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Monday, 16 February 2015

Fun in the woods and a gift

 On Valentine's day I received a beautifully packaged little heart gift - no not from Mr M although he did buy me a card - but from Ann who blogs over at Love Making Things and who had a little giveaway recently to all those who commented on a particular post.

Inside the little package was this dear little wooden heart - isn't it cute?   Thank you so much Ann - a letter is in the post to you.








I decided to walk to to the post office to post the letter to Ann, as I also had one to post to Australia and it would need to be weighed, and to take the route through the woods, it had been raining this morning and it was very muddy but it was lovely - I noticed the different barks on the trees and the moss and lichen and what with the birds singing and it not being as cold as of late I really didn't notice how muddy it was at all and didn't want to come home!  On my return I passed a granny (I assumed she was his granny by her age) with her grandson a boy of about 6 and she commented on the mud and she said she thought they probably shouldn't have come to which I replied that it was lovely and worth a bit of mud and she agreed that it made a nice change from staying indoors.  I noticed she was holding the lad's hand and wondered why he wasn't dashing about sliding on the mud and getting filthy as boys of his age should!!  Maybe his mother would not be best pleased if he got his wellies dirty.  I do sometimes wonder if there is a generation growing up with no real contact with the natural world and what a lot they miss out on if so.  It's not just knowing that milk comes from cows but how to make dens in the wood, scooping up mud and making it into pies, playing houses or shop in the roots of the trees and learning to whistle with a blade of grass or how to climb trees ripping one's clothes in the process - or am I remembering my childhood through rose tinted glasses?  There is something about being in touch with Nature that fills a need in many of us I think and I fear for those children growing up indoors and not being allowed or perhaps able to get muddy and to play in the woods as I did this afternoon - no I didn't actually make mud pies nor did I climb any of the trees but in my memory I did!!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Coffee in the garden - yes really!



One thing about having double glazed windows and doors is that it cuts out the sounds from outside - sometimes this is a good thing but I love to open the back door when I come down in the mornings just to hear as well as see what is going on outside!  This was the view this morning about 8.30 am - the frost was white but the sun was shining and the sky blue.  We've had some lovely bright days here recently but the north easterly wind has made it bitterly cold but this morning the wind seemed to have dropped and the birds were singing in the wood and all was well with my little world.



I had a wander round the "estate" and noticed that the snowdrops were almost in flower and there were also a few brave primroses in bloom (and a lot of tidying up needing doing too!)

 Back indoors the daffodils I had bought at the Trading Post when I did my shopping there over two weeks ago are still looking lovely and fresh out in the unheated conservatory where I put them on the table so I can see them from the living room.  They wouldn't have lasted long in the house in the warm but seem to be happy out here.


 I also bought these little irises from the same place the following week and they too are looking good.

And the geraniums seem to be happy enough even though the temperature is rarely above 7 or 8 degrees in the conservatory and often almost freezing at night - in the summer when the sun is higher I have to move the plants or they would get burned to death but just now there is no danger of that! The daffodils in the background are the remains of a pot of tete a tetes I bought before Christmas which lived out on the table till recently.  Once they have properly died off I will plant them in the garden.  All these flowers gave a real lift to my spirits and made me feel happy.  I am no Pollyanna and can be a miserable as the next person when I get one of my grey blanket periods but it's hard to be "down" when the flowers and birds are sounding and seeming so bright and happy and there is a real feeling of hope and that spring can't be far away now.

By 11.00 o'clock the sun had a certain amount of warmth to it although the frost remained where the sun didn't reach and when I noticed that the blue bench was in full sunlight I wiped off the damp and took an old cushion and my mug of coffee outside and sat there for 20 or 30 minutes.  Sheer santosha moments as I closed my eyes listened to the birdsong and felt the heat of my mug bringing warmth to my hands, my sleeves pushed up a bit to maximise the Vit D I might get, my mind wandered and for those few minutes I was truly in the moment and at peace with the world!  I checked the temperatures and discovered it was 15 degrees on the bench in the sun and only 5 in the shade.  When I came back into the kitchen there was a welcoming smell of casserole wafting from the oven as lunch was cooking another moment of happiness and I felt a sudden urge to make some flapjacks since the oven was on and they would take but a moment to make.

