Thursday, 20 April 2017

Easter



It's been a while.

It's been Easter. Two and a bit weeks off school and (for the most part) away from the digital world.



School actually finished very early for Easter. Most of the others in the locality are still off this week. But Joe went back on Tuesday (wearing shorts). The warm weather didn't last though. We're back to grey skies and chilly winds.


It was gloriously warm and sunny at the beginning of the holidays; Joe went to stay with his grandparents for a few nights so we took a walk, ate lunch outdoors and got on with some DIY. It had to be done.



Still, those two days of painting and repairs were quite relaxed. It always helps when the sun's shining and the windows are open and the washing's out on the line. Even sanding and undercoating doesn't seem too bad.


Joe came home having ridden on trains and zip wires. He was very excited.


Meanwhile, the Easter eggs continued to accumulate.



It was good fun, actually. Jay rattled the letterbox and Joe ran out to find a letter from the 'Easter Bunny' (me), telling him to go on a hunt for the eggs. So he did. It broke my heart a little bit, I'll be honest, to witness just how gullible he is. But the intentions were honourable.


We went to a birthday party a few days later with another egg hunt. So there's a lot of chocolate around at the moment.


The garden's starting to fill out now. Fruit is - well, fruiting. The Honesty plant I put in last year has shot up and is smothered in white flowers. The Dicentras are dripping with inverted pink hearts.


 The forget-me-nots, not so much. I thought they were supposed to spread everywhere...


Joe and I have been out hunting for bluebells, picking nettles and wild garlic, paddling in the river and playing in the park with friends. We've made things with clay, built with empty boxes and baked Garibaldi biscuits. We've drawn and coloured, visited the cafe and walked, cycled and taken little excursions in the car.

But we like the woods best.


I actually prefer being there when it's a bit damp and overcast. 


It's getting very green under the trees. I need to head out next week to collect plants for pressing, ready to make prints, and maybe I'll do some sketches too.


It's a lovely time of year. Next we'll have hawthorn blossom and cow parsley, so maybe we'll head back over to Cheshire to visit family and walk among the hedgerows.


The first cuckoo flowers (or Lady's Smock) are out. They always remind me of being little, and of picking them for my mum from the field across the road.


The blossoms are in full swing. 


But I think the herbs in the garden might need replacing. They've gone a bit woody and bedraggled-looking. Joe enjoys picking them to make 'spells' with. We stirred them up with some empty snail shells and pebbles, and made little brooms too with the prunings from our birch tree.


In the spirit of spring I'm trying to like the fact that, again, the sparrows have built a nest right outside our bedroom window. Let's face it though, they're noisy little buggers. Especially first thing in the morning.


Still, it's a good feeling to finally emerge from the dark winter days and see everything coming to life. I've even painted my toenails (silver). 

And now Joe's back at school I'm trying my best to catch up with work, blogging and all those things that get shelved when term ends. I'm glad that I've accepted 'doing it all' isn't the way to go. While he's little, my work is strictly term time only. That way I can just accept that our days are spent doing things together and I can relax and enjoy that. The to-do list can wait.

I hope you had a great Easter.




Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Spring


The clocks have gone forward. The blue, hazy days have arrived (apart from this morning, when it's distinctly grey and wet outside).


We had a lovely weekend outdoors. On Saturday we went to put flowers on my mum's grave for Mother's Day, and sat for a while by the pond in the cemetery. It may sound odd to say it was nice, but it was. I don't feel particularly close to my mum when I'm there; I don't feel she's present in any way at her final resting place. Strange as it may seem, I always feel closest to her when I'm out walking or when I'm bustling about in the kitchen.

But it's a beautiful cemetery with meandering paths and mature trees and wild areas around the edges. 


I went to my friend's house that night and four of us had a takeaway. She only lives by the village school, maybe a hundred yards from our house. Good job as I didn't get home until 3am. So I took full advantage of my Mother's Day lie in the following morning...


Not for too long though. I didn't drink the night before, so no hangover to contend with. And the sun was shining. So we packed a picnic lunch and went for a little wander.


Joe had a great time, climbing on the sculptures and watching the trains going by.


We soaked up the warmth and had a lovely slow Sunday.


Joe didn't complain too much about climbing the hills either. We usually take a snack out as he lives to eat, so it's the perfect incentive for him to keep going. Today's treat: a piece of chocolate birthday cake from a party he'd been to on Friday.


It felt very spring-like. We spotted the first lambs of the year in the village (but the sheep in the field behind our house are still at the heavily pregnant stage). Joe, ever the gannet, started talking about rosemary and suggested a roast lamb dinner. I'm not convinced he understands the link just yet between fluffy animals and meat on a plate.

Either that or he's completely lacking in sentiment. But he does have a conscience, so I suspect it's the former.


I think Sunday was possibly the bluest, warmest day of the year; at least it was if you kept out of the shade.


There are plenty of things growing. I love butterburs, they're so prehistoric-looking.


And our mock currant in the back garden is in full flower.


The dandelions are not in our garden. Joe enjoys weeding. I have to point out what has to stay and what needs to go. He doesn't always get it right...


Monday was a lovely day too, so after some printmaking I went out collecting ferns. They're my favourite thing to make prints from as the shapes are so graphic and they're pretty robust. 


I press them before doing any printmaking, so I've been using last year's plants and they finally crumbled away so it was time to restock. 

There are plenty of places nearby to find ferns, and many types to collect. But I wanted to stay as close to home as possible because I had a lot to do so I went up a little lane which has nice views and shady banks. 


I prefer to use the 'Deer fern' (Blechnum spicant) because I love the shape. So I plucked a handful and whilst I was collecting, I noticed all the other growth that's happening.


Things are definitely getting more green. And although I haven's photographed any, the wild garlic is appearing too so Joe and I can go picking next week during the school holidays.


