The past year has been a tough one, but I feel lucky to have been able to carry on working as I always do, from home. I miss visiting schools and collaborating with teachers and librarians, and I’m not all that comfortable chatting on Zoom. So I have just quietly worked away at a few book projects (to be published next spring) and have filled the evenings with loads of Netflix and National Theatre Online. Recently I decided on a whim to buy myself a stationary bike, and as it turned out, the timing was perfect! The day after it was delivered, we got word that a member of the family had most likely been exposed to Covid-19, and we had met them for a walk in the park around the time they were contagious. This meant my entire household had to quarantine for ten days, so we all took turns going for a stationary spin!

My husband wasn’t keen on having the bike in the living room, but how else were we going to go the extra mile (or should I say kilometre) while watching the latest episode of Superstore? The bike has settled in well between the big rubber tree and an armchair, and we all use it so often that it’s now just part of the furniture. It tells us how far we have ridden, how fast we are pedalling, and even how many calories we are burning (always disappointingly few!) It was the best impulse purchase I have ever made.

During the first lockdown we went through a phase of doing jigsaw puzzles. My daughter had decided to join us from London and stayed from March until July. I made the mistake of buying two puzzles with 1,000 pieces, and the first one nearly killed us! I thought American Gothic would be a good image to work with, but as it turned out, the circles on her apron, the endless black of his blazer and the wide expanse of blue sky were very challenging. The second puzzle was a lovely Angela Harding print, but I must admit it remains unopened…

In September, my daughter and her partner moved back to Scotland permanently, and stayed with us for a couple of months. This meant we were five in the house, and we spent our evenings playing games like Jenga, Cluedo (the Sherlock version) and Uno. I introduced a game that I had loved as a teenager in the 1970s, and had finally managed to find on eBay after much fruitless searching. I was thrilled to have an original copy of Masterpiece, in which players bid against each other at auction for paintings whose value is hidden (ranging from a forgery to £1 million). The best part about this game is that you can add extra paintings, so I have greatly extended the collection of postcards. It’s a great pleasure to buy beautiful art, even if your favourite painting turns out to be a forgery!

Just before the second lockdown, the three young people in our household decided to get their ears pierced. After waiting five weeks for their ears to heal, they finally had a chance to change their earrings, and what followed was a flurry of creativity. We started with FIMO clay, making colourful pendant earrings of various shapes and sizes. Silver hooks and special jewellery pliers were soon ordered, and then my sister sent us a big box of beads! This place has been a bit of an earring factory ever since, as you can see. We have just run out of hooks, so we are taking a bit of a break until more arrive.

With all the snow that has fallen recently, the rest of my family was keen to get out and slide down some hills on a sledge. Having grown up in Canada, snow doesn’t have the same wow factor for me, so I stayed in to do some painting instead. I used to work in watercolours, but lately I’ve discovered that acrylics are very versatile as well. I had a brilliant black-and-white photo of my husband (taken by one of the young folk) and it was perfect for a portrait. The image below doesn’t quite capture the midnight blue I used. I hope you can imagine a rich, dark blue instead! I’m very pleased with the way the portrait turned out, and it now hangs in the hall outside our kitchen. Time to think of the next creative project!