The washing had finished by then and I put the sheets and towels on the line - I did manage to get a couple of big bath towels dry outside last week in the wind and wondered if the sheets might dry today.  There's something so pleasing about seeing washing blowing on the line knowing that when it comes in it will have that wonderful fresh air dried smell I think.  I really can't imagine not being able to line dry my washing although I know not everyone can. By the way that isn't one of my sheets on the ground but some agricultural fleece in an attempt to warm the soil a little in readiness for the spring planting - looks filthy as cats or badgers seem to have walked all over it leaving muddy prints!

As I write this I have just had a cup of tea - not outside as there is no sun in the garden now - and a piece of flapjack and then fetched the sheets (dry) and towels (still damp) in from the line.  It gets cold very quickly once the sun goes down but it is so lovely to have the daylight till 5.30 or so now.  I don't think I would cope with living any further north where although the summer days would be very long winter would be so dark.

During the time that I haven't been blogging nor using the computer as much I have had more time for other things and have completed a crochet shawl started some months back. I used yarn I bought to make a bolero years ago and never finished!


I have been reading too and this was one of the books I read.  It was a well researched book at times shocking, frightening, horrifying and many other similar adjectives and not an easy read but one that maybe should be read widely as just becuase we don't see or know about what is going on in our world doesn't mean it isn't happening.  The book is about climate change and capitalism and whether or not one shares the author's views there is no doubt that climate change is happening.  There is a blog too under the same name if you are interested.  If you have read it I'd love to know your views as it is a book that cries out to be discussed.


 As a bit of light relief to all this doom and gloom I also read a book I'd bought in a charity shop just before Christmas thinking that if the Wanderer who was to visit then wanted something extra to read it might suit - she didn't read it but I did and I loved it!  It tells a story of a friendship between two very different women. There have been others, books I mean, but none I can particularly recommend or perhaps it is that I can't remember what they were!


Same view at 5.40 and I'd better stop waffling on now especially as it's Sunday today and not really one of my 3 days a week computer days!






Monday, 19 January 2015

A January walk

I've been on a bit of a retreat!  My laptop which I told you about here and which I had eventually got to grips with threw a wobbly just before Christmas and I could neither shut it down properly nor turn it on and thought it would have to go back to John Lewis under guarantee.  As my nearest John Lewis is in Exeter it was likely to be a couple of weeks or more before I would be able to take it.  I took this as a sign and decided to give up on using a computer so much although to give up altogether would not really be feasible now that my friends all know I can be e-mailed and I speak to a French friend on Monday mornings via Skype but I decided that a 3-day week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) might be sufficient and give me more time for other things which has indeed proved to be the case.  It's been more like the old times using the computer only to e-mail friends and for Skype and I have not felt inspired to write a blog post nor to spend much time reading those of other bloggers either I'm afraid - sorry!

However now that the computer is feeling rested - it ran down completely since it couldn't be shut down properly and then Mr M had a look at it and it seemed to be OK - to tell the truth I was half hoping it would stay in the cupboard for ever - and having just returned from a walk which I thought you would like to share here I am again.

 It has been very chilly today and the frost hasn't melted all day in places where the sun didn't get to it but the sky has been blue and the sun shining so having some letters to post to France and not having the appropriate stamps I set off to walk to the post office going the long way round.  I set off up the hill towards the A30  This is a busy road and I seem to have managed to capture it with only two vehicles on it here!


At the top of the hill I joined the A30 which I walked alongside for a while and then turned off  here.  The noise of the traffic was soon left behind as I walked along the sunken footpath ....


.... listening to the birds above and noticing this tiny violet in bloom in the bank.  Yes I know you will need your glasses on to see it but it's these little things which always get my attention!


I wondered what the view would be from here and clambered up the bank to find out.....



... and was glad I had as it was lovely!

 After a while I came to these steps and once again wondered what the view would be so climbed up for a look....


 ...and once again was glad I had.

 It was so peaceful down in the shelter of the path and I stopped for a moment to look up - not wise to continue walking on a path like this if not looking where one puts one's feet- as I could hear a robbin singing above me.  This was such a moment of santosha - I was absolutely in the moment just me and the peace and the birdsong that I actually said out loud "Thank you God"!! 


