Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver in lockdown

It’s been a strange few months of house-bound-ness for Mole, Hedgehog and Beaver.

It started of course back in February with the first news of the virus in China, watching it’s swift spread across Asia, appearing in Europe, and finally, Britain.

Almost as swiftly as it spread, the schools closed, and the panic buying of toilet rolls and baked beans started.

When Mr M&H came home from ALDI with nothing but a bag of spaghetti and a few bits of fruit, saying that the shelves were empty, I started to get jumpy. How would we actually feed ourselves if there was going to be a mad scramble in the shops, as if we were all suddenly in a zombie film?. I got a lift to the local farm shop the following day and hauled home a sack of potatoes.

The fear was catching.

On the final day of school for Mole and Hedgehog, I decided that I would decamp to Granny Purple Hair in darkest Wales, ‘far from the madding crowd’ as they say, and wait for things to blow over.

The day after Mole, Hedgehog, Beaver and I arrived at Granny Purple Hair’s house, the lockdown was announced. So we ended up staying at Granny’s for the whole of April. It was the longest stint that Mole, Hedgehog & Beaver has ever had with Granny, so there was some serious bonding time. I think Granny and Beaver especially enjoyed each other, Beaver being the newest, and thus the most unfamiliar with Granny.

Our days revolved around meals, home ed, and walks with the dog.

I would go on foraging walks, collecting nettles to make tea and dandilion leaves to go in salads. I never got through them all so in the end they got blended into soups instead.

Mole and I watched the rooks nesting in the trees, found a badger set at the top of the field behind the house, and learned that yellow gorse flowers smell of coconut.

Hedgehog preferred to stay indoors, or if her arm was really twisted would huff in a defiant way and yell “FINE”! Before stomping off to her bedroom to find some pants to wear. She likes to go pantless most of the time. In fact, she’d stay in her PJ’s all day if we let her. Hedgehog became obsessed with a memory card game which had a ‘Frozen’ theme. Frozen is hands down Hedgehog’s favourite film. Elsa and Anna are her heroines. It was a game where you had to remember which card was where and match them in pairs. She made anyone who happened to walk past her play it. I tried to avoid this at first by escaping to the caravan on the driveway, but she would always come and find me.

Mr M&H was furloughed and joined us two weeks later, which was a relief to me as then someone else could play the Frozen game with Hedgehog. The best part was when she told you ‘not to look’, then placed all the matching cards next to each other as she laid them out facedown, so she’d know where they were. She need not have cheated, she was good at the game anyway, but she would always giggle in a delighted way when you would announce in an astonished / impressed voice at the end of the game that she had won again with flying colours.

Beaver had plenty to occupy her on this trip. To begin with, there was the dog. The dog was twice the size of one year old Beaver, so it was a bit scary at first, especially when the dog would bound up to Beaver and lick her full in the face, but Beaver quickly got used to it. It was a mutual friendship, as the dog spent our entire trip sitting under Beaver’s highchair, waiting for the inevitable avalanche of food to fall down, and hoovering up everything in sight. She would even help to clean up Beaver by licking her toes.

Beaver got lots of walks out in our new baby carrier too, which rides high up on our back, and gives her a commanding view of the world. After the first week, her reaction on seeing the baby carrier coming out was much the same as the dogs reaction on hearing the jangle of the lead. Sheer excitement.

One game that all three of them liked to play together was the ‘cardboard boat’. This involved Mole or Hedgehog putting Beaver in a cardboard box, tying a string to one end of it, and pulling it along the floor as fast as they could, while Beaver gripped the sides of the box with her little fists and squealed with delight.

At other times Beaver was not welcome. She would be met at the bedroom door with cries of protest and “Noooooo, she’ll ruin our GAME, we’re playing our GAME”. Sometimes I’d plonk Beaver on the floor anyway and run away before Mole and Hedgehog had a chance to shut the door, but it would never work. I’d hear the big sister tone of “BEAVER, NO!” from Mole, followed by a slap and some crying.

Sisters are mean sometimes.

After a month we thought we’d better be getting home, back to our house, our chickens, and our own things.

There followed weeks of DIY, both real and imaginary.

The real DIY consisted of much painting indoors, hanging new pictures, making a vertical garden on the side of the shed, digging and planting. I collected mirrors and hung them around the garden fences, because Alan Titchmarsh says that mirrors make a small garden look bigger. Looking at the result, I’m not sure if he’s right, but I quite like the quirky effect anyway. It makes the garden look a bit like a living room.

The imaginary DIY was mainly plans on paper for loft conversions and garden landscaping, for when we’ve got the money to do it. I love imaginary DIY, it makes me feel organised.

The home ed continued for Mole and Hedgehog. I had written out a weekly schedule of classes, which we stuck to and have been pretty successful. I’ve always secretly quite liked the idea of home ed, so it’s been a good opportunity to try it out. In the process I’ve discovered so many websites, youtube channels, netflix programmes, books and random ideas for teaching. Some of them provided by the school in their weekly emails, some of them from my own searching. We’ve built up a whole shelf of ‘go to’ books for particular lessons. The Usborne ‘look inside’ books get used a lot, the world atlas, the children’s storyteller bible.

One of the best things I’ve found is the Greek Mythology Stories on YouTube. We read them from our book ‘Atticus the Storyteller's 100 Greek Myths’, as part of RE (religious education). Mole is now well versed in all things Zeus, including Pandora’s Box, Persephone, Hades, Medusa and Perseus. I love the magic of the stories, how the gods have human faults, and how they explain the natural world, such as the seasons. Many of the same stories get recycled in the bible too.

I’ve learned that it pays to plan your lessons beforehand, get the materials ready, and to focus on one or two topics for each subject. We’ve picked the iron age for history, maps for geography, and space for science. It just saves a lot of time and energy, a bit like batch cooking.

The days wax and wane though. Sometimes we’re all guns firing with cooking, painting, and a massive cycle ride, (by massive I mean about five miles, which is the known size of the world in Hedgehog’s view), and sometimes I’ll just leave them to play their usual imaginary games all morning and call it ‘drama’.

But that’s okay, because I’m learning that I don’t have to be supermum all the time, whatever that means, and sometimes it is better to leave them alone.

It’s a strange time, and when the world opens up again, I’m hoping that life will arrive at a new ‘normal’. Things have changed. People have lost their lives, their loved ones, their jobs and their security. There is a surge of interest in allotments and freebirthing, more time spent on walks in nature and caring for family. Emissions are lower and wildlife is returning. People are spending less and slowing down.

At the risk of getting on my soap box, what I think all these things have in common is that when people step off the hampster wheel for a moment, they reassess what is important, and consider other ways of living that might serve them better. It’s as if the runaway train has been slowed down a fraction, and I hope that in the long run, that will be a good thing for everyone.

mole, hedgehog, me and beaver