Saturday, 8 November 2014

In Pursuit of Happiness

'Who'd have thought it!'  said my mum when I told her how much I loved the drug and alcohol course I attended this week.  We had such a laugh, which doesn't immediately spring to mind when we think of the seriousness of the subject.  But I believe that the more dire something is, the more we need to laugh in order to keep it in its place and not let it take over our lives and minds.  Indeed, we laughed a heck of a lot over the two day course, but it was so well delivered by the tutor that we could not help but learn and become absorbed by it.  I was the only one of the group who doesn't drink (I can't stand the taste and it gives me a bad headache), so came in for some gentle teasing while others were confessing to having had a 'dabble' with forbidden substances when they were younger.  I must have had a very sheltered upbringing in our pretty English village as none of my friends drank or smoked and we all considered people who took anything more serious as being complete idiots.  I had my eyes opened this week!  

 I suppose the most surprising thing I learnt was that people don't set out to become dependant on a substance; it happens to them for one reason or another.  They are just like you and me and deserve our respect and help.  It takes a massive amount of determination and strength to beat an addiction and I doubt there are many who can do it alone.  I rarely read newspapers or watch news on the telly, but I happened to be channel hopping the other evening and thought I had better tune in with the world to see what was going on.  Coincidentally, there was a report about the growing problem of alcoholism in older people.  I don't think anyone would label these people as being 'hoodies' or 'yobs' and yet they were suffering just the same.  Things happen in life and we never know how we will react until we are at that point.  We can't pre-judge anyone, not even ourselves.  The main thing I have discovered from this short introductory course is just how much I am deeply fascinated by it!  I still do my volunteer work with older people and have spoken to my supervisor about starting a satellite organisation purely to support older people with alcohol problems.  Hope she remembers it was my idea when it come to handing out jobs!

 The children and I went into town today to buy the usual things like dog food and wild bird food.  Most of my non-essentials money goes on these things but the pleasure that birds bring to us is worth every penny.  Pea spends her money on pet and bird food too, so even if we go without a few things, the animals in our lives are well cared for!  As we were paying for our stuff the woman at the counter said someone had crashed their car into a frozen food shop window across the way.  We couldn't see from where we were and I am not one for going to have a look.  I just hoped that no one was hurt.  There couldn't be that much damage, we said to ourselves, they have bollards outside and the car park is so tiny there isn't room for a good run-up.  H1 thought someone had deliberately rammed the shop and I told him off for being so silly.  As we were heading for home, we unfortunately had a good view of the incident.  There was a van inside the shop and had clearly reversed in.  The thing that made me feel sick to my stomach was the layout of the shop: there are shelves and freezers just inside the door.  If anyone had been standing there when the van reversed...

We drove home through the pouring rain in near silence, broken only by H1 regaling us with some horrific story he had heard on the news.  The mood in the car was subdued to say the least.  H2 said he felt sad and didn't know what to do.  Pea hugged me when we arrived home and said she didn't like what was happening today.  We all felt kind of wrong and I needed to get us back to our normal selves.  The house felt cold and soulless, so I put the heating and lamps on while the boys changed into onesies and lounge pants.  Pea set about baking cakes and I suggested we have an afternoon watching Christmas DVDs to cheer us all up.  My fave Crimble film is A Christmas Carol, but the boys are scared of the ghost, Jacob Marley. What?!  The big girls!  Seriously, H1 has no problem with gory stuff that I wouldn't go near, but give him a ghost and he dissolves into a quivering mess!  As a compromise, we decided on The Muppet's Christmas Carol, as it's less terrifying.  Supposedly.
'It still freaks me out.'  Said H1.
'Why?  It's meant for little children, you big wuss.'
'Oh, it's that kid, the one that's all bright and shiny with a squeaky voice.  Ugh, I can't stand it.'  Said H1, shuddering and tucking into a giant bag of Maoams.
'You mean the Ghost of Christmas Present.'  I corrected.
'Whatever.  It's creepy.'  Said H1, shuddering again, draping his long legs over the edge of the chair.
Anyway, that's what we are watching now and we feel a bit better about the strange events of this morning.  After this we are going to watch Narnia.  Yess!  Love all the snow when Lucy meets the faun!

Dark skies and heavy rain are no good for the soul.  The man who filled my car with petrol this morning told me he can't stand this weather but loves the frost.  With frost comes glittering sunshine, deep blue skies and every branch, leaf and blade of grass sparkle with a million diamonds.  Mood lifting stuff that nature brings to warm our hearts during the coldest months of the year.  That and hot chocolate!

I fear that my boys are now too old for watching lovely Christmas films as all they do is moan and pick fault all the way through.  I put this thought to them and they both responded with looks of total disbelief and cries of 'No we're not!  We love Christmas films!'.  Blimey.  Could have fooled me.  H1 has turned Kermit off in favour of rugby.  Wales are currently hammering Australia and H1 has adopted the typical man pose of perching on the edge of his seat with legs spread and remote in hand, no doubt ready to point at the ref and tell him how to do his job.  George North is playing and as he attended the same school as my children and most others on the island, they feel they have some kind of connection with fame.  Or something.  I don't care.  I just wish it would snow.

The countdown to Christmas starts here!

I hope you find your happiness today and love every

Sunday, 26 October 2014

An Apple Pie Kind Of Day

The half term is finally and blissfully upon us. Yay!  A good week has passed by and I have accepted the fact that British Summer Time is most definitely over but I can't say I feel any better for it.  Pea and I hit the gym this week in an attempt to keep up our exercise levels over the darker months.  I can honestly say, pounding away on a treadmill for half and hour is sheer torture.  Give me the open countryside every time.  And it's free.  However, I did feel better for it afterwards and went home in a lighter frame of mind.  I have dancing to look forward tomorrow night and plenty going on for the rest of the week.  The nights are drawing in rapidly and the wind has stripped the leaves from the trees.  Winter is approaching; time to hunker down.

