Retreating

When I was working (many moons ago!) one of my colleagues told me that she went on retreat in a local convent two or three times a year. I was intrigued and she tried to explain to me what it was she found so useful from the experience. I kind of understood intellectually but struggled to imagine how it might feel.

Walking the dogs this morning I started to connect my experience of lockdown (which is still pretty much in force here in Wales) with going on retreat. I haven’t followed the horarium of a monastic day but a rhythm has developed which includes work (housework, gardening, decorating, time in the workshop); socialising via the internet; reading; and times to be quiet (yoga, dog walks and crafting in the evening). I have been less secluded from the world than on a retreat but because I live alone apart from my pets there has been a lot of silence. My dogs ensure I go out for walks, my cats give me cuddles and they all entertain me, but great conversationalists they aren’t! So I have spent more time alone with my thoughts and have had fewer means of distracting myself than usual. No longer can I find something to justify a quick trip to the shops or arrange to meet a friend for coffee.

In the early weeks it was fine. I did what I always do and kept busy. I had already planned to do some decorating and bought the paint. There were seeds to sow, veg beds to clear and planting out to do. The weather was glorious. My head was full of lists, plans and ideas. I finished my library books. I noticed that I then chose old favourites to read. Books of short chapters with gentle, amusing tales – Deric Longden and his cats, Jeanine McMullen and her small country living, Peter Mayle in Provence. I needed to be occupied but couldn’t settle to anything demanding. Knitting simple jumpers for charity was fine, complex patterns were beyond me.

Then matters in my daughter’s marriage came to a head and she decided she needed to get out whatever the long term consequences. She has the support of an amazing group of friends who helped her find a house to rent and enough furniture and equipment to live in it in reasonable comfort as well as giving her emotional support and encouragement. Apart from being one of the guarantors that her rent will be paid despite her low income, there was nothing for me to do practically. But emotionally my head was full to the brim! It was weird being unable to follow my instinct and rush to her aid. She was coping well, had all the support and help she needed and I would have been putting myself at risk for no good reason. I could commiserate, encourage and send love by Whatsapp from the safety of home. A hard but excellent lesson in sitting on my hands!

Rumbling in the background has been concern for my son’s brother in law who has been in intensive care on a ventilator and a lung machine since early April with Covid 19. It began to seem that whilst he could technically be kept alive indefinitely the decision might have to be taken to let him die. This weekend he finally improved, was brought out of his induced coma and is being taken off the machines.

Now that the dramas are easing my mood is shifting again. There are still projects I want to do and I find myself almost hoping restrictions aren’t eased too much too soon – not just because of concerns about a ‘second wave’ but because I don’t want to be faced with responsibility for making choices about how much time I spend on my own here getting on with things and how much I go out and about or entertain visitors. I have been surprised how much I have got done when there are no distractions. I have quite enjoyed the solitude. Yesterday I picked up a book on garden design I planned to re-read back in March and a philosophy book the librarian picked out for me on my last visit, also in March. Both had lain on the chest in the sitting room untouched, reproaching me for my laziness. Once I started on them I found I was enjoying them both. The garden one requires me to stop and think about applying the ideas and the philosophy one needs digesting so I read a little bit of each in turn!

I am lucky. I have a loving family, good friends, kind neighbours, a comfortable home, a garden I enjoy, a secure income which is enough for my needs. Even so I have found lockdown hard at times. There have been times of loneliness, worry, frustration. I have learned things about myself. Some have been good things; my resilience and ability to pick myself up when I am feeling down, my ability to cope with extended solitude. Others less so; my need to be always busy, my impatience, my bossiness. And some are just interesting; how much I have to learn about gardening, how my reading choices changed.

I am looking forward to being able to see friends again, to have a hug, to go to the library, to shop for things I want to see and feel before I buy. But I am also grateful for the experience of confinement. I have had no temptation to do an online search for retreat houses (of whatever religious persuasion) but I am beginning to understand better why some people do.

