Sunday, 9 February 2020

2020: Week 5 and 6...

29th January:
As always, can't concentrate on one project at a time! Found this pattern whilst hunting for something else so decided to give it a go. Have never crocheted anything to wear other than scarves and gloves. First few rows, my impression is that it makes up quite quickly but not sure it has the softness of knitted fabric. Going to keep going though, we'll see!

30th January:
Another photo gap. This is harder than it should be! Some days I look around and just don't feel that inspired by anything I see.

31st January:
Beautiful skies as I arrive at work today. 

1st February:
Pretty little iris in my courtyard garden. I have crocuses and snowdrops and these tiny splashes of blue. Little injections of colour into dreary winter days.

2nd-4th February:
Oops. These passed by me in a blur...

5th February:
A quiet space in our department for patients and their families who need time to talk, think or just take a breath before heading back out to the world. Functional but long overdue and so badly needed.

6th February:
Oh dear. Not doing very well this week.

7th February:
After having a bit of a moan about a string of meeting invitations without a clear purpose (I hate meetings for meetings sake!) a friend sent me this...which made me chuckle.

8th February:
Nope - no photos today either...

9th February:
On the day the storm hit, I can't help wondering what on earth is going on with the climate. I have spring bulbs in flower, there is blossom coming on the tree outside my window and the geranium and lobelia in this pot have flowered all winter...

I am resolving to do even more of my bit for the environment.

Week 7, I need to try harder with the photos - there must be something each day that interests, amuses  or pleases me!

S x 

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Thinking of Mum...

Today the sun shone, at least for some of the day. It was the sort of day my Mum would have pottered in the garden saying 'there's always something to do!'. I am struggling to see her beautiful garden beginning to fade. I know this time of year every garden looks a bit drab but the last 6 months have seen the weeds creeping across the borders and made me realise just how hard Mum worked to keep it all in check, even just a few weeks before she died. So today I headed over there and spent a few hours tackling the worst of the grass and dandelions that were choking the perennials and rose bushes. 

Several hours later...

There are crocuses and snowdrops in swathes. Make the few scattered flowers in my little patch of courtyard look paltry!

Mum always wanted a pond. I think she had the idea she would be able to relax beside it and watch a range of wildlife. It was a sort of work in progress for years and then last year it finally got almost to the way she wanted it. The edging never got finished and this winter we didn't get around to netting it but the water is clear and last summer we had newts and lots of water bugs. Cleared as much of the leaves and weed from it as I could and hope the plants all grow again this year. Just wish she could see it. 

One last look back at the sun sending ling shadows before heading home...

I miss Mum more than I thought was possible. Make the most of those moments with your loved ones. Laugh together and encourage the generation above to tell stories. There is so much more I wish I knew that I didn't know to ask about. I have lots of good memories but the sadness at times is overwhelming. This garden is just not the same without her presence in it.


Wednesday, 29 January 2020

2020: weeks 3 and 4...

16th January:
I struggle to get away from work much before 8 each evening, so it was a treat to get home at this time...courtesy of having given a colleague a lift!

17th January:
Didn't manage to take a photo today. Long day, dark in the morning and dark getting home. Looking forward to longer days and brighter skies.

18th January:
Weekend brought some time to get outside. I am amazed at how much is growing already. Much of it never really died down. There are already long shoots on the clematis, which I am hoping to train over the bamboo hoops, there are lots of bulbs shooting and the perennials I planted last summer are all looking as though they are growing well. Hoping for more colour soon.

19th January:
January is marmalade-making season. Mum made marmalade every year and it is something of a habit in my house too. I suppose it is slightly ridiculous. I am here on my own and I don't eat it that often but there is something about filling the house with that citrusy aroma and the sight of a row of sunshine in jars that feels familiar and comforting.

20th January:
A book of reflections. Nightly soul searching of a sort. 

21st January:
Waiting for thick ice on the car windscreen to defrost before going to work...

22nd and 23rd January:
Oh dear. Hadn't even registered I had missed these days until i checked the photos. Bad week!

