dear diary :: a nudge in the right direction

Saturday was hot. I started numerous jobs and then had to move to find more shade as the sun moved around the garden.

I have been scouring our garden finding more flat stones to lay down at the entrance to the lower wood that leads to the pond. They keep a lot of the weeds down in a place where nothing grows very much other than self seeders. Bark just rots down quickly and doesn’t stop the weeds as they just root into the bark but the flat grey stones have been really good at supressing them.

Before long the heat was far too intense and I had to abandon the job; instead I moved round to the patch beneath the holly and apple trees which gave me an umberella of shade to do some weeding. In this bed there is always a scattering of the sneaky self-seeder tellima nestling in alongside other plants and eventually overcoming them. To leave this part of the garden looking natural is actually hard work and requires more management than you might think. So very carefully whilst crawling around the bed to avoid the pain of kneeling on the fallen holly leaves ….ouch…. I managed to selectively extract the tellima that had muscled in on my delphiniums – well the delphiniums that the rabbits have not devoured yet.

After lunch I decided to tackle the curly wurly tree (corkscrew hazel) and give it a trim. It should have been pruned earlier in the year while it was dormant and leafless to reduce the height …drastically…. as it collides with the apple tree that grows next to it; but we missed the moment with the restrictions and a light trim is all we could do at this point. So out came the long pole that has some pruners on the end to reach the upper branches and that believe me is a job in itself and I gratefully passed the task over to DH. I love this tree as the canopy is low and falls over one of the entrances to the lower wood and woodland walk.

Sunday was much cooler and by teatime the rain had set in and we were treated to a glorious double rainbow over the bay in the early evening, unfortunately both didn’t come out on the photo.

After lunch on Sunday we set off to visit an Open Garden up the road high on the hill above the village with fabulous sea views. It was the very cottage we had looked around in 2004 just before we put in an offer on our cottage so it was really interesting to see what changes had been made. I remember it as being in need of a lot of renovation, probably more than ours, though it did have a new roof. The garden was just long grass at the time – not really a garden at all.

The cottage has changed hands since the original buyers in 2004 who did quite a bit to the place but the current owners have done a lot more and made it into a very desirable property whilst still retaining a lot of the character and cottage feel; in fact when we arrived we realised we knew the new owners from the caravan site – they have decided to up sticks from Halifax and live here permanently.

The garden is on a steep slope with steps leading down from the cottage above.

This brilliant two story Bothy that they have built in the garden and sleeps 2-4 people is a great place to put up visiting family and friends and they also let it out for around £40 a night. It has a fridge and microwave, composting toilet and washbasin and breakfast is provided by the owners.

There is a series of winding gravel paths cleverly taking you down and around the slope through the garden. The welsh poppies are scattered everywhere, little specks of brilliant orange and yellow dancing around in the breeze.

Although windy up above (they are much higher up than our cottage down by the sea) it is a very sheltered garden down below so they can grow the palms and more tropical plants quite easily and they do not suffer from the salt spray like our garden does.

They even have a tiny ‘beach’ at the very bottom where the burn runs through. It is much clearer water than ours as they are at the top of the hill and their burn feeds down into the harbour whereas we are at the end of the run and so we get all the run off from the farms above us which often makes the burn rather sludgy in the summer when there is little water coming down.

Since they acquired the cottage at the end of 2019 they have added an extension as well as the Bothy and now they have bought the adjoining cottage which they are doing up to let out as a holiday let. I was beginning to think maybe we had chosen the wrong cottage to buy!!

However, after visiting their cottage and garden and seeing all they had accomplished in so short a time we have been inspired and motivated to get back to sorting ours out. Since the flood we have really been muddling along not really able to make decisions and then Covid has certainly made things worse – but somehow this visit has really helped us turn a very difficult corner and as my title says it has been a nudge (no less a mighty big push) in the right direction!

Today we started on a project in the garden which I will share with you in another post.

Back soon x

dear diary :: roamin in the gloamin once again…

Just dropping by again to say hello from bonnie Scotland.

It has been a while but one daughter is now moved and settling in well and all the empty boxes have been passed onto to someone else – boxes are so hard to come by these days. Everything went to plan on the day and I was assigned the job of cupboard cleaner and organiser in the kitchen so now of course my daughter cannot find anything and when I go next time I probably won’t find anything either as she will have rearranged everything to suit her. Still the main thing was that all the boxes, but for a few craft items and nick nacks, were emptied and put away by the time we left.

We are now in Scotland once again with a to do list as long as a toilet roll. The woodland walk is in full bloom with pretty white sweet woodruff, pink dicentras and the elegant Solomon’s seal.

The pond is full of rotting leaves as we couldn’t clean it out last year because of the restrictions on our visits or put the pond net over last September to catch the autumn leaf fall. Thankfully, with little rain it is quite dry so will be easier to scoop out and clean then refill with fresh water though it is not a pleasant job and not one I look forward to. The primulas have multiplied and look stunning, I do need to plant some more of the deep orange coloured primulas though as they appear to have gone.

We have plenty of thick moss to scrape off all the paths and then we will spray some cleaner onto them to remove any residual bits. The cows have been watching our every move with curiosity all week.

After a mornings work we stopped for light refreshments! These small assorted danish pastries courtesy of Tesco are one of my treats when we come up here. There are five in a box so we always share the jam centred ones.

In the afternoon we visited Castle Kennedy gardens. (Jayne at The View from Bag End has more lovely pictures here from her recent visit to the area.) We always manage to fit in a visit when we come up and I really missed not being able to go during last year so it was lovely to see that it is open for visitors once again.