Topsy Turvy Turning

One of the consequences of having friends from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs is the number of festivals and greetings that pop up in my social media feeds. Just as Lockdown began my children wished me Happy Mothers Day, some of my friends later wished me Happy Easter, my son sent greetings for Ide Mubarak, and this week it has been Fathers Day from families and Happy Solstice from the earthier contingent. The Summer Solstice always reminds me of my Dad who loved to try to be the first person to say ‘The nights are drawing in now’ – a game he played with the man next door.

What was really weird this year was that it actually felt very autumnal around the longest day. March, April and May were day after day of hot sunny weather and virtually no rain. It felt like summer, the gardens baked and the grass went brown. Local farmers got the first cut of silage in early but then the grass didn’t grow back. The stream at the bottom of my garden reduced to a trickle. In many ways it was a blessing because we were all able to get outside in our gardens or go for walks along the lanes. We saw each other and had socially distanced chats. So much easier than being stuck indoors.

Then it all ended with thunderstorms, gales and torrential rain followed by days and days of heavy grey cloud, those days when it is either raining, has just rained or is about to rain.

So as I walked the dogs in the early part of this week the signs of high summer were all around. The council have cut the verges and the bottom of the hedges so the daffodils, bluebells, pink campion, stichwort and cow parsley have all gone though hopefully they will have set plenty of seed for next year. The lush growth makes visibility round bends poor and once the flowers have gone and there has been time for seeds to drop it needs to be cut back. But higher up the hedges the elders are in full bloom, there are dog roses, honeysuckle, bramble flowers and spires of foxgloves. It looks as if it will be a good year for elderberries and I am grateful because my strawberries and raspberries have been very poor. They were too dry to swell the fruit.

Walking with a jumper on and thick socks in my boots but seeing those flowers felt surreal. But today dawned clear and sunny so maybe summer is back for a while at least. I don’t think I will put my woolies away just yet. It is a funny sort of year.

Scrap Happy June – Courtesy of Matt

I have been spoilt for choice this month! Since lockdown began all the shops other than food ones have been shut. So I have been unable to buy new materials and have had to use scrap for almost everything. I have done quite a lot of knitting and sewing but the project that has brought me most joy has been my new utility room! The shell was built over a year ago when I had Dan here renovating the cabin. The concrete base is about 10 years old! One of those slow burn projects. I had thought of fitting it out myself but was rather daunted by the prospect of manouvering sheets of plasterboard especially on the ceiling!

When I saw the work Matt had done on the barn kitchen at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust I decided to ask him to come and fit it out. He is brilliant at using what is to hand rather than designing the space and going out to buy everything. I was on his list (which is long because lots of people rate his work highly!) but because the utility room is not in the house we agreed it was safe job for him to do during lockdown.

First he put insulation and plasterboard on the walls and boarded the floor. Most of that stuff had to be bought although he used some timber taken out of the cabin when a wall was taken down for some of the battening. Luckily he is on very good terms with his local builders merchant who allowed him to go and take what he needed from his yard. Once that part of the job was done he left for a few days whilst I oiled the floor and painted the walls.

Then the fun started.

IMG_20200601_193529330

The butler’s sink is one my son gave me. All the houses in his street are ‘town houses’ built with a garage on the ground floor and a utility room behind plus an entrance hall to the side with stairs to living space on the first floor and bedrooms on the second. The utility rooms had these deep sinks because in those days washing machines were not automatic or plumbed in and had to be filled from a tap and emptied into a sink. And lots of people still did some of their washing by hand. Over the years almost every garage has been converted into living space and the utility rooms have become kitchens. My lovely son has collected the old sinks as they have been thrown out and brought me three to choose from! Matt built a stand for it, and the bases for the worktops, from scrap wood lurking in my workshop. The tap is one my husband made up for the garden – it has the screw thread to take a hose fitting. It was installed high enough to get a brewing bucket underneath but being able to attach a short length of hose makes it more versatile.

The worktops and the pieces up the walls are off-cuts from my handmade kitchen surfaces whilst the shelves and brackets were taken out of the old utility room. Eveb the doors were ones taken out from other places!

