Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Or if you don’t speak Welsh Happy Christmas and a Good New Year!

And if you don’t celebrate Christmas Happy Solstice or simply enjoy the break from work and routine.

This year I decided to mark the Solstice AND Christmas. I felt that I needed to make the most of the chance to celebrate having come through a year that has been difficult for many of us. So I put up my decorations a little earlier than usual. There is no room for a traditional tree so I improvise.

This afternoon I will be walking down to C&M where I buy my greengroceries where they are serving mulled wine and mince pies (Outside!) to any customers who turn up. Then like them I am metaphorically ‘pulling up the drawbridge’, lighting the fire and settling in to read, make, eat, drink and reflect on the year just gone.

Thank you all my fellow bloggers for the posts you have written with words of wisdom, funny stories, inspiring makes and allowing me to get glimpses of your lives – I feel as if several of you are friends I just don’t get to see in person very often even though you live on the other side of the world and we have never met.

I will be back in January but until then stay safe and I hope that however strange this festive season feels it brings moments of hope and joy.

Scrap Happy December

A few years ago I decided that what I needed in the sitting room was a low coffee table that would double as a footstool and was not too high so that it didn’t stop the eye-line across the room which is small. I found a small pallet that part of the heating system was delivered on which I painted and added a set of castors which I found in the workshop so that it can be moved around. I debated making a cushion for the top but in the end decided tht a slab of foam would be better for it’s coffee table function.

I embroidered a cover for it using a piece of calico left over from making curtains and embroidery threads I have had for ages – I think some inherited from aunts who died!

My cats think it is a lovely spot for a snooze! Unfortunately in this weather they are usually damp and muddy and you can perhaps see that the cover is grubby with pawprints. I realised that what I need is a second cover so that I can wash them more frequently – like every time a visitor is coming and I want the place to look nice!

I didn’t want a plain piece of fabric, haven’t time or inclination to embroider another one, hadn’t got a piece of patterned stuff that was the right size or colour so chose to do some simple patchwork. Those of you who do precision patchwork please stop reading NOW! If I want precision I do hand stitched hexies. This is high speed ‘it’ll do’ patchwork!

I have lots of sheeting and similar weight fabric in my collection, most of it from old duvet covers and sheets which my neighbour gave me. I tore 4 inch strips, cut them to random lengths and joined them, again randomly, into one long snake. Then cut that into the width of the top plus an inch for seams and joined them side by side. It turned out I had been a bit over enthusiastic and had enough to make a pair of fronts for cushions too. The piece for the stool top is applied to another piece of calico and the cushions are backed by more sheeting. Quick to make, cheerful. goes with anything and easy to remove and wash – What’s not to like?

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun on the 15th of each month – a collection of posts about things made from scrap. Not everyone posts every month but follow the links below for lots of inspiring ideas.

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

Not Edwardy but ….

A few years ago my daughter came across a Christmas tradition which I think originally came from Scandinavia. On December 1st one of Father Christmas’s elves appears in the house by magic. During the day he behaves impeccably but once everyone is asleep he plays and makes mischief. Nothing nasty you understand, but he may raid the biscuit tin leaving a trail of crumbs across the kitchen, be found asleep on the sofa with an empty beer bottle at his side, or he may have had visitors for a game of cards which remain scattered on the table. When he visited me with them he kicked a loo roll from the top of the stairs to the bottom like the puppy in the Andrex ads. Then on Christmas night, when Father Christmas delivers his gifts, the elf hops onto the sleigh and returns home with him.

My family’s elf was called Edwardy and was a dapper young man dressed in green. When, in the middle of lockdown, my daughter reached the end of her tether with her emotionally abusive and controlling husband and fled on the advice of the police, she was able, helped by friends, to remove her personal belongings and some things of sentimental value but didn’t have time to search the loft for Christmas stuff however precious. So Edwardy remains incarcerated in a box.

However she and her daughter want to continue the tradition. (she may be 14 but who cares!) But it is important to them both that their new Elf is not like Edwardy which rather ruled out simply buying another one. But that is what Mam-gu is for! Could I make a fat, rather scruffy, old elf in something other than green (or red which triggers bad memories for my daughter) but still Christmassy? Good job I enjoy a challenge!

I started to think, mainly during dog walks, then played around with paper and sticky tape to get the main shapes, work out sizes and the position of his face and limbs. I found I was having enormous fun! I could almost have claimed he was a Scrap-Happy but I did have to buy the purple and blue felt. Everything else was from stuff I had lying around my workroom.