The forecast is good so I'm looking forward to spending a few weeks with him. I've got lots planned - mainly little adventures nearby - with making and reading and meeting up with friends too. Perhaps even an egg hunt.


I'll hopefully post during the next couple of weeks but if not, it'll be because we're enjoying a well-earned break from the crazy school and workday routine!




Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Mid March meanderings



It's mid March already.

And I'd just like to thank everyone who commented on my previous post. Sometimes these more 'personal' stories prompt people to share, and it's a good thing. It's good because they can offer experiences and knowledge, and know there are others out there who are in the same boat. 


As I said though, I'm aware that I'm far more fortunate than many. I can walk a good distance - I do get aches and pains, particularly in my Achilles tendons, after a long trek. But I still go.

At the weekend, Joe had a few hours with his grandad. Jay stayed at home and enjoyed the rare peace and quiet. I went out for a wander. 

Wellies may not be the most supportive of footwear but they're definitely worth their weight in gold when traversing churned-up cow fields. I was ankle-deep in mud within minutes of leaving the house, but I know what a mire this particular field is and went for it anyway.


There are all kinds of things coming to life now. Wild garlic's appearing under the trees and the stone walls are green with ferns, mosses and... well, whatever this is. 


Ghosts of last summer, too - in the churchyard, amongst the graves.


After the floods of 2016 people are refurbishing and improving their houses and gardens. Some are extending, too. Nice to see that even in a conservation area with very strict planning guidelines, there's room for modernity. I'm a bit of a one for timber cladding.

I suspect that in time this will weather to a silvery grey. And the view from those windows is a lovely one, across the river to farmland and woods.


Early blossom's appearing here and there. Candyfloss pink isn't a colour I'd usually go for, but at this time of year... Well, yes.


Apparently these are woodbine. I like how the light comes through them. More pink - and I don't think new leaves and fat buds would be quite the same without those rosy tinges to them.


Naturally, it started to rain before very long. But it was only the lightest of drizzle which soon cleared. It's been very breezy this past week but we've had some beautiful blue days too. Right now, as I type, the sun's shining. 

Perfect for Joe's class today. They're having a Papua, New Guinea wedding in the woodland area. He'll be wearing a headdress and face paint when I collect him shortly. And we're heading straight to the village cafe. But he often goes in there with some kind of glue-and-glitter-smeared hat or crown on after school.


Anyway, back to my walk. I had a steep uphill climb to get home and it was a bit tiring but no more than it should have been. Apparently with CFS you have to pace yourself and schedule in rest, but it's also very important to stay active.


And getting out there, seeing spring emerge, is as good a pick-me-up as anything else I can think of. Other than a few weeks in the Maldives, of course.

But we're off to Grasmere on Friday, Jay and me, for a few nights. Again, walking and exploring mixed with rest: reading and lounging in the hotel spa. I'm looking forward to it very much!



Thursday, 2 March 2017

Ups and downs



So, we've reached March.

I always see it as a pivotal time of the year; I feel that spring's almost upon us as the long, dark days of winter are slowly retreating. The garden's gradually awakening and so are we.


Well, sort of.

I had an appointment with an endocrinologist on Tuesday. It was a Big Deal. I'll tell you why: I've waited for over four years to see someone on the NHS after literally two decades of feeling unwell. Having chased my tail by seeing lots of doctors, undergoing numerous blood tests, paying to see someone privately (I could only afford the one appointment), and desperately trying to figure out what was going on: websites, books, a herbal practitioner... Let's just say I went along well prepared.

The lovely consultant I saw told me I've got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I cried. Not out of fear or despair or anything like that. It was a relief that after so long, I had an answer, and that it isn't normal to feel so exhausted and be plagued by many, many symptoms.


Apparently it takes 3-5 years to feel properly better. But you can feel better.

And, ever the optimist, I'm already working on that. It'll be a combination of diet, physiotherapy, CBT and - most challenging for me - pacing myself and working more balance into my life. I can do it. I will do it. For Joe as much as for myself.

And I'm grateful that I can function pretty well: getting up in the morning, getting Joe off to school, running the house, building this little business of mine. We've had some pretty severe knocks over the past few years (which have no doubt exacerbated the CFS) but the fact is, there are many people who can't do the things they'd like to.

Gratitude is important.


So, without wanting to dwell on that: March. Days of bright sunshine, sleet showers, blackening skies and everything in between, all thrown at us seemingly at once. The house is either sea bed gloomy or bathed in dazzling 'golden hour' light.

Our days seem to follow the same crazy mix of extremes: quiet moments when I can read or get work done sandwiched between the mad morning rush and Joe's return home again, when it's all about the endless questions (still), baking, planting seedlings, making bird feeders, reading school books, requests for dens and jigsaw tournaments.


Of course, this week is a celebration of books and reading. I went into school this morning to read with Joe (it was actually supposed to be for grandparents but he had to make do with me). It's lovely to be in the classroom. We got through three fairy tales and the little ones sang a song about the story they've been reading in class.


After lunch I'm planning a little walk around the village with my camera. Although it's just started lashing down again, so who knows? 

I'm so glad it's Friday tomorrow. Between car problems (too dull to go into, but it's been very annoying), seemingly endless school requests (themed costumes for tomorrow, sponsor forms, drawing competitions, toast money, homework etc), getting to the hospital and back in time for Joe and all the other stuff - well a few days off the treadmill will be most welcome. I'll have my work cut out trying to slow things down. But this time it's not really optional.

I need to find a new way of getting these things done which doesn't compromise my health and wellbeing. I can do it. Somehow.

Finally, my first article (and photo) for Creative Countryside is now in the online journal.

Wishing you a restful weekend once it arrives!




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