Tips for Confinement


How are you all doing? The news seems to go from bad to worse, it’s not just scary but outright frightening. To forget about everything, we’ve been losing ourselves in the garden, self contained in our own little world and we’ve only ventured out to the shops just the once, as I wrote on Sunday. Certain supplies are running low though, most notably flour, I’ve been making bread every day and with three hungry teenagers at home it doesn’t go very far! So another trip is going to be called for this weekend, but that’s fine; that is what we planned, one time per week.

We are really lucky, and although we have three of our children here, I cannot tell you how much I wish the two eldest girls were at home too. We have the dogs, our two cats, chickens, ducks – all help to enjoy our quarantine time and with so many to take care of we have enough on our plate before we even talk about the great outdoors!



But I know full well that there are so many people that are not so fortunate, and human nature also varies very much from person to person. We all handle a crisis in different ways. And for some people this current situation is far more stressful than it is for others. While some people remain calm, others panic; when some face danger with a very British stiff upper lip, others crumble. There’s nothing wrong with feeling scared and there’s nothing wrong with admitting it either, but its always best to talk.

So whilst I’ve been toiling away in the potager with the help of Roddy and the children, with the warm sun on my back as I break up the clods of winter soil, rubbing it between my fingers, planting, planning, digging and weeding –  I’ve been thinking of ways I could help anyone feeling a little off kilter about the whole situation. Most of you are probably way ahead of me on this front and have thought of all of these and a whole lot more, but if I can help just one person who is feeling down, struggling to cope with the reality of coronavirus, then that’s a start.


Many of us have suddenly found ourselves with extra time on our hands and whilst I think relaxing is a great thing I also know that keeping active is also important. So these are my tips for what they’re worth.

  • If you have an outdoor space, then garden, garden and garden some more. Even if you only have a few pots on a windowsill or balcony, still touch the soil and tend your plants


  • and if its snowing and spring has not yet sprung in your part of the world, start planning. Get lost in Instagram where there are so many stunning ideas, read gardening books, sketch out your ideas on a piece of paper, and if you’re approaching winter then plan for spring next year!


  • Mix up the daily routine. If the weather allows, have a picnic or just eat a sandwich on the lawn, somewhere you wouldn’t normally go.
  • Have breakfast outside. Or if like us you always dine around the kitchen table talking, do something different; bake pizza and watch a movie together eating in front of the television. It’s all about change.


  • Don’t get into a rut. It’s easy to think things don’t matter with no one visiting, but keep things going for yourself, I find nothing puts me in better spirits than a tidy house with everything where it should be.
  • Once you’ve tidied, then have a good clean! I always say I can cope in a crisis if everything is organised and neat and orderly. And I have no idea why I had 5 children as I hate mess and ‘stuff’ all over the place (but I’ve got used to it!!) At the weekend, I washed both cars by hand. The next day when they were dry I took out the car wax and polished both. It’s maybe the first time in several years that I have done this! Then the interiors got the full treatment too, a good vacuum, windows, everything. Now the two vehicles sit unused in the garage but at least they are gleaming; the fact that I don’t recognise them is another matter! But when I walk past they make me happy!
  • Clear out cupboards, line drawers with pretty paper and if you don’t have any paper to hand, use old magazines.
  • Keep the mind active; read, make a list of all the things you have wanted to do but never have the time to do (or maybe things you have started that then got put to one side, unfinished). I know I am certainly guilty of this one. Write them down and plan to complete them all.


  • On the same lines as the idea above, start an entirely fresh project.img_0314
  • Make a goal to learn something new; our youngest daughter, Gigi, is teaching herself to do the ‘splits’. Ok, so we don’t have to go that far (we need to stay away from hospitals not end up in them if possible!), but think of something you might be able to learn – playing the guitar, make French patisserie (not one of my skills, I just cut roses from the garden instead for decoration!), or learn a little of a new language. Maybe take down one of those cookbooks you’ve bought or been given and never really read and experiment with a new style of cooking – Thai, vegetarian, the choices are endless. Whatever you choose, make it a 30 day challenge to give you some impetus.



  • Think of one person in need, outside of your normal group of friends and family, who might appreciate a daily phone call or messaging. A bit like finding a new pen-pal.
  • If you can get outside, even onto a balcony, do so as much as possible out there as fresh air and sunshine (when the sun is shining for that all important vitamin D) really do help lift the spirits. At the very least sit by an open window and let the light fill your shadows and touch your face.



