Sunday, 5 March 2017

February...blinked and missed it!

I don't know whether to be glad we are rapidly heading out of winter or slightly freaked that the months race past so fast. Seems to me the older you get the more rapid the passing of time! But on the whole, I'd go with the former emotion - whilst I love crisp, bright winter days I do struggle with the sense of hibernation that pervades with days and nights that, when you work full time and long hours, seem barely discernible. So, I'm not sorry February is out of the way and the evenings are brightening. I feel as though it passed without anything much to enjoy or appreciate but looking back through the few photos I took I realise that's not entirely true.

I was lucky enough to be given National Trust membership by kind friends last year and unknown to me, they renewed it for me again this year. So at the end of January, on a beautiful cold Sunday I went to Felbrigg Hall, one of my favourite NT houses as a child - I always felt it had the feel of a family home, albeit a very grand one! The house doesn't open to visitors until March but the gardens and park are open so I put by boots on and walked...


It was lovely to see some blue sky...


and the beautiful thing about winter sunshine is the long shadows it throws...


Ok, so this is not your average family home...


but, to me it felt much more 'friendly' than the other grand halls in the area. It was bitterly cold, even in the bright sunshine, with frost on the estate churchyard...


A couple of weeks later, on a bit of a whim, I decided to drive to Bristol to see my youngest son where he is at University of West England. Not such a bright weekend but the city of Bristol, which I hadn't been to before, was a lovely place to spend a couple of days. Sadly, I was not in this rather lovely hotel...!


We walked up to Cabot Tower... 


for the views across the city. I imagine on a brighter day, you must be able to see for miles from here...



Lovely to see patches of snowdrops...


Seems to me Bristol has quite distinct 'neighbourhoods' within the city - on the way to Brunel's famous suspension bridge we took time out in pretty Clifton with its streets of independent shops. Loved this flower shop display on the path...


And the sun kindly came out for us to sit and eat huge scotch eggs and salads from a deli/bakery - so good!


The bridge is an impressive structure spanning the Avon Gorge...


with beautiful skies...




 Bristol seems to have lots to offer and we barely began to explore in a short weekend. The Docks are worth a visit, with the fascinating museum of the recovered Steamship, SS Great Britain. So well done, to be able to walk under the glass water level...



and inside the ship a real sense of the history and the conditions in the reconstructed cabins. Lovely to spend a bit of time with my boy and let him share his 'new' city...


Last look back at the prettily coloured houses overlooking the water...


Even on a fairly dull couple of days, Bristol had a nice feel to it and it was good to see him settled and happy.

And that was it for days out in February! And already almost a week into March! This weekend I have largely hidden at home with a touch of the viral lurgy that seems to be prevailing but last week it was lovely to feel a bit of warmth in the air in Regent's Park, London...


and to realise that at 5.30pm the sun was only just beginning to set over the River Wensum in Norwich...


And yes, my prevailing feeling is roll on Spring and warmer, longer days...

S x




Monday, 16 January 2017

Reflecting...

Friday 13th January, Norwich

The view from my clinic room window on Friday morning...


We are really not very good at winter weather are we?! Norfolk is not known for a lot of the wet stuff (apart form the odd threat of lowland flooding of course!) but this bit of snowfall on Friday put lots of people into a blind spin. To the amusement of the lovely Polish girl in the back office who kept exclaiming 'Seriously! This is not snow!'. I guess if you are used to Polish winters it must seem funny that a dusting can cause so much consternation.

Saturday 14th January, River Yare & Whitlingham, Norwich

The next morning was a complete contrast. It doesn't feel as though we have had many of those bright crisp winters days, and I thought it wasn't going to last, but after a quick burst of sleet late morning the sun came out again and I felt a sudden urge to escape the house with the camera.

The pull of water and reflections is always strong for me and I am lucky enough to be a short distance from the river that runs through the city. I obviously didn't get the exposure right on this because I managed to bleach out the top of the photo, but it was the reflections of the branches that had my attention. I love the slight distortion in the ripples.