This is a very special place for us as DH’s grandfather was head gardener here from the late 20’s up to sometime in the 60’s when he retired. His granny and grandad lived in the head gardener’s cottage on the hill by the little bridge that takes you into the car park. DH stayed here for a while when he was younger with his mum and dad when they moved back from Ireland and he tramped daily around the estate trying to keep up with his grandad.

Because of our connection to the place we held our elder daughter’s wedding here in 2016 and had a marquee by the old ruined castle that sits next to the walled garden and the cute little wooden tea room.

The wedding was in July so the walled garden was at its best.

And the marquee took in the spectacular views across the estate and of course all our guests could relax and roam around the grounds during the afternoon.

And when it went dark in the evening it was quite magical.

Of course her wedding day would not have been complete without having the old tea room part of this big day. It has over the years had many coats of paint and also had the floor levelled so the tables no longer have blocks of wood beneath the legs to even them up. Today it has even had the addition of a disabled ramp.

The guests all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided on the picnic tables.

Everything was homemade and done on a tight budget – I made all the invitations, confetti, table flowers and favours….

…spent hours making yards and yards of bunting and a few hours decorating the marquee and putting up cheap white paper lanterns from a very wobbly ladder.

So it was lovely to wander around in the same warm sunshine that we had enjoyed that day with our memories and see that thankfully the place remains quite unchanged. We had gone specially to see the magnificent collection of rhododendrons that are in bloom at this time of year – they are renowned all over the world and they did not disappoint. They were stunning.

Many of them were planted by DH’s grandfather who also propogated many of the hybrids on the estate such as ‘Lord Stair’ and one named after himself RW Rye. He was awarded an RHS gold medal for them and of course we have his rhododendron in both our gardens. He is also credited as the person who propogated the pale lavender buddleia named ‘Loch Inch’ which many people will have in their gardens.

The round lily pond which is 1/4 of a mile across is another feature which is absolutely glorious.

The ‘newer castle’ built around 1860 is where Lord and Lady Stair reside and is situated between the two locks (the Black Loch – Loch Crindil and the White Loch- Loch Inch) and has magnificent views across the landscape.

We spent the afternoon sketching in the sunshine before treating ourselves to tea and scones – it was so nice to do something quite creative for once though I need a lot of practise I am decidedly rusty, especially the watercolour which is spectacularly bad – but at least I made a start – it takes time to get back into it.

We decided that today would be a ‘rest’ day and we are walking to the village and up the steep hill out towards the Mull to see one of the Open Gardens at a cottage that adjoins one we nearly put in an offer for, but we bought our cottage instead so it will be interesting to see what they have made of the garden.

The weather has been so hot here everything is beginning to look parched and dry and many of the flowers are soon over. Even the foxgloves have bent over heads from a lack of water. Our garden ranges from peaty and waterlogged to dry sandy dust and my style of gardening is just to let the self seeders find their own home where they are happiest.

So that is all my news so far which just leaves me to say a warm welcome to all my new followers and sorry for the lack of posts – life just gets incredibly busy and my energy levels incredibly diminished – but I hope everyone reading is enjoying the good weather, though personally I could easily tolerate it much cooler but at least the sea breeze helps to cool me down. I have had to garden all week wherever there is shade so I have been constantly moving around and consequently no one patch or task is fully complete. We have also spent some time over a concerning problem that has arisen because the new owner of the caravan site next door wants to put a locked gate at the top of our lane over which we have a right of access to our cottage. This would be very restrictive for anyone coming to the cottage if we had to hand out keys to everyone who has to have access, especially when we start to have contractors on site again to renovate the cottage.

Nothing ever stays the same for long these days and it is so easy to get swept up by other people’s agendas – I am feeling pretty upset by it all especially as it has been such a difficult time with the flood and then the Covid restrictions.

But tomorrow is another day as they say!

Back soon x

meandering :: down by the harbour

It was bitterly cold on Thursday with a capital B. We poked our heads out of the caravan door and quickly retreated back inside. We could see snow on the distant hills and the civil engineer confirmed that he had driven through snow in Dumfries on his way to us. It was a quick meeting with him – too cold to stand outside for long discussing the burn banking and what we might do to stop further erosion. We talked quickly and once he had gone I did a quick turn around the garden to see if there was any part of it sheltered from the howling wind passing through…. but it seemed to be circulating all around the cottage from every direction and so it was declared a definite no gardening day. 

So instead we gave in and went out.  At least it was toastie warm in the car. We packed a flask of soup and bread roll and decided to drive around the bay to the Machars across the water from us. 

We took the scenic coast road round to Stairhaven and ate our lunch in the picnic area looking out across the sea.  The place was deserted and peaceful. Wonderful. We then drove on further into Port William.  Anyone who has been there will know it is quite a cold place anyway by the harbour so it didn’t seem quite the time to stop for a stroll.  We drove on through Monreith and Glasserton and at the crossroads chose the windy road down to the Isle of Whithorn and parked by the little harbour. 

I don’t ever remember seeing it without water and the boats bobbing up and down but yesterday the tide was well out and all the boats quite still like they were sleeping. It felt warm sitting in the sun so we braved the elements and went for a stroll around the village.  The wind had dropped a little by now so it seemed a shame to have come so far and not to have a walk around. There were plenty of bright little planters dotted around filled with a wonderful mix of tulips. A good use of an old boat. I have shown pictures of this village before but I can never capture too many photos here and of course the light is always different. For anyone wanting to see more pictures of the Isle of Whithorn click here.