In an attempt to fill my permanently ravenous children with good, home cooked food, I made apple slices this week, which we ate with hot custard.  I sprinkled the tops with caster sugar and cinnamon to give them a warm, autumnal flavour.  I love apple pie at any time of year and it can easily be tweaked to suit the season.  I love it most hot from the oven with ice cream, or with the addition of blackberries in early autumn, accompanied by Bird's custard.  Apple pie is country; homemade; wholesome and warm.  Comfort food at its best.

Pea has had an eventful week.  She recently filled in her UCAS applications for the university courses she is interested in and heard back this week that she has been accepted on all five.  The timing was perfect as Bangor Uni held an open day yesterday, so Pea and I drove off leaving the boys to fester in their pyjamas.

Bangor is only half an hour away, so we are very lucky to be able to fit it into the day easily.  I also knew where I was going, which is half the battle.  I did however ignore the sign directing us to the parking area, which is most unlike me.  Usually I obey every rule, but lately I am finding a rebellious streak making itself known, much to my surprise.  Maybe it has always been there, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to spring up and shock me.  Who knows?  Anyway, we arrived in plenty of time, parked the car and found our way to the main building.  There were hundreds of teenagers and their parents, all looking slightly miffed at the enormity of the event that would be taking place in all our lives in less than a year.  We attended presentations, went on tours of the School of Biological Sciences where Pea will be studying and had a bus ride to view the accommodation on offer.  It was all extremely pleasing.  Pea will have an amazing time there and I am so fortunate knowing she is but a short distance away, having the time of her life.

Bangor is a very small city set in a stunning location, sandwiched between the Straights and the Snowdonia mountain range.  Pea will have all the opportunities she could ever wish for to spend time enjoying the whole area; hiking, climbing, scuba diving and swimming to name but a few.  The buildings are beautifully kept and an absolute fortune is being spent on new student facilities and buildings.  They have thought of everything.  Despite the short journey, the day was full and intense so we arrived home that afternoon feeling excited but shattered.  I grabbed a quick cup of tea before going out for a walk with the dogs.  No matter how small the city may be, there are still far too many people in it for my liking.  I need the freedom and open space where it is a novelty to see another person.  A good walk to clear my head and stretch my legs balanced my scales again and I returned home to an evening of watching Strictly Come Dancing and eating chocolate.

This morning the weather is matching the mood.  The wind is blowing down the chimney making us all want to stay in and eat comforting food.  There is a coffee and walnut cake...

and of course, an apple pie which is currently baking in the oven and filling the house with its warm scent.  After the busy-ness of yesterday, today demands to be taken easily and enjoyed.  Now and then it is good to have a day where there is nothing to do.  They are rare indeed, and should therefore be taken as a treat to be indulged with pleasure, completely guilt-free.  Things need to be done of course, like cooking dinner and walking the dogs, but the rest of it will be spent day dreaming and drinking tea.  The best kind of treat.

Relax and enjoy your day and thank you for reading. xxx

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lazy Day

This week has been a busy one.  I seemed to have spent most of my time in the car, driving about picking up and dropping off the children somewhere for something or other.  Then there was the day out visiting my brother on his birthday; the dentist after school one time; my afternoon volunteering and general running about doing every day stuff.  Consequently I have ended the week feeling slightly jaded and a bit frayed around the edges.  Today is Sunday and I am determined to take it slowly.

Of course there are still things to be done, even on my supposed day of rest.  Cooking dinner for one thing.  I was up fairly early as I had to drop Pea off at school at nine.  She and some of the other sixth formers are heading into the mountains for a day of hiking.  The weather is far from being clement sadly, although it is probably better that she will be out all day, battling with the wind, rather than prowling around the house like a caged panther.  The boys have no problems relaxing and are quite happy to be in doors on a bad day.  Seeing the darkening skies this morning, H1 dug about in the box of DVDs looking for a 'winter's day' film to watch.  During the warmer months of the year we spend so much time outside we hardly ever watch films, but once things take a turn for the worse, out they come.  It is like re-discovering old friends.  We all have our 'comfort' films for the winter time.  H1 chose Finding Nemo for this morning's viewing.  I love Sweet Home Alabama at any time of the year but once November arrives and it becomes more acceptable to watch Christmas films, out come A Christmas Carol and The Holiday!  Love 'em.

I haven't had time to take any proper pictures lately.  If I take my camera out with me there is never anything I want to take a photo of, but the moment I leave it behind there is a wealth of opportunity for a person who should have taken her camera with her (but didn't).  Typical.  I have to learn from this and take it with me where ever I go from now on.  At least I would have some slightly more interesting images to offer you.

Earlier in the week I almost burnt the house down.  Puppy saved me and the house and has now earned himself the glowing title of Fire Dog.  It is a bit embarrassing but I will tell you what happened.  I had made an apple and blackberry steamed pudding and put it in the pan to steam on the stove.  Then, having had no time to practise my line dancing, I went into the lounge leaving the kitchen door open so I could keep my eye on the pan.  You can guess where this is going, right?  I put on the music and became so engrossed in dancing that time passed without knowing.  Suddenly Puppy began barking at the kitchen door.  I went to investigate and detected a funny smell coming from the kitchen.  I lifted the pan with the pudding in and discovered the bottom pan had boiled dry so I put it on the draining board to cool down a bit before filling it with water again.  In the meantime, I took Puppy in the garden as he was clearly distressed about something.  On returning, he refused to come back inside and stood on the doorstep shaking.  I left the door open for him while sorting out the pan.  It had made a scorch mark on the draining board and was hotter than it should have been by now.  I set it in the sink on the oven glove and filled it with cold water.  The smell got worse and Puppy was frantic on the door step.  The pan melted my oven glove despite the cold water and filled the kitchen with a horrible stench. On reflection, it would appear that had it not been for Puppy, we were only moments away from disaster. That was the end of that, but thankfully the pudding was done to a turn and tasted amazing.  Eventually Puppy calmed down enough to come back inside again, but if I so much as burn toast, he shakes, barks and begs to go outside.  Poor dog.

