It’s the Bank Holiday weekend with the early May Bank Holiday being moved from the first Monday of the month to Friday May 8 to coincide with Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, which marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a "roadmap" out of lockdown on Sunday. But while any lifting of restrictions are unlikely to leave the gates open for us to flock to the coast for some Bank Holiday sunshine or give us the green light for bbq’s and parties which become synonymous with public holidays in England, there are still ways you can have fun under lockdown.
1) Hold a themed evening
Pick your nationality: Spanish, Italian, Greek, Cypriot or even French.
For a Spanish soiree think tapas, little bowls of food bursting with flavours of the Mediterranean such as olives, prawns in garlic butter, patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla or go all out and make a huge paella to feed the family. Get some Spanish music going – think Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin or Gloria Estefan or watch Benidorm! A glass of Sangria might be a nice accompaniment?
Add a little spice to your life with a Mexican themed evening. Don sombreros or draw on moustaches while tucking into chilli con carne, fajitas or tacos.
If you were heading off to a beautiful Greek Island this summer but your plans are on hold, create your own special night. Warmed pitta breads with hummus, taramasalata and tsatsiki followed by a moussaka or stifado and Greek salad with tomatoes, olives and red onions make a fantastic feast. Watch Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, set in Kefalonia, in the afternoon to quench your thirst for beautiful Greek scenery – or liven it up with Mama Mia? Then get your Greek tunes on Alexa, try learning some Greek phrases such as ‘kalimera’ (good morning) and ‘yamas’ (cheers) and practice some traditional Greek dancing in your kitchen. Be careful of the potent Ouzo or you could be smashing too many plates!
Feeling brave? Spin a globe and see where it lands and plan your evening accordingly. Most shops are better stocked now or if you’re struggling to find the ingredients you want, adapt recipes accordingly.
2) Pub quiz
Ok, so you can’t pop to your local for a glass of wine and enjoy a proper pub quiz, huddled in small groups, so hold your own virtual pub night with many of the online versions available that have come to light during lockdown.
Right, you can’t invite all your friends and neighbours round for some burgers and sausages on the bbq, but what’s to say you can’t get the coals – or gas – burning for whoever you are in lockdown with? Without the expense of dozens to cater for, you can jazz it up with King Prawn skewers, marinated belly pork, some ribeye steaks and a nice salad for you and your lockdown crew. A great time to introduce kids to something a little more unusual too so they are not spitting prawn heads and tails across Grandma’s best garden rattan.
4) Back to basics
Hold a night of board games! Get the snacks at the ready and join in the fun. Pictionary and Jenga are great for family entertainment, Kerplunk, Buckaroo, Operation and Guess Who will get the younger children involved. Teenagers may prefer Trivial Pursuits or even Monopoly if you are feeling brave. If you haven’t got any board games, go back to basics with cards, charades or who am I with stickers on your forehead.
5) Have a Spa day/night
If you’re anything like me, the last thing I have time to do is pamper myself. Well, if lockdown permits, dig out all your posh creams and potions – I’ve got hundreds that I’m ‘saving for best’!! Light some candles in the bathroom and lock the door, have a good long soak and put a deep conditioner on your hair. Relax and enjoy some uninterrupted time (if you haven’t got two toilets, make sure everyone has a wee beforehand!) When you get out, paint your toenails, rub your moisturiser in and apply a face-pack before getting into some nice clean pyjamas. Aaaannnddd relax!
6) Pizza night
Who doesn’t like Pizza? There’s a variety of levels of effort/expense you can go to for pizza night. Check if any of your local restaurants are open for takeaway, see what offers they have at the supermarket when you do your weekly shop or buy plain bases to make your own – or go one step further and buy ingredients for cooking the dough from scratch. I often buy the bases when the children have someone round for a play date then pack the table with bowls of the red sauce to go on the base or passata, sweetcorn, chopped sausage, bacon, ham, mushrooms, pepperoni and plenty of cheese. This has gone down a treat with the kids as they’ve watched their pizzas cook, although I did come a cropper when one of my son’s friends loaded his pizza up with every topping going until it came out and he said, tearfully, “But I only like cheese and tomato pizza.” Learn from my mistakes! And think of your favourite sides too whether that’s garlic bread, salad and coleslaw or a bowl of fries to share.
7) Film night
Admittedly this didn’t go to plan in our house. I thought the children being 8, 6 and 3 might all appreciate aspects of ‘Gangsta Granny’ featuring David Walliams and Miranda Hart. My eldest rallied the troops and they had popcorn, squash and blankets/pillows however, one by one they slid out the room with my six year old exclaiming it was “lame” and I suddenly found it was just me watching the kids’ movie with the others watching Power Rangers on the other tv and playing their devices! I will not be beaten. I’m lining them up for my childhood favourite ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ although, no doubt, that will be “lame” too!! If you’ve got older children, you might stand a better chance at this one.
While nothing quite replaces face-to-face contact with your mates on a night out whether it’s the pub, cinema, dinner out, bowling etc, Zoom is not a bad substitute for bringing groups of friends together. My friends and I set a night where we are going to have a Zoom catch up and have a small glass of wine in our hands as we catch up, similarly to how we would be if we were meeting in a bar or restaurant for dinner. I think there’s something about seeing your friends, and their facial expressions which you cannot get in a phone call, and being in a group, it gives it the added dimension of being like a group gathering. Easy to use, it has the facility for the host to invite members to the group and the door can be ‘closed’ for privacy after all attendees are present. My birthday was during lockdown and this was a nice way to catch up with my friends even though I couldn’t physically ‘be’ with them.
Sounds basic doesn’t it? But I think for all of us to varying degrees, you get caught up on the hamster wheel and routine and sometimes fail to stop and talk – or listen. In the media there are reports of couples breaking up due to the pressures of the lockdown measures. Elsewhere, there are families united as a team determined to do the best for their family and relationship. One thing this horrific virus allows us to do, is take the foot off the pedal this weekend and talk – and listen – to our families, partners and friends. Are they ok? What are they missing most? Is there anything you can do to help? Do they have fears, concerns, are they struggling with their mental health? With children in particular, we have no way of knowing how the discussions around the Coronavirus is affecting them.
Communication is vital in any relationship – I’ve definitely noticed a huge improvement in my three year old’s speech since I’ve been with him 24/7. Ok, it’s not always what I want to here: “Juice NOW!” or “I farted” but nevertheless, progress has been made.
Plan a family meeting or dinner and open up – you’ll be stronger for it.
10) Looking back – and forwards
The most engagement I’ve had from my children since lockdown is when we’ve looked at old photographs or spoken about the past. They have loved looking at photos of themselves – and each other – as babies and places we have visited that they were too young to remember. Discussions around why we moved out of London, where we’ve been on holiday, how they’ve celebrated their birthdays in the past. They’ve looked at pictures of them looking at each other and discussing what they might have been thinking at the time.
My plan this weekend is to get my old photos out from my university days – which I can only imagine will open up a WHOLE new level conversation….
And at some point, if we can see an end to this, I want to hear what they want to do post lockdown. I’ve already got about six sleepovers planned by my daughter.. and swimming…and a burger
Whatever you do this Bank Holiday weekend, we hope you enjoy it.