See how the yellow catkins are already on the trees too.  The path eventually comes out onto a residential road but still quiet and peaceful and I continued on my way eventually coming out at the post office on the busy main road.  Having posted my letters I made my way home via my usual route through the wood - no pictures here as by now the sun was lower in the sky and it was all in shade though....


 ... the town was still in sunshine. 

Monday afternoons for the past 5 or 6 years have always been my time to don my volunteer's hat and go and visit an elderly partial sighted lady on behalf of Somerset Sight but since she has been moved to a nursing home which is a round trip of 40 miles instead of the 3 miles I used to cover I now go every other week which is how I was free today to do this walk.  My thoughts went to last week when I visited the nursing home and to the contrast between that day with all those old dears (some may not be any older than me of course!) sitting in their armchairs waiting for someone to bring them a cup of tea or to take them to the toilet, two televisions on which nobody seemed to be watching (why do they think old people want to sit in front of the television all day I wonder?  It would be my idea of hell!) many without visitors and today when I was free and able to walk in the countryside and I thought that if I ever get to the point when I can't put my coat on and go for a walk then I'd rather die than spend my last years institutionalised like my friend Rosa who hates it too but has no choice!  I thought then of my great aunt - my maternal grandmother's youngest sister - who had lived in the house in which she had been born and lived most of her life which had no electricity, no mains water just the pump outside the back door and no mains sanitation either let alone an indoor toilet or bathroom.  She was a sensitive soul I think and when she died I inherited some exercise books filled with poems she had written - not particularly good poetry but she obviously liked to write - so maybe that's where I get the gene from!  I often think of her sitting by the range which was her only form of heating and cooking on a dark winter's evening with no more than a candle or maybe a paraffin lamp and wonder whether her last years might not be preferable to Rosa's even though she is at least warm and dry and there is light and even if having electricity does mean all day television! Perhaps if I ever reach that point I will think differently but at the moment it is my one fear, needing to be in a home one day and I remember my great uncle (brother to the great aunt I am speaking of ) saying how he feared ending up in the workhouse so I guess it is not something any of us would choose!

However I will not dwell on such things but rather think of the dainty little violet and my moment of pure santosha listening to the robin's song this afternoon and let the future take care of itself.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Hope

Today marks the beginning of winter with the shortest day of the year.  We know that we will probably have many weeks of cold dismal weather to come and yet there is also cause for celebration since from now onwards the days will gradually get longer and lighter which is always hopeful.   On the subject of hope I took the above photo yesterday just a short distance from my home!  If the daffodils are in bloom can spring be far away?  Well yes it can but I am kidding myself that it is just around the corner!

 I had walked up through the wood to the local post office with the last couple of cards - they probably won't arrive in time for Christmas now but maybe they will serve as New Year cards!  The sun was peeping through the trees as I walked and the birds were singing as if they thought Spring had arrived as it was quite mild too.

 Having posted my cards I walked back along the A30 instead of through the wood the way I'd come to where I had seen a few daffodils in bloom when we passed in the car a day or so earlier and I wanted to get a photo and here they are nodding their heads happily.

Leaving the main road I walked back into the other end of the wood and made my way home.  The view between the trees was beautiful with the sun shining on the distant countryside.  I'd been feeling a bit blue and stressed for some reason but my walk and the sight of the daffodils soon had me in a more cheerful frame of mind I am glad to say. 

In spite of the daffodils it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here and yesterday I put up an outdoor tree, alongside the front door, I'd made from an idea I'd seen in a recent Landscape magazine.  Not sure I like the trunk though as it looks like a ladder - maybe I should remove it since the one in the magazine didn't have a trunk being just a simple triangle.  I am also not sure if it might look a bit naff instead of my usual wreath on the door but I thought it would be a change and the wreath makes the hall a bit dark as it hangs over the glass in the front door.  Oh well it's only for a couple of weeks anyway and then it can come down if not before as the ivy may well shrivel and die before then.

In case I don't get chance to post again before the 25th I wish you all a peaceful, healthy and happy Christmas however you are spending it.

Monday, 8 December 2014

No room at the inn?!


 You may remember here that I told you we had built a bug hotel for the insects to shelter in over winter?  Well I can't tell of course whether or not there are any guests resting inside but what I can tell you is that I have a colony of ladybirds who either couldn't get a booking there or perhaps thought Bug Hotel? No Thanks! and are now residing in our bedroom window!