Next time I promise to give you some seriously good pictures.  The pressure is on!

Have a good day and thank you for reading. xxx

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Full Circle

A whole year has passed since the children and I moved into our little house in the woods.  One entire year; 12 months; 52 weeks; 365 days, and we have loved every moment of it.  This unassuming house has become our safe haven and our cosy home.  We are extremely lucky to live here and this is where we want to stay.  We now know what the different seasons look like.  We have seen each day come and go, rain and sun, wind and frost.  The house is open and fresh in the summer and seems to expand its small rooms and lift the ceiling.  In the winter it hunkers down, wrapping itself around us, keeping us warm and snugly.  And the garden has been a joy to bring back to life.  Even now it keeps giving me little surprises in the form of a plant that has self seeded in an unexpected location.  Its bright colours shine out from a patch of weeds or a clump of grass letting me know it is there and not to be forgotten.  I dig them up and place them in a more suitable spot, where they can grow to their full glory and not fight with weeds.  Life at its best is sweet and simple.

October came and with it, Autumn.  We have had more rain in the last week than we had all summer.  It has turned cold and damp.  The mornings are dark and I have given in and put the heating on again.  It won't be long before I am digging out my full length, fluffy dressing gown!  Last night Pea and I went line dancing.  I had been practising hard all week so I was in a better frame of mind to enjoy as much of the dancing as I could.  We did rather a lot of new dances, some really good and some not so.  If I like the music, it gives me a good incentive to crack the dance.  If not, I don't worry if I can't do it.  As Pea and I drove down long winding lanes, the moon hung over the mountains and gave us a fabulous view all the way.  It was almost completely full with just a slight shadow to the left side, but it was so big and bright, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road!  We threw ourselves into dancing for three hours and then it was time to go home.  Honestly, I have never known time go so quickly.  I couldn't believe it was ten o'clock and I really did not want to go home.  However, Pea had spent a whole tiring day at school and was ready for her bed, so we bade goodnight to our friends and set off for home.
The sky was so dark the moon had been blotted out and no stars shone to accompany our journey.  All at once there was a massive flash of lightening that lit up the entire countryside.  It was so sudden it took us both by surprise.  It was a bit spooky driving down silent, dark lanes at that time of night, with a huge storm hovering over us.  We waited but heard no thunder.  A little while later, another flash, but still no thunder.  The thick black cloud that hung over us looked solid and threatening so we were relieved to turn into our driveway.  H1 and I took the dogs into the garden for a sniff round and Pea went to bed.  As usual after dancing, I was really hungry, so I stood in the empty kitchen and ate a pork pie and a bag of cheese and onion crisps.  Not the best thing to go to bed on, but there you go.  I got ready for bed and turned the lights out, waiting for the storm to hit.  Sometime during the night, I was woken by rain pounding on the roof, but the storm didn't materialise.  Such a disappointment after all that!

Hard to believe that only a few days ago, the sky looked like this when Pea and I took the dogs for a walk.  It was definitely chilly with a persistent breeze, but the sun always makes me feel brighter and fresher.  Some of the leaves that had fallen to the ground were still dry and crisp then and made a lovely sound when we walked over them. Even Middle Aged Labrador loved the noise they made when she walked through them.

We walked by a field full of multicoloured sheep, who wanted to come and say hello to us, but were far too scared.  They all started walking up the field to get as far away from us as possible.

In other places the rain had formed huge puddles too deep and wide to walk through with only walking boots on.  So we scrambled up a grass and bracken covered wall and forged our way through along the top of the wall.  We jumped down again when we had passed the puddles.  Brambles kept snagging at our clothes and we had to be careful where we were treading in case there were any mice or birds hiding out in there.  All was well though and we carried on with our walk.

As we were nearing home the sun went in and the light began to fade.  It felt a lot cooler without the cheerfulness of the sun and so we were glad to arrive home.  I put the kettle on and made us a cup of tea, then I noticed Puppy looking a bit pathetic and shivering in the door way.  I went out to the car and rummaged in a bag of clothes I had meant to take to the charity shop, weeks ago.  I found a jumper and then looked for something for MAL.  She would feel left out if she didn't have a new cardy to wear too.  I took them in and we slipped a fleece on MAL, who predictably loved it.  We noticed a startling resemblance to the Jedi Obe Wan, which made us all laugh. MAL didn't care a hoot as she was snugly and warm.  H1 had to battle with Puppy a bit, but finally we pinned him down, put his cardy on and did up the buttons.  He fought with it a bit and tried to get it off, but suddenly the warmth permeated his brain and he gave in to the feeling.

Despite chewing some of the toggles off, he does love his new jumper and drags it about in an attempt to get someone to put it on him.

Life at its best is sweet and simple, even for a dog.

Have a lovely day and thank you for

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

All Change!

Here we are at the beginning of October and somehow it feels as if the summer has relinquished her hold and has slipped quietly away, leaving the autumn to take centre stage.  I suspect we still have some lovely warm sunshine to enjoy now and then, but each day will be precious and must be thought of as the last, in order to take full advantage.  No more squandering!  Summer has been wonderful and we have loved every second of it.  The children had a last dip in the sea in late September; incredible really considering they were splashing about in the Irish Sea and not the Pacific!   Autumn is making herself known to us by gently tugging leaves from the trees, whipping up a stiff breeze and cloaking the garden and countryside in a heavy dew fall each morning.  She also insists that we bake and eat in a different way and the cotton dresses so beloved by sun worshippers are making their way to the back of the wardrobe for another year.  It's Autumn; bring it on!