24th January:
I'm a lover. How about you? Almost as comforting as marmalade. Another thing that I think has hardly changed for as long as I can remember. I love this sticky, salty spread on buttered toast. Makes me feel like a child. and I love the distinctive chubby little brown pot too. No mistaking it on the shelf.

25th January:
The smell of this bubbling pan is so good... Cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves and cardamom, with tea added for a fragrant, lightly spicy tea. I like it without milk or sweetening but you can add a splash of milk and sugar or honey. I have read it is good for you, not sure what the evidence is for that really but it is warming and delicious. Which does it for me!

26th January:
First daffodils of the year. A little sunshine in my kitchen...

27th January:
Slow progress with the temperature blanket - interesting revisiting last years weather highs and lows, 14C in early February! I can't decide if I am liking this or not. There are inevitably a few days when the temperatures are similar so it doesn't feel as balanced as colour mixes usually are but as it grows the colours recur more often so I am hoping it balances out. As i have already pulled it out once, I am going to complete it this time! Worst case scenario, if I'm not keen it will be a spare blanket upstairs. When I'm cold I'm less fussed about colour!

28th January:
Difficult day for lots of reasons. Had to face some demons and found myself questioning my place in the world. Then came home to find this in the post. From a dear friend who has no idea how much this meant. May just have saved my sanity for another day.

Working hard on positivity. Not always easy.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

2020: week 2...

9th January :
Arriving home from work at 9pm. The courtyard is lit by a lamppost and my neighbour's lights. Just sometimes, think it would be lovely not to come home to a dark, empty house...

10th January:
Early start, walking the riverside path to the station for a trip to London...

11th January:
Team turn out on a Saturday for CBT training. Enhancing NHS care in our own time...

12th January:
Trust me, this tasted much nicer than it looked! I have pledged to reduce food waste. I rarely throw food out but I do have a cupboard full of 'bought for a recipe once' ingredients. So I have decided to avoid buying anything but fresh foods for now and to use the contents of my store cupboard, then only replace what I need. This was millet porridge, with cinnamon apples and pears. Warming start to the day! 

13th January:
Slightly odd gesture from a visitor. But it is nice to have flowers in the house, so accepted with grace. I hope.

14th January:
Both my Mum and Nannie had these tea cosies. Mum's was another of those things I can't remember not being there. And having made countless pots of tea there in the summer (what is it about us Brits?! Kettle on every time anyone arrived - I made tea for family, doctors, nurses, even the man that came to cut the grass!) it really does do it's job and definitely keeps the tea hot long enough for that second cup. So I fished some wool out of my stash and knocked this up in a couple of hours. 

15th January:
Ending the day with lemon and ginger tea while I crochet a few squares...

Hope your year is starting with health, happiness and enjoyable moments.
S x

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

2020: week 1...

I'm not sure what I think of 'mindfulness' in the way it seems to have become a mantra for survival. But maybe thats because I have the concentration span of a gnat and am easily distracted. However, I do think there is something to be said for noticing the small stuff and trying to get life in some kind of perspective. And to be honest, it was one of the things I first thought was helpful about Blogland - yes, there are certainly some sites where life appears to be a bit idyllic but a) we all have a choice about what we choose to read and b) maybe a bit of reflection on what gives pleasure in our own lives helps us to realise some balance. I am a bit of an 'over thinker' with a definite tendency to anxiety and it is very easy to become dragged down by life and worries. So...this year I have resolved to take a photo a day - however small a thing. Of course I have already taken more than one a day! But I am also resolving to be disciplined and just select one that represents something that gave me a lift or made me feel more hopeful. I may not manage it but I will give it a go!

1st January:
A long walk on New Year's Day, snowdrops out already! This makes me feel optimistic about longer, brighter days and I'm trying not to think that our warming planet might be resulting in the early blooms!

2nd January:
I started practising yoga again a couple of months ago. Did it years ago but changes in working commitments made it impossible to keep the class up. Then recently I came across a series of videos that have re-sparked my enthusiasm. And I haven't missed a day since. I think it allows me some escape time when I have to concentrate on what I'm doing. Or fall over! And already I am sure I am stronger, with better balance, if still a long way to go in the flexibility stakes! Enjoying using my daisy blanket again too.

