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From dancing round the kitchen to a paint-along - How we are keeping happy during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 16:25 16 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:39 16 May 2020

Gardening makes Florence, aged nine, feel happy Picture: KATE ROSTEN

Gardening makes Florence, aged nine, feel happy Picture: KATE ROSTEN

Kate Rosten

What makes you happy during lockdown? A Zoom chat, a country walk or dancing round the kitchen? Our readers and staff have been sharing what keeps them smiling.

Jane Spencer-Rolfe of Lets Bop Picture: Mick SpencerJane Spencer-Rolfe of Lets Bop Picture: Mick Spencer

Dancing round the kitchen is the answer for Jane Spencer-Rolfe, who set up Let’s Bop!, organising discos for women in Suffolk to help them socialise and keep fit. Along with other social gatherings, the discos have sadly had to be cancelled, but Jane said: “Thankfully, many people out there are doing their best to keeeeeep dancing! (As Strictly would put it).

“Some days, that feels easier than others, amidst the reality of this strange new socially-distanced world we all find ourselves living in. The essence of Let’s Bop! was the social contact, women getting together to enjoy the music and dancing, and it’s no surprise to hear I don’t realistically see Let’s Bop! getting back up and on the dance floor for the foreseeable future.

“Sophie Ellis-Bextor seems to be making a wonderful go of encouraging remote bopping with her fabulous kitchen discos!

“We seem to have come full circle - as dancing on my own, in the kitchen is what sparked my original idea for Let’s Bop! For the time being, we must try and find our mojo through music and dance on our own doorsteps, in our own kitchens - and with Sophie Ellis-Bextor on our screens. Go Sophie - Let’s Bop!”

Sue Charles in her Norwich garden enjoying a glass of local Flint Vineyard Nofolk Charmant on VE Day Picture: SUE CHARLESSue Charles in her Norwich garden enjoying a glass of local Flint Vineyard Nofolk Charmant on VE Day Picture: SUE CHARLES

The 12 joys of lockdown

Sue Charles from Norwich came up with a whole list of her personal “12 joys of lockdown”.

Sue, 61, is a PR professional and is married to Professor Ian Charles, director of the Quadram Institute. This is her list:

1. My husband: Cherishing spending every day with my husband. For the last 12 years our jobs have meant we have lived apart a lot including 5 years when he worked in Sydney and I worked in London.

Samantha Brook is on a mission to help others find happiness     Picture:Ruth Leach PhotographySamantha Brook is on a mission to help others find happiness Picture:Ruth Leach Photography

2. The sunshine: Relaxing in our garden - the weather has been great.

3. My mom: Interacting over digital video channels. She lives 160 miles away and is shielding at home but has learned how to use Messenger video calls - we have some fun with frames and enjoy seeing each other. My mom, Esme Harris, 87, lives in Solihull, West Midlands, where I grew up. In the Midlands we use Mom, not Mum!

4. Local wildlife: Watching the Norwich Cathedral peregrines over the webcam - from eggs to chicks. And hearing them as we live in the Cathedral Close. I am sure the birds are singing louder?

5. My memories: Sorting out photos from all my travels and making up photobooks - great to look back and remember the wonderful times

Sam Brook's mug carries a message about happiness Picture: SAM BROOKSam Brook's mug carries a message about happiness Picture: SAM BROOK

6. Bluer skies: I am sure due to less pollution?

7. Science: I am a scientist by background. It’s great to see the value of research being appreciated and the brilliance of scientists worldwide as they develop testing, drugs, medical equipment and vaccines that will help us get through. Who would have thought that epidemiologist and R number would be in everyday language.

8. Cooking: Improving my cooking skills.

9. Exercise: Exercising every day (I never used to have time with my busy life commuting to London).

Nigel Dickerson from One Sixth Form College has enjoyed painting in his art studio. Picture: NIGEL DICKERSONNigel Dickerson from One Sixth Form College has enjoyed painting in his art studio. Picture: NIGEL DICKERSON

10. Health: Losing weight (Yes! Obesity is a risk factor in the virus so need to give myself the best chance of survival if I am unlucky enough to get it).