I love the change of the seasons; I love Autumn and her magic and softness.  I love the mists that creep in from the sea with stealthy fingers and a chilly kiss.  I love the smell of decaying vegetation in the hedgerows and the feeling of sleep descending over everything.  What I absolutely loathe and cannot bear are the dark mornings and the damp that creeps into my bones and makes me feel one hundred years old.  Hate it with a passion.  It is only just getting light when we are rudely awoken by the incessant buzzing of my alarm each morning and I drag myself out of bed and shuffle to turn the hall lamp on.  It takes me until mid morning to feel awake.  I am a dormouse and should be asleep in my cosy nest at this time of year.  Wake me in March and I will be fine.

Even though summer has all but gone, there are still plenty of signs that she was here.  The garden is still producing flowers, courgettes, the odd tiny alpine strawberry and sweetcorn.  Autumn is softly laying a blanket of leaves at our feet but I still cling to the hem of Summer's dress as she fades into the mists.  The sweetcorn isn't yet fully ripe, so I am really hoping for more sun and warmth to finish the job, then we can tuck into them, dripping with salted Welsh butter.  As the children walked down the track to the waiting taxi this morning, I heard a chattering above my head.  I looked up and saw a swirl of swallows catching the last of the lazy insects floating on the breeze.  They are still with us but it is only a matter of days now before the skies will be empty of their aerial  acrobatics for another year.  It is hard to believe those tiny birds will see things I will never see, experience danger, fear, hunger and exhaustion.  Be close to death and yet survive and will return here to their place of birth next Spring to start the whole circle off again.  Can't help but admire them.

I made my You-know-what cake last week.  It turned out really well and is solid and heavy.  I began feeding it this week with a few teaspoons of brandy and will continue once a fortnight until November and then up the dose to once a week.  I took the lid off the tin this morning to have a look and the smell of rich fruit and brandy doing their thing drifted up from between the layers of brown paper.  It smells like Christmas.

I met The Bear again and he told me he had made a load of Christmas puddings.  Suitably impressed, I told him about my cake.  He asked if I'd made it with butter.  Well of course I did, I wouldn't make it with coal, would I.  What a daft question, thought I.  It was only later on when I opened my fridge and saw the huge tub of Stork margarine that I realised what he had been asking.  Stork is not butter; he meant butter.  He had also told me that marg in a Crimble cake was a Bad Thing to do.  Oops.  Anyway, we argued the virtues for each case and he said I should take him a bit of cake so he could try it.  Not gonna happen.  I am not having some wannabe Paul Hollywood prodding my cake and saying 'It's raw.' in that condescending manner he adopts so well.  The Bear told me he wouldn't do that and he didn't really like PH anyway.  Still not gonna happen.  Despite his spade-like hands, he told me he loves making pastry.  I was really surprised at that.  You can never tell with people.  I love discovering something unexpected as it reminds me that despite my now great age (45), I still have so much to learn and find out.  I will never know it all and that's just how it should be.  Having been surprised at this revelation, we talked for a while about pastry, egg custard tarts and Bakewell tarts.  Then, feeling a bit hungry after all this food talk, I went and bought a Bakewell tart.  What a sin!

As life becomes ever more 'indoors' rather than 'outdoors', we are finding ways to fill the hours.  It was easy in the Summer as we just sat in the garden and read.  I know it's possible to read indoors and I do, but I like to be active too.  It helps me sleep.  Pea and I have been going to line dancing classes for almost four months now and the tempo is shifting up a notch.  We are able to have a go at nearly all the dances, which means an awful lot of concentration for me.  Pea can grasp the steps quickly but I need a bit more time to focus.  This week my level of focus had dropped below the scale.  Somehow I just couldn't find the energy in my head to let all this in.  I still managed to dance a lot, but I sat out more than I normally do.  It was an odd feeling and I didn't like it one bit.  I am a bit of a perfectionist when I'm learning something new and I like to get it right fairly quickly.  It doesn't help this state of mind when the only people I can see in front of me are all proficient dancers.  I can only measure my ability, or lack of it, against theirs.  Not a good idea.  I had even forgotten how to do familiar dances, which was quite depressing!  I must find time to practise at home as it really does help.  Hopefully this week was just a minor blip in the proceedings and I will be back on form next week.

After all, Strictly has started again and if they can do all that, I can manage a few coasters and montereys!

Have a lovely day and enjoy the magic of

Friday, 19 September 2014

Eggs and Bears

Half way through September and it feels like Summer is here to stay.  Fruit has ripened and wizened on it's branches as the sun beats down and scorches the earth.  Barely any rain has fallen for weeks on end but for some unknown reason, my garden is thriving.  Flowers are in abundance, sweetcorn is fattening and next years allium bulbs are pushing up through the parched ground.  The children leave for school dressed in long sleeved shirts and thick jumpers but return home with knitwear stuffed in bags and shirts hanging out.  The days are hot and the nights heavy.  It is blissful and I love every minute!

The fruitless search for a job continues to no avail.  I have put the whole thing to one side for the time being; it is way too depressing.  Anyway, just as I am getting used to not doing the school run at each end of the day, Pea will be starting her study leave next week, so I will be fetching her from school at lunchtime twice a week.  Proof positive that I am still needed to ferry my children around.

H2 is settling well in his new school and on the whole seems to be enjoying it.  He has been invited to join the after school drama group, also starting next week and on the same night as my line dancing class.  If I juggle things about a bit and eat my tea in very small bites, I can just about manage to do it all.  I really don't want H2 to miss out on something he may love but neither can I give up line dancing.  I absolutely love it and it is fair to say I am completely addicted to it.  I dance about at home, practising the new dances we have learnt.  The boys banish me to the kitchen saying I am way too embarrassing to do it in the lounge where I can be seen.  The kitchen is quite small, so I have to keep my steps tight in order to fit them in without crashing into the cupboards or kicking the washing machine.  Better than not doing it at all though and it really lifts my spirits, even if they are not really flagging in the first place.  Half an hour of dancing is seriously good exercise but it gives such a huge buzz.  That alone has a massive benefit to health.

