The Isolation Diaries – Lockdown In the English Countryside with Finlay Fox Blogger Emma Paton - The Grace Tales

The Isolation Diaries – Lockdown In the English Countryside with Finlay Fox Blogger Emma Paton

When Emma Paton told us her bedtime routine started with “a G&T to help me unwind”, we knew we’d found a kindred spirit. The founder of Finlay Fox, an English fashion and lifestyle blog, lives in a chocolate box property in Suffolk with her husband and their two children, seven year old son Finn, and four year old daughter Violet. The family are new to country life, having made the move from London to the countryside only last year. And while fashion remains one of Emma’s passions – she’s been a fashion buyer for over 12 years – the move has prompted new adventures into renovation and interiors as the family create their forever home...

We spoke to Emma about life on lockdown in the countryside, and although the juggle is real no matter where you are in the world, she’s certainly made lemonade from this situation. Emma tells us what she’s wearing, cooking, reading, and doing, and based on her answers, we’re considering a tree change for the umpteenth time this year. Visit Finlay Fox | Follow @finlay_fox Main image: Beckie Egan

You live in a lovely little English village. What has isolation been like there? Has the community banded together?

The community feel here has been amazing. We have the village community shop right next door to our house and they have been fabulous at making sure everyone in the village is catered for during these difficult circumstances, offering delivery to those unable to get out and also providing a food bank too. On Thursdays at 8pm we all stand on our doorsteps and clap for the carers, and the kids have all done rainbow paintings that hang in the windows for rainbow trails in the village.

With two children at home, are you homeschooling? What's your approach to that?

Yes, I’m trying! It’s quite a relaxed approach though. We have some days it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The school have been quite laid back about it but this week we start class Zoom calls which I think my son will really like, and will help. We use the Class Dojo website/app with the school so he can log on and do some work that gets set each day. I’ve been trying to get outside as much as possible when the weather is nice and do ‘classes’ out there (a mini beasts project) and using nature as much as possible to educate. It is hard, and there are so many distractions around, plus having a 7 year old and 4 year old means I have to cater for 2 very different ages. It’s hard to keep them happy and I do worry I’m not doing enough sometimes but at the end of the day I’m not a teacher!

Do you follow a routine or let the day unfold?

We try to follow a very rough routine just to try and have some kind of order to our day! Normally at 9am we try and go for a walk in the fields behind the village if it’s sunny, or do some kind of exercise inside – the kids favourites are Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) who does a live workout everyday on Youtube, Jump Start Johnny, or Cosmic Yoga. We then try to do an hour of home schooling before a snack break and then my husband does an hour of home schooling with my son and I play with my daughter (who will be starting school in September). We all have lunch all together, then the afternoon normally involves something creative – crafting, baking, colouring, painting etc. The kids favourite is ‘Draw with Rob’ – we all do it together, he is an illustrator who does step by step videos on how to draw. We certainly have an art gallery collection starting! By mid afternoon we try to get out in the garden and have an ice cream or a garden disco/dance/sing along. But the kids are on their tablets or Kindles a lot too. My son is obsessed with minecraft! We try to finish the school day around 3pm. But some days all routine goes out the window and we just do what we want!! I feel like we can’t put too much pressure on ourselves and sometimes go with the flow of varying moods and weather – just getting through the day and being happy (mental health especially) is the most important thing.

What are you wearing each day?

I’m still making an effort to get dressed and wear make up each day – it just makes me feel more in control of the whole situation and ready to take on the day. Some days are more about comfort dressing – joggers and sweatshirts, but I would say jumpsuits, relaxed buffet style dresses, pretty blouses and dungarees are my lockdown uniform!

You've been a fashion buyer for over a decade - what's your iso-fashion philosophy?

Dress to make you happy! Whatever will keep you positive and sane in these crazy times and get you through the day – be it pyjamas or high end dresses! Also good slippers are key. I’ve been loving the ‘Dress up Friday’ each week on Instagram here in the UK, such a great way to still make an effort and use bits of your wardrobe you may not use so much at the moment. I also find actually washing my hair and putting lipstick on really helps me personally, especially if you have a Zoom call.

How are you keeping the house organised?

We try to do a big food shop delivery once a week, then use the village shop and our local farm shop for top ups and fresh fruit and veg. We sit down and try to do lots of meal plans for the week to make sure we are organised as we are getting through so much food! I do miss my cleaner – I have to say cleaning is one thing I really hate so the house is definitely not in a great state! I have been trying to get the kids involved with some of the cleaning too. We have trolleys for all the kids school and crafting bits etc, but mountains of papers and artwork cover our kitchen at the moment. At the start of lockdown I was quite good at being organised with making sure we had plenty of activities to keep us busy in the week, but this has definitely stopped now. I try to save any interesting looking projects and ideas on Instagram and Pinterest to try new things with the kids out too.

