dear diary :: a new beginning

Happy New Year to all my followers and readers.

After a very late night I eventually surfaced around 10am…bleary eyed, so I am quite late changing my blog header…..but here I am to wish you all the best of what this year will bring for each of you.

As always I am excited with the prospect of a brand new year stretching before me – not just an empty page, or an empty chapter but a whole empty book. By the end of 2020 just what will be written on these pages. Who knows….and that is the magic of this time of year, we really don’t know.

I can map out what I am hoping for, what I am striving to achieve, what I am going to work hard at to accomplish, but I cannot predict any of those unexpected twists and turns along the journey, the ones we have least control over.

This year as many readers will know my chosen word (whether you like this idea of choosing a word or not – it works for me) is Flourish. Maybe an odd choice you are thinking, but as one of my readers said it is very apt for me as it is often a term used when caring for plants and as my passion is for gardening then it fits so well.

One of my intentions this year will be to continue with minimising and simplifying. It is not something that happens overnight – it requires a lifestyle change and developing a different mindset. For as much as I love the space I have been creating around my home I can still fall for buying completely unnecessary items….you know the ones that ‘spark joy’ when you come across them when out shopping. John Lewis does it for me every time and TK Max! My joy seems to come from objects rather than clothes these days…and don’t forget the garden centres – I could spend a fortune there even though my borders are really jammed packed full.

As the manufacturers continue to design and market new and tempting merchandise displayed in the shops I will always find it hard to say no. Like eating a healthy diet finding that balance of moderation is hard and one I am constantly working on even though every time I go to a decluttered cupboard I feel a sense of satisfaction and that spark of joy….it is often just not enough to deter me from buying more.

Some areas of my life I have well under control – my bathroom cupboards for instance only hold what I use – you won’t find anything lurking there that is not something I use most days to keep me clean and presentable. Other areas of my home are still a work in progress and the decluttering continues but it is the stuff that still comes into our home that is the problem because that is the stuff that ironically will almost certainly become part of my future decluttering. There is very little that we need (other than a new car perhaps….oh and maybe that new kitchen) but somehow I still manage to find things to bring home!

I haven’t run our year end tally yet to see just what we spent – I can assure you when all added up and displayed in a report it is frightening. Even those odd cups of coffee and snacks we buy when out and about do add up to rather a lot.

It has been a hard year for us trying to cope on the one state pension, our savings have dwindled considerably as prices continue to rise and our family circumstances are such that we have had a lot of travelling up and down to North Yorkshire. I won’t even mention the cost of all those events we laid on or attended!

This is the time of year when I have a good look at where I overspent, then promise to myself to be more careful….and it works, usually….well for the first few months!

I aim to be more green too. I say that knowing full well that I bought a plastic fridge container yesterday…a small blip. In all honesty though when I am shopping I am going to be more mindful – the wooden toys we bought at Christmas for the grandchildren are all lovely and don’t have those awful jangly tunes and songs in American accents coming out of them, (sorry USA readers but the Fisher Price toys do all begin to sound the same), in particular the ABC song which must be coded into every activity toy. My granddaughter, who is only five and like many children, now talks with a slight Americanism about cookies, movies, garbage and trash – the influence of TV and activity toys!

But first….. my aim this month – the new health and fitness regime, guaranteed to make a difference – you just have to keep at it. I am not so bold as to start today….no today is for recovery and reflection and maybe a sprawl on the sofa watching a film or two.

And I will get back to answering the comments from yesterday.

I hope everyone has a good day today for the start of the year…somehow it does make a difference if the very first day starts well.

Welcome to my new followers on the journey – I am hoping the road this year will not be quite so bumpy as last year. x

dear diary :: looking back and looking forward

It is that time of year in the quieter lull between the Christmas festivities and New Year when I always start looking back over the past twelve months; remembering all those unforgettable moments both good and bad that are etched on my mind for ever.

It has been an eventful and productive year, if not a little exhausting at times, beginning with the birth of little Freddie in January and followed by two Christenings, a 1st birthday and 40th birthday celebrations. Phew.

