This week I finally got to do something I've been wanting to do for months. I got to visit the beach! To some it may not sound that thrilling, but I honestly cannot tell you how excited I was to dig my toes into the white sand, take a really deep lungful of that strongly ionised air and feel the salt-laden wind whip around me.
I'm tempted to write MY beach instead of THE beach because in normal times we're there so often - at least every second morning - that I feel a bit like a caretaker. It's less than 10 minutes away from my front door, so usually, after dropping the kids off at school, the dog and I head straight for the beach. I bring bags for the dog's doings (there's just no nice way to write that is there? Apologies if you're eating and reading simultaneously) in one pocket and a bin bag in the other, gathering up any random bits of rubbish and detritus that have been casually tossed aside by people who need a good talking to.
The beach is my home from home, my happy place. It's where I go to hit the reset button when times are tough and I'm struggling. Being there this week made me feel stronger and that I could cope with all the trials and tribulations being thrown at us all at the moment.
I could see that our trip to the seaside had the same effect on my children, but it also left them with itchy feet. Now that we'd been to the beach, they wanted to know when things would go back to normal. Could they go to their friends' houses? Could they go shopping in Belfast?
I sat them down around the kitchen table and tried my best to answer all of the questions they had, trying to be as truthful as possible but also trying to keep their spirits up.
After half an hour of answering the teenager's queries, I turned to my four-year-old and asked if she had any questions she wanted me to answer. "Yes Mummy," came the very serious reply. "Are dragons surprised when we open our mouths and water is inside instead of fire?" We fell about in hoots of giggles and, not for the first time, it struck me just how lucky we are to have my youngest in the house, injecting mayhem and humour into our daily lives at a time when the latter feels like it's in short supply.
The visit to the beach didn't just leave my children aching for a return to normality. It also made me yearn to be where we normally are at this time of year, in the stunning setting of Warrenpoint. My family all love live music, so the year is set out for us in terms of gigs and festivals. At the end of May for the last 15 or so years, we've upped sticks and moved to Co Down for a few days.
Sometimes it's just my husband and I, sometimes it's with the kids and on occasion my mother has even joined the party to enjoy some super live music at the Blues on the Bay Festival. There's something really magical about listening to great musicians and singers whilst looking out over the Mournes and Cooley Mountains dipping down to meet the water.
I know so many of our superb local musicians and singers have been working hard, providing lots of great entertainment during lockdown by appearing online and doing shows, but I really miss that experience of being in the midst of a big crowd of like-minded revellers, dancing and singing along at the top of my voice. I miss that interaction you get with complete strangers, when you catch their eye in the middle of some mighty fine music and you share a momentary connection, that feeling of complete happiness as you get lost in the music and everything else fades away.
Like the kids, I'd love to ask when we'll get to have those experiences again but, unfortunately, I don't think anyone can supply me with an answer just yet.
Until then, I'll keep going to the beach and imagining the music...