Saturday, 11 September 2021

Summer's end

I have just about reacclimatised myself to my normal life after a week away. Honestly, a holiday is a tricky thing isn't it. One minute I was swanning around a vast kitchen with acres of space and gazing out of the living room window at clouds drifting dreamily across mountains and wondering which of the three bathrooms with underfloor heating I would have a shower in, the next minute it was back to my own small slightly sticky space with spiders in the corners and barely enough room to swing a dog.

Anyway, as I say, I am all back to normal now. I couldn't possibly wash such a vast kitchen floor or clean three bathrooms (and an extra toilet!). It may sound as if we went all out budget-wise, but it was fairly reasonable back when I booked, just very well appointed. And the underfloor heating was only on because we couldn't work out how to turn it off. It came on for a couple of hours and proved quite handy for drying out damp boots. You see, this type of luxury is wasted on me, in the blink of an eye I had it all looking like a launderette.

The eldest braved a night of wild camping, returning to report that he didn't feel it was his natural milieu. I think he may have pitched his tent on a slope and spent the entire night sliding down it. It was very nice in the huge master bedroom back at the house, although I slept really badly all week. I don't think luxury agrees with me.

Last weekend had a glorious end of summer feel. I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching cricket, aka sitting in a deckchair in the sun. Both pitches were in lovely spots, one in the city, one in the countryside. I got stung by a wasp at the second one and my arm blew up like a balloon. I laid awake half the night worrying about what would have happened if it stung me in the mouth and I couldn't breathe. It's a recurring anxiety of mine. I pretty much have it all planned out now though, it will involve a lot of yelling and calling ambulances and possibly a self-performed tracheotomy. I find that once I have a plan for what I'll do, should the worst happen, I am happy as a clam again.

The urchins went back to school on Tuesday, which I think they found fairly underwhelming. The youngest has a new teacher who is apparently really rubbish. It turns out she is really organised and really strict. I honestly sometimes wonder if he is my child at all. Being really organised is pretty much the gold standard as far as I'm concerned. I'm always rushing about the place shouting about attention to detail and making lists. Possibly why he was horrified to encounter it at school as well. 

It's all back to the grindstone here. I'm flat out with work, which is good of course, but also exhausting. The garden is nagging away at me to spend some time on it, but it will all have to wait for now. Busy at your end?

Monday, 30 August 2021

Lakes and mountains

Photos from a week in the beautiful Lake District. The dog and I are exhausted as usual after this sort of thing. He has to run around trying to keep his pack together and panicking in case he is left behind somewhere. I have to make my own bodyweight in sandwiches every day and then climb mountains. 

The biggest boy is loving landscape photography at the moment and wanted to photograph things at sunrise and sunset. Sunrise is early you know. He is also of the opinion that sleep is a waste of holiday. So he is up even earlier, tramping the hills in the darkness. I joined in once or twice, photographing the Castlerigg Stone Circle at sunrise and the view from Cat Bells at sunset. 

The Stone Circle dates from 3000 BC and is probably one of the earliest in the country. I love trying to imagine the scenes here over the years. 

Not that long ago the Lake District probably still felt pretty wild and inaccessible before cars really took hold. These days in August it is pretty packed and commercial to be honest, but off the beaten track it is breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, it's not that difficult to get away from people provided you avoid the most popular spots. 

I am now in a bit of a post-holiday slump, moping around being generally dismal. No doubt I shall pull myself out of it all soon enough. Somehow it has rather upset my equilibrium though. Work has been a bit overwhelming lately, and a break from it all has left me feeling a bit questioning and wondering how to structure things to fit in the stuff that I want to do. That's the trouble with a holiday, it starts all the thinking and assessing. I need to just get on with things and stop the whole navel-gazing. 

