dear diary ~ here at last

You will guess where I am with the photo – for new readers that is our little cottage in Scotland.

I thought we would never get here – breaking our journey in Carlisle overnight is good for my back but it sure lengthens out the journey and although the Premier Inn is cheap and comfortable there is no place like home with all your home comforts around you rather than packed in a bag in the boot of the car.

We stopped off at Penrith on the way to Carlisle – a lovely little market town with no end of independent shops – luckily it was window shopping only as it was closing time. We ordered 2 personal pizzas in the nearby Dominoes take away for our tea and ate them in the car outside the posh George Hotel in the town centre.

I also managed a turn around the local Booths supermarket… another favourite haunt (we don’t have one at home) and I discovered they stock those little tins of Batchelors creamed mushrooms that I cannot find anymore in Sainsbury’s. I had thought they may have been discontinued…so I am ecstatic (and mum will be too as she loves them also) – I picked up four cans to keep us going and will give a couple to mum. We had one of ours for tea on Saturday night with a baked potato. I picked up a couple of boxes of mixed grain Sharpham’s flakes, a bag of brown basmatti rice and some wholewheat lasagne sheets – all of which Sainsbury’s have stopped selling.

On Saturday morning after the mammoth breakfast at Premier Inn (though we only have the Continental), we had a good run down from the border and on arrival at the cottage on Saturday gave a huge sigh of relief to find everything OK.  Our caravan in the garden (that we are currently staying in) was still dry and no signs of damp.  The only disaster if you can call it that was that 2 pillows that had zipped pillow protectors with a waterproof backing had not fared well and had little signs of a green mould appearing presumably because the pillow was unable to breathe.  They have never been a problem before so I think maybe the weather here has been very wet and damp for a while.  I quickly bagged them up and will take them to the launderette in town for a good wash if we get chance.

It is as usual very peaceful here in the winter and today the sea is silvery and calm with the sun catching the underneath of the clouds lighting them up across the sky – you cannot help but relax and enjoy the beauty.  On the first morning (Sunday) we had a late start to the day and after a long slow breakfast I cleaned up the caravan while DH began cutting the grass – it grows all year round down here on the mull – albeit much slower in the winter – but it takes quite a while to get it all done when the grass is long as the cuttings bin fills up much too quickly.

I never got to do a post before we left home.  As usual our busyness took over – we had Master Freddie’s 4th Paw Patrol style birthday party to attend and my younger daughter came to stay with Little L and Sweetie, so there was a lot of bed changing and washing going on.  Master Freddie and his guests had a great time – 2 hours at the soft play centre down the road and a birthday tea and games afterwards at his house. 

DH and I prepared the food whilst the children went to the soft play. I do like a good old fashioned party with sandwiches, a cheese and pineapple hedgehog and jelly and ice cream with sprinkles of course.  The kids ate much more than we thought and being careful to avoid all those nasty colourings they didn’t become too hyper. 

The cake (courtesy of Sainsbury’s this year) was covered in blue fondant icing but we put a piece into each party bag for them to eat and become hyper at home!

This little fire engine was a gift from Little L and Sweetie – it is from Aldi and folds up into a book When opened out fully one side is a printed road – great to pay with little cars on and the other side is a printed fire engine that makes up into a box that you sit inside complete with steering wheel – how brilliant is that!

I had my friend’s birthday present to sort before we came away – we only exchange little presents and we both like to buy from shops who sell hand made goods that support other people in their livelihood, like Oxfam, so I chose a tiny hand woven basket from a local shop called Fair Trader and added a conditioning bar of Patchouli and Sandalwood wrapped in some pretty cotton fabric from my stash.

I had a session with the osteopath last week to work on my back and this time my neck – long sessions on the computer does not do anything for anyone’s posture and certainly not mine.  I often find myself slumping over the keyboard and in turn this has tightened my neck muscles and is now affecting my hearing.

I have brought quite a few books with me in case of bad weather – (I am currently reading through these 3 Persephone books that were a surprise Christmas gift from yours truly) and my knitting which is going to be for the new baby in May and which has been on pause for over a week.  It is plain and basic but as a beginner who knows very little it might still be a challenge!

I also packed my little notebook where I make lists and do my planning – I have a lot of planning to do in all areas of my life – finances, wellbeing, house maintenance and the big one – what to do with the cottage. At the moment we are like Team Love it and List it and cannot decide on the best course of action. You might think I would be on Team List it but no….I still want to love it.

Whilst we mull it over there is plenty to do in the garden – the snowdrops are in full bloom and the daffodils not far behind so it is a good time to get down to some serious pruning. Like these hydrangeas.

