dear diary >> unsettling times…

Having just got back home after our recent trip up to North Yorkshire to visit mum then my daughter and the two grandchildren Little L and Sweetie we unpacked, washed, shopped and then repacked and I am now writing this from Scotland…it may even be published this time, I have written a few posts recently but then never pressed go and they remain on my drafts list incomplete. Like many other bloggers the recent invasion of Ukraine has left me lost for words, scratching around in the dark looking to find a chink of light that will help me make sense of the world right now. This is a photo taken on the Pennine Moors above us in Yorkshire of the sunset the other evening – it is such a peaceful place – and probably a stark contrast at the moment to the ruins of some of the Ukraine cities – I stood gazing at this for ages and couldn’t help wondering what might the future be for our world.

And how, I keep wondering, can one man cause so much suffering, so much bloodshed and so much heartache and what are we going to wake up to next in the morning?

After the last two years of Covid and restrictions and a feeling of uncertainty I think we were all hoping for a better 2022, and now as spring and the promise of better weather are almost within our grasp, at last….it seems our hopes are fading fast.

Life is so unsettling at the moment and all the problems that have been gathering around me at quite a pace over the last few months have now paled into insignificance compared with those faced by the people of Ukraine…but each day I wake up they are still there and ignoring them is not making them either go away or any easier to sort out.

Mum is becoming quite hard work for my sister and one of the team of carers who go in on alternate days has refused to go. She was mum’s favourite but sometimes mum has been quite nasty with her. At 96 she now feels she has the right to speak her mind, but often what is in her mind is not endearing her to the people who are trying to help her. I can understand mum’s frustration at losing her mobility and being practically housebound but the other residents in the apartments are finding her hardwork and avoid going to see her leaving her more isolated than ever. I ring her each evening, we will have the same conversation many times over, usually she has to establish if we are at home or in Scotland and when we will next be going to see her, after only a few minutes she will have forgotten what I said and will ask me again and so it goes on for the next 40 minutes. To make matters worse she has a habit of holding the phone upside down so I cannot hear her properly but that is not quite so bad as when part way through our call she sometimes switches to trying to talk to me on the TV remote and I can hear her saying ‘can you hear me’! I cannot see there is any solution.

Sadly, it has also got to the point now where we dread coming up to our cottage, wondering what we will find this time, what changes await us. Joe and his wife are here at the moment in the remaining caravan on the little site below us, the light was on when we arrived last night and it felt quite comforting to see an old face and have a neighbour. The caravaners were our friends and now they are almost all gone. Thankfully Joe has no plans to leave at the moment.

There must have been an excess of rain up here because the roads had large pools of water along the verges. The tarmac lane from the main road down to our cottage eventually comes to an end and then we have to drive over a wide strip of grass just outside our property to reach our hardstanding by the garage, (the lane and grass belong to the caravan site owner – we have right of access over it). We could see that the grass was soddened and so parked at the end of the lane and walked over the grass on foot to unpack the car – it took us ages squelching about in the mud…..I might have uttered a few choice words at the time. I cannot ever remember in all the time we have been coming here that the grassy bit was this bad or this waterlogged. Once unpacked we moved the car onto a patch of gravel on the other side of the lane so it won’t get stuck in the mud. It is not actually our land and no doubt the new owner won’t like it but the other option is that we will churn up his grass trying to get in and out of our property.

We have two sizeable farm gates at the entrance to our little cottage and just before we left for home on our last visit the gate post of the left hand one had rotted and sheered off at ground level and toppled over bringing the gate down with it. All DH could do at the time was to prop the gate back in place but the wind must have blown it over. Of course it is another job on the list – I am not sure if it has even made it on to the top ten of urgent things, but it must be close. The new caravan site owner did send us a text to let us know – it seemed a neighbourly thing to do but then on the end of the text he asked if we would consider letting him have a part of our woodland for his business! I probably don’t have to tell you what our answer is to that.

The lady who came once a fortnight to cut our grass has given us notice because her knees are so painful and swollen the doctor told her that to continue would certainly make them worse. So we have to find someone new…it will go on the list….the list is getting too long for comfort…I keep folding it in half so I don’t have to look at all of it at once….but I am not sure it really helps.

No doubt we will weather these storms – all we can do is carry on trying to cope with the problems as they come up.