The year ahead will probably have quite a lot going on. The eldest will turn 18 soon and also take his A levels. The middle boy will have GCSEs. Then there are university applications to think about, about which I know almost nothing, so there will have to be a bit of research there I think. How to choose??? How high to aim??? Who will do his laundry??? Oh, I am all of a dither about it all. I think I need a very calming hobby, something I can disappear into and re-emerge later in a state of complete zen calm. Axe throwing maybe, or street luge. Or maybe just a bit of knitting. All tranquil at your end?

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Summer flames with ice-cream and cricket

I took the urchins to the cricket, which was really glitzy, as cricket matches go. Music and flames and crowd participation. We sat at the top of a stand in the jet stream from the doughnut stand forty feet below us. We watched a women's game in the afternoon then the men's game in the evening. The men's game was really thrilling, it came down to the last three balls and the team we were supporting (Welsh Fire) won. I did threaten to take my knitting, but it was exciting enough that I wasn't bored at all. I did see someone knitting while watching on the television though. 

The middle boy went to Lords to watch cricket that week as well, so he was handily placed to make comparisons for us. It was the old guard MCC members versus dancing on stage, flashing lights and blasts of rock music. 

The biggest boy is pressing on with driving lessons. One of the advantages of this that I hadn't realised before is that he can now critique my driving as we go about the place. It's incredibly helpful as you can imagine, you can no doubt picture the scene. His instructor sounds as if he has an excellent sense of humour, which is probably a prerequisite.

The dog has had his first dog ice cream of the summer. Honestly, who invents this stuff? He thought it was marvellous, although he has pretty low standards when it comes to food. Much of what he eats when he's out and about doesn't qualify as edible, or even mentionable.

I am trying to carve out tiny moments to read. I enjoyed the Judith Flanders book and I always like Kate Rhodes, especially her Scilly Isles series. Any good books at your end? I hope you're enjoying the summer and that the occasional ice-cream is coming your way.  xx

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Where are the wild raspberries?


I have a burning question. Where are all the wild raspberries? I keep hearing people talk about picking them but they just don't seem to exist around here. And blackberries simply aren't in the same league. 

The garden raspberries are lovely, but there aren't many of them. Just enough for me :) The strawberries are thin on the ground as well. I shall pull out the plants and replace them this year. I am micro-gardening in short bursts of time whenever I can, just to stop it all going rogue.

The pond is lovely, I quite often stand and watch the newts swimming up to the surface and the waterlily is happy after spending last year under a carpet of duck weed. There have been more birds than ever in the garden this year, enjoying the blueberries and drinking from the pond. Every garden should have a pond I think, it's such a necessity for wildlife.

I've been enjoying the wildflower verges that have popped up this year. There's a tiny patch of grass I go past on my evening dog walk, nothing special at all, surrounded by the concrete of suburbia, but I have become quite obsessed with counting the number of flower species just in this little three metre square patch. Nine or ten at least I think. 

Otherwise, I am trying to stay sane during the sensory bombardment that is the littlest boy when he doesn't have school. Which is basically constant demands for screentime and food. I am starting to despair. Has it really only been four days?

Fortunately he does make me laugh though. He is prone to spectacular nosebleeds, and came home with a shirt needing to be washed last week. I shoved it in the machine on its own before things set, and we stood there watching it go round and round. It puffed up and the water was all bubbly and it was somehow calm and restful and lovely. (You will recall I don't get out much). I said, 'It's very satisfying watching a machine do all the work.' The littlest boy said, 'It's very satisfying, watching a mother do all the work.' As I say, I laughed, but I fear there is rather too much truth in that.

I hope you are enjoying the summer at your end, if indeed it is summer at your end. The hot weather was a bit hot for me, my energy levels dip, which I don't much like. But otherwise the summer is just glorious. I love looking at everyone's gardens on my dog walking rounds. And I love the light evenings and also the sound of rain on all that foliage. 