3rd January:
I was lucky to get lots of books at Christmas. Enjoying escaping into the pages of this gentle, reflective prose at night time. 

4th January:
Sweet peas planted in my cold frame. Mum loved sweet peas and I am hoping to have fragrant flowers all summer. Painted Lade and King Edward VII. Fingers crossed.

5th January:
My parents led a complicated life. Which resulted in Mum spending many of her last weeks and months with Dad absent. Some of my father's behaviour I struggle to forgive. But then I remind myself that Mum always forgave him everything - I think she was one of the few people I knew who loved unconditionally. And when he arrived back, she always made cake. So I went to the house and baked in her kitchen and left cake for him to come home to.

6th January:
Last year I started a 'temperature blanket' with colours assigned to the highest and lowest recorded temperatures each day. I began with double crochet stripes but realised by mid February that 730 rows was going to make a blanket big enough to carpet my living room! I sort of lost interest and then other stuff took over but I was quite fascinated by tracking the weather all year and slightly surprised by how mild 2019 was in Norwich. Less than 25 sub zero nights and mild high teens days in February and October. Having accumulated a lot of yarn for the blanket, seemed a shame not to complete it. So I have started again, with these little squares, one for each day with the centre two rounds the low temperature of the day and the outer round the highest. We'll see how it pans out. But quite enjoying getting my hook out again.

7th January:
A rainbow notebook to jot down random thoughts at bed time - trying to empty my head of unhelpful thoughts that have a habit of keeping me awake at night. Underneath is a blanket Mum made. She started it many years ago when she had a brass bedstead. She had almost finished it other than a very flouncy border fit for a 1980s bedroom! When she was so ill in the summer she found it and I promised I would finish it for her. I did try the border but it was really not my thing and when Mum died, I decided it would be better to add a simpler border and use the blanket that finish as intended and not like the look of it on my bed. Although plain cream is not usually my thing, it is actually quite restful and I am glad it is in use after all these years. Hope Mum would approve.

8th January:
Mum had a massive plant - she called it a 'Tree of happiness' though I think more usually it is called a 'Money Tree'. It was huge and very healthy. It must have been 50 years old - I can't remember it not being there and we were determined to save it from my Dad's neglect. But within a few weeks it was reduced to a shrivelled trunk and a handful of leaves. I rescued the leaves and potted them up, hoping to salvage the 'daughters' of the original for myself and my sisters. One is finally sending up new leaves and I can't tell you how pleased I am with this tiny plant. Hoping the other two grow too but if not, maybe in time I can propagate from this one and we can all have a bit of Mum's plant.

Baby steps into 2020.
S x

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Reflections and moving forward...

I am left with a strange sense of not knowing how to remember 2019. There were trips to Edinburgh, Harrogate, Canterbury, London and Bristol - each with special moments with friends and family. Walks on sunny days and crisp cold days. Gardens and galleries. A homecoming, an engagement and a graduation.

And the loss of the family anchor, whose quiet strength was much more the glue to our family than any of us realised, my dear Mum...

She is missed every day. And I have to remind myself she is with us every day too. I see her in the mirror, I hear her in my voice; she is in my rituals - my knitting and my baking, even the household chores. You don't realise how much of a 'way of doing' you absorb without even realising. The void has been huge over the last week - she was a keeper of Christmas traditions and the focus of family gatherings. Some I continue because it feels wrong not to, others I can't manage without her. Or at least, not yet.

And as this new year starts, with 5 months gone by, I know she would want me to find positives. So today, much like last year, I walked. And found blue skies and early snowdrops. 

Redefining life with familiarity, step by step.


Sunday, 21 April 2019

In the footsteps of pilgrims...

I've been captivated by the recent short series following the route of the Via Francigena pilgrimage. Not because of the 'celebs' that feature (didn't know who half of them were and wasn't overly interested whether they had any kind of spiritual epiphany!) but because of a combination of a fascination with Italy and the idea of centuries of people treading the same path. The televised group completed the Italian stretch of the pilgrimage, from the Swiss Alps down through Italy to Rome. I hadn't realised until I started looking at it that, in fact, the route stretches 1800km from Canterbury to Rome. Thats a 3 month trek. So whilst there is a bit of me that would love to take that sort of time and undertake the physical and mental challenge, in reality I can't imaging ever being able to do so. But I am tempted to have an aim in mind, at some point, to do the route in sections and complete the 3 week Italian stretch - particularly as I am learning Italian at the moment so maybe, just maybe, I might have got to grips with the basics of the language by then!