For the technically minded among you his legs are pieces of thin hemp rope (bought for the garden) with a knot inside his boots to bulk them out and give them weight. His arms have a pipe cleaner bent double inside so can be repositioned and I stitched his staff to the inside of his mitten before I sewed the two sleeve / mitten pieces together so that it is attached but the stitch is not visible on the outside. His hair, eyebrows and beard are DK wool stitched on then unravelled and his eyes are 2 black beads. I stuffed his body with toy stuffing but inserted a spoonful of rice wrapped in muslin near the base to weight him.

Until today this new Elf had no name – it was up to his new family to christen him. As I was writing this post the news came through. He is McJingle Toes. Let the Christmas fun begin!

Little thing # 2

I have been making an effort to continue noticing the little things which make me smile and to share them with you all.

Some of you may remember that whilst I have been unable to go out so much I have been knitting chilldren’s jumpers for the collection at Studio 3 in Cardigan. Their original goal had been to send 2020 to an organisation working with refugees who had reached Greece and were now unable to move on to other parts of Europe. Last Friday I delivered the latest one and by chance Eileen, who’s brainchild it was, was in the shop. She told me that they passed the 2020 target some time ago and sent them off. After that they decided any more would be sent to charities in Wales working with families in poverty and particularly those using the many food banks. They have now collected over a thousand for Wales and more are still being donated. The charities will add them to the parcels of gifts put together for families who otherwise would have none. I only played a small part – 5 jumpers in all – but I felt proud to have helped and proud of my community for rising to the challenge and some. A real win-win. AND I met my friend Rachel to have lunch in the cafe there – delicious food and a chance to catch up with a lovely friend. A very smiley day!

My latest gift jumper

In the garden I can see crocuses and miniature daffodils beginning to emerge in pots near the house.

On the wall of the cabin a winter flowering jasmine is in full bloom. Last year it was still fairly new and only had a few flowers but it has obviously settled in.

Piling manure onto one of the raised beds I spotted a potato. I haven’t grown any for a couple of years but the ones I missed when I harvested the last lot keep coming up. I scrabbled around and by the time I had been through all the bed I had a basket full of International Kidney spuds (Jersey Royals but they can only be called that if grown on the island of Jersey!) They are a waxy salad potato so not good for mash or roast but lovely in potato salad or stews because they keep their shape.

My cooking has had a boost recently. My last lot of books from the library included 2 by Jack Monroe, a woman who found herself living in extreme poverty and blogged about how she was managing to feed herself and her small son on very little money and the generosity of the food bank. The upshot was a book deal which lifted her our of poverty but she still campaigns tirelessly for the organisations she once relied upon. I am comfortably off and an experienced cook but her simple, cheap recipes have jolted me out of a rut.

I have been making crafty things and will blog about them later but for now they are secret in case the recipients see them here first! However I can tell you that I get a lot of help from my feline friends who never fail to make me smile – how’s this for a cuddle of cats? At least they were next to me rather than on my lap which makes sewing or knitting difficult! The bony elbow top left is Orchid who also occupies the sofa.

Lastly I read a post by Cathy which I particularly enjoyed and set me thinking about how I could include more cheery-uppy things in my life. You can read it at https://nanacathydotcom.wordpress.com/2020/11/26/touchstones/

Little Things

Last time I posted I was feeling rather glum as I had been limiting myself to essential trips and then Wales went into National Lockdown just as I would have been able to go out again! At least ours was only two and a half weeks whereas England has just started a four week one. I can go out on Tuesday! And I will – I have an appointment to have my hair cut and plan to do some other errands whilst in town.

After writing that last post I decided I needed to get things in perspective. I am not ill, frightened or hungry. I have plenty of friends and can email or message them. So I took myself off to one of my favourite spots for a good talking to! It is in the woods I rent from my neighbour. There is a small clearing next to the stream and on the hill above it a huge Oak tree which most have been part of a hedge once upon a time as there is a noticeable bank running down the hill to the stream – an old field boundary. The stream chatters away as it rushes to the sea and the tree stands majestic and solid. Both have seen it all before; pestilence, famines, wars (I am told that the Home Guard trained by shooting across the stream into the hillside opposite during World War 2) as well as good things like the farms thriving, children playing, lovers meeting. I tell them my worries and grumbles and I can almost hear them telling me to stop whingeing!