 The children and I have been looking after our neighbour's hens this week and in payment we have been allowed to keep all the eggs.  Oh my! We must have had about 40 by now.  H1 makes pancakes almost every night, I have made my You-Know-What cake, baked a rather large egg custard tart and made a chocolate courgette loaf and still we have more than we know what to do with.  Fortunately they keep for a few weeks, so I'm sure a bit more baking will solve the problem.

All this lovely sunshine is keeping my garden blooming.  The sweet peas are going on and on, no matter how many bunches I pick for the house and to give away.  I love pottering about in the garden with a bucket and a pair of scissors, dead heading the cornflowers, calendula, cosmos and sweet peas.  They really appreciate it and reward our efforts with more blooms and buds for weeks on end.  It is such a relaxing task after the heavy jobs of the Spring.  The weeds are still growing, but I am not taking much notice of them now.  They are easy enough to pull out as the ground is so dry but I don't make it my life's work to have a weed free garden.  There are so many crickets and grass hoppers, I would be depriving them of a home if I pulled everything out.  Pea and I have bought a few daffodil and tulip bulbs to plant this weekend and I have a long list of things the boys can help with; much to their obvious disgust.  The drive needs weeding (that I do bother about) and there is a load of bind weed climbing it's way heavenward through the trees.  All manly stuff the boys can do without needing to have a thorough knowledge of all things botanical.

Despite the heat and the sun there is a very strange feeling in the air.  I met a bear the other day - well not a real bear, but a man who is quite big and has kind eyes.  He gives the impression that if he enveloped you in a bear hug, you would be quite happy to spend all eternity snuggled against his chest and never want to come up for air.  He was hopping about like a child saying he would have driven me mad by Christmas.  Why?  I wondered.  'Do you like Christmas then?'  I asked.  'Oh, I love it!' He replied.  Here then was a man after my own heart.  I began hopping too.  'Me too, me too!'  I exclaimed,  'You know what though, even though we're having summer weather...'  He jumped in and finished my sentence,  'You can feel Christmas in the air.  I know!'  Wow, a real live grown up human being who is as daft as I am about sentimental stuff.  Wonder if he likes snow....I must ask him.

Have a lovely day, what ever you do and thank you for

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Love Your Life

The children have been back at school for a little while now and we are beginning to get the hang of it.  The mornings are far from being dark but neither are they totally light.  It only serves to remind me that they will only get darker.  Hate that.  The evenings and nights are certainly chilly and we have had the fire on a few times now.  But when the sun comes up and gets going, it really heats up!  We are still wearing Summer clothes; shorts and floaty dresses and sitting out in the garden until it gets too cool, then we scuttle indoors looking for cardigans and socks to pull on.  September is one of the best times of year for unexpected hot days, glorious sun sets and softening light.  It won't last long, so now is the time to enjoy it.

H2 seems to be settling into his new school now and I'm sure it helps to have Pea and H1 already there.  As it is a fairly small school as senior schools go, he bumps into them and their friends through out the day, which I thinks helps things feel less alien.  They are always done in by the time they come home and are always starving.  I bought half a chicken from the butcher today and have roasted it for tea.  As it is quite a hot day they can have it cold with salad and bread and butter.  I made a coffee and walnut cake yesterday and there is a tiny piece left which may be enough for pudding.

I am thrilled and relieved that things are going well for the children and they are getting on with their new routine after the ease of the holidays.  I am not doing so well.  I really miss them and can only half-fill my day.  The house doesn't take much cleaning and even if it did, it would be a thankless task to do it all day every day.  I have been looking for jobs suitable for a woman who has stayed at home and looked after children, home, garden and pets for years, but even the most menial tasks require experience that I don't have.  The school dinner lady thing came to nothing (thankfully) and clearly cooking for a growing family doesn't cut it in the competitive world of catering.  I have noticed that there is an awful lot of shift work available.  Even working in a shop demands flexibility and 'willingness to work evenings and weekends'.  No thanks.  I have accepted that I may have to work during the school holls, but I am definitely not working all the other hours of the day and night as well.  The rates of pay are rubbish too and do nothing to tempt an already reluctant job seeker.  The employers make great long lists of things they require from the 'successful candidate'; number one is 'Your Life'.  It seems that the moment they accept you as part of their ghastly team, they are under the impression that they own you.  Just because they give you a few pounds for your blood and sweat, doesn't give them the right to take over your entire life and dictate what you do with it.  If you have an ill child at home, you have to find someone willing to care for them as your place is at your job and not by your child's sick bed.  The Job comes first; children, husbands, dogs, parents and indeed anything else involved in real life doesn't even get a look in.

In return for all this juggling, loyalty and out and out stress, they offer a below minimum wage salary and a few measly days off a year, where you can actually go and do something nice.  Well you can providing the office doesn't get infested with fleas or the manager doesn't want to go on holiday then as well.  If so, forget it.  You don't count.  Maybe I am being a tad unfair and there really are nice, thoughtful employers out there.  I really, really hope so because I will not work for anyone else.  Been there, done that and it was horrid.  I have a nice life even if it is a little quiet at times and I want to enhance it with work, not ruin it and be miserable.  There are people who say if you are having fun you're doing it wrong.  Rubbish.  I say if you're not having fun you're doing it wrong.  We only get one go at life so we may as well enjoy it.

The bottom line is I am terrified of getting a job.  I have no qualifications to offer, no experience of the work place, no skills written down on bits of paper.  I can't work in an office as it's highly likely I would staple someone to the wall after ten minutes of office politics and being shut in.  I need to move about, see different people, be outside a bit.  The conundrum occupies my thoughts all day and keeps me awake at night.  I need the Perfect Job.  Sadly, I have no idea what it could be.

Excuse me while I go and chop up a chicken (a dead one-I cooked it first) and drown my sorrows in a nice cup of tea.  Have a good day and love your life! xxx

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Rolling Boil

So that's it; the Summer holls are finally and most definitely over.  School started yesterday and I sent my three children off dressed in their cardboard-like brand new uniforms, dragging their bags and looking miserable.  The dogs and I walked to the end of the track to wave them off in the taxi and then we went for a sniff round the garden; well I just watched while the dogs sniffed.  The day loomed long and silent before me, but there was no time for stalling, work beckoned and after eating my cereal standing at the kitchen door, I got on with it.