I treated myself to a steamer chair for the garden, which I've wanted for ages, the other day. It needs assembling though (eugh) and I haven't had time to do it yet. When I imagine I'll ever have time to loll about on a steamer chair reading a book I don't know, but it was a nice idea. It was an Aldi special offer, for which I went there at 8 o'clock in the morning. The children were incredulous. 'Are you actually???' Yes, I was. I did a work-out first by way of a warm up in case it got lively. In the end it was all most civilised and a nice man who had two in his trolley even offered to give me a hand getting mine in. They were selling like hot cakes though, so just as well I went at 8. When I finally assemble it, I shall not allow anyone else to lie on it. It has a cream cushion. It will be just me. All alone with my raspberries. Happy sigh. I shall let you know how it goes.

Monday, 28 June 2021

The spirit of resistance


The moth is fancy isn't he? The biggest boy found him in the middle of a busy concrete path at the wetlands place where he would almost certainly have been trampled had we not moved him. He was very well camouflaged as well, so it was a good spot. I googled him after and found out that he is a puss moth. Look at those eyebrows! Well, okay, maybe they're not actually eyebrows, but they're pretty impressive. And that beautiful furry body and stripey legs. Moths really are exquisite aren't they, but not often seen.

Nothing of note going on around here except the usual taxiing of people to cricket and even a late season football match on Sunday (four-two defeat, we won't dwell on it). I have been really busy but trying to use little pockets of time to do the odd bit of garden tidying and decluttering. Chipping away at things, tiny step by tiny step. 

The dog and I had a harrowing experience on our morning walk yesterday. A couple were coming towards us with a big dog and a little dog. Bertie flattened himself to the ground as he does, so that everyone know he is no trouble and not to be woofed at. I rubbed his head, just in case he was thinking of jumping up and barking, which he also does, just in case anyone is thinking that he is to be messed with (he gets a lot of crossed signals) when suddenly he froze and glared at the small dog that was coming along behind. I turned round to see what was so fascinating about it, and, horror of horrors, IT WAS A CAT. ON A WALK. The temerity of it! We were not amused. We've seen this type of thing before and we didn't approve of it then and we don't approve of it now. Walking about the place, bold as brass. Bertie believes they should know their place, which is at the top of a very high wall, and they should stay there.

This one was really friendly and inquisitive and heading sweetly towards us in a sort 'Hello, let's be friends' way. Bertie was momentarily lost for words, but I could feel the rage building and luckily managed to scoop him up and away just before it reached us. I could feel him shaking as I rescued us and beat a fast retreat up to the common where he lost no time in telling his dog chums all about it.

The whole dog/cat animosity thing is very real around here. Sometimes I open the door and there's one right outside and it all goes very badly for a moment. I can't imagine how a dog and a cat could live peaceably together, although I have heard tell of such things. Maybe if the cat lived there first it might work. 

Anyway, not something that I shall be trying. I am very fond of guinea pigs (they're the BEST), all squeaky and happy to see you and convivial and loving a crowd, but even that seems a bridge too far. The dog gets exercised over an interloping fly. It is all HIS TERRITORY and only his pack are allowed. There is a guinea pig rescue lady near here and I would so love to help out, but sadly the mad barking would not be right for piggies. Or for me. So Bertie will remain king of all he surveys. Isn't it brilliant how pets train you so that they get exactly what they want. I detect the same spirit of determination in the urchins as well. Between them, they have worn me down so I put up barely any resistance to anything any more. Must try harder. 

Monday, 21 June 2021

Deeply ashamed


I'm enjoying the foxgloves in the garden at the moment. I sowed apricot and white ones, having in mind some sort of tasteful pastel drift of loveliness, but I have ended up with at least fifty per cent bright pink. That happens to me quite a lot with seeds.

The sweet peas have been a bit of surprise as well. I was going for all sorts of bright colours, but the first ones to flower have been an almost-white hint-of-mauve concoction. The marguerite (penultimate photo) was a divine pale pink when I bought it. Those flowers passed, then a new flush came along that were much brighter. That happens to me as well. I feel that they must do something to the flowers to lighten them (lack of light?), but then it passes and the plant reverts to its more natural colour.