But (isn’t there always a but!) the path from my garden into the woods had become overgrown with brambles so I had to take a pair of secateurs with me and cut them back. As I did so I uncovered a tiny nest – I assume a wren’s. Two tiny birds did all that work to build a home and raise their chicks. They don’t care who wins the American election, who gets Covid 19, whether I am happy or sad. They just get on with their lives and do what their instincts tell them.

The cup is just 2.5 inches (6.5cm) across and beautifully woven

I realised that I needed to stop fretting about things I can’t change and focus on the little things that bring me joy. So as well as that nest…

I finished a jumper for the collection at Studio 3. This is plainer than I usually do and to the pattern they provide. That makes 5 I have done for them to different designs. I have enough yarn in my stash for at least one more which I will try to get done before the end of the year. A group of refugees have recently been moved to a disused army base not far from here causing quite a lot of controversy – some protesters unhappy with the decision especially as it all happened suddenly with very little consultation, and some people organising to try to help and support them. What must it be like to be dumped in the middle of nowhere with hardly any resources in the middle of lockdown? I know my jumpers will go to a different group but if knitting helps people worse off than me I will knit!

A couple of days ago I found this little fellow in the car port. I have seen newts in the garden before but it is nice to know they are still around. Once I had taken the photograph I moved him to a safer spot. I know there is a lot more wildlife here than I know about – they keep well hidden. What a priviledge to share my space with so many other creatures.

I was weeding the bank next to the deck and found these dahlias. They were facing away from the house and as I hadn’t staked them were hanging down below behind their pot. They have taken a battering in the wind and rain but add a splash of colour to the kitchen table. I have never succeeded with dahlias before but will definitely grow them next year to brighten up the Autumn (and next year I will stake them!)

I also came across what, at first sight, looked to be a HUGE toad but turned out to be my son’s drone. Over a year ago he was here and playing with it (He’s moved on from the radio controlled car he had as a child!) and it got caught in the big Ash tree next to the deck. We tried all sorts of things to get it down but to no avail. It must have eventually blown down and landed under some self-seeded raspberry canes where it hid. Finding it reminded me of spending time with him, his 3 small foster children and my daughter, who took the opportunity of lift to come with them. That brought a big grin to my face!

What is making you smile at the moment?

On and on and on

Today, at 6pm, Wales goes into another lockdown until November 9th. It will be slightly different from the first one in March / April because apart from the half-term holiday week schools will stay open at least for some year groups and there is no limit on the amount of time we can spend in public spaces exercising. However meeting friends inside or out is forbidden and only essential shops will stay open. The idea is to slow the virus transmission before it gets out of hand and to have the same rules across the whole country for clarity. It makes sense even though where I live is one of the safest parts of the UK. Although I live in Carmarthenshire which locked down one of its bigger urban areas, Llanelli, a while back I am right on the edge of the county and within easy walking distance or both Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire which have amongst the lowest levels of infection anywhere.

Today is also the day when I can be virtually certain I did not bring Covid-19 back from my daughter’s. She lives in a medium risk area, works in a school, my granddaughter goes to a different school and my grandson works in a restaurant. I decided that when I got home the sensible thing would be to keep myself to myself for a while. I have done essential shopping and banking but only dropped cakes off at the workday I should have been to.

I should have been helping build walls for the roundhouse

Before I went to my daughter’s you may remember that I had visited my lovely neighbour for a cup of tea (which turned into a glass of wine!) only to discover later that her Dad, who had visited a day or two before me, had tested positive for Covid. I therefore isolated myself to ensure that if I had picked it up from her I didn’t pass it on. So apart from the 5 days of my trip to England I have already been in self imposed lockdown for 4 weeks! The novelty is definitely wearing off!

I had several treats lined up for the next two weeks – a Permaculture group meeting at a smallholding I have wanted to visit for ages, a lunch out and walk on the beach with friends and a haircut. All postponed.

Poppit sands where we were planning a walk

It isn’t that I have nothing to do. There is always work to be done inside or out. On Monday I collected the library books I had requested as they had been waiting for pick up for ages and I knew another lockdown was coming. Handing in one bag through the door and being given another whilst wearing a mask hardly seemed like a big danger to either me or the librarian! So I have books to read and there are plenty of crafting materials on hand.