Fitting everything into this smaller space was quite a challenge but it does mean that I can’t continue to collect clutter!

It is not quite finished yet. I am waiting for the electrician to come and put the fronts on the sockets and then will buy an upright freezer to replace the old chest one which I haven’t moved. The washing machine broke down just as lockdown began so my kind neighbour is doing my washing until I can get the repairman out to fix it.

The old utility room was originally the garage and Matt will be back in July to transform it into 2 guest rooms and a space which will one day be a shower room – watch this space!

Here are the links for everyone who joins Scrap Happy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.

We all know the steps – but we don’t have to dance

Spoiler alert 1: This post has no pictures

Spoiler alert 2: I have been debating whether today is a good day to write this post which is a little close to home at present (my daughter is extricating herself from an emotionally abusive husband) and on what would have been my husband’s birthday so I am a bit off balance. Will I make it too sharp or wrap it up so carefully it is impenetrable? If I get it wrong please forgive me but let me know – I need to learn! The issue has been on my mind and writing will help me think.

Like all of you I was shocked and upset by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman. I have felt your bewilderment and outrage in the posts you have written and the comments on them. Like you I deplore the discrimination and injustices, the inequalities and deprivations that are endemic in our societies and the cultural normalising and acceptance of them – the shrug of the shoulders and the ‘that’s life’ response. What I am not is surprised.

Many moons ago, in what feels like a different life on a different planet, I worked as a trainer for Relate, the UK charity which provides couple therapy. Inevitably part of that was helping trainee counsellors work with abusive relationships. Based on the work of Karpman (google it if you want the theory) we looked at the three roles which are there in all the fairy stories and myths we grew up with.

The wicked stepmother, evil fairy, bad witch, possessive husband, (the ABUSER who can be either gender) drives away, puts to sleep, incarcerates in a tower, the hapless princess, daughter, seal who has shed her skin (the VICTIM – almost always female) until the handsome prince, fairy godmother, brave daughter willing to undergo trials, comes along (the RESCUER) and they all live happily ever after. These stories resonate with us from an early age because they are based on inequalities of power and as small children we know all about feelings of powerlessness, however loving and secure our childhoods are, because as little people we are vulnerable and at the mercy of our caregivers.

The less happy side of the theory is the corollary – we are all capable of playing all three roles. Before you click off this post let me emphasise that I am not saying you are capable of murder! I don’t know about you but I have certainly been fleetingly tempted but I have resisted that temptation as, I assume, have you. I am much more likely to use my power to rescue. That is why I was drawn to counselling as I later came to realise. I am a compulsive caretaker!

But the roles are not stable and if we get caught in the ‘dance’, for which we all know the steps, we move seamlessly between the roles. The abuser sees the prince as an interfering busybody who doesn’t understand the situation and, in an abuse of might, is carrying off his property. The knight in shining armour does nothing in the stories to raise the hapless princess’s self esteem or sense of her own power unless it is that of her beauty and golden hair (not reliable long term sources of power as us crones know only too well!) If his ‘rescuing’ fails and ‘happy ever after’ doesn’t materialise or his armour proves creaky and tarnished he can soon be perceived by the victim as just another abuser. It is the fate of peacekeeping forces the world over – sent in to rescue the underdog they are turned on by both sides in the conflict and feel, with some justification, victimised by everybody.

We all feel vulnerable at times because we all are vulnerable in some ways. I am a strong, resilient, self reliant, older, white woman. But, during this pandemic and lockdown especially, I have been very grateful for the network of support, both practical and emotional I have been able to draw on. If I was young, black or from an ethnic minority, disadvantaged, gay, homeless, jobless, under parented, I would find my ‘tribe’ even more crucial. I might feel much better if we were armed and organised. And because the victim is stereotypically female in our patriarchal society it is very hard for men to own their vulnerability and even more so to admit that they are unable, or choose not to, fight back and protect themselves. To be a non-aggressive, vulnerable male requires vast maturity and huge courage. Policeman and women can feel vulnerable too – they are peacekeepers after all – between warring parts of society.