The cute little Tower House.

We decided against a walk to St Ninian’s Cave this time – much better on a warm day.

There has been a big problem in the area with overnighters sleeping in laybys and everywhere you go there are signs saying no overnight parking. Many of the grassy parking areas don’t have any facilities or they have been closed due to lockdown and the virus so people without their own facilities on board have been resorting to using bottles and crisp bags…..I won’t go into detail……but many volunteers have spent an afternoon clearing up this mess and picking up a mountain of rubbish.

We noticed many of the houses around the harbour have changed hands since we last came and have been spruced up a bit by their new owners; a lick of paint, a house name sign and a pot of bay or olive trees on the doorstep seemed to be the norm. I much prefer the properties to be done up sympathetically and not over done or as I would say ‘done in’ or done to death. The character of the village would disappear if it becomes too gentrifeid by comers in with too much money. Many of the wee country cottages are now being extended and turned into monstrosity mansions and look quite out of place in the countryside.

I do like a bit of dilapidated and shabby though (even without the chic) – it has a kind of charm.

And my favourite picture of all – I do so want to make some little red gingham curtains for this tiny boat and take it home with me.

Well I hope you enjoyed the tour – today was a much better temperature – good gardening weather and I have pictures of the garden (when I remember to take them) to show next time – those wonderful before and after – and in some cases just the after when I forget the before!

Back soon x

dear diary :: on a brighter note

Thank you for all the comments yesterday – I really value your support and comments. I know most people probably have some family issues from time to time without actually being a dysfunctional family. As a family we have always stuck together and we will get through this. I know that mum is a very unhappy person at the moment and lashing out at everyone but I am surprised that this now includes my sister as she has always been her favourite; she is eleven years younger than me and the baby of the family so she was left at home with mum and dad from being six years old when my brother and I left for Art College. They have always been so close, worn the same style clothes and at one time had similar tastes in furniture and spent a lot of their time together including holidays so it is sad to hear how she is starting to complain so much about her.

On Sunday we will go up to North Yorkshire to see her for the day and give my sister the Sunday off. I usually take a homemade Quiche, a trifle and a chocolate cake (all mum’s favourites) and of course some Sainsbury’s shopping – unlike my sister I do go to Sainsbury’s so it really won’t be any trouble. I am hoping my visit will cheer her up and have a lasting effect for a while. I might even take my box of photos so she can sit and reminisce for a while of the ‘good old days’ and I will politely listen as if I have never heard the stories before (even though it will be the umpteenth time I have been told them!).

The washer comes today and DH failed to get the new flooring down in the utility – there was no hope really once the leaks had to be dealt with but at least we have made a start on stripping the walls.

We decided not to change the units in here, even though we have had them for years, probably 30 years, but they are plain grey so back in fashion and go quite well with our new cabinets in the kitchen. They consist of a double wall cupboard and one of those slim line pull out larder cupboards with wire shelving. A good clean down and some new handles and I think they will be fine. I bought the wallpaper a few years ago now and I got it out the other day to see if I still liked it….and yes I do. There is only one wall papered the rest are painted so I only got two rolls as it was £20 a roll so I hope the pattern repeat is not too wasteful.

We had a long walk with Freddie in the afternoon. DH decided to down tools and go with us, but it was mostly in the rain – the cold damp rain.

We walked down the rough old mill road to the site of the dye mill – now demolished – until we could go no further with the pushchair.

We then walked back and along the road which runs parallel to the pleasure grounds but much higher up and it runs above this old terrace of mill houses where we once lived. I loved my old house it had four stories and some beautiful old features. By the time we sold we had lived there for 8 years and had done quite a bit of renovating. The modern estate house we are in now was only a stop gap for 3 years until we found our dream home. That was 36 years ago and we never did move to our dream home – instead once the girls had left home we bought the ‘retirement’ cottage in Scotland and began our 10 years of renovations before the flood took all that away.

We continued a little way down this road having a good nosy over the railings to see what our old neighbours had been doing to their houses – a lick of paint, some new windows but it is more or less the same as when we lived there. Eventually we cut off along a disused driveway and came across another snicket running through a more recent estate that took us back to the village. By the time we reached home the rain was quite heavy and our coats rather soaked.

Today is our recovery day after the childcare and I have lots to do on the list – chase up John Lewis again for one who have so far failed to send the ‘care package’ they promised last Friday. I also need to make the food to take up to mum’s for lunch and plant the pots of bulbs if they have not died of thirst in the greenhouse. Then I must try and tidy up this chaos around me, all I did last night was tidy the toys away and make our evening meal before collapsing in a heap.

I did pop my head around the door of the spare room that has become a temporary store for the laundry heap, pending the new washer. It had not self destructed – or washed itself – this new washer had better be good it has a lot of work to do.

Hope you have a good weekend everyone.

dear diary :: progress (maybe)

There may be progress but I am not sure – DH continued in the utility room today – for one of the smallest rooms in our house we are experiencing far too many problems. The hot water pipe was disconnected and a new piece of that white plastic stand pipe purchased ( the one at the back of the machine that you hook the rubber hose into for the water to drain away) as it needed to be a few centimetres taller for this new washer (wouldn’t you just know it). DH came out of Wickes yesterday with the wrong circumference size in error and luckily I spotted it as he was loading it into the car so he had to return it only to find the 40cm he needed was out of stock. Back to B&Q.

