London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
Fast paced and radical changes, surreal and disrupting all our normalities, Covid 19 has brought to us all new realities and a series of lockdowns. I rarely talk about the ‘heritage’ of growing up in a communist country, but somehow these scars give me and millions of Eastern Europeans perhaps a different perspective and comparison tools in the new world and mad period of Covid 19 environment.
Food shortages. Yes these are unprecedented times for UK and Western Europe in the last 50 years, to queue at supermarkets, find empty shelves, fail to find eggs even if you try your luck at few shops and wait 4 hours online at Ocado. Majestic closed its physical collections for wine which no doubt induced another little crisis and deliveries take over a week!
But hey, we grew up with empty shelves, soya salami (environmental friendly and super fashionable now!), rationed bread, 1 butter package per month per family, Chinese chocolate once a month and oranges if we were lucky for Christmas.
So yes, in London all restaurants are now closed, but many do deliveries; we may not find all ingredients for recipes and it may take longer but one can improvise and be spontaneous; so we are still having THE LIFE compared to the communist days.
Being a foodie in such old days would have been very unfortunate – we certainly ate to live rather than enjoy. The annual holidays on the communist seaside entertained us with steaks with a consistency of a shoe sole, soggy inedible vegetables, sour bread and questionable desserts. The highlight would have been the equivalent of Fanta or Coke, of course a cheaper, communist perverted version.
I have to admit on the Covid 19 quarantine so far we elected often to travel through food: baking French patisserie (thank you Cookery school for training and recipes!), risottos and caviar, sushi and seafood laksa and of course of good old vinotherapy (Caudalie skin products & wines).
Queuing at a supermarket is also new for the UK, but rest assured in good old communist countries this was a national sport. The family members would take turns – 3am in snowy winter was an unlucky slot – my grandma was a master at it and she’d generously let my parents resting and sleeping so they could work properly. I’d usually join her at 5am as the ratios were strict and 2 of us would be able to get say 2 yoghurts and 2 bottles of milk. Striking conversations was also a dangerous sport, self-distancing was deeply encouraged by the regime who sent thousands in prisons for speaking out.
So far I’ve spotted people queuing at large Tescos on Sunday 11am in mild March sun, distancing physically but nothing as dramatic versus my childhood visions!
Medicine and toilet paper shortages. My childhood toilet paper had sandpaper qualities and would often run out – we’d turn to the regime newspapers to wipe our bums and definitely was better use than reading any ! Basic paracetamol was also rather rare, parents had to be super creative dealing with fever, coughing, swellings : alcohol vigorous massages, vinegar compresses, socks drenched in cold water, packings in potatoes slices, garlic servings, cabbage leaf compresses, chamomile tea, onion or radishes syrups.
Through friends and a couple of Boots stores we got some paracetamol and Calpol so hopefully will steer clear of some of these vegetable deja-vus.
Self-distancing. Sadly, communism didn’t mean physical distancing but full distrust of other people, which was the safer, saner way to go about it. My hometown Nobel prize winner Herta Muller has few philosophical books on this topic, including The Land of Green Plums and The Fox was ever the Hunter if one is curious to get to understand the subtle nuances of living in fear and isolation.
No real joyous gatherings, no art, TV, books or culture. Communism had to re-write the history and get rid of all the books which threatened its absurdities and its regime. Its leaders were the smartest, PHD holders and academicians despite being uneducated shoemaker unable to read. The TV when growing up had cartoons 10 minutes per week, the rest was the rubbish to please the ears of a political regime. Theatre shows had to be re-invented and re-written to please again this power hungry idiotic crowd; culture had to be bared of its beauty, dilemmas, therapeutical messages and so on.
So yes, Royal Albert Hall closed its doors first time since the WWII, Royal Opera House similarly and all our dear cultural institutions and museums. But one can safely explore museums in London and worldwide from their sofa or garden. My #CulturedKids partners have few few tricks and articles on the topic, check Museum from the Couch from Catherine and Plays, Opera, Ballet live streaming and so much more from Scarlett and put them in your diaries like we’ve done! And yes we have a tone of books and the kids are devouring plus shows live streamed regularly!
Outings are very limited on Covid19 times or non-existent for the vulnerables. So far we’ve managed 1-2 hours of outdoors per day in the woods and little populated gardens, perfect for self distancing. And just like in our childhood we climbed trees, ran, played with sticks and rode bycicles.
Covid 19 new realities ban physical gatherings but never have been more connected plus in control of who and how we engage with. Phones are buzzing with whatsapp groups, friends and families keeping in touch. Face-time, skype, messenger, Microsoft teams, tweeter and insta are just some additional non-exhaustive ways, one can have a party without leaving home, catch up with friends in Spain, France or California. So many perspectives to be considered, freedom of speech and choices – all glorious as long as you steer away from judgements and practice some empathy.
It’s true we may be easier offendable as anxieties of Covid 19 crept into our houses and imposed some decisions we may not be always happy about; but surely, it’s nothing compared to the fundamental freedom of speech we missed so much for past decades.
