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Life on Lockdown…. (WARNING: Contains very little about Climbing!)

Well I’m sat here 1 month after official lockdown commenced… And it’s finally raining. The amazing weather we have had has certainly helped during this strange period, it’s equally nice to have a reason to sit down and chill whilst the kids watch Paw Patrol. I started writing a few blogs about ‘how to become a climbing instructor’ and ‘Why I love being a climbing instructor’ etc… but after reading them back… its difficult to portray that passion in a time where everything is uncertain. I will definitely re-visit these and post them later on! I am currently furloughed for the time being, for which I am grateful. I consider myself extremely fortunate for a number of reasons but now more than ever I am I am especially grateful for what I have. Whilst the key workers are out fighting for people’s lives and keeping the cogs of the country turning, it’s difficult not to feel slightly guilty living in a bubble in rural Hampshire!

Putting all that philosophical stuff aside, its time to make the most it. My new profession is split between full time childcare and chief garden landscaper! I have made an effort to combine the two as much as possible trying to give our boys a fun, exploratory, hands on, alternative education whilst their nursery is closed.  Our twin boys, (who were 3 in March) have completely different perceptions of what is going on in the world right now. Fred lives cloud cuckoo land and is permanently exercising his vast imagination, whilst Tom lives in a much more realistic mind space and has a better understanding of the real world (as much as a 3yr old can!) The boys understand that there is an invisible, naughty virus outside, which is why we must stay at home. The same naughty virus is the reason we can’t go and see Nanny, Grandma or Auntie Lilly. Tom will often ask ‘has the Walrus (virus) gone yet?’ and ‘can we go and see Grandma?’ but as time goes by they are asking fewer and fewer questions and just accepting things as the norm. Regular FaceTime sessions with family definitely help, however I don’t know how long Grandma will appreciate the 7am wake up calls! Like many families & friendship groups WhatsApp group chats are keeping everybody up-to-date!

The boys love playing imaginary games where we systematically do all the things we used to do like go to gymnastics, have ‘baby chinos & marsh mellows’ at Reading Climbing Centre, go bouldering at Bouldershack. We regularly ‘fly’ to all of their favourite places including ‘The Cornwall House’ & ‘Grandma’s Beach’ in various cartoon inspired imaginary vehicles. I think they are probably young enough to not really remember all this by the time they are old enough to reflect on it all. It will be interesting to see what impact it has on them when they do finally go back to nursery. One slight concern… Tom has a favourite pee spot in the garden which he uses independently, and is always extremely pleased with himself afterwards! I fear that he will return to Nursery and forget that he can’t just drop his pants and go pee where he likes! I wonder whether other children will be as feral…or just ours? We have tried and failed at potty training Fred, we concluded it was too much with everything else going on and will probably have another attempt in a few weeks! Its not like we are short of time….!

So how have we been keeping busy? Well… They get up at 6 and generally occupy themselves for half an hour before they start demanding things… we have breakfast generally at about 7:30/8, get dressed then go outside! My wife (who is working from home) has religiously completed every PE with Joe since lockdown began, so we try and get the boys involved, but this usually results in them being more a nuisance than it’s worth. We try and spend as much time outside as possible. We have built a ‘boat’ out of an old picnic bench which is equipped with everything a boat should have, including a propeller, an anchor, 2 steering wheels, 2 gear sticks, a fuel tank and a cabin (a re-purposed group shelter) The boat requires constant modifications to keep them interested. And you MUST have 2 of everything or else the world caves in! They don’t call them threenagers for nothing… We have also re-designed the zip line to account for their increased need for an adrenaline fix and of course we have regular climbing sessions on the home circuit board. We have painted various things with blackboard paint to feed their desire to graffiti things with chalk and have a box of arty-crafty things to fill time if we need to. But generally, they use their crazy imaginations to create role-play play games in the garden. A lunch stop and regular snacks stop the breakdowns. Once the sun goes round the corner of the garden (usually about 2:30 – 3.00) they turn into Paw Patrol ZOMBIES for a couple of hours in front of the big telly. I then get a few hours of ME time to do jobs, have a climb, whatever really! So far I have managed to juggle DIY and child care pretty well, resulting in no serious injuries to them or myself, but there has been a few close calls! This is followed by tea at 5ish, bath at 6ish, bed by 7. Fortunately they sleep through until 6.00 the next morning 95% of the time. We then get the evening to ourselves.

With regards to climbing, the circuit board has been pretty much used everyday. With regards to ‘training’ I can say I have been totally on it. I have dug about 30 x 2ft holes for fence posts, built a 30m sleeper wall, moved 50 sleepers around the garden and moved about 40 wheelbarrows of earth. My kind of training. I have tickled the fingerboard a few times but fear of injuring myself stops me pulling too hard. I have ordered some wooden holds for the circuit board so I will enjoy lapping on those when they arrive. I have been enjoying watching various technical videos being created by various professionals and have got myself into a few rope tangles suspended from the wall whilst practising various self rescue techniques. Nothing new there though!

The routine is healthy for all of us and I am sure we will have to adapt as circumstances change, but for now we’re all good. My plan is to make the most of the time at home with the family. The more jobs I get done the more ‘climbing points’ I can accrue so that when the lockdown is over and the mountains are beckoning I can re-acquaint myself with the wilderness knowing that I made the most of a terribly bad thing!

Blog & photos by Andy Fleming, RCC Operations Manager, Coach and resident photographer