Cleaning the house is so much easier when there is no one else in it to get in the way.  By eleven I had made beds, hoovered, swept the kitchen floor and hung out three loads of washing on the line.  Pea and I had started making courgette chutney the day before and left it to stand in the vinegar for 24 hours.  It needed boiling and bottling, so I left it simmering away on the stove and wandered up the track in search of a bowl full of blackberries.  Even though it is only very early September, most of the blackberries have gone over or just gone.  A few weeks ago, we couldn't pick them all as there were so many; the branches weighed down by the heavy clusters of fruit.  Now the few that remain are beyond their best and taste watery, but stewed with half a Bramley I found in the fridge, they made a very respectable pie for tea.  I wanted to make a good tea for the children to come home to, as I guessed H2 would hardly eat all day for nerves.  I decided on salmon, boiled potatoes from the garden, vegetables and parsley sauce, followed by hot blackberry and apple pie and ice cream.  I wonder if I will still want to cook like this when I am working?  Best not to think about it.

By 3.20 I was standing at the door, eagerly awaiting their arrival home.  I had been thinking of H2 all day and wondering how he was getting on.  Going to senior school is one of the biggest changes in a young child's life.  It is terrifying and exhausting but I was really hoping he would have had a good day and come home tired but happy.  I heard the car pull up and the slow trudge of three pairs of feet on the track.  There was silence and I realised that wasn't a very good sign.  H2 appeared first;  he looked fed up.  Good day? I enquired.  S'alright, he said, sighed heavily and then, God, I hate school, and went in the house.  Oh dear.  Pea walked down the drive with scarlet cheeks and black eyes flashing in her small face.  Oh good Lord, I thought.  She looked like she could throttle someone at any moment, anyone would do so I smiled and got out of the way.  She is quite scary when she's like that.  She mumbled something about school sucking and went indoors.  Two down one to go.  H2 appeared with a pale face and red eyes.  My heart went out to him and I hugged him as the words he had held in all day tumbled in a rush to come out.  It's horrible, he whispered.  I was perfectly happy in my class and I'd filled in my book really neatly and then some random woman came in and said I had to move to a different class and I hate it, every body's really loud, I can't do my work properly and it's just awful.  I held on to him and he shed a few quiet tears.  The exhaustion is overwhelming as I remember.  After a few moments he shuffled off to get changed and later I found his uniform in a corner of his bedroom in a ball.  That's what he thinks of that!

Tea worked it's magic as we all sat round the table and they ate silently for a few moments.  The day's events unfolded and there were one or two glimpses of hope among it all.  The general feeling was that they wish they could stay home all the time and not bother with school at all.  Sorry guys, that won't happen.  Kind of wish it would myself though.  H2 spent most of his evening watching telly and now and then getting up to give me a hug.  Reassurrance needed.  We talked when he wanted and I promised him that tomorrow would be better and Friday even more so.  He went off to bed if not happily then at least a little calmer.  H1 calmed down quite quickly and it transpired that he was annoyed because he has to do PE and they always do football, which he has no interest in whatsoever and would much rather do badminton.  I reminded him that he had done extremely well in his first few GCSE's and should concentrate on them and not worry about PE.  He was thrilled to get an A* in Resistant Materials, his favourite subject; a B in science which he loathes and a C in IT.  Extremely well done young man.  Now keep it up.

I'm not entirely sure that I ever got to the bottom of Pea's grievances, but she cheered up quite quickly anyway.  After tea we all washed up and then Pea and I took Middle Aged Labrador for an early evening walk.  The air was warm and the light soft and diffused as only September can give.  The leaves are turning quickly now and farmers work hard to get grass cut and baled.  Fields are dotted with huge rolls of hay waiting to be taken in before the weather finally turns.  The hedges are loaded with hawthorn bushes weighed down with scarlet berries like small round beads threaded onto their black branches.  The beauty is every where.

The weatherman says we are in for a mini Summer over the next few weeks and this morning seemed to be the start of it.  By lunch time it was hot and sticky.  Mum and I went for a walk on the beach after dropping off my library book and buying a few You-Know-What presents.  Most of the holiday makers have gone home to resume their lives, go back to work and school and family.  The beaches and lanes are almost empty again for the remaining few to enjoy in peace and quiet.  I felt as though I was bunking off school as I walked slowly along the beach in bare feet.  The sand was hard and warm and there was hardly a ripple on the sea as the tide meandered in, slowly, lazily, no rush.  Stolen moments out of real life.

Only one more day before the weekend and hopefully the sun will shine so I can take the children down to the beach for a well deserved paddle.  Every day life happens, sometimes it's good and sometimes not, so I think it is important if not vital to have as many small moments of escapism as is humanly possible.  It makes the mundane more bearable and gives us something to look forward to when times are tough.  The best thing about the beach as a treat is that it's free.  You can be yourself on the beach, no one cares or notices what you do or what you think.  You can be noisy or quiet, laugh or just sit and look, it doesn't matter.  It's one of my favourite things to do and I always feel refreshed, relaxed and more positive after a walk by the waves.  I didn't grow up next to the sea so I am completely aware of how utterly lucky my children and I are to be here.  I never take it for granted and I hope they never do either.

The children will be home in less than and hour, so I had better go and roast some veg for tea as no doubt they will all be starving when they come in.  I am hopeful that H2 at least will have had a much better day.  All I want is to see his gorgeous round face lit up with it's usual smile.  My life will be complete and everything right with the world.