How are you finding juggling work with the kids at home? Do you usually work from home anyway?

My husband and I have worked from home since we moved here last August so luckily we are used to it! However, my work has taken a bit of a side step as I have to look after the kids full time now. On Tuesday mornings my husband takes the kids so I have a couple of hours to write blog posts and create content if needed. Luckily the content I create relates to my family life, so it kind of works around the kids, but I am missing having some me time and going on day trips to get inspired. It is definitely a juggle, but luckily I also have a very hands on and supportive husband.

What are you reading?

I’m reading a lot of interior magazines as we are renovating our house, so are constantly looking for ideas and inspiration. I have just read Faded Glamour by Pearl Lowe which has lots of inspirational and creative homes. I’m not massively into reading many novels but I did recently finish ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens and loved it. I’ve also watched Normal People (based on Sally Rooney’s best selling novel) and that was the best TV I’ve seen in a long time.

What are you listening to?

The new Strokes album ‘The New Abnormal’ – they are my fave band and I was so excited they have a new album out. Also we’ve been listening to a fair bit of kids music – the new Trolls soundtrack and Frozen 2 as my daughter loves it. We try and have a disco in the garden when we can! My husband (a music composer) has been working on a new project called ‘Mind Walk’ which is a series of audio walks, for example a walk along the Kent coast or a walk in the Suffolk countryside – great for mindfulness in these crazy times we are experiencing!

What are you cooking?

We go through phases of keeping it very simple – quick easy dinners (pasta, meatballs, stir fries etc) then really going all out and making full on fancy meals, especially if we have a meat box to get through! We have definitely become more inventive and have definitely been practising our cocktail making skills! We have done the cliche of making banana bread, and did a lot of baking over Easter with the kids. We have been doing BBQ’s and outdoor pizza oven at the weekends too.

What beauty products are you loving?

Whilst the weather has been nice I have been using a lot of Ultrasun suncream. I’ve also been loving the Iconic face highlighter – it just gives that nice bit of glow on your skin. Also always my Le Labo Santal 33 perfume keeps me happy and smelling nice! In the house we have been using the Neom wellbeing pod to scent the home with essential oils and help with any moods.

What's keeping you sane?

My husband, kids and regular FaceTime and Zoom calls with my family and friends. We’ve done some quiz nights which have been really fun. I’ve also been enjoying some serious TV watching – we watched Tiger King recently – perfect bit of escapism telly. We have so many projects going on at our house as we start to renovate it, I’ve been trying to finish off the kids bedrooms which has been a welcome distraction. My garden has also been keeping me sane – it’s so beautiful seeing all the flowers come to life and having time to enjoy it. Spring in the country is quite different to being in London! Having all this space has been a complete saviour whilst lockdown has been going on.

What are you online ordering?

Apart from crafting and art bits for the kids, food and wine! I have ordered a few summer clothes pieces as there are so many good dresses out there that I didn’t want to miss out on. I splurged on a Johanna Sands dress that is just beautiful – summer garden party vibes! We have also been ordering a few bits for the house like a new sofa, and need to get some carpets and curtains next.

What are you doing for exercise?

I had just started doing reformer pilates before lockdown happened, which I loved, so hope to get back into that again one day. Short jogs around the country lanes have been lovely too for time out, headspace and seeing Spring in bloom, if I can I go once or twice a week. If I haven’t done some exercise with the kids in the morning, then I do a pilates or MUTU system online a couple of times a week.

What's your favourite way to start the day?

Some gentle pilates is my favourite way to start the day. If I can squeeze it in amongst the chaos of getting kids ready! Also a slow start, with coffee and some good breakfast, or brunch at the weekends. I am a bit of an early riser but a cuddle with the kids in their beds (they also wake up early!) always makes it worthwhile.

Do you have a night time routine?

At the moment a G&T in the evening to help me unwind, my alcohol consumption has definitely gone up whilst lockdown has been going on! I have a bath every night before bed and am making sure I don’t go to bed too late. I have been sleeping so badly and use This Works ’Deep Sleep Pillow Spray’ to help me drift off, and occasionally a Spacemasks eyemask.

What's first on your list when lockdown ends?

Visit my family, definitely, I miss them so much. My nephew is only 6 months old – I have missed out on some serious cuddles! Also I am desperate to go to a beach and feel sand and water between my toes! Fish and chips sitting on the beach would be wonderful. We are also thinking a massive party at our new house! Oh, and of course a well overdue trip to the hairdressers!