But I have to admit that none of it makes me eager to get up in the mornings and the grey damp weather isn’t helping. Tomorrow night we revert to GMT from British Summer Time, putting the clocks back an hour which always confuses my body and upsets the dogs. It also signals that winter is just around the corner with its short dark days. I want to hibernate!

If any of you spot some energy, enthusiasm, mojo – call it what you will – going spare please pick it up and send it to me. I could do with some!

Half Scrappy, Quite Happy October

I am again joining in Scrap Happy curated by Kate on the 15th of each month – a celebration of things made from scraps of all kinds. Do visit the other posts – the links are at the end of this post.

You may remember that a short while ago I visited a neighbour who then discovered that she had to self-isolate after spending time with her Dad who had gone on to test positive for Covid-19. I chose to stay away from people too just in case I had picked it up from her. In the event neither of us became ill but as new doors were being fitted downstairs I spent 2 days in the bedroom keeping away from the workmen.

Amongst other things I made a pair of slippers using scraps and a pair of espadrille soles.

I found that the backs were not stiff enough and flopped down so they were always under my feet and uncomfortable. But I had thrown out my old slippers so I had to make a new pair before I could alter these!

I found a book of patterns for knitted and crocheted slippers but they were effectively just sloppy socks of various lengths and I need ones with soles as my hard floors are quite cold to walk on. I decided to make a pair and stitch them to a spare pair of espadrille soles! If they were unwearable I could always undo the stitching and use the soles for something else and wear the slippers as thick socks!

I chose a pattern which was obviously translated (not entirely accurately) from one of the Nordic languages and used a yarn I could not track down to find what weight it was. Google gave me images but suggested it was a brand rather than a specific weight yarn. I eventually worked out that using aran doubled could give me the correct tension.

A while back I knitted myself a jumper using a pattern in an old book of traditional designs. This one is a Whitby Guernsey made with Aran weight yarn. There is no shaping at all. For those of you not from the UK Whitby is a fishing port on the North East Coast and in the old days fishermen on the trawlers wore these heavy jumpers. Often the design worked on them indicated the port and / or family so that if they drowned and were washed up later they could be identified – slightly ghoulish but very pragmatic.

The guernsey used just over 1 ball of yarn so I had almost a full ball left. That had to be enough for the slippers and was the only colour in my stash that looked like being sufficient. I am not sure how long the slippers will last – it isn’t sock wool and may go into holes – but the slippers work! The soles are rather heavy for the tops which stretch making me scuff as I walk but for sitting in the evenings they are very cosy.

Once they were made I undid the stitching on the blue ones, removed the backs and turned them into mules which I wear around the house in the daytime – they are easy to slip on and off when I change to and from wellies or boots to go outside.

So two pairs of slippers with scrap tops and new soles!

Just follow the links to find lots of lovely ideas from these other very talented scrapsters

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

Plan Z and counting

When I had finished writing my last post on Monday I decided to go and visit a friend who lives just up the hill. The friend who did my washing when my machine broke down at the start of lockdown and who got her student daughter to do my shopping for me. She and her husband had taken a much needed short break and gone away – if they stay something goes wrong on the farm and he goes back to work to fix it. Whilst they were gone her Dad stayed in the house to supervise her teenage kids. We had a cup of tea and caught up on news.

On Wednesday her Dad was told he had tested positive for Covid 19 and so my friend and her family should self-isolate. The chances that it was passed to her AND that she passed it to me are very small (we sat 2m apart) but I decided that the responsible thing to do was to stay away from everyone. So instead of being at my daughter’s admiring her new home and catching up with her and her children I am here.

As it happened, when I got the news there were 2 men replacing the wooden outside doors in my house with uPVC ones – not a very sustainable choice but I was sick of draughts and high heating costs! I decamped to the bedroom to keep well out of their way for the 2 days the job took and emerged only when they had retreated to their van to eat their lunch, made a sandwich and took it back upstairs. I was able to walk the dogs and to come downstairs in the evening once they had gone home but it showed me how horrid it must have been to be cooped up in a small flat for the 3 weeks of full lockdown. I did finish some sewing projects though!

A pair of slippers based on espadrille soles – they are not quite right but I can improve. 2 small fish from a pattern by Ann Wood Handmade. Some granny squares for a blanket.