Better get going then instead of chatting on here. x

dear diary >> looking forward

Thank you for all the kind comments and well wishes. I seem to be reporting a lot this year about illness, so I am hoping the start of next year will see a big improvement to my health. Illness of any kind can often drag you down and I do feel like each time I just get going again something else happens and like a game of snakes and ladders I find myself sliding back down a slippery slope once again.

This Covid virus has certainly taken its toll on both of us and the fatigue is only just beginning to go. Yesterday we managed another very short walk down the lane although it was quite miserable in the drizzle and eerily quiet – still it was good to be out in the fresh air and feel the weather on our faces. Each day I manage to do a little more than the day before so that is a good sign. I am lucky that I didn’t have a cough or breathlessness but I do feel very stuffed up and that peculiar taste and smell that developed still lingers.

Our homemade soup makes a satisfying meal for us as our appetites are slowly getting back to normal – today we will make a batch of mushroom soup between us – DH will do the chopping and I the cooking and then no doubt we will have a rest to get over the exertion! We have an apple crumble in the freezer but I am not sure I could do it justice yet so I will probably opt for a fruit yoghurt instead.

My life at the moment is as dull as the weather and I am looking forward to brighter and more productive days ahead now the worst of the virus is over and I am able to at least think about festive plans. This year our plans will be kept simple – often they are the best anyway. As some of my readers will know our family operates a Secret Santa – it is something we have done since 2013 and we have never looked back we are all thankful to spend less time shopping and it leaves more time to have family get togethers – eating, drinking, chatting and playing those all important party games.

It was quite encouraging to hear Martin Lewis give out a similar message last night on his program. Over the years it seems Christmas has become about the gifts and the shopping and very little else. When I was a little girl I always looked forward to going into Sheffield city centre at night to see the lights and the displays in the department store windows. Of course back then there were probably a dozen large department stores throughout the town and each put on a magical display. With all the council cutbacks our local town has a very poor display and somehow the new flickery LED lights don’t have quite the same impact as those old fashioned brightly coloured light bulbs that streamed across the road. We have no department stores left and hardly anyone has a window display. No doubt this is the reason that we now search out light displays to go to during the festive season at National Trust properties though they are a might more expensive than the free shows we used to have in all our towns and cities.

I always enjoy making a few little things for Christmas but this year I know I will be short on time. I am currently looking for inspiration for a Christmas card design – I quite often do a linocut – there is something quite simple and satisfying about this technique….ah well maybe I can magic up a little enthusiasm to make a start, after all Christmas waits for no-one.

dear diary >> it’s been a while…

Somehow time escapes me and although I never intend to have a blog break I often find that my life is just not geared up for being consistent….about anything. I have quite a valid reason for my sudden disappearance this time… some point, just after my last post in August, before the sad announcement about our dear Queen and at the time when my back problems were much improved I fell….backwards…… from a height…..directly onto my back and not only damaged all that was nicely on the mend but I am now suffering more pain particularly around my coccyx area and the numbness in my feet and legs came back with avengence.

When I was checked over after the accident I was found to have a significantly raised blood pressure of 221/177 which would not come down again and was ordered to see my GP immediately! Daily readings had to be taken over a week or two and slowly the figures reduced to a more reasonable level and now after a lot of walking, rest and meditation it is back to my normal level of 120/70 for most of the time but for some reason my pulse remains a little higher than usual at 70 beats a minute rather than 50 to 60 beats per minute. The GP says that 70 is still good but to me it feels like it is going at a bit of a gallop, but I can live with that.

Last week we managed a trip to Scotland but had to have an overnight hotel stay in Carlisle both ways to break the journey – an expensive exercise but one that prevented further back problems as travelling in the car does bring on the pain and stiffness quite quickly.

As you might imagine after a few months of neglect the garden resembled a tropical rainforest which we had to fight our way into. So much had grown and many of the plants were laced with goosegrass. DH had to do most of the work on his own to try and tame back the overgrowth amongst the undergrowth.

Meanwhile, I could only potter but managed this one border that runs alongside the lane and was full of weeds, dying stems of plants that have finished flowering and grass from strimming the verge (which is done by our neighbour’s gardener but he only cuts it when it has grown long and then never clears away the strimmed grass). It took me all week in short shifts as gardening is the most difficult thing for me to do at the moment. So this was the before…

…and after….

Thank goodness for the colourful hydrangeas at this time of year – they certainly brighten up any garden and I cut a few of the heads to dry and bring home.

There was an abundance of apples on the Bramley tree and the Braeburn I planted a couple of years ago had born a wonderful harvest of fruit.