So I can use theory to understand how these things happen out there, safely away from me. Me? Abusive? Never! Well not often. But the real breakthrough for me came when I acknowledged that I too can abuse. Not by murder or any other ‘arrestable offence’ but much more subtly. I am blessed with intelligence, a sharp wit and a way with words. I can use those words as weapons to cut people to the quick. Just ask anyone who has caught the rough edge of my tongue. I can use my intelligence to out-argue, run rings round, others in a way that diminishes their self-esteem. I can do those things unwittingly or with malice aforethought (usually aforethought in the depths of a sleepless night when I am full of fury). I would like to say that only the unwitting passes my guard but to my shame that would be a lie. Sometimes I ‘open gob without engaging brain’ and sometimes I deliberately speak to wound and even (thankfully only occasionally) enjoy it.

Which does not excuse, could never excuse, killing someone, institutionalised racism or any of the other evils apparent in the George Floyd murder. I too have signed a petition and I salute those of you who have protested peacefully. I offer this post because to solve a problem we must, I think, first understand it. We start from a poisonous legacy of colonialism and slavery overlaid by (growing) inequalities and twisted by the failure of our political and economic system to make good on its promises. The policeman who killed George Floyd and the colleagues who looked on without interfering must face justice. Equally they must not be scapegoats for the system which created them and allowed them to operate freely and with an expectation of impunity.

I wish I had answers. I wish I had the power to change the world. I wish that if I had that power I could be sure I would always use it wisely, fairly and for the good of all.

What I can do is call out injustice wherever I see it. I can use my vote. I can spread kindness, empathy and compassion as freely and widely as I can.

But there is one more thing. This event caused the furore it has because a witness filmed it, and the press and social media published it. Whatever the faults of facebook et.al. they allow ordinary people to publish things the establishment would rather remained hidden. A free and fearless press, from those young reporters who sit through endless boring council meetings sniffing out nepotism, shady deals, collusions and wastes of money, to the old warhorses who interview politicians on primetime TV, is the best protection for our democracy. So when I can go shopping I will buy a local and a national paper even if their main use will be to light the fire and I will continue to pay my TV licence fee, even though I have no TV, in order to feel justified in accessing public radio.

Thank you for reading this long and not very cheerful post. Please join the conversation so we can all find a way forward – I am looking forward to seeing any comments.

 

A mistake or just bad timing?

Way back in 1961 I passed the exam and interview to go to Bury Grammar School for Girls, a Direct Grant school (the equivalent of an academy in the modern UK). It was a very traditional establishment with a strict policy on school uniform so my Mother took me to the one shop which supplied it to kit me out. Gym knickers (horrible scratchy woolen things), shirts and socks were the limbering up exercise. On to shirts, tie, and gymslip (yes, gymslip! The original one-size-fits-all unflattering passion killer) and finally to the main event THE BLAZER! It was navy blue, made of heavy woolen cloth, fully lined, with the school crest on the breast pocket and it cost a fortune. It was so expensive that my Mother needed very little encouragement to buy one with ‘room to grow’. It had it in spades! I was still wearing it, admittedly straining at the seams somewhat and rather short in the sleeve, when I left school seven years later. I don’t know what happened to it but I suspect it was passed down to a new girl.

My house feels like that blazer at the moment – waiting for me to grow into it.

When I was widowed 9 years ago and had got a builder in to finish the renovations, I was faced with the decorating. What I really wanted to do was to crawl into a deep dark burrow just big enough to turn round in and curl up in a little ball. There I would hibernate until the world found its way back to normal. Of course, I knew that normal would not be back. My beloved was dead not just in hospital for a bit. The decorating and the rest of life had to be faced. But perhaps inevitably I was drawn to dark, warm colours, lots of clutter (a.k.a. security blankets) and a ‘cosy’ ambience.

By last autumn it was all looking rather scruffy and dingy. Me, two dogs and three cats carrying in dirt, brushing against walls, sitting on the furniture, and all the everyday wear and tear had taken its toll. Touching up the paintwork was no longer an option – the original paint had faded in the sunlight. So it was time to do at least some rooms again.