So why is this post called plan Z? Well a friend of my daughter asked a colleague of hers for some information my daughter needed and outlined what had been happening for her over the summer. His response was to ask if she was writing a soap opera script! He didn’t know that my son’s brother in law had almost died of Covid, that Rob (who lived in the cabin in the garden in return for helping me in the garden and woods) left suddenly leaving me with no help over the summer, that Laura moved in to replace him a month ago (she is delightful and a great help), that Matt came to fit out the utility room because it was work he could do without needing to be indoors and he needed to earn, that now I need to self-isolate…..And each of those has resulted in me revising my plans.

Some of you may have noticed that I have said very little about the Diploma in Permaculture Design I embarked on a couple of years ago. That is because I have given up, another change of plan. I intended to design ways to stay alive, well, active and living here into advanced old age and write up the designs as my portfolio. I really enjoyed doing the thinking and planning. The last stage of implementation is to turn the old garage and its loft space into habitable rooms including a shower room, all with wheelchair accessibility in mind just in case I need one and that is well underway. Meanwhile they will be additional bedrooms when family visit. I am really pleased with the results of it all. Lockdown was a good test of the strategies I had put in place to increase my resilience and I survived very well. However the writing up nearly drove me nuts. It took ages and each tutor I spoke too had their own pet ideas about how it should be laid out. I could have spent a lot of time cutting and pasting and editing, dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ but decided that the things it would enable me to do were too few to justify the work. One of my tasks over winter when hopefully life will be less fraught, is to decide what, if anything, I do next. Somehow I doubt if I will be bored! Plan Z+1 coming to a blog post near you soon!

A calculated risk

Several areas in Wales are now in local lockdown, the nearest being Llanelli (pronounced chlanechli with a soft ch like in loch) which is about 35 miles away and in the same county. It is the first time a local lockdown has not been across a whole local authority area and it would be no surprise if it was extended even though this very rural area has very few cases. Most of the restrictions are in the more urban areas so about two thirds of the population are affected even though they cover much less of the land area.

The latest moves to halt the spread of the virus coincided with a management meeting at Dyfed Permacultire Farm Trust where we discussed requests to hold some events in our partly built roundhouse. Being unfinished it has a roof to keep the rain off but no walls so counts as an outdoor space! Today I went to the dentist to have a broken filling replaced – a treatment scheduled for the first week of full lockdown at the end of March. All these things coming together made me realise that throughout this pandemic I have been making my own risk assessments of potential activities.

Some time ago I listened to a radio podcast which mentioned that ALAMA (the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisors) had produced a way of assessing an individuals risk of being severely affected by Covid 19. The idea seems to be that a local authority can work out which employees are high risk and should be asked to work from home and who is low risk so can reasonably be expected to get the bus to work and sit in the office. Out of interest I looked at the website (https://alama.org.uk/covid-19-medical-risk-assessment/). It seems I am at moderate risk despite being 70, because I am female, white anglo saxon and in good health. So it seems I don’t need to be ultra cautious.

However moderate is not low! Then another podcast mentioned the work of a scientist who believes that the improvement in survival rates is not wholly explained by improved expertise in treating those who fall ill. He noticed a close correlation with the rising temperatures in spring and summer. He works mainly on some obscure chemical in the mucus which our lungs produce all the time to catch bugs and pollutants and which is swept up to the throat and down into the stomach where the acids kill all the nasties. This system works best in damp air. So in winter when we all huddle in centrally heated homes and offices where the air is usually very dry it is less effective. Come the warmer weather we open windows, go outside more and the mucus works better. Unusually the Covid-19 virus is not killed by stomach acid (which had me wondering how effective all these alcohol gels are but that is another issue) and that , he thinks, is why some people have a sort of gastric flu not the classic cough. Luckily that version is much less likely to kill you. Not being able to breathe is the really dangerous effect. He suggested drying washing in the bedroom, opening windows and going outside as often as possible. Since none of those can be monetised he is not expecting any funding for clinical trials to test his ideas any time soon! On the other hand they are all things I do anyway so it seems that if I do get infected I may stand a slightly improved chance of surviving.

The new unfinished roundhouse at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust. We are now finding its unfinished state very useful!

