Caroline Verdon: Making more time for the things that bring you joy

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This Valentine’s Day my husband suggested not buying each other gifts so I lied and said I’d already bought his. I hadn’t.

I just like receiving presents and I knew that would guilt him into it. He asked me how much I’d spent and I said I’d only bought half of it and had spent £15 so he made me promise not to buy anything else and we agreed just to do token presents this year. So I played by the rules and bought him a pair of heart covered socks from Sainsbury’s at The White Rose, a chocolate heart lolly and a t-shirt that was in the sale at Debenhams, circa £15. In return, he bought me the digital piano I’ve wanted since I was 17 years old. It definitely didn’t cost £15.

I absolutely love it. I was so shocked when I saw it that I was actually quite lost for words. I’m fairly musical, I play the flute and the ukulele and at one point had my heart set on being a professional opera singer but for decades I’ve wanted to be able to properly play the piano and now I’ve got the most incredible one to learn on. The problem is I’m terrible at having hobbies. I just don’t make the time for them.

Downstairs in our house, in the same room that now houses this gorgeous piano, also sits a ‘make your own cajon’ set, a craft table with a dremel for making jewellery and more beads than I can count as well as a sewing machine and loads of material for a patchwork quilt that I was going to make when I was pregnant with my son. I’ve not even opened the box of the cajon, the dremel has been looked at but never switched on and even though my son is now two and a half, I’ve only stitched together one side of his quilt. As a child I had hobbies coming out of my ears. Monday – singing lessons. Tuesday – afterschool netball. Wednesday – athletics. Thursday – badminton lessons. Friday – amateur dramatics group. Saturday – tennis lessons. Sunday – horseriding. I loved them all, I looked forward to them all and they were all parts of my life that I made time for. There was still time for studying, for seeing friends and for watching the latest episodes of Friends and Dawsons Creek. Somehow I made the time. Things seem different now. My alarm goes off at 3.30am every morning and I’m at work an hour later. I get home about 1pm, have some dinner, watch Neighbours (yes, it is still going) and then binge watch a few episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (if you haven’t seen this it’s ace, a really frank and funny look at mental illness) before going to bed about 3pm. I get up at 4.30pm to pick the toddler up from nursery and then the mayhem starts. Playdoh, colouring, jigsaws and choo choos (trains) whilst cooking dinner for three, eating about 6pm, toddler bath and bed at 7ish and then vegging infront of the telly with my husband until about 9.30ish when I force myself to go to bed to start all over again. Only I probably spend an hour or so on Facebook before I actually enter the world of nod.

Sitting infront of mindless TV is easy to do both physically and on the conscience but there’s something about setting aside actual ME time as an adult that I find difficult. It feels almost selfish to do something for myself. We spoke to Lianne in Horsforth this week who six months ago implemented strict rules in her house that meant that no one could watch more than 1 hour of TV a day and that there was a phone ban from 7-10pm and she said it’s been a revelation: “It’s been 27 weeks and I’ve learnt to crochet, I’ve joined a choir and my husband and I have taken up squash which has been great for our health and our relationship. I’ve got two teenage boys and one has started learning the guitar and he’s got so good so quickly and the other has been designing apps for everything from games to helping other kids with dyslexia.” She says she hasn’t missed the tv at all, she is still up-to-date on her favourites but all of their lives are so much richer. So maybe that is the answer. Timetable the telly and make more time in life for the things that actually bring me joy, starting with that beautiful piano I’ve had my eye on since I did A level music.

Your worst ever presents

I’ve been beyond lucky when it comes to presents from my other half but it’s safe to say he’s been less so.

In the past I’ve bought him personalised socks that were meant to say “C loves R” but for some unknown reason I forgot my name and instead they said “S loves R”.

Turns out I’m not the worst present buyer in Leeds though! Victoria in Calverley’s mum bought her a broom for her 30th. That’s one way of letting a loved one know their house could do with a clean!

Paula in Headingley didn’t do much better: “This Christmas my dad got me a Nissan Micra handbook and plastic LP covers. I drive a Nissan Juke and all my music is on MP3s.”

Then there was Ruth in Kirkstall whose gift from her oblivious aunt had us in stitches: “At 15 I was an awkward embarrassed teenager and for Christmas one year my aunt got me chocolate body paint. She presumed it went on ice cream.

“I went bright red and had to answer questions from my amused parents such as ‘how do you know what body paint is’ and ‘is there anyone you’d like to share that present with’. Hideous.

Still, at least we weren’t Dianna in Holbeck who got her husband about £200 of designer gear only to be given a sports chaff stick for Christmas: “What made it worse was that it was my birthday in January and after the earful I’d given him I really thought he’d redeem himself. He bought me a pair of tweezers and a sieve. I’ve told him from now on I’m buying my own presents”

Nailing the date night

My husband and I have nailed the weeknight date night and I don’t know why it took us so long but everyone needs to know about this life hack.

Yes going to see a band every now and then is great (The Script at the First Direct Arena on February 2 were incredible) but it makes for a late one and then you’re exhausted the following day and no one wants that.

The solution is the early cinema showing. And I mean really early. My husband works for Vodafone’s head office and is based just off of North Street so once a month we now book tickets to The Vue at the light for 5.40.

The other week we saw The Greatest Showman and by 8.30 not only had we watched the film but we’d also chomped down a pizza at Prezzo. Home by 8.50. Win! You are welcome!

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show at Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.