Anyway, I have flowers, and that's good enough. The garden needs loads of work, but I just haven't had much time, far too much work on at the moment, so it is having to wait. I did manage to pop some plants into the wildlife pond, which the dog has been very pleased about as pulling plants out of the pond is one of his very best pastimes.

I am trying to use every little spare moment efficiently at present, so that stuff does get done, even if it is slow going. I had an odd five minutes the other evening so I tidied a kitchen drawer that was getting a bit stuffed full of clutter. That drawer, if you know what I mean. The one where odd plugs and cables and bank cards and string and odd shoe laces and five pencil sharpeners and the rubber things for holding bikes onto the bike rack are kept and that I can never remember where they are when I need them and only ever when I am tidying the drawer or going deep into it to find some other odd missing thing.

Anyway, all this to confess a deeply shameful thing. Bearing in mind I try to be a bit green and eco-friendly when I can, it turns out I have been stockpiling AA batteries and I now have enough to power the whole street for a week. I think it must be a leftover reaction to when the children were small and they had all sorts of ghastly plastic things that flashed and made noises and they were forever asking for batteries.

So now whenever I see them reduced I think, ooh, good, batteries are on offer, I'll just pick up a pack of eight. I am sorry to say I counted them and I have fifty-four. FIFTY-FOUR. Honestly, what is wrong with me? I have racked my brains to think of something I use that actually takes AA batteries and there is nothing. My little voice recorder for interviews takes AAA batteries, but the only thing I have that takes AA batteries is a tiny string of lights on a wire that I get out in the depths of winter and use very sparingly because, well, because it uses batteries. Prepare to see many arty photos featuring miniature fairy lights.

I am now resolving (again..?) to be much more controlled about absolutely everything and not just randomly buy stuff on some sort of mad whim. Anything shameful in your drawers I should know about? xx

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Agriculturally correct


I have purloined a functional camera from the eldest and after much fiddling to change all the bizarre setting (he went through a phase of shooting everything in Super Vivid) I am just about managing to take some photos with normal colouring in them. No doubt I will be told off for shoving the camera in my bag before too long though.

We are all about the cricket here of course. The season for children is short and very intense. The matches for the older two are all over the place, miles away, down hot stretches of congested motorway. And work is rather flattening me at the moment. The eldest has had some lifts to cricket. Lots of the team are in farming and he said he doesn't always know how to respond when they are seemingly quite excited about the sale of a cow or some such thing. I have suggested he listen to an episode of the Archers from time to time. It's where I got practically all of my quite extensive farming knowledge. It's agriculturally correct you know. I'm almost certain I could deliver a lamb or get a cow in the crush now.

I have spent the odd minute staring into the depths of the wildlife pond this week. While it might not look very inspiring to an outsider, I am loving it. It's really a hub for the wildlife. I have a couple of little plants at the edges now and some new oxygenating weed and a submerged plant in the middle alongside the waterlily. All natives except the lily. There is something very tranquil about staring at water, even if it is a bit on the green side. 

On the subject of tranquil, I am wondering if I should take up meditating. So many people seem to swear by it. I need calm and clarity and focus. And a few more hours in the day. Do I even have time to meditate? I suspect it is not something to be rushed, which is my main modus operandi. But maybe that means I particularly need it and it will transform my life. The bottom line is I have rather too much work on and I probably should have said no to some stuff, but I didn't. Just in case, you know. So now I am rather suffering for it. But, lesson learned and all that.

Meantime, I am neglecting the garden and feeding the children very fast things and racing the dog round on his walks at top speed, although he always does his best to make me stop and smell the flowers, or mostly another dog's bottom to be honest.

There are a couple of really lovely flowers on my dog walk that I want to know what they are. I am working up the courage to take my camera along and photograph them so that one of you can identify them, but I will look rather obvious when I'm doing it, so I need to wait for a brave and fearless day. And a day when the dog is in the mood for a hasty retreat. 

Hope all is well at your end and that you're enjoying the sunshine. CJ xx