When he was replacing the pipe into the ‘U’ bend trap or whatever it is (see how technical I am here) it did not fit and he realised the old pipe had at sometime been modified and rammed in – but not very well. So back again to town this morning to get a new trap thingy. That is all in place now and the wallpaper steamer was rolled out to remove the old wallpaper and paint which has been flaking off with all the moisture in there. The paint came off like a dream in the kitchen and dining room right down to the bare plaster – in the utility it is not budging…..an inch!

The washer comes on Friday and DH has not even started on the flooring yet.

I took Master Freddie out for a walk; down to the village to post a letter and then round the back way, which is a little longer than going straight home, to give DH more time to himself. I didn’t take any photographs today but I do have some from last week’s walk when we went through the pleasure grounds and I snapped a few more snickets and ginnels, so I will show you these.

The pleasure grounds were made for the mill workers and run alongside a stream that once served the old dye mill further up the valley – we used to live over the bridge on the other side. You follow a winding path through a wooded glade along the valley bottom.

Evidence here and there of a little yarn bombing or is it pom-pom bombing?

And many fairies live here…..

As well as some pretty frightening animals.

Eventually you pass the waterfall and come to a small fenced playground at the end which is well used by the little ones. Just a swing, a slide and a rocker but they provide hours of entertainment.

As we leave the pleasure grounds we are in a very old part of the village with some lovely old cottages……

….and the old co-op – established in 1827, it was one of the first co-operative societies and was formed nearly 20 years before the more famous Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. It is unusual to find Georgian buildings in and around Huddersfield, which is mainly dominated by the heavy Victorian buildings, so this little Georgian terrace is one of my favourites.

And this is what I would call a ginnel – a passage way between a row of terraced houses that leads you round to the back.

This house has an even more unusual ginnel not only leading to the back of the house but also to the downstairs.

We made our way back through the maze of snickets which link this old part of the mill village to the main town and the main road. Pushing a pram up here was quite a workout.

Master Freddie will be here tomorrow – it is playdoh day I think. I am sure he would rather help out with the paint stripping so I have to keep him distracted – playdoh will do just that! I hope.

dear diary :: capturing daily life

I suppose in true British and blogging style I need to comment on the weather. There has not been one telephone conversation with friends and family this past week (and there were a lot) when we did not discuss the weather. Ice and icicles everywhere and that biting cold wind. The only exposed part of me when we ventured out was around my face so I doubled up on a very thick moisturiser to try and prevent me getting, what felt like, freezer burn.

Last weekend we stayed home in the warm not even going out for the daily allowed constitutional and I thought I would quite like to have another go with some DAS air drying clay that I bought about 2 years ago…… another project hanging around and overlooked for too long.

I wanted to have another go at making some gift tags and maybe try my hand at some little wall hangers. Although, I enjoyed experimenting with it I can’t say it is my favourite craft and so this might be the last time I do actually use it but it was good to have another go and now I can put that craft to bed. One of my aims this year is to simplify the craft materials that I have by making a decision on just which crafts I am going to focus on as I seem to dabble a bit here and a bit there and never really get to grips with any of them.

So these are some of the little tags and hanging plaques I made – quite cute but a lot of work and they still need sanding and smoothing – but that will be another day.

In the meantime my next knitting project will be for the two girls – Little L and Sweetie – a lightweight summer top in a 4 ply Rowan yarn that I bought last year from the lovely craft shop in Castle Douglas on our visit to Scotland. As I have two tops to knit I will keep it simple and have chosen the plainer of the two styles but have yet to decide on the higher or lower neckline. I am starting now with the hope that I can finish them by the time we see some sunshine and warmer weather. Casting on might even take place tonight if the mood takes me.

The childcare went well this week with little Freddie – he produced some lovely masterpieces with stickers and wax crayons and we managed a walk each day despite the temperature never getting above zero. Stopping to watch the ducks on this resourceful tiny duck pond in the backyard of a nearby terraced house is a favourite but it does make you feel even colder watching them splash about in the freezing cold water.

Even though we felt quite exhausted from looking after little Freddie we made the effort to drive up to see our ‘bubble’ daughter in North Yorkshire yesterday complete with a large homemade trifle and chocolate cake. She is currently on her own with the two girls, Little L who is only six and now being homeschooled (when Sweetie allows). Being just two Sweetie is rather a little whirlwind and a bit disruptive in the home classroom set up! My daughter is also finding it hard to get her own work done to the deadlines she has and many an evening is up until well after midnight trying to work while the children sleep.

She needed a break as it has been a long haul for her since Christmas especially with the schools being closed. There are far more subjects to get through in a day than there is time. We spent the day entertaining the grandchildren to give her a bit of a break and then we had a brisk walk together around her lovely village well wrapped up against the freezing cold.

Sweetie insisted she took a wooden spoon with her on the walk and spent most of the time trying to scoop and eat what was left of the snow on the verges!

Unfortunately, the picture I took is rather blurred but I think you can see that I have captured the fact that she was certainly on a mission.

We went back home to thaw out with some welcome hot chocoate and a piece of the Valentine’s cake I had made as a treat for all of us. Nothing special other than it was heart shaped, filled with fresh cream and topped with as much chocolate and sprinkles as I thought was indulgent but still permissable (which was a lot).

We all tucked in and consumed it without a murmur. Not a crumb left today.

My attempt at making a Valentine’s card for DH was altogether less successful – I was very short of time and had to resort to a rubber stamp again like last year – but, I am told, it is the thought that counts – mine is the one on the right. He made one for me, the one on the left, which is much better and quite sweet.