I no longer needed my burrow. Like the blazer when I left school it was too tight. I had built a new life for myself and was more outward looking. Time to lighten up as well as freshen up.

I looked at dozens of paint charts, trawled through endless DIY stores, perused interiors magazines and made some tentative choices. Then Beccy, my neighbour who had recently painted a whole house for a friend, suggested I use paint from the Laura Ashley shop as it was much better quality than the stuff from the DIY or builders merchants. Expensive per tin but needing only 2 coats at most she thought it worked out no dearer and was less work. The range of colours is not huge which actually made the job of choosing easier!

I did the fireplace wall of the sitting room before Christmas and have continued round the three living spaces since. I need more paint to do the bedroom but at the moment can’t go out to get some and the shop isn’t open anyway. Of course, it isn’t just painting is it? Everything has to be taken off shelves, pictures taken down, curtains and other soft furnishings washed. And in the process there is a decluttering exercise, stuff is rearranged. Most of my home is lighter, brighter, cleaner, clearer, more spacious.

Externally I am constrained by lockdown. I am at home much more than usual. There are no visitors coming in to use the space I have created. There is ‘room to grow’ but I feel slightly un-contained by it. It’s all a bit discumbobulating! Have I made a mistake or will it all feel right in a few weeks time?

Protective Custody

Some ‘conversations’ I have had recently have reminded me how lucky I am to be experiencing ‘lockdown’ where I am.

A friend’s sister, who has some mental health problems anyway, is living in one room in a shared flat with no outside space and is really struggling to cope.

Carolee, a retired professional nurserywoman who writes a brilliant and informative blog about her garden (read it here)commented on my post Magnificent May ‘Such a pretty “jail” during this lockdown.’ – an interesting turn of phrase.

I also recalled that until this pandemic I had only heard the term ‘lockdown’ in relation to prisons when there was rioting. This extract from an article in The Guardian newspaper confirms that my memory was fucntioning correctly.

“It was only in the 1970s that “lockdown” began to mean an extended state of confinement for inmates of prisons or psychiatric hospitals, and thereafter any period of enforced isolation for security. Originally, in 19th-century America, a “lock-down” was a strip of wood or peg that secured the poles or a raft together when timber was transported by river. It is therefore a wistful irony that our present condition is named after a mechanism that once ensured the reliability of travel in the great outdoors.

• Steven Poole’s A Word for Every Day of the Year is published by Quercus.”

Those three strands combined to make me reflect on the harshness of our prison systems.

I can wander at will around my house allowing me to change my position and which walls I am looking at. There is plenty of space for me to have books and craft materials to occupy me. I can have devices connected to the internet and stay in touch with family and friends whenever I like. I have my pets for company and comfort.

prison cell
a cell in Swansea jail

Nor do I have to put up with company I do not want, For me, sharing my space with someone can be tricky even when I love them dearly! To share with a stranger would be a nightmare.

Any time I fancy a cup of tea I can make one. I can decide what meals I want to eat and when and make them exactly to my taste.

When I look through the windows I see green and trees and flowers. If I want to go outside I can and I can choose to sit, to exercise or to go for a walk. No-one tells me that I must come back in. I can garden which is creative but there is also lots of evidence that having our hands in the soil is beneficial to our health.

swansea prison
Swansea Prison on a main road in a built up area.

I know that I am not alone in finding that even so it is hard to remain cheerful all the time. I dread to think how I would cope if incarcerated in prison. I suspect I would either become mentally ill or run amok! No wonder that so many prisoners are ill, either physically or mentally; that attacks on, and injuries to, prison staff are so frequent. Taking away all those choices also creates institutionalised individuals who will find it hard to cope when released which could be a factor in recidivism. Of course criminality must be punished and society has to be protected but I am beginning to realise that the way we currently go about achieving those ends may not be humane let alone the best. I have no idea what would be a better solution – I just have a clearer understanding of the problem. I will be interested to hear your views.