With the prospect of a 4 day bank holiday weekend on my own and the forecast of good weather, on a whim I decided to head for Kent and do the Canterbury to Dover bit. I lived in Kent for a couple of years as a small child but had very little memory of it and although I must have been to Canterbury couldn't remember it at all.

I headed down mid afternoon on Friday, having plucked a late booking off the internet for a room at the Rose and Crown, in a village called Elham about 8 miles out of Canterbury. Always feels a bit of a lottery booking accommodation online (I have had a mixed bag over the years!) so I wasn't expecting much really. So imagine my surprise when I was shown into this room...!

Lovely spacious room, decent sized en-suite and the best eggs Benedict I think I have ever had the next morning!

I woke early so got up and had a wander round the village before breakfast. Blue, blue skies and pretty streets with views across the Kent Downs made me wonder why I have never felt inclined to walk here before.

After my delicious breakfast, a short drive to Canterbury and this was my first view over the city, across Dane John Gardens towards the cathedral in the distance...

And at the Christchurch gate from the cathedral on Burgate the signpost to Rome...

Even at 10.30 in the morning the sun was very warm and it felt like a midsummer's day. But as I left the city boundaries the countryside was a reminder that it is still quite early in the year - bright, fresh greenery still opening on the trees and hedgerows, bluebells just beginning to open...


I'm not sure I completely followed the official Via Francigena route, rather stupidly I didn't take a map so I ended following roads for the most part. Some of them pretty little tree-lined lanes, others much less pretty A roads! 

The countryside was beautiful. Very 'English' somehow. Although not obvious in the photos, there is quite a bit of up and down, with undulating rolling hills stretching as far as the eye can see.

This was my spot for a rest and a bit of lunch, about halfway, 9 miles to go...

At one point I joined a stretch of the North Downs Way...

...and for a little while, picked up the official way marks again!

The last few miles into Dover were a bit tedious - my feet were hot and sore after 18 miles, much of it on tarmac - so it was a boost to see the castle appear...

...closely followed by water, coffee and spicy, cinnamon bread pudding!

It was a short train ride back to Canterbury, then a wander round the cathedral grounds in the early evening light...

My last minute booking for last night was less impressive - tiny room, no breakfast and nearly twice the price! But, to be honest, after walking 23 miles in total I was just ready for a bed!

This morning it was beautiful again and, although my feet were suffering a bit, I wanted to walk round the city, starting with the tranquility of the riverside walk through Westfield Gardens...

I wondered how old this amazing gnarled tree is...

Gorgeous spring flowers...

The cathedral spires are striking as you approach. This was from The Friars, in front of the Marlowe theatre...

There are a number of sculptures outside the theatre, including this rather forbidding mask...

There is a real sense of history about Canterbury. So many ancient buildings, many in the centre of the town now home to the usual medley of shops and cafes, others not much more than ruins with lovely open spaces around them. But I had a sense that there is another side to Canterbury too. So many of those open spaces are daubed with graffiti, even on these beautiful walls and all over the seats in Greyfriars Gardens, formerly the home of a 13th Century Franciscan friary. I know graffiti can be artistic in its own right but this felt destructive and disrespectful to the history of these spaces. 

Before heading back to Norfolk, I thought I'd drive through the countryside to the village I lived in years ago. I was a bit taken aback by the flood of memories - I recognised the road and the house we lived in instantly, although it all looked slightly smaller than I remembered (why does childhood memory do that?!). But the field at the end of the cut-de-sac looked just the same, I can remember getting scratched ankles in the stubble there. I remembered being stung on the sole of my foot by a wasp after it flew into my flip flop whilst I was on a space hopper! I remembered our cat having a litter of kittens in the garage. But oddly, I had absolutely no recollection of this view from the village hall and park...

Lots of time for reflection. Lovely to have some warm sunshine to accompany it.
S x