11. Music: The Master of Music from Norwich Cathedral playing a hymn on his electric organ every Sunday - and the beautiful singers in the Close.

12. Kindness: The kindness of others - neighbours that I have never met helping with shopping and checking in to ensure we are OK. Taking to friends and family more regularly - having time for people.

READ MORE - Our weird and wonderful hobbies in lockdown

Why Sam founded a Happiness Club

Claire Sargent followed tips in a Disney video to create this drawing of Mickey Mouse Picture: CLAIRE SARGENTClaire Sargent followed tips in a Disney video to create this drawing of Mickey Mouse Picture: CLAIRE SARGENT

As a happiness coach and founder of the online Happiness Club, Sam Brook takes pleasure in making small steps towards happiness each day.

She also finds joy through helping others to do so too.

Sam is so dedicated to the topic that she writes a blog about happiness and presents the Happiness Show on Ipswich Community Radio.

“Happiness is an inside job,” is a key thought for Sam, who has had mugs made carrying this motto.

Lynsey and Olivia Wilson on the farm at Suffolk Rural Picture: LYNSEY WILSONLynsey and Olivia Wilson on the farm at Suffolk Rural Picture: LYNSEY WILSON

She herself struggled with depression for many years, and successfully came off her anti-depressant medication after being on it for 26 years. She

Sam has been writing a series of posts featuring Happiness Tips for Social Isolation and is giving away a free pdf and booklet.

One of her top tips is: “Read or watch something that makes you smile. This could me anything from heart-warming local news stories to puppy videos on social media. There are so many positive initiatives coming to the forefront during this period, so focus on them to lift your spirits.”

For more details, visit the Happiness Club website.

Cooking her way around the world - from home

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis's tapas - part of her family's weekly dishes from around the world Picture: CHARLOTTE SMITH-JARVISCharlotte Smith-Jarvis's tapas - part of her family's weekly dishes from around the world Picture: CHARLOTTE SMITH-JARVIS

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis writes: “Reading and cooking are my go-to happy activities. I seem to have cleared all the unread novels on my bookshelf now - and I read that the next book I wanted to tackle (Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes) has had its publication date pushed back - some say to 2048! So I won’t be reading that one anytime soon.

“So there’s instead been a lot of time spent in the kitchen, cooking and swapping tubs of cake and snacks with friends on their doorstep. To ‘jazz up’ dinnertimes and relive much-missed holiday time, my family and I have created a pot-luck dinnertime game.

“We each write a country on a piece of paper, pop it in a hat and select a note at random. Whatever’s on the slip is what we’ll eat for the rest of the week. Last week there were tapas dishes I’ve eaten in Seville and Madrid. Valencian paella. country-style braises and wild greens frittatas.

“This week we’re in Italy. I’m still gutted my suggestion of Peru didn’t come out of the hat. It’s been a brilliant way to bring a bit of ceremony to the dinner table every night... and also justifies my collection of nearly 500 cook books to my husband! Fingers crossed for Peru or Brazil this week!”

Nicky Yucel from One Sixth Form College has enjoyed spending more time with her dog Jazzy, pictured here celebrating the VE Day anniversary Picture: NICKY YUCELNicky Yucel from One Sixth Form College has enjoyed spending more time with her dog Jazzy, pictured here celebrating the VE Day anniversary Picture: NICKY YUCEL

READ MORE - How to be happy during self-isolation

Fun with the family

Brendan Allis writes: “My daughter Tyla recently bought paint and canvasses and convinced us all to do a Bob Ross paint-along. I haven’t laughed so much in months.

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“It was the perfect way to keep the whole family busy on a quiet Sunday afternoon during lockdown. The lounge ended up an absolute tip, filled with makeshift easels (diningroom chairs) and everything covered in newspaper and plastic sheets, but mostly filled with laughter. It was a really fun afternoon, bearing in mind we’ve never even lifted a brush before, let alone completed a painting.”