Homemade is so much nicer and must have saved us a tidy £6 or £7 on bought cards.

So another busy week for us and we are preparing for an even busier one next week which will include Shrove Tuesday and half term – but, like any pancake lover, I have my lemons ready. As far as housework is concerned I have done very little and I feel as if my world is in a bit of a muddle; with Covid, the cold spell and having many of our family dependant on our help it is hard not to feel both stretched and overwhelmed.

 My focus word this year is consistency and how strange then that an email dropped into my inbox about a podcast entitled ‘Why consistency is the key to Success’

It grabbed my attention and I am all ears.

In a nutshell the author of the podcast believes that many of us overestimate what we can do in a short period of time and wildly underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing over a decade or a number of years. Above all, he is a believer in process over outcome, the journey not the destination.

So my blog is aptly titled as I am all about the journey and my chosen word could be the key to a good year for me.

Then coincidently on the 5th February Freda at Live Simply Simply Live asked her readers ‘are you remembering your word’ …………well, surprisingly, yes I am………does my life reflect my chosen word………well maybe not yet but I am on a journey and little bits of consistency, like the snowdrops in the garden, are appearing slowly here and there.

Have a good week everyone. x

dear diary :: a new year, a new word

It came to me in an instant – ‘consistency‘ is what I need right now in my life….a simple rhythm to my life, a little bit of routine and normality……a little more ebb and flow.

Reliable, unchanging, expected – consistency is all the things that the Covid virus is not. It may seem very boring and humdrum to some but a little consistency is what I yearn for at the moment; I need to know I will wake up in the morning and the day will be rather more structured than it has been of late and at a pace I can cope with – it will not be quite so messy and unpredictable as it has been since the end of the first lockdown.

So last Sunday night it was settled and committed to paper…...

‘Consistency’ would be my new focus word for 2021.

Well that was the plan on Sunday night – I would get my life back into some kind of routine so that I could do all the things that I had abandoned over the past few weeks such as meal planning, a daily walk, a little crafting, even some cleaning and housework and more than ever I felt so ready to get blogging once again ……but oh dear by Monday night, only 24 hours later, my life and my plans had changed in an instant once again – this time all it took was a telephone call from one of our daughters after the Boris briefing on TV.

Somehow we volunteered ourselves into taking on the childcare of little Freddie, who will be two in a few days time, for 3 full days a week rather than him going to nursery (and when I say full days that is what I mean 8am to almost 6pm). Long days indeed to entertain a little one but I am looking forward to spending more time with him after not being able to see him for months.

Our decision was made after the sudden change of mind by the government over primary and secondary schools and hearing the thoughts of a GP friend who sits on the primary care trust board for the region. He was alarmed at the figures he saw for the rate of spread and said he would not be sending his children to school or nursery even if Boris didn’t close them.

Like the hesitancy with the primary schools we felt that nursery schools might be kept open only to be closed a few days later and by this time, like some of the primary school children, they would have been and mixed with one another. So we are being cautious for now and just waiting to see if the nurseries might close as they have in Scotland. If they don’t and the infection figures begin to decline we will revise our decision.

All this means that I will have a lot less time for me to put all my new plans in place and probably less time for blogging – but I will do what I can when I can.

So early on Tuesday morning we woke, not only to snow, but to little Freddie on the doorstep complete with high chair, changing bag and a large box of toys! I only hope we have the stamina to last the course!

Even with little Freddie helping I did manage to make a birthday card for a friend and deliver it and we have had a lovely, if not brisk, walk each day with Freddie in the snow.

I have a large stock of these blank concertina cards in my craft room which I want to use up; so together with a selection of pressed flowers from the ones I pressed during the summer I attempted an idea for a little card I called ‘Nature Notes‘.

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Instead of a fresh bunch of flowers I gave her this little laser cut wooden snowdrop I bought from an artisan craft stall in John Lewis a while ago. The package was perfect to push through her letterbox as they are sheilding again. She emailed me later to say how delighted she was with her gift and card – she does some beautiful crafts herself so always appreciates my handmade creations concoctions!

Apart from childcare and walking nothing much else got done here during the week and anything we do need to do will be done on our four days off (Friday to Monday). DH has been back on soup management with a lovely batch of tomato and leek and potato and I have been planning menus again – simple menus for the moment but it is a start. It is a pleasure to cook in our new kitchen – if not a learning curve with a new induction hob, double oven and dishwasher to master. I will do a post on the new kitchen soon – I need to find some before pictures so you can see the difference.

I will leave you with some pictures from our walk yesterday up towards the moors above our village. The views up there are stunning and being surrounded by nature makes the world feel quite perfect and untouched by the virus.

A lovely surprise to find some tiny catkins starting to grow on the trees.

Before I go I would like to say a very special thank you to all my blogging friends for the lovely comments welcoming me back to blogland – I am touched – and I was so pleased to hear everyone is fine and coping in their own way and that you all managed a relatively good Christmas despite the strange times.

So my mission this week is to work out a way, and goodness knows I keep trying, to weave our commitments and busy life into a more calm and balanced life.

Possible or not – I don’t know?

dear diary :: calm amidst turmoil

Hello everyone – I hope you are all well and safe. We are. Well safe at least from the virus and thank you for your messages of concern, I had not realised I had been away quite this long. Truth is my neck, shoulders and lower back have not been good again lately so I have been trying to stay off the computer and do more exercises to release the build up of tension I get in these areas; it seems most things I want to do, whether it be sewing, cooking or reading blogs, involve long periods with my head down – not a good posture.