Encounters

One of the things which has surprised and pleased me about this long period of lockdown is how walking the dogs has ensured I still get social interactions. And because we are all deprived of our usual opportunities to chat everyone seems more willing to stop, stroll over to the gate and have a natter.

A few weeks ago I saw a farmer checking his fences before turning some calves into a field. I didn’t recognise him, though as we talked I realised I had seen him driving his cattle lorry meany times. He recognised me though. I doubt if he knows my name but, like many people round here he knows ‘the woman with the dogs’! We talked for ages and I was able to ask him who owned which fields, something which will be useful when I am able to restart my project to open up local footpaths. Since then he waves to me whenever he passes me in his lorry – not just the hand raised in acknowledgement wave but a proper hand moving from side to side wave.

Last week it was another farmer moving sheep. Meeting a few sheep is not unusual. They are consumate escape artists and when put into a new field will rootle around the fence looking for ways out. It is one of the reasons I always keep the dogs on leads – Roo sees sheep and her inherent herding instinct makes her want to round them up whilst Orchid is a sight hound and thinks ‘dinner’. If they managed to collaborate there would be carnage! This time though it was not a few – the flock was filling the lane for quite a long way. So I waited at the crossroads to see which way they were going in order to get out of the way. The quad bike leading the flock speeded up to block the routes the sheep were not supposed to take. The driver proved to be a lad of about 8 or 9 who clearly knew how to drive! He blocked the lane straight ahead, his Dad asked me to stop them turning left and went down the right turn to open the field gate and stop them going too far. To my relief and delight both dogs just watched quietly and I was even able to get my phone out and take a picture. Behind the sheep were a landrover and car ensuring none got left behind and tooting periodically to keep them moving.

IMG_20200508_110529369

Today I went to C&M to buy fresh veg and met Phil and Lauren who have bought some land and obtained planning permission under ‘One Planet Developement’ (you can read more about this policy, unique to Wales, here) for a house and market garden. They make sauerkrauts to sell and hope to be able to grow most of the ingredients themselves. The house is almost finished and they were beaming from ear to ear because tonight they will sleep there for the first time!

On the way home I saw a new neighbour outside his house. He lives abroad and has bought his place here for his retirement. When his children’s school closed and he realised lockdown was about to start he flew over so they were not confined to an appartment with no outdoor space. I had felt unable to call and introduce myself because of the restrictions and this was the first time I had been passing whilst he was outside. Another long conversation about his plans and the frustration of trying to get furniture and equipment during lockdown.

So though I live alone and am isolating I am not socially isolated. Thank you dogs!

Scrap Happy May

I was reading a post by Lynn (see the link to her site below) who had been making a box using the French craft of cartonnage. I have loads of pieces of fabric and balls of yarn stored in old cardboard boxes which do the job but look scruffy. How much nicer my workroom would look if they were attractive in their own right.

I looked up cartonnage on the internet and discovered that the boxes are made to measure by cutting up very strong card, glueing the pieces together then covering them. Some of the examples were exquisite. But it would take forever to make enough for all my stuff. Not to mention the fact that give me a pot of glue and I stick everything in sight together except the thing I am trying to stick!

So ‘bastard’ cartonnage it had to be. Since the pet shop in Cardigan closed I get dental chews for the dogs delivered every 2 months from Amazon and they come in a sturdy cardboard box. In one of those unsightly boxes in the loft I found a set of curtains and some matching sheeting which were given to me for recycling by a friend who had redecorated. (They are lilac despite looking blue in the photo.) The curtain fabric would be strong for the outside and thick enough to obscure the printing on the carton, whilst the thinner sheeting would do well for the inside.

Et Voila! (well it is a French craft!)

IMG_20200508_161136307 (1)

When I do another one I will do it slightly differently and if I am feeling brave I will use a bit of glue to hold things in place. At least the outside is reasonably tidy and, it is more sightly than when it was bare and it holds things! I had hoped to do a second improved version before writing this post but the weather is good and I have seedlings needing to be planted out!

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun. Here are the links for everyone who joins in from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.

Magnificent May

I decided it was time to take a walk around my garden and enjoy it instead of just working in it!