Tracey Morgan has been enjoying walks by the beach in Felixstowe Picture: TRACEY MORGANTracey Morgan has been enjoying walks by the beach in Felixstowe Picture: TRACEY MORGAN

And Kate Rosten, from Stowupland, said what makes her family happy in lockdown is simply: “Gardening! All of us are beginners and it’s great for the children to have something that they need to care for.”

Exploring the countryside

Danielle Lett said: “The two things keeping me happiest during lockdown are going on long walks with my boyfriend, and Zoom chatting with my friends.

“My boyfriend and I recently discovered that there’s an alley that takes us up towards an end of Highwoods Park in Colchester we didn’t even know existed. We’d not ever thought to go that way previously, but daily quarantine exercise curiosity got the better of us, and now it’s our favourite walk to do (especially since we don’t have a garden). Once you get to the park, it’s a vast expanse of hills and trails, with woods as well.

Lillia enjoying gardening Picture: ANNABEL MAPPERLEYLillia enjoying gardening Picture: ANNABEL MAPPERLEY

“In the evening on the weekends, I also love to catch up with my friends over Zoom. We always have so much to talk about, and we usually log on at 9pm and don’t finish until 2am or 3am. Both of these help get me through quarantine and make things seem a little bit easier.”

At Suffolk Rural (formerly Otley College), farming students have been finding happiness via the simple pleasures in life. Tom Cracknell has been happiest when working, Selina Green has appreciated being with her family and Harry Lewis loves ‘walking the dog with my dad and spending quality bonding time with him.’

Lynsey Wilson from Suffolk Rural has been making sure that the farm animals are OK with her daughter, two-year-old daughter Olivia, as part of her role at the college. She said, “Both Olivia and I have loved being able to visit the farm to watch new life coming into the world. She has learnt new skills and loves feeding all the animals.”

Looking ahead, she added, “Olivia and I are really looking forward to being able to see our family for cuddles.”

Rach Couch enjoyed having a takeaway afternoon tea on her birthday Picture: RACH COUCHRach Couch enjoyed having a takeaway afternoon tea on her birthday Picture: RACH COUCH

Watching and photographing wildlife

Keen wildlife photographer Myra Sandifer said: “Taking photographs definitely focuses my mind away from what is going on with the virus, giving me an hour of normality in these tough times.

“It has been lovely over the past seven weeks watching spring envelop the countryside which we are lucky to have on our doorstep. I enjoyed a recent walk around Freston and the River Orwell.”

Derek Hollis of Hunstanton said: “I am taking photos daily of garden birds and sharing the best of them on social networks, taking pleasure in the beauty and diversity of creation.

Myra Sandifer's country walks and photography make her happy. She took this photo in Freston Picture: MYRA SANDIFERMyra Sandifer's country walks and photography make her happy. She took this photo in Freston Picture: MYRA SANDIFER

“I’ve just started recording species in the garden for the BTO each week, and last week I saw 20 species. This week so far the birds I have seen are: pigeon, wood pigeon, blackbird, greenfinch, House sparrow, dunnock, goldfinch, robin, magpie, wren, blue tit, starling, collared dove, mallard and great tit.”

Jean Stafford-Baker of Taverham said via Twitter that what makes her happy is “watching our returning swifts with their aerial acrobatics and iconic screams. I’m not alone in this.”

And and another keen photographer, Kevin Murphy tweeted that “otter spotting in Norwich” makes him happy.

Julie Taylor wrote: “My 15-year-old neighbour, Ben, basically decided he wanted to get involved with the Woodland Trust’s campaign to plant around 100,000 trees. Ben ordered them without telling me, and I said: “Where are we going to plant these trees?”

One of the art works created during Brendan Allis's paint-along Picture: BRENDAN ALLISOne of the art works created during Brendan Allis's paint-along Picture: BRENDAN ALLIS

“Over the last few months, Ben has been working out where to plant these 225 trees. He just wants to play our part in helping the environment, which everyone should be doing.

