‘Is this when you want a really horrible camera angle?’ Ruth laughs, looking down into the camera that shows her face and a beamed ceiling. She’s in the same kitchen as she was for our first interview, and yet again I picture her little country cottage nestled in a picture perfect Cotswold village, surrounded by rolling hills and endless green English countryside.
‘Are you wearing your pyjamas?’ she asked.
‘Yes! It’s late!’ I laugh, asking her how the last 18 months have been.
‘Do you know what? It’s been alright.There are some definite silver linings. When that first lockdown in March 2020 was called I was absolutely burnt out. Driving all over, working 80 odd hours a week, laundry mounting up and I remember thinking ‘I can’t keep going at this speed, I just can’t’ and then suddenly everyone was at home.’
Ruth decided to launch ‘Project Me’. She said: ‘When I turned 40 in 2019 there was a photograph taken of me and OK it was at a funny angle, but I looked six foot wide, it was horrible. I saw it and thought, you need to do fucking do something about that. I started running a bit during the first lockdown, and started weightlifting and boxing at the gym. I’m going to start with a food nutrition coach in January to get me into a habit.’
Working from home has taken some of the pressure off too. She said: ‘I’m quite good at closing my laptop at six o’clock now. I’m just trying to not get burnt out again and enjoying my little slice of heaven in the village.’
Although things are starting to get a bit more normal for her as a Project Manager for a software company. ‘I went to my first team meeting in nearly two years last week. Only three of us were part of the original lot before the pandemic started, everyone else was new.’
‘I’m incredibly lucky to have lots of friends throughout all this, whether I speak to them or not, I know they’re there, and I’m a big user of social media. I’ve also been dating a local chap which does help.’
A smile starts to form, and I can tell she’s dying to tell me about it. Is this the chap you’d started seeing at the end of the last interview, I ask? She giggles. ‘Oh no, there’s been about eight in the middle I’ve not told you about.’
I laugh. ‘Go on, tell me about it.’
‘So I met the new chap online just over a year ago in November 2020, and I had him round for dinner within two weeks. We laugh about it now, as he jokes about me being in such a rush, and I was like, yeah, because you meet dickheads. You have to screen fast. Chatting to someone for six weeks and really liking them only to meet and finding out they’re a bellend is disappointing.’
He lives a couple of villages away from Ruth, breaking her ‘no local’ rule. ‘If you said make a recipe for a man, that’s my recipe,’ she says smiling. ‘Six foot four, dark, bearded, 20-stone rugby player, very very direct. He makes me look like I should have a career in the peace corps. He’s what I’d say is an absolute diamond.’
Ruth says they’re very casual, and it takes him ages to make his mind up about anything. ‘We had dinner in November, and I never heard from him again until the January. I joked about him ghosting me but he just said he was busy. So we had a couple more dates but he was never particularly flirty and in the end I thought ‘this guy just wants a friend’. It was February and I’d just about given up, when he stayed round one time. I’d put him in the spare room but in the morning he came and got into bed with me, and as they say, the rest is history.’
She mocks him about it now, and still doesn’t really know whether she’s his girlfriend or not. ‘He knows I have no intention of ever marrying, or moving in with anyone ever again. As I told him the other day, I’m not going to buy the pig for a bit of sausage, no offence.’
‘He’s just a nice bloke. Everyone at work is laughing at me, saying ‘you’ve normally got two or three in back up’, and I tell them’ you know what, I like this one’. I’m not interested in looking at anyone else. We get on, it’s nice. I have noticed now that any lockdowns are coming to an end and it’s become,’ she uses air quotes, “cuffing season”, lots of exes are suddenly randomly dropping into my DMs. I’m like nope, off you pop.’
She met some of his friends last month. ‘I thought, this is my test. He’s ready to let his two best mates meet me. I think I passed,’ she laughs.
‘I’m under no illusions, it’s not like any sort of romantic love, it’s not thunderbolts, it’s not perfect, there will be problems but it’s nice having someone local who I can cook for and share a bottle of red with. He’s part of my life. If my life is a pie chart, he’s a chunk of it. We both agree that our lives are better with each other in them.’