This stretch of riverside has seen a huge amount of development over recent years, with new buildings springing up next to what were once dilapidated old factories and warehouses. There is still a fair bit of building going on and, generally speaking, I think it has been done sympathetically and has turned what was a pretty dubious bit of the city into a much more pleasant area. Whether any of the homes in these 'regeneration' schemes are remotely affordable is another matter - I feel for those the age of my sons who are struggling to find a way into independent living, either rented or otherwise, and conscious of the fact that Norwich is still really not the most expensive place to live.


A little further on, more reflections...


...and a few early snowdrops on the riverbank...


...before coming out behind the cathedral with its distinctive spire against the blue sky...


The path continues along the river and I decided to keep walking as it was so beautiful, the sun already dropping in the sky and casting long rays through the trees...




On the way out of the city I love these buildings with their pretty windows and ornate brickwork, albeit in varying states of disrepair now...


Whitlingham Country Park, an outdoor activity park built on the site of an old gravel quarry provides a place for walking, cycling, water sports or just enjoying the woodlands and nature. A visitors centre provides a cake and coffee stop if needed too. I just opted to walk, squelching a bit here and there but enjoying the chance to stretch my legs and appreciate the surroundings. Believe it or not, these are fields - the recent high tides and snow making them look like an extension to the broads...


Looking through these twisted branches to where there is usually a path across the grass, frequented by dog walkers. Some of this was frozen and I did see one or two hardy 4 legged types skittering across the ice.


A dyke runs more or less parallel to the great broad, utilised by the rowing club who were out practicing (didn't envy them actually, the water must have been icy)...


They whizzed through my photo leaving a trail of ripples in their wake...


Sunlight through the grasses at this time of year gives a particular kind of glow to everything...



...and as it dipped lower...


...from the other side of the broad the contrast between the golden vegetation and the grey of the water was striking...


By the time I got home again I had been walking for best part of 3 hours and covered almost 9 miles, a bit chilled but counting one or two blessings and reminding myself I must keep this up!

S x

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Seeing in 2017...

2016 ended with another couple of trips away. At the beginning of December every year is a conference which is almost obligatory for professional education - never funded of course, but I love being in London at Christmas time so I usually combine it with annual leave and almost always get to meet up with friends and colleagues too.

Having stayed in some truly dreadful hotels over the years in London (budget constraints!) this year, on the back of a promotion, I decided to stay more centrally and booked a place close to the Southbank in easy walking distance of the conference and central London.

From the tube station I walked along the side of the Thames with the late afternoon sun setting behind the tower blocks...


The first evening I was on my own so just walked and walked, taking in London in its full Christmas lights glory. Didn't take many photos because it was so cold my hands froze! But loved the lighting on the Eye...


I had a lovely few days, got a bit more educated and walked a lot, reminding me how much peace I get from just walking and taking in the surroundings. One friend had to go back to work before the end of the conference so we got up early to get to London City Airport and then I walked back through Central London as the sun rose. It was quiet and beautiful and quite reflective. This is the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park...


For various reasons, both personal and more widely, 2016 was a year I was ready to move on from. Having had some great trips away and some lovely times that sounds ungrateful - I have some lovely memories from the year I was 50 but lots of challenges too, that I have opted not to record for eternity. Additionally, New Years Eve was always 'a big deal' for us when we were a 'proper' family and I was a bit desperate to mark the end of this year with something other than a struggle to stay awake alone till midnight!

Of course some of the changes that happen are nothing at all to do with divorce - children grow up and become independent and that is exactly how it should be. Inevitably and appropriately, they are doing their own thing over the festive season - we all got together and it was lovely, but the eldest two have their own homes and different extended families now so, just as mine were at their age, their priorities have shifted a bit. I am actually very at peace now with the end of my marriage - my only regret is that we haven't quite managed to build bridges so that the kids don't feel they have to divide their time between the two of us, but maybe that will come... Give it another 5 years!  I am lonely at times, for sure, but no more than I was when I was married and unhappy so I know I just have to continue the process of learning about myself and how to get the best out of the second half of my adult life.