“This was a learning curve for us as we have never done such a thing before and it’s taught both of us a lot. But the trees are currently in my potato patch in my garden - due to lockdown Ben planted them all in there by himself. This is keeping me happy in lockdown.”

‘Quarantine has brought us together’

It’s hard staying in touch with our loved ones, particularly if they live far away.

Brendan Allis's family taking part in the Bob Ross paint-along Picture: BRENDAN ALLISBrendan Allis's family taking part in the Bob Ross paint-along Picture: BRENDAN ALLIS

Sharon Mangoma, a health and social care teacher at One Sixth Form College in Ipswich, has been using quizzes as a way to reach out to her family.

She said, “Every Friday we have a family quiz night. I look forward to this because before quarantine we would never have time to organise a family get together like this. People would contact or call each other on an individual basis and we would meet only at a major family event. Now I get to see and talk to most of my family who are scattered around the world in Zimbabwe, Canada and the UK, on a weekly basis.

“Quarantine has definitely brought us together as family. We are far from each other physically and yet feel so close because of the regular contact.”

Other staff at One have found various ways to keep happy. Art teacher Nigel Dickerson said; ”I’ve been working in my studio at home and created over 30 paintings since the lockdown.”

Watching the Bob Ross paint-along Picture: BRENDAN ALLISWatching the Bob Ross paint-along Picture: BRENDAN ALLIS

Marketing manager Frances Vickerstaff said: “The two things that have made me happy during lockdown are going for walks at Stowmarket golf club in the sunshine. The course is really beautiful when the sun is out. And trying my hand at making food I haven’t eaten in years since my coeliac diagnosis. I had gluten free crispy chilli beef recently and it was delicious.”

Foundation teacher Nicky Yucel has loved spending time with her beloved pooch. “I’ve enjoyed being with my dog Jazzy. I must admit, she was slightly distracted this past weekend when wearing her VE Day flag.”

Maninder Sohi has found solace in putting up some fencing, Tracey Morgan from Felixstowe has been taking her daily walks by the sea, Annabel Mapperley has enjoyed seeing her daughter Lillia bake and water a herb garden, Corinne Bundy has held online dinner parties and started doing jigsaws... and Rachel Couch loved having a takeaway afternoon tea on her birthday in the sunshine.

Learning different lessons in lockdown

Otter spotting in Norwich makes Kevin Murphy happy Picture: KEVIN MURPHYOtter spotting in Norwich makes Kevin Murphy happy Picture: KEVIN MURPHY

Taking part in special online events and learning new skills is also keeping many people happy. Claire Sargent said: “Lockdown has kindled some creative activities. I used to sketch a bit but haven’t for many years. I came across something on social media which showed a video of the Disney animation studio creatives walking you through the steps of how to draw some of the characters - from Mickey Mouse to Lilo and Stitch.

“I thought I’d give it a go and was really impressed at how easy they were to follow. If you’re the sort of person (like me) who follows a recipe and it doesn’t look like the photo at the end, this is a lot more rewarding!”

Catherine Leigh said: “A virtual camp with Girlguiding Norfolk Archjive Resource Centre to commemorate the VE Day anniversary was brilliant, and we learnt about some remarkable women.”

And David LaMotte writes: “I love getting together with my Italian language class on Zoom on a Monday evening. As we struggle to put our sentences together it helps to forget the present problems.

Watching and photographing birds makes Derek Hollis happy Picture: DEREK HOLLISWatching and photographing birds makes Derek Hollis happy Picture: DEREK HOLLIS

“My Greek class on a Tuesday is slightly different as some of the students don’t have access to computers so we all chat on the telephone which can get a bit “manic” (Greek word) at times.”

John Nice from Bury St Edmunds has written a play during lockdown that will be performed with his friends over the internet.

He said, “I decided to put something together on a whim. The idea was to bring everyone together and keep our spirits up.

“My great friend Jonny is a paramedic so the play is a tribute to his heroic efforts. Ironically, we haven’t been able to perform it yet because Jonny is working so hard. I just want him to know how much we love him and appreciate his efforts.


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