We have a dormer window and the curtains hang on dormer rods as you can see above,

There is a narrow gap between the window frame and the hinge of the dormer rod just the right size for a little group of ladybirds to settle!  If you click on the pic to enlarge it you may be able to make out the little colony as a dark line.  I am surprised that they didn't choose the other side since the side they have picked is the side whose window is left open a little all the time except when we go out and it must surely be rather draughty.  But maybe that makes for easier entrance and escape.  Last winter we had ladybirds in the corners of the window frames and I had to be careful not to close the windows tight but to leave them on the locked but ventilated position or I would have squashed the little dears and there was a small group of them actually on the curtain who didn't seem to mind being swung backwards and forwards every time we opened or closed the curtain.  They are ideal house guests since they make no noise, they require nothing to eat nor do they leave any mess when come the spring they just disappear.

I notice too that in the compost bins there are many woodlice and a few snails settled in round the woodwork of the lid and first storey who don't seem to mind that the lid is lifted at least once each day letting in the cold air!  Maybe the bug hotel just wasn't large enough for them all!

 The bird table is a hive of activity what with the birds and the squirrels, who are so cheeky and get house points for perseverence.  We don't want squirrels to eat all the food and leave none for the birds but they too are wildlife and who are we to decide who shall live and who shall starve?  They can't help being squirrels can they?!

I also have a healthy number of spiders in the conservatory to judge by the cobwebs.  It is unheated so I don't spend much time out there and they can stay till the spring when they will be evicted during the course of the ritual known as spring cleaning.

So as you can see we do our bit for wildlife here even to the extent of sharing our home with them if there is no room at the inn or the inn is not perhaps to their liking!


Nothing to do with insects or wildlife but I did breadmaking workshop on Saturday.  I used to make a lot of bread and was pretty successful but lately my bread isn't as delicious as I might wish so I enrolled on the course and spent a happy and fun filled afternoon with 6 other students at Emma's bakery in the Real Food Shop in Exeter.

 We produced a 100% wholemeal loaf each, a foccacia embedded with olives, some Greek rolls called Daktyla topped with sesame seeds and a small loaf of soda bread - all of them organic.  I struggled home on the train with all my bread still warm from the oven and we enjoyed the foccacia for supper, I froze the Greek buns and we are both eating the wholemeal which is amazing since Mr M never normally touches wholemeal!  I have to say the soda bread (which contained seeds) has been made into breadcrumbs and the squirrels are enjoying that!  It was far too dry by Sunday and we could only eat so much bread on Saturday evening!

It was a fun afternoon and I learned that one of the reasons my bread is so dense normally might be because "wetter is better" and mine was always on the dry side when I mixed it, not to put the salt near the yeast until you are ready to mix it all together and the slower the rising the better the bread and the better its keeping qualities so no need to put it somewhere warm at all it just takes longer.  I am planning to sign up for the Improvers workshops in the new year and am inspired to bake more once we have eaten what we have!!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Expecting

No pictures just a few thoughts:

I have been thinking about connections recently and this week I thought about Advent as being a time of waiting, anticipating and expecting and how that might be connected with another meaning of the term expecting that of expecting a baby.  Of course the birth of a baby is what the Christmas story is all about so there is already a connection.

This week a double tragedy occurred when a young woman walked out of a maternity hospital in Bristol where she had given birth to a baby girl just 4 days earlier.  She left without a coat nor any proper shoes on one of the coldest nights so far this year and her body and that of her baby were found a day or so later just over a mile away where she had apparently jumped into the Avon Gorge.  I have thought a lot about her and what might have driven her to do this at a time when society would be expecting (that word again) her to be overjoyed at the safe arrival of her baby.

Our society expects us to be happy at the birth of a baby in the same way that it expects us to be happy at Christmas but it isn't always quite like that.  Take Christmas - in spite of the decorations and the parties and so on it can be a terribly sad time for many people as the advertisement for Crisis at Christmas says "when you are homeless and lonely at Christmas you can only watch as people meet for parties ....."  of course you don't have to be homeless to be lonely and for many people Christmas reminds them of loved ones who are no longer alive to share it with them.  Some are sick or sad, frightened or concerned and not everyone is enjoying themselves as the media would have us believe.

