The Stew goes viral on Instagram, and this article on additions and changes to adapt The Stew.

A few posts about our current times which I really loved - Grieving our lives as they once were and These are not conditions in which to thrive. And I also loved Michelle's post What my self-care routine looks like now.

Like everyone else, I'll be spending April doing more food experiments (I've baked bread, attempted to make crumpets and of course I have a sourdough starter going), reading short story collections, running our "pretend parkrun" route in the local park, taking advantage of my daily walk or run, trying not to buy too much stuff online, trying to make "Fancy Fridays" a thing where I actually put on makeup, playing board games, watching films and playing a lot of virtual Scrabble!

Take care, be safe.

Charlotte x


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