I hope your children are settling happily into school life and don't forget - it's nearly weekend! xxx

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Countdown

The last few days of the Summer holidays are upon us.  The last six weeks have gone by in a blur of activity; visits to the beach, baking cakes, sunbathing in the garden and reading books.  Perfect days that we will hold in our memories and keep us going over the coming Winter months.  I find the best way of dealing with the end of something good is to plan for more good things to look forward to.  Line dancing will feature heavily over the cold, dark nights and visits to the gym to use the treadmill while listening to Luke Bryan on Pea's borrowed mp3 player will all help.  H2 starts senior school in a few days' time so my evenings will be spent gently supporting him while he does homework he is not accustomed to doing and propping him up emotionally when things take a wrong turn.  On top of all that, I have applied for a job; my first in 20 years.  Oh how I hope I don't get it...

The job is for a catering assistant in a school on the island; dinner lady to you and me.  Only a few hours a day but the main thing is I would be home at weekends, school holidays and basically whenever the children are, which is what I need and want.  I love the holls and love the whole routine-out-of-the-window thing.  We go with the flow and the weather, doing different things as the season dictates.  Sometimes we do nothing at all, which is the best bit.  So the thought of not being home with them and going to work instead is too much to think of, to be honest.  I'd rather have less money.  Which is just as well as that's exactly what I would get.  Anyway, term starts in a few days and I've heard nothing, so I can probably relax again now and forget about it for a bit longer!  Having said that, I will miss the children dreadfully when they go back and after the first week, won't know how to fill the hours.  I won't be doing the school run again, so won't have the chance to talk to other mums at the school gate, or to sing along with Luke on the journey.  I will need some contact with human beings at some point and getting a job seems to be the best way of going about it.  Let fate decide!

The countdown to Autumn is underway too.  There is still plenty of beauty to be seen and admired, both in the garden and the countryside but it is a balancing act between the dead and decaying and the seeds of new life for the next generation.  Bees still bumble around the flowers and butterflies flit over the grass when the sun shines.  There are strawberries and tomatoes waiting to ripen in the late summer sun and the sweetcorn holds its tassells aloft hoping for an Indian summer to ripen the fruit within.

The end also heralds the beginning.  We are planning and planting for next Spring and Summer, the perfect antidote to the impending gloom of colourless days.  Nothing in nature really ends, it steps aside to make way for the next part of the cycle.  I love that and it helps me move ahead with a smile and a positive thought in my mind.  The trick to moving from the end of Summer's flirtatious smile and lazy attitude to the beginning of Winter's serious mood and deep frown is to do something.  Don't let it get the better of you, keep moving and keep Summer in your heart all year round.

There are still two more days of freedom and Summer and we fully intend to enjoy them in our individual ways.  Pea has gone to see Boyf; H2 is building things with Lego in his bedroom and H1 is rolling around on the floor with the dogs.  Boredom kicks in now and then and is a good indicator that they are ready for a new term to start.  I am taking the opportunity to read during the day, which is something I won't be able to justify in my heart when school starts again.  I will have to stave off the guilt by Being Busy.  Yuk.  The countdown has begun!

Enjoy the rest of your Summer and thank you for

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Peter Stone

Friends are important and never more so than when you live in a remote location and no one is passing your door on a regular basis.  They don't have to be human; indeed that is why many of us choose pets to be our companions.  Dogs, cats, horses and birds live lives of luxury next to their humans, just so we can feel the reassurance and comfort of another warm heartbeat next to ours.  On very rare and indeed odd occasions, some prefer an inanimate object to keep them company in the lonely hours.  Puppy is one such creature.  He has a best friend called Peter Stone.  Peter goes everywhere with Puppy but sometimes he craves his own company and the blessing of peace and quiet; at these times he goes for a lie down on the rug and reflects on life in solitude.  Not the most demanding of friends, he can leave Puppy feeling a little bemused, but somehow they muddle through and resolve their differences and get down to being good friends again.  Would you like to meet Peter Stone?

Here he is...

  I know; he's a rock.  Poor dog is so deprived of stimulation he has to find things lying about in the garden to amuse him.  Peter Stone seems happy enough being part of our strange little house hold and doesn't make much noise or demand to be fed every five minutes.  Apart from almost treading on him during nocturnal trips to the loo, he is a pleasure to have around.  Soon after he moved in, he felt he also needed a companion of his own.  Puppy can be a bit much at times of great excitement, caused by events known only to him, and Peter Stone felt he needed someone a bit more like himself.  Some days later we woke to find Simon Slate had moved in.

Two bits of rock hanging about waiting for bare feet to become victims of excruciating pain is one thing, but then almost over night two became three and it began to get out of hand.  We think the third is Polly Pebble; Simon Slate's girlfriend.  Heaven help us if it gets serious between them...

The recent cool winds and cloudy skies have marked the end of Summer quite abruptly.  Not only are they responsible for sending bits of rock into the house in search of comfort, but they are gaily plucking leaves from their grasp on branches and sending me hunting in my wardrobe for cardigans and jumpers.  It feels like Autumn and it looks like Autumn.  I have a feeling that our Winter will be very cold and frosty but full of blue skies and sunshine.  I would be more than happy with that, but I'm not ready just yet.  I have noticed the hedgerows are tinted a deep red as the hawthorn proudly holds out her branches laden with ripe berries for the birds.  My mum told me today that that is a sign of a hard Winter to come.  Old fashioned hard Winters were usually very cold and very white, so we will see.

The damsons are ripening well on the trees and it will very soon be time to pick them and make jam, chutney and pies, something I enjoy doing once I have scrubbed a load of jars and got the labels off, which can take an age as some manufacturers stick them on so well that even if the label comes off, the glue doesn't.

Planning ahead for Winter stores inevitably makes me think of You-Know-What.  The cake and also the main event; You-Know-What dinner.  We usually buy a really nice chicken from the butcher and have that but this year I will be purchasing a turkey.  Not because I particularly want a massive amount of meat but because the people at the farm have got some rescued turkeys who have laid eggs and they asked me if I wanted one.  A bird reared and killed only yards from our home?  Yes please!  Buying any meat from a butcher means the experience is all fairly well removed from the living animal.  But this won't be the case.  We have met the birds we will eat.  Gulp!