It has also been difficult recently dealing with my mum from a distance as she goes into decline both physically and mentally and I am feeling the strain. Mum has just realised, now she is able to go to my sister’s house, that she doesn’t have the strength anymore to manouvre herself in and out of the car without the help of my sister’s husband and that shopping is looking like an activity she will not be participating in any longer.

The restrictions imposed on her, both from the Covid virus and her mobility, are now sending her into a state of depresion and witnessing the news on TV day after day of the recent events is making her feel quite angry. She is never able to disassociate herself from what is going on in the world, even though there is little she can do about it. The recent removal of the statue and the ongoing protests are causing her a great deal of irritation, though, I suspect this is an easy target for her anger at the moment when in reality she is probably angry with the fact that she is so immobile. My problem is trying to calm her down each evening when I phone her and we just keep going over the same topics with me trying to find a way for her to accept that people feel very strongly, enough to gather and protest even in these dangerous times with a killer virus still out there. I have always been a person able to see both sides of an issue – perhaps not always a good thing.

As the assistant in Sainsbury’s said to me the other day when I got chatting to him in the vegetable aisle “it is not just the case that Black Lives Matter but rather Every Life Matters”….he was black so had an interesting point of view on this and I tend to agree with him.

As for the fate of the statues – this is a hard call and I suspect will be yet another division in our society where we already have the north / south, rich / poor, leave / remain, black / white divides.

In our local town we have dear old Harold Wilson on a pedestal (for those overseas readers – a past Labour Prime Minister born locally of a working class family) located prominently just outside the railway station – I suspect many of the young people passing him daily are not even aware of who he was or what he is celebrated for. He took the place of an earlier statue of Sir Robert Peel who just crumbled away! Although Harold was a great campaigner for the rights of the underprivileged, like most of the people commemorated by a statue, he also had a few stains to his character. In Harold’s case, although far from being racist, he did authorise military aid during the Nigerian Civil War, an act that directly cost the lives of millions of black Africans (largely the Biafrans), in return for a supply of cheap oil. The photos of emaciated black children dying of hunger caused a huge political outcry when they were published in Britain and although the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s is quite forgotten today it is still an episode in our history of overseas intervention by British military that remains.

Our local history is very much built on the textile mills owned by wealthy people like John Ramsden, Joseph Armitage, the Brooke and Brook families, John Crowther, Joseph Quarmby and many others. As far as I am aware there are no statues of them around the town, which is just as well as not all of them can be celebrated for their contribution to human welfare by any means; loss of life and limb for their mill workers was a constant daily threat, but they provided us with our many fine public buildings, schools and churches and were the major source of employment here.

In our little township one mill owner was quite philanthropic and like Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire provided homes, schools, a convalescent home and some pleasure grounds for his mill workers as well as good wages, a dining hall and baths. In fact one of these houses built in 1857 was the first house we bought after we married in the 70’s. It had a garden that stretched down to the mill stream and overlooked the pleasure grounds. The whole terrace has now been listed.

Originally built as under and over dwellings (quite a usual feature in the north) most of the houses, like the one above that we lived in, have been knocked through now to make one four storey dwelling. Sadly a lot of the original Georgian windows had already been replaced in favour of a more modern style, as on the ground floor kitchen window. As it was two houses originally we had a front door number 23 and a back door round the other side of number 21.

So our world is in a state of great unrest at the moment – but then looking at our local history I am reminded that it always has been in one way or another and I think about the words of John Ruskin, to the Merchants and Manufacturers of Bradford, regarding their plan to build a cloth exchange, 1864 during the time of the great wealth of the mill owners who were bringing about so much rapid change (rapid for those days).

“Change must come; but it is ours to determine whether change of growth, or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be in ruins on its rock, and Bolton Priory in its meadow, but these mills of yours be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be as the wheels of eternity ? Think you that ‘men may come and men may go,’ but mills go on for ever ?
Not so; out of these, better or worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which”.

So will we choose for better or worse?

And now we are preparing for the new changes allowed to our movements as shops open once more and tourism starts up again – I feel a sadness that our economy is so reliant on us once again going out to ‘spend, spend, spend’. We seem to go around in circles trying to balance the environment with the effects we have on it by spending and tourism.

I find the best way to overcome any feelings of hopelessness is to either go for a walk or go in the garden as nature is very calming and grounding. So a walk around the block is an excellent tonic.

This verge covered in spring by a mass of daffodils is now dotted with moon pennies and gardens that lay bare before are suddenly filled with all the delights of summer perennials.

In and amongst the exercising and walking I have done a little making and baking. A choclate cake for DH’s birthday…

……and trying out a new recipe I found on the internet using fresh raspberries. It is such an easy recipe – a deliciously melted chocolate brownie mixture, in to which you drop the fresh raspberries and bake in these tiny spring form tins…..

….and eaten when still warm from the oven and topped with fresh cream of course.

Not everything in the kitchen has been baking though – I had a roll of puff pastry and goats cheese to use up, so made my favourite savoury goats cheese and walnut tart – quick to make and always a favourite in summer to have with salad.

I also found time to finish the padded bench cushion so we can while away some time in the garden in between weeding and dead heading.

The large dish is beginning to fill out nicely now with the annuals I planted, brightening up a dull corner.

…and the peonies have opened at last. This is one I bought a few years ago with a beautiful yellow centre. I always think you can never have too many peonies in a summer garden.