  • Research has proven that Vitamin D can help reduce our likelihood of developing  flu and that it might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.



  • Don’t watch the news or read non-stop about coronavirus just before going to bed. Give your brain a chance to unwind, watch a ‘feel-good’ movie, or read a good book, laugh with the family and play a game, anything so you go to bed in a cheerful positive mood – it will help you sleep so much better. Trust me, I have learnt this the hard way. I’ve decided to switch off completely from reality for a couple of hours before my head hits the pillow.
  • Above all else remain positive. Smile, even if it is to yourself, even if you are alone; you’ll find it’s amazing how much a smile lifts the spirits. It is proven that smiling relaxes us.
  • And finally, take some time for yourself. If you have some extra moments, relax in a long hot bath brimming with bubbles. Read or reread you favourite magazine either by the warmth of the fire or on a comfy chair outside; don’t feel guilty about it – enjoy it! Happier times when we are all together will come again. Stay Safe xx


To my girls not with us xxx


38 thoughts on “Tips for Confinement

  1. I was just about to take time off for other neglected obligations when this whole thing started. Literally, my first day off was the same day that we were unable to come to work! It has been nearly two weeks, and I am still not caught up with all my neglected obligations! There are a few things that I can not catch up on because they involve things that are shut down too. Otherwise, I am as overworked as I always was! I see many people from town though; more than typical. They come out to the forest to avoid public places and parks. There is plenty of open space for them here.

  2. I was just about to take time off for other neglected obligations when this whole thing started. Literally, my first day off was the same day that we were unable to come to work! It has been nearly two weeks, and I am still not caught up with all my neglected obligations! There are a few things that I can not catch up on because they involve things that are shut down too. Otherwise, I am as overworked as I always was! I see many people from town though; more than typical. They come out to the forest to avoid public places and parks. There is plenty of open space for them here.

    1. I seem to be busier now than I was before lockdown three weeks ago, so I know that feeling. I think because, like you, I know it is a time to do all the things that I have put off doing, no excuses now! Stay safe xx

      1. I am concerned for my crew as they are unable to work and earn income, but otherwise, I could do this for a while longer. Unfortunately, it could end up being a lot longer than I want it to be. A few of us come in to work even though we are not allowed to, just to keep things operational. Someone came in to do the lawns, because they would be difficult to renovate if they get neglected for too long.

  3. What a great choice of things to do you give us, as if YOU’d have any extra time ….. I find that with everything that happened in my life over the past years, I am just really thankful to
    – be alive
    – be healthy
    – can live in Switzerland instead of France right now
    – have HH near me
    – have enough food and what we need
    – can enjoy some few of the flowers (in pots) I could bring with me when moving

    I find that flowers are some of the greatest joy-bringers ever…. I can do w/o a lot of stuff, but not w/o flowers. Every day I’m thankful to see them outside, even though the hydrangea has only frozen and dead leaves after two nights of frost. It’s much colder here than it was in France. But tonight I can flee into a freshly laundred and air-dried bed, I can breathe clean air, I can dwell with loving thoughts on my beloved ones, all back in the fold of their family and friends….. and I still have enough energy to contact those of my dear ones who are suffering, alone, cannot share their feelings, and that’s a fine thing too.

    Thank you for consistently writing wonderful posts and sharing your life with us. Often think of Gigi and her now cancelled tennis lessons and tournaments. How does THAT play out? And all the others, boy and girls..? I DO worry about you guys. But I also know that you will be just FINE….. because that’s how Karma works.

    1. Thank you for caring for us. We rarely head out, just once a week to the drive through to pick up our online shop. That’s it. I have been out of the gates twice only for a short walk each time in over three weeks, strange times indeed. Gigi is still training super hard, fitness and tennis in the garden with the ball machine, we adapt, we make the most of things, but please don’t worry. Hugs hugs xx

      1. Oh, I’m glad for Gigi – I WAS worried but also I KNEW that she and you would come up with other ideas to keep her in fighting top shape. Je vous embrasse toutes et tous très, très fort!

  4. Maybe we could persuade you to write another short story, or musings from one of the dogs. Those are always fun to read.

  5. Thank you for sharing your life in the written word and photos. What a lovely family! Your gardens…potager and flower look wonderful in the spring sunshine.