Ideally of course I should try not to get infected in the first place. Which means limiting my contact with other people and especially with other people who have, themselves, contact with a lot of people. Most of the time I am here on my own. The friends and neighbours I meet are just as isolated as I am so unlikely to infect me but we meet outside whenever possible. The meetings I need to go to are held out of doors in the unfinished roundhouse pictured above. The hairdresser I go to is scrupulously careful and the dentist this morning was in full PPE. The library quarantines books between each loan and I have to request my selection online then get an appointment to drop off my returns and collect my new books through an open door. I have, though, decided that I will not shop in the supermarkets. At the cost of losing some choice of products I can get everything I need in local shops which are generally quieter and where so far social distancing has been carefully maintained. I am also using Amazon for household items which might involve me going to several shops before finding what I am looking for.

Probably my greatest regular risk is working with Laura who lives in the cabin in the garden rent free in return for helping me in the garden. When we work together we are outside or in a very large and well ventilated shed and mostly more than 2 metres apart. Since Laura works in a care setting she is in contact with quite a few people but part of her role is to educate the students in her care about the need to observe the pandemic rules. Overall she seems a relatively small risk and the benefit of her help is considerable.

Next weekend I will go to visit my daughter. The first visit since she left her husband and moved into her own home. She lives in a large town in England and works in a school. It will be the biggest risk I have taken in 6 months! Well worth it to see her and her new place. I will just have to balance it by being extra careful when I get back – not just for my sake but so that if I have picked up Covid-19 I keep it to myself and don’t spread it around.

How are you managing the risks at present? I would love to hear how you are making your assessments and anything you have found useful. It seems we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic so all help gratefully received!

Between then and what will be

I have been feeling very unsettled, grumpy-grumbly in a vague unfocussed sort of way, fraught with unfinished to-do lists and a sense of time running out.

Rob moving out of the cabin early in lockdown left me with no help in the garden over the summer. Not that he would have been much help had he stayed. The death of a close friend and serious ill health of two close family members hit his fragile mental health hard and his usual slowness became almost catatonic. Now it is Autumn; Laura has moved in and will, I think, be a huge asset. She is intelligent, keen to learn and cheerful. But for now she has to be given time to learn where things are and how to do the tasks that need attention. That means I have to work alongside her, explaining and teaching and our speed is slow.

It is also the time when I pick wild fruit and preserve it. The time when there is an abundance of fresh produce in the shops to make chutneys and pickles. Having swapped my big chest freezer for a less capacious upright one I can no longer stash it all away until I have more time (that mythical ‘more time’!) – it has to be bottled or jammed or whatever at once.

At the same time restrictions have been easing and we all want to meet up again – I am greedy for the company and sociability. And at the same time I am alert to the risks – another juggling act. We have started to have workdays and meetings at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust, a very delayed AGM – where my treasurer’s report felt like something from another lifetime – and resuming work on the roundhouse we are building. They have thrown up another dilemma for me. We are able to meet outdoors but with everyone 2 meters apart I am a long way from anyone on the opposite side of the circle. I should have had new hearing aids in the spring but of course the hospital stopped doing hearing tests. So I struggle to keep up with the discussion, often mis-hear and find the effort exhausting. Now we must all wear masks indoors, a ruling I think is sensible since masks remind us to be careful in other ways too, but it makes voices muffled and I can’t lipread or see expressions so well. I have decided that for now I will not go to indoor events involving more than 2 or 3 people and decide about outdoor ones on a case by case basis. None of this is anybody’s fault but it is frustrating and wearing.

Whilst all these practical things are demanding my attention I have been challenged by some books I have been reading. Three are memoirs written by women who chose to scratch a living in remote rural areas. Three very different personalities and stories but thought provoking. The fourth is an academic work, ‘Sitopia’, about the centrality of food to life, politics and culture and how the world might be different if we recognised that more overtly. I had already been reflecting on the plans and projects I have been working on to prepare me and this place for my older age. So now my head is full of ideas and words which roll around and, like a snowball running downhill, accumulate more and more, getting bigger and bigger. But I can’t seem to get them organised into coherent strings or know what to do with them. I will just have to wait for them to reach the bottom and the ball to break apart. Maybe then I will be able to make sense of it! Meanwhile I am wary of sharing much of it because in this mood I am likely to put it badly. Which means using energy to both contain it all and manage my impatience with not being able to organise it into something that makes sense! Another problem when meeting friends and a block to writing blog posts.

For all these reasons blogging has taken a back seat. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading other people’s posts and my apologies for the shortness of my comments.

One day soon it will all click into place again, my sense of joy will be restored and normal blogging will be resumed.