Along the roadside the wild cow parsley is doing an excellent job of hiding the taty remains of the daffodils.

IMG_20200510_114644050_HDR

Outside the conservatory a pot of aquilegia is flowering

IMG_20200510_114745999

On the way up the hill to the veg patch I pass a rhododendron

IMG_20200510_114056082

At the top is a copper beech tree. As a child living on the edge of Manchester we would often go into Heaton Park where there was a huge copper beech which I loved. So we planted one here.

IMG_20200510_114105805_HDR

In the greenhouse most of the apricots I so lovingly fertilised with a brush fell off! But the peaches are hanging on so here’s hoping.

IMG_20200510_114445759

In another part of the greenhouse nasturtiums overwintered and are flowering again. I love them for their beauty but also eat the leaves and flowers in salads

IMG_20200510_114222688

In the veg beds I couldn’t bear to pull up these forget-me-nots and the peas don’t seeem to mind!

IMG_20200510_114246031

This apple tree is extra special because I grafted it myself. (The less said about the others which didn’t take the better!)

IMG_20200510_114339679

If I carry on into the woods the bluebells are flowering.

IMG_20200510_092753823

I am so lucky to have all this.

Just procrastinating!

If I were a baby I would be described as frettful ot fractious today! I lost track of how many times I woke up last night. Each time I was too hot and had to throw the duvet off, then, of course, got cold and pulled it back over me. But I really don’t think it was heat that woke me. I reckon I started to wake up and as my metabolism cranked into life I got hot. What actually caused my waking I have no idea. Anyway I woke up rather later than usual, grumpy with everything and nothing and feeling tired. Not cross enough to have a good rant, bellow or bawl but a lot of mutter and whine and wail.

The weather is in the same mood. Occasional flashes of sun but mostly grey and dreary. We could do with soem rain and whilst I was walking the dogs it started to spit – big fat drops too – but it stopped before the polka dots on the tarmac had time to join up. So lots of nuisance value but no use.

I made the mistake of picking litter whilst I was out. I have noticed lots of empty cans, crisp packets and bits of plastic in the verges and now the grass is growing strongly they will soon be hidden. Then the machines will come along and cut the verges and hedges chewing all this rubbish into small pieces as they go. With everything still visible and very little traffic because of lockdown now seemed the ideal time to do something about the problem. I ordered one of those gadgets for picking things up if you can’t bend down easily because managing 2 dogs, a bucket to put the rubbish in and bending down for it is tricky. Within a quarter of a mile my bucket was full! Some of it was stuff that had fallen off cars, tractors and farm machinery – rubber from a tyre, a huge metal nut – some must have been dropped when the bins were collected but a lot was just stuff discarded fron vehicles. There was noticeably more in lay-bys and where vehicles turn into fields or through junctions. I could just see the culprits cramming the last bit of food into their mouths in order to have both hands properly free to haul the steering wheel round hard, and throwing the wrapper out of the window. It did nothing for my mood.

IMG_20200507_103645808

So now I have to decide what to do with the rest of the day. I could do some sewing but in this mood there is a serious risk I will make a pigs ear of it and then be even crosser! I need something that is absorbing but not tricky or precise. Should I go in the garden and risk getting damp if not wet? I could take my bad mood out on some weeds. Or go in the workshop and find some wood for a new nameboard at the gate? The plywood I used for the old one is delaminating and the paint is fading and peeling. Or I could rub down the upright chair I bought for £3.50 in the house clearance place and an old chest of drawers that used to live in the kitchen ready to paint them. Unless it rains soon I need to transfer water from the reserve tank to the water butts but the syphon is too short – I could cut a stub of copper pipe to join on a piece of hosepipe. I could go through the seedling trees I have outside and pot some up to go in gaps in my new hedges or plant some in the field opposite. Housework? Tidying up would probably make me feel a bit better when it was done but not whilst doing it!

Maybe I’ll just make another pot of coffee, mooch around and see where I end up. Sometimes being focussed and decisive is just too much like hard work!