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Stories From The Sofa - Lucy Marshall

Experiences of life in Frome, during lockdown

Tell us about what your life looked like before lockdown.

Life before lockdown was pretty busy. I am a mum of two boys, aged 6 and 1, living with my partner in Nunney on the edge of Frome. I recently launched a flower farm business, Dead Head, with my brilliant friend Jen, so my weeks were a hectic mix of school runs, cake sales, baby wearing, website building, business meetings, bulb planting and wedding planning, as we were due to get wed this August.

What were your initial feelings when lockdown started?

When lockdown started I felt pretty anxious, but felt prepared in a practical sense. I have parents in town who are over 70, and my dad is diabetic so at slightly higher risk, which made me particularly anxious. I think I drove them mad telling them to stop going out and to wash their hands! The school closure was obviously a big impact on our lives too, although by the time it was announced I had already pulled our eldest out, so that we could just get settled into the next phase asap rather than wait in limbo for any longer. Looking back on it though, we really did think it was going to be two weeks’ worth of school closures at that point.

What is your home set-up/situation?

Our set-up is that Russell, my partner, is working from home and I have been taking care of the boys every day, and grabbing bits of time before breakfast for exercise or weeding the flower farm (it's based at my home, luckily). We have been keeping a loose schedule for our eldest, but trying to keep the days varied and fun as much as possible in lockdown. Weekends are when I am able to have a bit more time for work, and I'll forever be grateful for the good weather at least, during our time in lockdown. 

How has lockdown affected the way you live, day to day?

Lockdown has changed the way we live day to day in lots of different ways, I guess. We eat every meal together now, which is lovely, especially for our littlest one! I was really social and saw people most days, so that is a huge shift for me. We have always loved a meal plan and that has come into its own, especially in the early days of lockdown, when we were being more restricted with shopping etc. I think we are probably both taking more exercise than before - you just really value being outside for those daily walks, don’t you? Having to get my head around home schooling has taken a while and we evolve through different patterns and set-ups every few weeks. I've been fairly relaxed about what we actually get done, but he really does thrive on structure so it's been key to keep that in his day as best I can with a one-year-old hanging onto me! It's meant that other things have to slide. My house is a tip, but at least no-one is coming to visit any time soon.... 

How has it affected your working life/business?

It has really affected my working life and business. It was the first time since having kids that I was really getting out there to do something, and launching Dead Head with Jen was a hugely exciting (and daunting) prospect. It had been a juggle with my baby, pre lockdown, but we were making it work well enough. We have managed to keep on top of the farm, and we have been able to sell every bloom we have grown, which is amazing. But we would love to be working side by side, physically, down in the flower field together. We feel we are in a lucky position in that there is no expectation of us, at least, no level to drop down from. We are new and learning, and so this is just an opportunity to be agile and adaptable and trial things with less pressure. Next year will be our year, and we will be off to a flyer! 

What have you been doing since lockdown started?

Since lockdown started, I've been pretty consumed with the boys’ welfare, and as a couple we had that conversation from the  start. This was going to be a very weird and unsettling time, and really we needed to just guide them (mainly our 6-year-old) through this as gently as possible. Everything else was secondary. So we've been enjoying a lot of time in the garden and in the fields. We are ridiculously lucky to be based where we are, we have space and nature everywhere around us. I couldn't be more grateful right now. We have done family bingo and pub quizzes with friends on Zoom, I've done virtual exercise classes and we've celebrated our son's 6th birthday, which was actually a very special day. Birthdays in lockdown are something quite magical because of the incredible effort everyone goes to. Gorgeous. (although clearly he won’t forget that he didn't have his Pokemon bouncy castle party....I owe him that I think when this is over). We have also drunk a lot more beer and eaten a lot more chocolate than pre lockdown, that's for sure! 

Have you had any epiphanies or light-bulb moments about your life/work since lockdown began?

Lockdown has really been great for me and Jen to be able to experiment and trial things with Dead Head and to gently build our brand and socials. It's made us so passionate just to get back together, all fired up, and ready to be a beautiful eco flower farm for Frome and the surrounds. 

How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected you personally – your wellbeing, mental health, anxiety levels?

I suffer a little with anxiety, which has been amplified at times in lockdown - I've really tried to minimise the news that I consume and just stick to little bullet point headlines every few days, so my thoughts don't spiral. You have to hold yourself together for your children often, so it can be a lot. Exercise, daily phone calls with pals and making sure I get outside in the fresh air every day, have helped. I have found an enormous sense of gratitude, though, for the home we have, for having a garden, for my partner’s capacity to hoard jars of pickled and preserved products - that really has come into its own! The simpler, slowed-down version of life has been overall very good for my mental health, which I have struggled with since having children, so that is one huge lesson I need to hold onto.

What positive experiences have you had over the last 6/7 weeks?

Years ago I took part in a photography workshop called The Motherhood by Philippa James. Every woman who takes part in the course has stayed as a close little group on Facebook, and Philippa had set up an opportunity for us to exhibit our work as part of Oxfordshire Arts Week (where she is based). As this couldn't happen in a physical sense, she took the exhibition online, and it was wonderful to be a part of. It focused on motherhood in lockdown and is called Isolation - we were featured on BBC Breakfast news which was very exciting. I loved having a creative focus and was very proud to have six images of mine chosen for the online exhibition; a really lovely memento of this completely unique moment in time. Another positive is the food deliveries - I would love it if some of the local businesses were able to keep them up! Highlights have included The Roti Shack and Spengler's Deli. Yum. 

Have you had any negative experiences?

We have had to cancel our wedding, which was really sad, but in the grand scheme of things it's not so bad. We will have an epic party when we are all safe to be together again, and it will be something lovely to look forward to. Plus my son gets to wear his wedding outfit all summer long now, which he is chuffed with. Very gutted to miss Glasto, though, as that was going to be my hen do! Next year......

Do you have any coping mechanisms you’d like to share with readers?

I read a great tip: that we need to think of looking after our minds as we would our bodies by fuelling throughout the day. So as we would sit down for three meals a day to keep our energy up, we need a bit of headspace at those regular intervals throughout the day. So I made a short list of little things I can do to help if I just need time out - a cup of tea in the garden with no interruptions, reading ten pages of my book, a quick phone call to a friend etc. It’s helped a lot. Chocolate also has helped here, and being able to be amongst the flowers in the fields, too. 

Tell us your lockdown recommends for:

Book - Why I'm no Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

TV- Tiger King and Normal People - very different, both gripping! 

Film - Trolls World Tour ha ha! I can't remember watching a grown up film in lockdown, but Trolls is amazing for the music alone. 

Music - Ludovico Einaudi 12 Songs from Home. He's a genius anyway, but casually wrote and recorded this album during lockdown. Beautiful. 

Food - Little Jack Horner’s sausage rolls have been a staple, as well as providing pretty much everything we need, shopping wise, at their unit outside Mells.

Activity - Tie dye! We loved it almost as much as the kids. Wearing my tie-dyed sweatshirt right now in fact.... 

When lockdown is over, what are you most looking forward to?

When lockdown is over I am most looking

forward to hugging my family....and babysitting! Drinks in the pub with my girlfriends. My wedding, and being able to get stuck into Dead Head 100%. 

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes for the future are a better government, a slower pace of life, and for us all to keep supporting the small businesses that need us so much and are what makes Frome so brilliant. 


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