  6. Such good advice Susan. We are taking this time to spruce up our garden as well. I am making a lot of soups and sharing with our neighbors who are elderly and or unhealthy. Our weather has not been cooperating lately, however, but we are always glad for rain! Wonderful post.

    1. We had rain yesterday, the first in over two weeks and it was very welcome, I had started having to water, which is not the norm for early April! Stay safe and big hugs xx

  7. Our life on our small island has changed. However daily life is very much like yours in France – except for the chickens. The garden and all the outside work takes up a lot of time. We are not on a lock down, but no one we know goes anywhere, except groceries, or a walk, staying two meters away from anyone encountered on a trail.. All businesses are closed. Self isolation is the new normal. I must say, the house has never been cleaner.
    All the best to the Hays family…
    Ali xx

    1. I think everyone with a garden will have the best garden ever this year and in return our gardens will thank us. Our house, keeps getting the odd update, it is strange having so much time and yet I have never been busier, probably because I am no doing all the jobs that I didn’t do before as there is no excuse to not do them now! Hug hugs to you both and god willing see you next year xx

  8. A lovely positive post 🙂 As always, I enjoyed looking at the stunning photos of your home and garden. I love how the bricks and stones around your potager are all covered in moss. Take care and stay safe all of you x

  9. Your family and your home and are so beautiful – I find joy just looking at them. Have always admired your doggies, and this time I see a kitty. He/she reminds me of my beautiful McDougal who I had from the day he was born for 15 lovely years. How do the doggies get on with the kitty? I have heard terriers and cats are not the best of friends? I am not miserable with this time of sequestration. Giving me much more time at my easel and a I am grateful to have friends and family to check on and who check on me…..the “geranium” narcissus are in full bloom on the courtyard and are so very fragrant, and the big purple clematis is ready to pop! My six feral kitties greet me each morning waiting to be fed….Blessings are abundant! All the best to you and your lovely family!

    1. Surprisingly the dogs are absolute best friends with the cat! The cat really thinks he is a dog, many people have said he must be part Maine Coone because of his behaviour, he loves to be a part of the household just like the dogs and it is great that they are such good friends, they honestly curl up together. Please stay safe and big hugs xx

    1. Georgeann; who would have thought?! This is a lovely comment which made me smile. One of our little problems is to go out to get bread – in France it was a 3′ trip, here it’s much more….. I can see you there at the oven, kneading your bread and enjoying it when it comes out of the oven, fresh, crusty, with a wonderful smell. Just as it does ‘chez les Hays’ 🙂

    2. It is here too and flour as well. Apparently the flour consumption in France has gone up 300% in the past three weeks. I guess everyone is finding their inner Boulanger! xx

  10. Thank you so much for your lovely pictures. I grew up on a farm so I enjoy the pics of your chickens etc. We had sunshine yesterday & rain again today. Trees are starting to leaf out & some are blooming! I can feel spring & try to think about flowers instead of what is going on in the world. Take care & enjoy your garden – it looks amazing already!!!

  11. You gorgeous gal! I know you are really feeling the anxiety and fear and yet you have galvanised yourself not just into doing lots of things to ward off your own feelings of dread and keep your own family surfing the wave but you have thought of those who are not coping well and reached out with what is a wonderful array of ideas. I feel for you so much with two of your girls absent from the nest. Just that. Take care, sweet Susan. You are all daily in my thoughts (and I will answer your email – I promise!) xx

  12. Lots of good advice here–my closets and files are quite clean and orderly! But really, just the pictures of your garden and your children in it are incredibly calming. Garden on!

  13. I’ve pulled out the endless boxes of old photos and have been sorting through them and making a family tree photo book. Something I have always wanted to do ,but never had the time. Next, will be starting seeds this week for planting in late May after the last frost.
    Keeping busy, and making family and friends your focus will keep us all sane during this horrible time. Continue to keep social distance and calling friends and family is so important.
    Thank you for your tips and beautiful photos of Spring
    I wish you and your family good health. Stay safe.

    1. Sounds like a great project to have started and be getting on with. Roddy is going through endless slides taken by my mother and his mother and scanning them onto the computer. Stay safe and big hugs xx

  14. Okkkkk

    You told us a fairytale 😁😁😁

    How about some reality, how corona doomed western countries mostly.

    Here in India, 100 million poor daily wage earners, are left stranded,hungry.

    Ppl returning to villages,jobless.

    Most ppl are living poor in rich country (GDP only)

    I’m waiting 🖖🖖🖖

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