Imagine the perfect winter’s night... candles flickering, log fire blazing and a glass of red warming in the hand. The darkness of Scandi-noir drama is on the telly while that home-cooked dinner bubbles away in the oven.

Or you could be sitting with a cup of coffee, favourite book in hand with your woolly jumper draped across your shoulders.

Get the picture? Well to the Danish these are moments of hygge; gentle soothing times which allow you to appreciate the little things in life.

Today we have no choice about hunkering down and staying at home thanks to the restrictions imposed following the second Covid-19 lockdown.

We have learnt a lot from last time but that was in spring and summer when we could get out in the sun. Gardens were tidied and enjoyed, barbecues sizzled away and neglected rooms decorated.

This second lockdown is quite different. Now we have nights getting longer and the days colder. So why not take a leaf from the Scandinavians’ book. Light that candle, check the Netflix schedule or read that long abandoned novel. It’s about taking time to slow down and enjoy your home comforts.

We are in worrying times. Fears about Covid spreading to ourselves and those we love combined with concern for our jobs as the economy comes under greater pressure, are having an impact on our mental health.

Those who live alone including the elderly and vulnerable are at particular risk as winter approaches. Then we have uncertainty over Christmas – will we be able to gather with families or will it be very much a watered-down version of the traditional festivities.

The Danes are said to be among the happiest people in the world. Moments are cherished for what they are. OK we can’t meet up with friends to share these moments, but we can enjoy them with those we live with.

Hygge – pronounced “heur-gha” with a sound a bit like clearing your throat – is apparently that fuzzy warm feeling of taking pleasure from the simplest of activities. It’s a lifestyle choice which has been embraced by the Scandinavians.

Come summer Hygge is that leisurely beer in the garden or an ice cream on the park bench while the kids play on the swings – just living life in the moment.

Let’s all enjoy the coming weeks as much as we can. Drag out that throw, get the fire on and think of better days to come.


PADDLING, rock-pooling and fishing for crabs became the new norm during our family holiday.

It was like stepping back into childhood; ice-cream, chips on the beach and sandcastle building, made for a general feeling of wellness.

Every two years our three generations pack our bags, pile into overflowing cars and head for the airport for a week in the sun – usually of the Portuguese variety.

Our chief researcher does us proud with spot-on accommodation for our expanding family – latest baby making us a group of six.

Lockdown changed all this. 2020 being the year for our family holiday, we chose a destination in the UK. Ever keen to hunt down the sun we chose the furthest point south in the country – Cornwall.

It’s a helluva long way from Cumbria, particularly with two young children but with an overnight stop it is doable.

It was well worth the drive. Covid restrictions were still in place but rather than make us feel restricted, they made us feel safe – even in that nightmare that is service stations.

While others wrangled with airport queues and the fear of quarantine for a trip abroad, our holiday in the UK gave us the chance - and the time - to explore previously unseen places.

Each time you climbed a hill to be rewarded by a tiny deserted cove with sparkling blue sea, you could believe for just one moment that you were the first person to have walked that stretch of shore.

Long sandy beaches with their rocky coves are a joy to explore particularly for five-year-olds with their inherent sense of adventure. Cornwall’s rugged coastline once provided a haven for pirates a

nd today it is the perfect setting for fertile young imaginations.

The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth continued the adventure theme with its Monsters of the Deep exhibition whetting appetites even further and kept conversations going for days.

By keeping off motorways and sticking to A, B, and even unclassified roads you can believe you are anywhere in the world. Our staycation gave us access to vineyards without crossing the Channel - the Camel Valley in Cornwall is a wonderful example of British winemaking.

We zig-zagged the country taking the chance to visit friends and relatives we hadn't seen since before lockdown. Meals early in the week were subsidised by the Government’s half-price deal making eating out for six more financially manageable.

We visited towns and cities previously just a name on a motorway signpost. Giggled over rude place names. The River Piddle, Upton Snodsbury with neighbouring North Piddle and Crapstone are a few which come to mind.

Silly songs were made up, children were “rescued” from rogue waves, games were played, and stories read. It wasn’t all idyllic. Arguments ensued about where to go, what to eat and whose turn it was to change that dirty nappy.

This staycation lark may become a habit; pass me the UK atlas someone.

Updated: Apr 27

Never mind stockpiling toilet paper, paracetamol and tinned tomatoes - something of a staple in my kitchen.

It seems the new trend is for Tsundoku, the Japanese word for gathering books and letting them pile up on your bedside table without reading them.

Professor Andrew Gerstle, a teacher of pre-modern texts at the University of London explained to the BBC that the word appears in Japanese writing from 1879.

Apparently doku comes from a verb that can be used for "reading," while tsun is "to pile up."

On my dressing table I have an ever-increasing aspirational pile of reading material which I bought long before the current Coronavirus pandemic. It seems that however many unread books I may have, I can't enter a bookshop without buying yet more.

Illustration by Quentin Blake for Matilda by Raold Dahl

Not for me the digital book, whether that be on Kindle, iPad or phone. I need to feel the weight, smell the aroma and physically turn the pages of a novel

At the moment mine vary from crime novel Big Sky by Kate Atkinson, which sees the return of private detective Jackson Brodie, to Tin Fish Gourmet by Canadian foodie Barbara-jo McIntosh which tells you how to turn tinned fish into an exotic meal. I kid you not.

My problem is that I have a limited attention span which sees me downing the book in favour of a tantalising movie on Netflix.

However, you choose to while away the lockdown hours perhaps now is the time to hunker down and work your way through that pile of books, do a bit of home cooking with the meagre supplies left on the shelves. Tinned fish perhaps?

Speaking of cooking my kitchen has never been cleaner. Husband Phil and myself argued over who should have the “joy” of that normally awful job of cleaning the oven. Our bathroom is sparkling and the vacuum is virtually on its last legs due to overwork.

Not normally one of the world’s natural organisers Covid-19 has seen me transformed. No longer is my side of the bed a hazardous obstacle course; spices dating back to the 1990s have been chucked from the kitchen cupboards and my wardrobe has been decluttered with overflowing bags ready for the charity shop. Ancient lipsticks have been binned and I have even cleaned my make-up brushes

Now the weather has warmed up significantly for the time being,I would love to do some planting and am more than a little dismayed that garden centres are disposing of their stock because of Coronavirus. Wouldn’t it make more sense for plants to be left outside their premises so people can help themselves with a donation to charity?

Whenever this is over, and over it will be, I’m hoping to maintain some of the tidying habits I have developed over recent weeks. Watch this space…..

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