So not a lot going on here – but enough at the moment – I am making the most of this time while I can to recharge my batteries. I have a hairdressing appointment booked for the middle of July – all being well – DH needs a hair cut even more than me! We look forward to the day we can go to Scotland and see our garden up there and also visit mum and the grandchildren for a hug – it is a bit of a strange time now when we are not yet safe from the virus but not quite as much at risk – I am not even sure what the rules are anymore, but then we have not introduced many changes here yet and the only shopping we continue to do is our once every other week trip to the supermarket. Maybe we will venture out more soon when I feel the coast is clear.

Stay well and safe everyone – I will be round to catch up with everyone’s blogs soon.

And if you are reading this Suzanne – I couldn’t leave a comment but I am really sorry to see you say goodbye on your blog – I will miss you. x

meandering :: down country lanes

We decided at the weekend that we would take a day off in the week to go out somewhere – just the two of us – no grandchildren, no daughters and no mother – just us.

An opportunity came on Monday as the rain appeared to have stopped. I was up early and got the washing out on the line, then made a fresh batch of green soup. At 10 o’clock we decided that the weather was holding and good enough to go out; so we hastily filled a flask with hot soup and buttered some bread, brought the washing in again in case of rain, jumped in the car and headed south with a vague idea of going to Buxton. One of my forever favourite places.

We had passed through Glossop and Hayfield but feeling rather hungry by now we pulled off the road at a tiny place called Slackhall just outside Chapel en le Frith and followed a rather narrow winding country lane into what seemed like a hidden valley. Glorious.

We pulled into an opening to admire the view whilst eating our picnic lunch. Afterwards, I couldn’t resist picking a few of the ripe blackberries from the hedgerow down the lane. Just enough for a blackberry and apple pie to herald the start of the coming season.

Mingled with the blackberries were plenty of fat rosy hips of the wild dog roses and along the grassy verge many of the wild flowers have now died back to a delicate skeleton of seedheads in every shade of corn yellow and brown, dancing around here and there as the cooler breeze swept in waves across the valley.

The corkscrew spirals of rose bay willow herb with the fluffy white seed heads so intricate and pretty and these tiny pearl like seeds of the plant below looking like little raindrops – can anyone recognise this flower, it doesn’t seem quite like cow parsley?

Being immersed in these beautiful surroundings amongst nature and undisturbed by traffic certainly does your soul good – it was so peaceful here I really didn’t want to leave. We will be back one day with our sketchbooks.

But sadly, once lunch was over and I had filled my bag with a few choice blackberries, we had to move on in order to leave us with plenty of ‘afternoon’ to look around Buxton.

For those of you that have never been, Buxton is the heighest town in England, has more than its fair share of snow every winter and rain too and is split into two parts – the lower and higher town – divided by the slopes, a tree lined park connecting the two parts – the upper housing the Town Hall and market place and the lower the magnificent Crescent and drinking fountain – the latter a memorial to Samuael Taylor.

We parked at the higher part first and headed for the famous secondhand book shop Scrivener’s. Every corner of the five floors is piled high with books and every tight little space has a seat for browsing. I could get lost in here for hours.

Scriveners, Buxton

Then we walked down to the local museum / gallery but found it closed. Monday is not a good day. Along the snicket by the side of the museum we discovered The Green Man gallery has a new home in this adjoining building.

I had seen the building many times before because it has a distinctive turret formed by a stack of wooden bays on one corner and looks like it needs some repair and attention but has a quaint shabby chic feel to it. I have always wanted to see inside and now, it seemed, was my chance. So we followed the little green footprints to the doorway and went inside for a browse. Every surface, including some of the windows, has been ‘artistically’ painted both inside and out and the gallery spans about four floors with rooms for workshops and dedicated artists.

This was looking out of one of the green bay windows in the turret onto the slopes below through a decorated pane.

My favourite artwork had to be this unusual mosaic set into rocks…..

….and this old fireplace set in a stark, almost empty room in one of the bays and which felt like a piece of art in its own right – a ghost of the past paying homage to the fine building it might once have been.

Once outdoors again we just went for a wander around the town. I can never visit Buxton without taking pictures of the shop fronts. From the simple….

…to the more elaborate. This is by far my favourite – the old chemist on Cavendish Circus – representing a piece of old England – of days gone by – an independant shop displaying goods in the window like a treasure trove for passers buy to browse and admire.

The tiny tobacconist come toy shop on Grove Parade
Potters – the local drapers on Terrace Road – now selling Joules and Sea Salt labels, keeping up with the times whilst still holding onto everything that is endearing about this magnificent old shop.

These shops are just a joy to me – the beautiful architecture and canopied buildings – I am instantly transported back to the Victorian era when this growing Spa town was a desired destination of the genteel ladies flocking here to ‘Take the Waters’.

And then there are the buildings – to attract more visitors to this developing Spa town the Pavillion, built to replace the old Edwardian bandstand in the gardens, opened in 1871 – a glorious glass and steel structure echoing a seaside resort. This was followed by the Octagon Concert Hall – (distant left in the picture below) in 1875 and then at the turn of the century the distinctive Opera House was built.

Buxton and domes it seems go hand in hand – they are everywhere against the skyline, looming up through trees and proudly displaying its long heritage, a stately tribute to past and prosperous times. Buxton is home to the world’s largest unsupported dome (the Devonshire Dome) until more recent times – quite a structural achievement back then. But that is another day, another post.

