Ebb and Flow of the onward Tide

September 2019 came along all too quickly and with it the return to school for both teenagers. At this point I was on bereavement leave from work with much to digest and sort through. I took up walking sessions with a fitness trainer called Tim at the colourful Bedgebury Pinetum near Goudhurst. Through the following months I walked 5km every couple of weeks with Tim and it just helped to get me out in the winter months whilst I was having counselling at Hospice in the Weald. In addition I returned to work at the end of October 2019.

Bedgebury Pinetum – 24/12/2019 – Taken by Anne-Marie Billingham

During this early time I had tried a day’s spa and swim at the wonderful Knowle Grange Health Spa near Frant, East Sussex. With the exquisite outdoor pool under a bubble in the winter months, I elected to take out an annual membership so I could continue. This was magic! At this point this was about a sustained return to regular swimming and exercise, which I could also fit in with the days I was working at home for my job. At this point I had office days on Mondays and Thursdays, so swimming twice a week at least on other days was very straightforward and essential for my well-being. I should add that returning to work was also essential for my wellbeing especially as I was able to take a phased approach to my return. The support of management and my friends at work over this period was critical to the success of my return.

Over the festive break from Christmas 2019 into New Year 2020 we took a break at Shearbarn Holiday Park in Hastings where we had the luxury of a hot tub outside our lodge. It was a magic time away from home, work and to regroup. Having the daily option also of their onsite swimming pool, and walking with our good friends New Years Day was so welcome.

Wavy Sea at Hastings 01/01/2020 – Anne-Marie Billingham

January 2020 brought the Interim Accounts time at work and also concerted mentions of the word Covid-19 in the press. At the time we had no idea what would follow. Swimming at the pool continued as did my younger teen settling to secondary school alongside my pushing for help and counselling for both my teenagers. Both schools were in fact amazing however March 2020 arrived and with it the unprecedented lockdown which would last into the summer. Prior to that I had had work started on my chimneys on the house which was not completed until work could restart later in April 2020. Also I had started refurbishment of my bathroom. I write about this because in the months following bereavement it is common for people to start doing projects with the pretext of keeping busy. In this context it added to the stress loading of having unfinished works alongside the pretence and frustration that became home schooling for myself and both teenagers. We went out for the permitted hour per day walking and were luckily able to enjoy our garden too. As house works were able to restart late April, we had the entertainment of my plumbers finishing the bathroom and the teens and I painting it afterwards. All these were merely ongoing distractions from the isolation that was lockdown. Zoom calls with my friends were an absolute blessing as was the first steps out of lockdown in terms of meeting outside for walks. The real boon for exercise and sanity was of course the reopening of the outdoor pool at Knowle Grange in June 2020. Safe booked sessions became the way forward.

With the further lifting of lockdown restrictions the teenagers and I were able to holiday in Selsey early August, and return to Borth later in August. I was able to use up accumulated leave and take all of August out. At this point I had also found swimming at Hever Castle Lake to be available and told myself I would do this. I started at Hever also in August 2020. First of all the magical Selsey evenings…

The Teens swimming at Dusk – Like Mother like….Sons – Anne-Marie Billingham – August 2020

Both the boys (aka “the teens”) had taken to evening walk together and quietly packing their swim kit. I would go for a walk and catch them up, but on the above evening clearly I figured out this walk had become a meeting in a secret evening swimmers paradise whilst of course the tide was out. This memory lives on. Swimming at the on site beach at Bunn Leisure was great fun and I live for it each year on our return. Long may we….

Our next summer adventure was to Seabreaker cottage at Borth via a stay at my cousin Naomi’s Pillar Box Farm Cottages – The Forge. A lovely experience I cannot recommend enough – we return again this year. https://pillarboxfarmcottages.co.uk/ – the weblink.

Swimming whenever I could was of course a core aim of the week but it was challenging as we were blessed (or not!) with two storms during our week’s stay. The full might of the wind and sea buffeting your windows really made sure you understood the full might of Mother Nature. To that end a photo follows below with a poem I wrote during Storm Francis:

In the Eye of Storm Francis 25/08/2020 – Borth – Anne-Marie Billingham

Stormy Seabreaker

Stormy Seas today in abundance
Rain batters you into a trance
Hurling against your sea view window
Casting in you desire not to retreat into your shadow

Up you rise to the commanding sound
As the elements hurl rain and waves abound
The waves furl at you their relentless foam
The wind buffets you hard trying to send you home

There is still serenity out there in the grey
You are still at peace and miles away from the fray
The wind is confounding many today who prefer to rest
Certain you are a nutter unable to wait for the best

They are wrong for I get peace at all times in nature
Marvelling at her amazing ability to change her stature
From the serene and the calm magical scene of yesterday
To the bewildering and chilling fierceness of today

I saw a chink of sun in the distance over the sea
It poked it’s head out in temporary glee
Glistening through the dark clouds who laughed for sure
I was lucky it is true to glimpse a brief golden azure

The evening has now fought the night
The white of the waves have disappeared in the windy blight
It is an alarming whip up now the sound of the wind
Surely soon it must go forth and rescind……..

Anne-Marie Billingham, 25th August, 2020

Whilst staying at Seabreaker, Borth, Wales.

Stormy Sea Breaker 25/08/2020

We avowed to return after our week of glorious views and changeable weather. For me it was staying in this corner of Wales has always been about. It is magical and for me – it is somewhere reminding me of times in my twenties before marriage and very much somewhere I wanted the family to get to know. It is also now part of my path forwards and I long to be there again soon. Having negotiated the summer period of Covid-19 and lifting of restrictions both the children and I were looking forward to their return to school in the September 2020. Strangely I could say that I really had become rather used to them being around all the time so it would be a major adjustment on return to routine. One however, we all needed. That’s for the next time!

Thank you for reading 🙂 . Happy New Year 🙂

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