In and amongst, like most of you, I am trying to find a way through these rising prices but if through sanctions, my gas, electricity and fuel has to rise even more to help the Ukraine people then so be it, if the price of some foods like flour and oil becomes too costly to buy or too scarce then I will put up with that too…I am willing to make sacrifices if it will help to stop this ridiculous war.

So I am spending quite a bit of time roaming the aisles of the supermarket gathering up any reduced priced items that we normally buy, using the Smartscan and Clubcard offers and collecting reward points (though these may well be donated to the Ukraine crisis fund). We are using the oven as little as possible and making most of our meals on the hob. We have decided there a few things we can give up or buy cheaper and somethings we will not be buying at all if I can make them.

I am reluctant to stop buying as much fresh fruit and veg – it is the staple of our diet and as you know I buy mainly organic to support the farmers who are growing sustainably. We make our own soup each day using veg that is on offer or needs using up. When the oven is on I have batch baked pastry cases and sponge cakes for the freezer, in fact the freezer is groaning

This week I made this farmhouse fruit cake to take with us to the cottage. Using a very old Stork margerine recipe (so old the ingredients are only in pounds and ounces and the oven temp in Fahrenheit) I was able to use up all the left over bits of dried fruit from when I made the Christmas cake, although I no longer use block margerine like Stork prefering instead to use the Pure dairy free olive oil spread free from nasties.

I figured the best way to cut our spending is to not go shopping at all other than for food or necessities and that way I am not tempted to buy things I don’t really need.

I have been shopping though.

I needed to buy a new bedsheet – I only have two (one on the bed, one in the wash) and one on the guest bed (not that we have had any guests for a long time!). DH woke up one morning to find a rip in the sheet almost the full length of the bed, it had worn quite thin over time and there was no way I could repair it. We also need to replace the wooden blind in our living room. As we have some John Lewis vouchers we headed over to Cheadle branch have a quick look at theirs. The ready made blind we wanted is now discontinued and their made to measure ones are too costly for our budget. We tried a few other places and have seen one in B&Q which we have put on standby. Because of the size and shape of our window we have to remove at least a third of the slats of the ready made ones as they come as a standard 180cm length; DH is not at all phased by the alterations needed – he ‘cut to fit’ the one we presently have but we are seriously looking at having a made to measure one through Swift blinds who just happen to operate their business only a few miles away from us and their prices are quite reasonable.

The fitted bed sheet was easier to find and I just bought an ordinary white one from their Anyday range which is £13 and good quality. On the way out I passed the clearance section and spotted this double cotton duvet set. It was the remaining one of last summer’s range and was marked half price (£32.50 originally £65) so quite a bargain and good quality. The colour will go well in our main bedroom – when it is decorated that is – and although I don’t normally buy florals I do like the Scandi style print on this. The coupons we had covered both purchases so they costs me nothing.

Having a John Lewis / Waitrose reward card meant that by taking 5 empty beauty products that can be recycled (any make) I could have £5 off any beauty product purchase. This offer is not continuous but keeps coming round so that I am able to take advantage of it and buy the Liz Earle shampoo and conditioner that I use when I need one and although they have just had another price rise to £13 each (ouch) it meant I only had to pay £8.

So that was my shopping expedition for this month and probably all I will be buying other than food. I have been busy making and baking and when I get back home I will be sowing seeds ready for growing a few bedding plants for the planters and this year I will probably grow tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and some salad leaves to eek out the food bill.

Well I will leave you all here and maybe even manage a couple of posts from Scotland. The cottage garden is just waking up and I can’t wait to get out there to tidy up a bit. x

26 thoughts on “dear diary >> unsettling times…

  1. I have avoided talking about the war in Ukraine as I don’t think I have anything useful to say. All I can do is pray. I don’t know where the consequences will end.