Having a baby can of course be a happy time especially if the baby and mother are healthy and well but for some people the baby blues set in and the mother loses all sense of her self and her ability to parent the child.  Not everyone is endowed with mothering skills and for some it is a nightmare not helped by the fact that some babies don't sleep enough and exhaustion soon sets in.  Some apparently adore motherhood and seem to know just what to do whereas others lose all their common sense just at the time when it is most needed and lacking in confidence makes matters worse since babies apparently need a relaxed and confident Mum.  But what about the Mums needing relaxed and peaceable babies?!!

It seems to be taboo to admit that you are not enjoying any of it, that you wish you had never thought of having a baby and that you can barely manage to get dressed half the time let alone return to a career where you might have been somebody busy and capable.  Lack of sleep can go on for a long time and such mothers can feel murderous when other mothers blithely say "Oh yes he/she sleeps through the night now" a few weeks down the line!  Not all babies sleep much at all and it is little consolation to a weary mother to learn that they are often the intelligent ones either which may or may not be true. (I loved the Wanderer and still do of course, and would willingly have died for her had that been required but motherhood was definitely not my metier and even now more than 30 years later if I hear a small baby crying my stomach knots and I want to run away as I have no idea what to do to calm it.  Not for me the peering into prams and cooing at the baby inside!!)

I wonder if Mary was a natural or if she too found it all very difficult especially with all those shepherds and wise men visiting and expecting her to make them welcome!  She always looks very serene but I wonder...!

I guess what this post is about is just a reminder to spare a thought for those for whom the Joy of the season is a little thin on the ground this year at Christmas whether they be sick, lonely or even new mothers who are finding it all too much.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Another day another seaside

 Thank you all for your kind comments of my previous post - I continue in similar vein today with another seaside walk for you.  Cyber Monday?  Christmas shopping?  Busy busy?  Take a break and come with me for a breath of fresh air and relaxation!

One of the great advantages of being retired is that if a day dawns bright and sunny and there is nothing in the diary we can just take off and so it was that this morning we decided to take a trip to Bridport which is a town with many antique and junk shops.  I had seen a cottage style carver chair I liked recently and wondered if something like it might be found for our kitchen since I spend a lot of my time sitting out there listening to the radio and reading or knitting and so on.  We didn't find what I was looking for but we did find this cafe and went inside for a coffee and liked it so much we went back later for lunch too.  It was somewhere different - quirky and a bit alternative if you know what I mean.

 Nothing matched and there were books and magazines like National Geographic or Permaculture to read, a board of notices about everything under the sun from yoga classes to sustainability and art classes and best of all the coffee, and later the lunch, were delicious and very reasonably priced - we will certainly go there again.

 Having seen what we wanted in Bridport and had our lunch we walked back to the car park and set off for West Bay for a wander along the coast.  I don't think I will be joining in the Boxing Day Swim though!  It was very cold today even in the sunshine let alone on Boxing Day when it might be even colder!

 The sea was beautiful and the sky blue.  The sounds were of waves and the suck and pull of the sea over the pebbles and all thoughts of consumerism and world problems vanished from my mind.


 Legacy of last year's storms perhaps?  As we couldn't walk any further along in this direction we turned round and walked back towards where we'd come from.


 The waves looked like lace as they rushed across the sand.

 I walked out along the concrete pier - nobody fishing today but one or two other walkers.  This is looking towards Golden Cap.

 By now it was about 3.00 and the sun was getting lower in the sky and lighting the cliffs with a golden glow.  We didn't walk any of the coast path today but we have in the past walked up that steep slope from West Bay and along the top of the cliff before dropping down to Burton Bradstock - a hard climb and the path is now very close to the edge so don't think I'll be trying again any time soon!


Back into the little town and we then made our way home through the stunning Dorset countryside with the sun getting lower in the sky and bathing everything with an apricot glow before dropping below the horizon and the distant viewscould be seen in soft focus with the sky turning the softest pale birds egg blue with the moon to be seen waiting for its turn to shine and the trees an inky silhouette against the skyline.  We got home and lit the fire and put the kettle on feeling so grateful that we live somewhere where we are never far from such lovely places should a bright day arrive and happy that we are in good enough health to go there.