The gardens around the Pavillion are beautifully kept since being handed over to a management company. Within these iron gates is everything for a good family day out – including a minature train and boating lake.

After a good stroll around it is always worthwhile to visit No6 The Square just opposite the entrance for one of their afternoon cream teas. Indulgent…yes, delicious…absolutely.

No 6 The Square Buxton

pleasurable :: some good moments amongst the bad

Thank you for the wonderful supportive comments to my last post – as Sybil Witters On would say – ‘you are all awesome’ and I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear from you all. I know there are plenty of readers that are also going through some difficult times and blogland is certainly a very supportive community.

It has not been all doom and gloom here – there have been highlights and it has been helpful to me in preparing this post to see that amongst the bleakest of days there has been some bright spots – so this is a quick round up of my last few weeks.

We have been harvesting the ‘fruits’ of our labours with salad freshly picked from the two wooden tubs I planted earlier this year. The land cress and radishes have been particularly good.

On the morning of my birthday I baked a batch of mini cheese scones and then some fruit ones. I had just enough flour to make a Victoria sandwich cake that I filled with fresh cream and strawberries. I usually have friends and family dropping by during the day and like to have something to offer them with a drink.

We were still munching late into the evening when the last of our friends came round, luckily there was just enough left over for the Aussie cousin when he arrived next day.

Not knowing him very well, but hearing that he liked gardens, we decided to have a trip down into Derbyshire to visit the Winster Open Gardens. Winster is one of the oldest and most historic villages in the Peak district, full of quaint cottages and beautiful well kept gardens – the pub itself dates back to 1472 – so we thought it would be of interest to an Aussie who would not see anything quite like this in Australia.

It was one of those really hot days that we had (if you can remeber them before all the rain) and I was just coming down with a nasty chest virus but felt I had to soldier on to entertain our guest so I felt a little disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm he showed for anything we saw. However, DH and I enjoyed ourselves – especially the cream teas and Morris Dancers and we saw some very impressive gardens and delightful little corners.

I was in bed after this for a few days and DH had to entertain the Aussie by himself – I did feel a bit bad about it but not as bad as the virus was makng me feel!

It took a while for me to get back on my feet so Little L’s visit had to be postponed for a few days. It was still the hot weather when she came and we decided to take her out to a nearby village of Marsden to Tunnel End for a trip on the canal shuttle and a picnic.

We walked along the canal from Marsden until we reached Tunnel End and the little cafe. At this point the canal disappears into the hillside to reappear in Diggle over the hill – the tunnel is 3.5 miles long and takes 2 hours to travel through by canal boat. There is only just enough room for a single boat in the tunnel and it is quite dark and cold – I believe that to get the original horse drawn boats through the tunnel at one time you had to walk it through using your feet against the sides of the tunnel. Goodness knows what they did with the horse!

I know I would feel rather claustrophobic going through there and I am not sure Little L would have liked it so after our picnic we opted for the little shuttle instead that took us back down the canal to where we had parked at the station in Marsden.

Then we walked down to the village for a homemade ice cream. Marsden is a large bustling village sitting at the head of the Colne Valley with plenty of local independant shops, a small Co-op, and a few cafes and bars…and its own micro brewery and pub. It is nestled into the moors that stretch over to Greater Manchester and was once an important place for the woollen industry and dominated by the vast stately mills. Some of the cottages are quite old dating back to 1610 and, a new discovery to me, they still have the old village stocks – apparently last used in 1821!.

The Marsden Mechanics Hall is central to the village – looking as grand as any town hall and home to many events and activities it is the hub of the village, in fact we have been to a weddding reception here.

The River Colne flows through the centre of the village with a spectacular waterfall that has glints of gold like tinsel on a sunny day as it crashes over the weir.

We had plenty of trips to the park before Little L went home for her birthday and a party with her friends from school. She had decided on a local soft play centre as a venue and we went along to help. I was not prepared – the sheer volume of noise in these places is ear shattering and if you didn’t suffer with tinnitus before you arrive you certainly will when you leave! But a good day was had by all and then it was time for a visit to my mum’s.

We took her out to Saltburn on the Saturday and then Eggleston Hall on the Sunday – still enjoying that long spell of warm weather.

Eggleston Hall gardens are a real treasure – having mum with us now limits the amount of photos I can take whilst holding on to her. There is a nursery attached to the gardens with the most wonderful stock of plants if you have the time to browse. Sadly the browsing days are over now for mum but she did find a nearby bench to sit on whilst we had a quick wander round.

We so enjoyed Saltburn that we took Little L there the following weekend. The weather was not as good but it didn’t spoil her absolute pleasure playing on the beach.

This coming week we are having Little L to stay again but this time Sweetie and mum are coming too for a few days. That is if the car gets sorted as we are going to be fetching them. We suddenly had one of those engine warning lights appear at the weekend so the garage will be having a look today to see why. I have a feeling this could be another expense we don’t need at the moment.

I hope you have all had an enjoyable summer – I am trying to catch up with all the news. Going up and down to North Yorkshire and looking after the Aussie and the grandchildren has left little time for anything else this summer. At least the virus has gone and I am feeling a lot more human now. Whilst we have had a run of bad weather I have been having quite a tidying session in the house and crossing a few jobs off the list.

Today I am going to make some nutloaf and plan a few days meals ready for our next visitors. My washing and ironing is completely up to date for once and yesterday I managed a few hours in the garden removing what seemed like a thousand self seeded Aquilegia plants from the front borders.

Have a good day – back soon x