    The duvet set looks lovely. Looking out for the small wins helps keep us sane. Hugs x

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    1. I think our feeling of absolute helplessness with respect to this war has rendered us into an unusual state, some place that is quite unfamiliar and we are all at a loss as to what is our next step, what do we say next and particularly wondering what will happen next. Seeing this war play out on our TV screens before us is quite new like being in an action movie it is hard to grasp it is real. Prayers, I feel, are something we can all do and many of them.
      There is always a little thrill to bagging a bargain. xx

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  2. I liken such beautiful foods to eating colors. Nothing brightens up my palate half as much. Prints would brighten my kitchen too! 🙂

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    1. I love walkng into my pantry and having all the fruits displayed before me.
      I am keeping the duvet cover for the warmer months when I put my brushed cotton ones away – hopefully by then I will have the room decorated.😊

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      1. That duvet would be perfect for my room. I am craving light and airiness as an antidote to the lingering dove grayness of this lingering winter, so am shopping for a colorful quilt to replace the winter ones. I do love winter just a bit more than summer. That sounds strange coming from an artist. LOL. Winters are comforting and foster nurturing, while our summers feel like assaults. Fall and spring are really very special because they flood us with colors.

        I hope you will share post-decoration photos.

        Be well.

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        1. It looks like spring has arrived from the window but the temperature outside says different! I do like all seasons though the cold winter months certainly don’t help my old bones. It might be a while until I switch the cosy winter duvet covers for the new cotton one!

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  3. dearest vivien, a good post and stating a lot of what we are all thinking of the world as it is at this time. just wrong and pointless. thank you for sharing once again your life and giving us thoughts to ponder. take care dear lady.

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  4. You do well with all your coupons and special deals – not something I see much of here!

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    1. If a bargain presents itself like the Duvet set then I do have a bit of a dither but have learnt to grab them while they are there. I did carry it around the shop with me for half an hour before I actually bought it!!

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  5. As I am no longer blogging I have confined my thoughts and opinions about the current world situation to emails, which is probably wise bcause I can get a bit ‘ranty’. But I agree with everything you have said, I think we probably feel very much the same way.

    So sorry about your Mum’s continuing decline – so very hard for you all. The cottage? Only you can know when the economics no longer add up and if future retirement potential continues to outweigh the new neighbour.

    You have touched on future food scarcity, not just endlessly increasing prices. Ukraine is/was a major wheat producer and I cannot imagine many farmers are sowing this year’s crop right now. It will have a knock-on effect that we probably cannot yet begin to imagine because wheat is in so many items, not just bread flour.

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    1. Thank you Jane for the email – I will be replying soon – it was lovely to hear from you as I miss your posts and maybe this summer we might meet.
      At the moment the two biggest problems are mum and the future of the cottage and we swing from one to the other. It is hard as we have no idea how bad or how quickly my mum might go downhill further and again the plans of new owner of the caravan site is also an unknown – although we do know now that he probably wants to expand – sadly for him we are in the way and he has nowhere else to go unless he buys the farmers field across the main road.
      I have been thinking about the scarcity aspect and although I don’t want to panic buy I am stocking up the pantry a bit more and looking at how I would alter our diet to cope without wheat products and oil too even though we use olive and rapeseed rather than sunflower I expect that if sunflower becomes scarce then the olive and rapeseed will be bought by people in its place. When there was the food panics with the pandemic all the organic fruit and veg were taken when supplies of ordinary disappeared on the shelves.

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  6. I can really empathise with how difficult things are getting with your mum. I seem to have become responsible for the care of my elderly neighbour and she doesn’t make it easy sometimes. I am having to learn to be more patient and bite my tongue at times. Whilst I’m sure she’s grateful for what I do I think she is as equally frustrated that she needs help at all. I really hope you manage a more restful time in Scotland this time. It sounds like you need a bit of respite. 😊

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    1. I think you have hit the nail on the head – it is the sheer frustration that seems to generate the anger and they hit out at the carers especially if things are not done how they have always done them. 😊

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  7. The world is a scary place at the moment. I remember so much talk of nuclear war when I was at school in the 70s and 80s, it seemed like something futuristic, and here we are in a new century and the threat very much upon us. I just can’t imagine what the poor people in Ukraine are going through right now. It’s so hard watching our parents age and the decline in them. It’s lovely to still have them around at a ripe old age but it can be sad if they haven’t got the quality of life we’d wish for them. You’ve done very well with your bargains, I like your new bedding set, something I’m going to need myself very soon.