With this in mind, when Paolo Nutini's email inviting me to his Hogmanay concert in Edinburgh dropped into my inbox it felt too good an opportunity to turn down! I have been a fan since he appeared on the music scene (I kid myself these emails are a personal invitation...😜) as is my youngest son who was going to be back from uni for the holidays. Plus...I have a very good friend and ex colleague who moved up there last year so seemed a good way to catch up too.

So, 29th December saw us on a train heading up the East coast past frosty fields...


Unexpectedly,  it was actually considerably warmer in Scotland with temperatures when we arrived in double figures! We spent the first day exploring this beautiful city, with its museums and lovely architecture. Like London, most of the museums are free to enter so great to call into for a couple of hours. On the evening of 30th we made our way into the city, heaving with people enjoying a huge Christmas market and lining the streets waiting for a torchlight procession through the city and up onto Calton Hill for fireworks. This is marketed as an ancient tradition and although, in reality, I think it is much more a commercial venture - the whole place is alive with an atmosphere of excitement and collective enjoyment of the three day Hogmanay Festival. Our concert was in Princes Street Gardens but we could see the procession cross the bridge at the bottom of The Mound - a long stream of torches lit the street for well over two hours. Down in the gardens I was glad it was unseasonably mild as we watched the support bands (who I had never heard of! But Tom seemed to enjoy!). There is something special about outdoor concerts and the setting, at the base of Edinburgh castle, made it especially so with the stage lights illuminating the trees...


The gardens have a kind of amphitheatre shape and even at this distance...


...the sound was amazing and Paolo did not disappoint, with the concert finishing in a blaze of fireworks, inadequately captured on my phone camera!



Sunrise is almost an hour later than at home at the moment so as we walked in across the Meadows for a bit more sightseeing on 31st it was still low in the sky...


I had something of an obsession with Greyfriars Bobby as a child - the story of the little Skye terrier who allegedly guarded the grave of his owner in the graveyard of Greyfriars Kirk for 14 years until he died in 1872 and was subsequently buried there too. His statue now sits opposite the pub bearing his name (you can just see it on the very right of this picture)... 


...with the atmospheric Gothic kirk and graveyard behind the pub...


As the sun got stronger the castle stone work seemed to glow - it is such an impressive landmark and very visible as you wander around the city...


We had deliberately opted to do 'as the local folk do' and stay away from the 75,000 in Princes Street on New Years Eve itself, instead meeting our friends for a lovely pub meal at the foot of Arthurs Seat then hiking up the hill for a view of the midnight fireworks. Tom warmed up with a Scots version of a 'Dark & Stormy', delicious spicy mix of whisky, rum and warm spices...


Then after dinner, from partway up Arthurs Seat it was possible to see fireworks all over the city with a spectacular display from the castle - lovely way to see in the New Year.




My tentative resolution on New Years Eve was to try to taker more photos again and walk more. These are both things that I find reflective and therapeutic. I'm not sure how manageable this is with my current working hours, and I am definitely not going to manage everyday (which was my plan!) but I have also decided not to beat myself up about it if I can't manage it! I got off to a good start...

1st Jan 2017, New Years Day, Edinburgh
Bright and very cold, lovely blue skies across the meadows...


Frosty autumn leaves...


...and gorgeous low light...


I have a bit of a thing for skies - I just love the light and colours through the clouds and the early evening outside the Portrait Gallery was beautiful...


2nd Jan 2017, Edinburgh
Having not made it to the top of Arthurs Seat on New Years Eve we decided to get out promptly and walked up as the sun was coming up - more lovely skies...


 Long shadows...


...glowing rock...



...and glorious views...








It was bitterly cold that day though, with the ground completely frozen underfoot and we were very glad to find a cafe open opposite Holyrood House (Clarinda's Tea Room - worth a visit if you are ever there!) which did a great breakfast that thawed us out!

3rd Jan 2017, Edinburgh
One last trip to the fabulous National Museum of Scotland, with its rooftop views across the city before a long train journey back home...


This was a huge treat and a lovely way to welcome 2017. I'm hoping this is going to be a good year!

S x