The bit for which I’m unprepared by communism though is juggling at a truly unprecedented level. Working full time remotely with important and imminent deadlines, home-schooling and entertaining 2 young kiddies, cooking, cleaning and guess what, my stubbornness to write. It’s barely been 2 weeks and already feeling like hit by a bus! But the show must go on, surely like everything else in this life, Covid 19 will pass. And compared to friends of ours who are on the frontline of the battle in ICU and A&E, we are having it the gentle way!
School of life wise crowd encourage letting go of ideas of perfection and flawless trajectories. They warn about expecting regularly to be taken by surprise and occasionally fail. They suggest taking a holiday from self-fulfilment to help other people – cooking, verbal comfort for vulnerable, delivering goodies. Laugh at the absurdities of the show, kids will creep into business calls and they will drive us all mad with homeworks, eating all day long and running around chaotically. The School of Life wise crowd recommend small pleasures and one day at a time.
And have to admit I haven’t smelled so many daffodils and listened to so many birds since the same childhood that may sound traumatic to many but was still magic . Very likely just like the Covid 19 days would feel for our kids years after.
I wrote a post earlier this week that it’s a big deal for us because it’s never happened to us before, but for anyone in a country where war has descended or the economy has collapsed, they know exactly what this is like…Good post.
Absolutely loved reading this. It’s a stark reminder that even in our lifetimes communism caused so much social and cultural disturbance (amongst its many other problems) and yet you still found magic in a communist childhood. Such a positive message for us all coming to terms with the upside down world we find ourselves in due to Covid-19. Thanks for such an insightful read #CulturedKids
Thank you Lucy! Friends who grew up in Latam under military dictatorships also got in touch with similar messages – hardship times for many of us are actually not that far – kids will bloom and life will eventually go on! Keep well and look forward to doing our own time capsule, thank you for the inspiration! X
I found this so interesting to read. My grandparents were Romanian, and reading this gave me a peek at their world. Thank you for the insight into your heritage. #culturedkids
Thank you! Then definitely read Herta Muller, she’ll get you a proper insight into your grandparents world !
Such an interesting read and insight into your heritage #culturedkids
Thank you! Hoping you are well and healthy !
Ordered the Herta Muller books. #CulturedKids
Wow, great to hear, let me know how you find her!
It’s amazing the lessons history has for us. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing! x
Great to hear and thank you Anna! Stay safe and well! x
What a great post. I know many people are struggling with the situation and I definitely have my bouts of anxiety. However I am struggling to feel sorry for myself or complain. In modern wars, many have suffered far greater than we are now. We are being asked to stay home for a little while for the greater good of society. I hope you are safe and well and manage to find some downtime to yourself x #CulturedKids
Many thanks Shelley! Hope you keep your anxiety at bay with lots of great culture from the sofa and have a lovely Easter! x
The amount of online freebies at our fingertips makes my heart sing, and I am so proud of the arts and culture institutions the world over who are stepping up to keep us educated and sane. And what a contrast to the communist way – sadly still so prevalent for so many. We certainly should count our blessings each and every day. #CULTUREDKIDS PS Thank you for sharing my post! Have a great Easter. x
Fully agreed Scarlett, counting the blessings every evening when I’m listening to opera globally, Grayson Perry, Alain de Botton! Nothing to do with the culture starved environment I grew up in ! My pleasure to share your gems and will keep an eye for your round ups next weeks for myself and friends. You too have a lovely Easter and speak soon! X
Fascinating insight into life under Communism. I totally agree that although times are tough we are still very lucky to live in the times we do with technology and comfortable homes. The home schooling with 2 adults simultaneously working from home is, however, a mine field.My child is dyslexic and finds it hard to work independently. Receiving hundreds of emails directly from stressed teachers trying to meet their home schooling obligations has brought him to the verge of tears on several occasions. We will get through this and life on the other side will be more appreciated than ever. I’m looking forward to the light.
Thank you Helen, likewise struggling with the homeschooling and working remotely with so many urgent deadlines and just like you have the little one on spectrum (too early at 4 years old to point precisely which part) – but I’m with you on the challenges! We probably lowered the bar a lot on kids homeworks, a lot of parenting done by Alexa, National Geographics and Mathematics these days 🙂
Sorry, forgot to add #Culturedkids! Thanks again for sharing your reflections.
Such a fascinating insight into life in Cold War Eastern Europe. Despite the hardships it sounds like you had a happy childhood – just as I hope our children will look back through these Covid-19 times and instead of fear, remember smelling the daffodils, cuddling up to live streamed shows, and having us home 24/7. #CulturedKids
Thank you Vyki! Yes hoping as well our kids will also remember lots of daffodils, birds singing and having us around working for extended hours 🙂 Hope you had a lovely break for Easter and that you are keeping well! X
This is such a brilliant post, and it makes me think your ongoing positivity and delight in all travel and culture stems from your childhood. Thank you for sharing your experiences and how even in a pandemic we are fortunate #culturedkids
Spot on Megan, we were so starved of culture and travel for so many years during communism that it left me longing for life and committed to give my kids different opportunities and options ! And indeed during those difficult strange times of Covid 19, we are still fortunate to have so many institutions connecting with us and offering culture in many shapes snd forms to soothe us! X
Such an interesting read and real food for thought. Reminds you how much we still have to be thankful for. #CulturedKids