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    1. I remember when I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s campaigning for peace and love, ban the bomb and recycling, avoiding plastics – all to save the world. People were choosing alternative sustainable lifestyles and we thought our message would end all future wars and save the world but then the Thatcher era and capitalism seem to bring with it a greed we had never seen before and the Yuppies and so on were born, recycling was forgotten completely and the Faulklands war errupted and a lot of lives were lost. We seem to be forever going backwards not forwards.😊

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  8. What a lovely newsy post, and I agree with so much of what you say, and you put it all so much more eloquently than I ever could.

    Sorry to hear about your Mum, I can feel your pain as I struggle a lot with my Mum these days, losing her carers would be terrible. My Mum isn’t nasty, she’s too much the other way if anything. She won’t ring for the medical help she needs and has been offered, she won’t tell my brother that going to the shops now makes her ill for days afterwards and she point blank refused a dementia test that the doctor wanted her to have. Each visit and phone call now has the same script and she cries over the same memories and is constantly setting fire to pans and then spending hours scrubbing them with brillo pads. Sometimes we just have to laugh at it all as other wise we would be in tears too.

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    1. I like your polite term of newsy post when it is just me rambling! My mum makes me laugh and cry in equal measure and I really do feel her pain but I cannot give her the mobility she so desires back and she won’t even help herself by doing the exercises prescribed by the physio – all she wants is the doctor to give her a pill so she can get on with life as she knew it.
      She tells us everyday how good her memory is and then tells me and my sister what bad memories we have – I even start to wonder if it is me!!

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  9. Thank you for being brave enough to mention in your post what is actually happening in the world. I know that we are probably all feeling the same about the subject, but it sometimes seems like we are just not acknowledging it publicly. Why is that?

    I just pray that the increasing sanctions bring enough pressure to bear, and that this might help to create a solution and that the Ukrainians have the strength to continue holding back their aggressors. I have been impressed by the positivity and dignity of this nation throughout and by the generous response of their European neighbours.

    I’m sorry to hear of the increasing difficulties you are facing with your mother’s care. It must be very challenging and heart breaking for your family. I hope too, that you manage to make progress on the long list of things that need doing at the cottage. I’m sure you will get on top of it, especially when the weather improves and we get into spring and summer. Sometimes it’s very easy to feel undue pressure to get everything done immediately and it becomes overwhelming. Be kind to yourselves and do what you can where you can. It will all get done in the end.

    I love the duvet cover that you bought. Very pretty and great value.

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    1. The Ukraine invation has highlighted for me just how precariously balanced the world is and how vulnerable we all are. This is so shocking because it is the power of one man and somehow he can control a whole nation. The most heartbreaking thing for me was not the harrowing pictures coming out of Ukraine but a street interview with a Russian lady in St Petersburg saying she was behind Putin not 100% but 200%. At the heart of everything , of all mankinds decisions, must not only be love but also knowing right from wrong.

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  10. Viv, you did a very good job of summing up the feelings of so many of us with regards to the situation in Ukraine. Helpless. Distraught. Sad. Angry. So many emotions that threaten to overwhelm us, knowing that these are minor compared to those either living in and/or fleeing Ukraine. But still our feelings must be dealt with on a daily basis so that we can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    Know there are no easy answers when it comes to your Mum…or even the situation at the cottage. All in all, it must surely feel like a pile-on some days. Hope you can find solutions–even if only small, incremental ones–to help you and DH (and your sister) through these difficulties. Thinking of you.

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    1. Thank you Mary you are quite right about the overwhelm of emotions. My concentration and motivation at the moment is at an all time low. How people lived through the 5 years of the 2nd world war I will never know. Let us hope and pray this does not develop into WW3.

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  11. Hello,
    I enjoyed reading “unsettling times.” I pray for them, too.
    Also reading about your various problems, with things wearing out, etc. I’m a senior citizen, and at this time I need a new stove, a new washing machine, stove hood, new television – all at once! I told my friend Emily around the corner that “everything’s going to pot, including me!”
    My sister Judy always said everything comes in clusters. How true.
    Please send me a piece of that fruitcake – it looks delicious! 🙂
    Marilyn from New Jersey, USA

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  12. It is a very unsettling time right now isn’t it. I am so sorry to hear about your Mum that sounds so hard for you, there is, as you say, no easy answer. She sounds very frustrated. I do hope you manage to make your list a little shorter, a long to do list is always overwhelming isn’t it.

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