Awww! Aren't they cute!  They make lovely little cheeping noises too!  Adorable.  They have been reared by a broody hen who has also taken a gosling under her wing.

Okay so I am quite good at growing vegetables to eat and foraging for fruit in the wild, but actually deciding to eat something that has a heartbeat, eyes and fluffy feathers is quite a Big Thing.  But, I keep saying I am a proper country girl, so now is the time to put my money where my mouth is.  I won't actually have to kill the turkey thank God, but I will have to gut and pluck it; cut it's head and feet off and bung it in the oven.  I feel a bit sick about all that and may have a nicely sanitised chicken in the freezer, just in case.  I have gutted ducks and pheasants before now so I'm going on the assumption that a turkey will be the same but bigger.  I reckon I will need three buckets:  one for the feathers, one for the innards and one for my tears...

For now they are fluffy chicks enjoying life in the sunshine with out a care in the world.  Let's leave them in peace.

I hope you are enjoying the sunshine, thank you for

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Take Your Partner By The Hand

I have been a single woman now for over four years.  It is not always easy, sometimes lonely but I do have the advantage of being free to please myself and do what I like whenever I like.  Granted this can wear a bit thin over time, but then I think back to the bit of my life when that was most definitely not the case, and it makes it all seem fresh and new and very much appreciated.  Finding someone to share life with is always tricky but it most certainly gets harder as you get older.  I am usually pretty good at reading people and picking up on their vibes - except when it comes to romance, or should I say any romance where I feature as the lead role.  Then I am useless.  I have no idea if someone is being nice to me because they like me or because they like me..if you see what I mean.  I am pre-disposed to warming to people a little too readily and always give the benefit of the doubt way beyond the point where I should have told the person in question to stick it and go and nurse my wounded heart with a huge bar of Dairy Milk.  So it would appear that I have a problem and one that I'm not entirely sure can be fixed.  I have an invisible sign that flashes above my head only detectable by morons and cretins.  Trouble is, I have no idea what it says.

Many years ago, when I was a young teenager, my sister and I would spend Saturday evenings attending the under 14's disco in the Scout Hut in our village.  I loved it and spent ages getting ready and feeling excited about dancing about in the semi dark, where no one knew or cared if you went a bit wrong now and then.  It was just nice to dance and have fun.  I'm too old for all that now and ballroom dancing requires a partner and I don't have one, so my dancing plans were put to the back of my mind where they languished and gathered an alarming amount of dust.  Until one Saturday at the end of May.  The children and I had gone to the beach, stopping off at the library on the way back to the car.  I noticed a poster in the window listing all the activities going on during the week at the village hall.  A few things looked interesting but nothing that I really wanted to do but then I reached the bottom of the list and saw two words that would start a minor addiction and change my Monday nights for ever...Line Dancing.

Strangely enough, line dancing is something I have wanted to try for the last 20 years but never had the chance.  And you don't need a partner.  I hopped about a bit wondering if I had the nerve to go.  Pea could see I really wanted to do it and like the good daughter she is, she volunteered to come with me.  We found a contact number and I rang up.  I made sure the lady who answered the phone knew that we were complete beginners and may not be much good.  She said 'Just turn up and have a go.'  So we did.  And boy am I glad!  We dance every Monday evening for three hours.  We have picked it up quickly, according to the people who have been attending the class for years, and are having so much fun doing it.  We have made new friends and have found that everyone has been delighted to have two new, enthusiastic people joining them.  The only problem I have found is that I can't sleep at night because I am going through the dances and music in my head.  It's exhausting!  When we learnt a dance to The Countdown by Lonestar, I hardly slept for three nights.  I spent the whole week dancing about in the kitchen, in the lanes and anywhere there was a space to practise my steps.  Eventually I cracked it and now I can really go for it when we do it as a class.  It's totally addictive and for that I am delighted.

The garden is a minor addiction too and just about as tiring!  We finally dug out all the weeds from this boarder a week ago and planted the Allium bulbs we bought at the show, some Linaria Purpurea that I grew from seed and a few things that I purchased in a sale.  It looks a lot better for it as the weeds and mess were getting me down.  Pea and H2 worked hard with me and eventually took over the planting and left me to carry weeds to the compost bin and do the donkey work.

The rest of the garden is balancing precariously between late Summer abundance and early Autumn sleepiness.  There have been signs of the next season knocking gently at the door for a good few weeks now.  We have already picked and frozen bags of blackberries, picked from the brambles pushing through the hedges in our garden.  Yellow leaves are littering the ground further up the track and the evenings are chilly and dark.  August is a transition:  Enjoy me while you can, she says, It's almost over.  September can be a final song of loveliness with hot days and blue skies, but the late afternoon chill and fading light reminds us that the dark half of the year is close on it's heels.

Tomorrow is a big day for H1;  the GCSE results are out.  He has completed his first year exams but the main bulk of them will be taken from Christmas onwards so he only has a few results to collect tomorrow.  He has actually worked really hard this time and I really hope his results reflect that, which will encourage him to do more next year.  Pea had her AS results last week.  She was disappointed but I have no idea why as she did incredibly well.  She received an A, two Bs and a C.  She couldn't have done anymore if she tried, there just weren't enough hours in the day.  Too much hard work and study is good for no one and so she will be whittling down her four A levels to a more manageable three. Thank goodness for that.

The summer holidays are coming to an end and it's hard to believe that five weeks have gone by in a heartbeat.  I will miss the children when they return to school but the house will benefit from a good scrub as I have been a bit too relaxed about cleaning over the summer.  There is a tell tale line of black dog hairs hugging the gap between the skirting boards and the carpet.  There are one or two dead blue bottles desiccating in corners and spiders have reared healthy broods in elaborate webs strung from the ceilings.  Soon be time for a pre-Autumn clean.  Sadly I cannot achieve the results I desire with a house full of teenagers and dogs, so it will just have to wait a bit longer.  What a shame.

I hope you have a lovely evening and thank you for reading. xxx