Surprisingly, we had little trouble from the new neighbour……there had been changes though and the bright yellow barrier has been put in place at the top of the lane that we share but it was open all the time we were there and no sign of a padlock…however, we cannot be sure if he still intends to lock this ‘gate’ in the future against our expressed wishes that we do not want a locked gate on our right of way unless he obtains a Court Order and it is unlikely from previous cases and the legal advice we have received that the courts would rule in his favour. A locked gate would prevent any of our guests and deliveries having access without being given a key and as a previous Judge said in a recent similar case ‘one cannot be handing out keys to every Tom, Dick or Harry that might visit’. Access for disabled visitors to the cottage would be far too difficult which would not be acceptable either.

It was good to be back at the cottage (for new readers – we presently stay in a caravan on site whilst the cottage undergoes some renovations). We had plenty of sea air and a few lovely walks around the sleepy village and down to the harbour and then along Shore Street to the Low Road that runs adjacent to the shore – it is much more sheltered along this pathway when there are cold winds. We cannot access the beach from our cottage at the moment as the winter sea moved some very large rocks around and cut off our access. Hopefully the winter sea this year might roll them back again.

So we are now back at home but it will be brief as we are now preparing to go and visit my mum for a few days whilst my sister is on holiday. Before we go I have soup to make and apples to cook and freeze so I had better get a move on.

I hope everyone is quite well and keeping warm. I am following along with you all on your blogs and will get back to commenting soon, I promise. If you are reading this I hope you are feeling better Lyssa and I am looking forward to your challenge Sue (we almost stopped in Garstang on Monday but decided on Chorley in the end) and love your new title Jules and the pictures of Mull – Scotland is quite a magical place isn’t it – I feel quite refreshed after our visit. And to everyone else have a lovely week and enjoy the sunshine…. if you are lucky enough to have some.

Back soon x

dear diary >> just catching up

It has been awhile and so long since I have written anything very much that I am finding it hard to put pen to paper so to speak and my camera is feeling quite forgotten lingering on the office desk as I haven’t taken a photo for weeks….quite unlike me.

But firstly….how is everyone – very well I hope and enjoying the summer and getting life back to some kind of ‘after Covid’ normal. Though I know of more people with Covid at the moment than ever before. From time to time I manage to have a little catch up with the blogs I follow and find everyone seems busy in their gardens, or decluttering and I know some of you have even left jobs and moved house.

I am still hoping that normal or some kind of new normal will happen for me soon now I have my results, at long last. You may be curious to know what has kept me away so long (I know I would be); it really is no secret… the time whilst I was waiting for scans and results no-one had any idea of what might be wrong and it could have been anything from the return of the cancer or just something quite trivial – though my symptoms were not suggesting the latter. I came back from Scotland at the end of March and sitting in the car for such a long journey was the start of my symptoms as a day or two later I could not bear with pain all down my back and my feet and legs became quite painful and numb too, to the point when I could no longer function and just had to lie down.

Well, the results from the MRI scan have shown a right lateral extruded disc at L4 and L5 level but they also found something called a Tarlov cyst on the left at S1 level growing on one of the spinal nerves in the spinal canal. These cysts are quite rare, often don’t produce symptoms until they grow in size…. which is what has happened to me – it had been aggravated and enlarged quite rapidly. So presently I have a lot of nerve problems going on as both the herniated disc and the cyst are pressing on the nerves that run from my lower back down my legs to my feet making them both painful and quite numb in places. As the disc heals the feeling should come back to my right side but the cyst is not something that is easily dealt with as it consists of cebral fluid that fills the nerve root and expands to then compress on surrounding nerves. Removal of them as you can imagine is only done as a last resort and can cause irreversible paralysis, draining them is a more usual procedure but one that doesn’t have a good outcome as they just fill back up again over time. The cyst is aggravated by continuous sitting or standing – walking is not quite so bad and it is a condition that is managed rather than cured. When the discomfort gets quite bad lying down is my only release.

It is the reason that I cannot sit for very long these days to write a post, edit photos or read and comment on your blogs. At its’ worst sitting to eat a meal was too much but gradually this is getting a little better. I have spent so much time lying flat reading and watching mindless TV when of course what I would really like to do is cook and garden and even go for a day out somewhere. Travelling in the car is almost a complete no go area and the most I have managed so far is a trip down to town. We are not even able to go up to Scotland and I wonder what the future holds for us now with our retirement cottage. I am not sure at this point if gardening will ever be something I can do again and DH is finding it a struggle to keep up with everything himself both in the garden and the house, though I must say he irons beautifully (something I never knew!!).

I am now having physical therapy on my back for the disc problem and with a mixture of gentle exercise, plenty of short walks on the flat and rest periods during the day it gradually seems to be healing itself. I am hoping too that the cyst might settle down if I am not aggravating it anymore with constant gardening and travelling.

So that is my story so far and a big thank you to everyone for your lovely messages they have really helped to keep my spirits up and hopefully as things begin to settle down I will be able to post a little more often.

Until then have a lovely summer. xx

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