It was the year I grew more vegetables, started knitting again, made a christening gown and many of my own cards. In and amongst we had some lovely days out at the open garden events as well as in Scotland and a very memorable day at the seaside in Saltburn with Little L.

It was also the year we remodelled the downstairs cloakroom turning it into a walk in pantry. I did think at the beginning of the year that we would have made a start on the kitchen too – but that was not to be and we continue to live with our truly retro kitchen, patching and repairing it as we go along.

The cottage was put firmly on the back burner again as a difficult situation arose in the summer that required our full attention. The unexpected issues we had to deal with took all our time and are best forgotten – I remind myself we did our best and that hindsight is always better than foresight. If there are any regrets or niggling thoughts that I should or could have done things differently or better I just think that we are where we are and nothing can change that now all we can do is wait for the day when the issues will be resolved for better or worse.


I don’t know about you but I am already pondering on my next actions and thinking about my word for 2020. ‘Transition‘ was my focus word for 2019 learning how to incorporate many changes into our lives as we moved from working to retiring.

Try as I might I have failed so far to get into a new satisfactory routine since leaving work and my life is certainly a lot different and feels like I am going at a faster pace than ever, trying to accommodate all the changing needs of our wider family who are all in transition too it seems and if anyone ever asks how I am coping my answer is always that I have less time now I am at home than when I worked.

Letting go of the familiar to sail blindly into unchartered waters is not easy and we have not entirely found our footing….but we know where we are headed and have made a start. I realised this year that to do all the things we want to do in retirement and have a long retirement, enjoying more time with both our chosen activities and our ever growing family, then our good health is key.

So I have been giving a lot of thought to this recently – I know our health could be better – I do not want to slide down the slippery path of having to take medication for those old age ailments that with a bit of attention from me I can prevent or reverse before they take hold.

Of course regular readers will know I am reliant on taking thyroxine medication as my thyroid gland had to be completely removed in 2008 due to cancer. This tiny gland that sits at the base of your neck at the front regulates metabolism – energy, heartbeat and temperature and how well you burn calories and digest food. It can be hard to balance the amount of Thyroxine I need daily to keep me stable – that is neither hypothyroid nor hyperthyroid – get it even slightly wrong and the side effects are not good.

Having a healthy diet and plenty of exercise does help my body overcome the lack of a thyroid gland but it can be hard to keep it up when we live such a pressured life.

January will be the month then that I will be focusing on my well being, diet and exercise in gradual small steps.

Over the year I also want to concentrate more on craftwork – sketching, sewing, making more cards – any creative activities would be nice. I feel this year I have laid the foundation and 2020 will be the year to build on this.

Minimalism and simplifying as you know are subjects dear to my heart and I will continue to reduce our impact on the environment by being mindful of what we buy and what we waste.

With all this in mind the word that has kept coming back to me is….


meaning: ‘grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, to grow or develop successfully’

I do not just want to grow and adapt during the changes to our life but to do it with good health and a positive mind. The word Flourish to me just fits the picture perfectly.

I will be beginning in January to take our health seriously – maybe not on New Year’s day but the days after. Presently I am reading and planning for the changes I want to make and I aim to record these daily for anyone else who might want to follow along with me.

It will be more of switching to healthier choices rather than a diet as such or anything too extreme. I did this when I had the cancer and it saved my life back then – I hope it will prolong my life in retirement now.

Have a lovely weekend and welcome to my new followers. xx

dear diary :: contemplating Christmas

At last things are slowing down here – I washed most of the sheets we used as tablecloths for the christening buffet and the weather, although bitterly cold, was fine enough to hang them outdoors on the line.

We had a leisurely lunch too – nothing fancy, just a ploughman’s sandwich with spelt and rye bread (not home baked but just as good) and a side salad to use up the last of the items in the fridge. Having missed the real taste of the beetroot in yesterday’s soup I just had to have some raw grated beetroot drizzled with a little french dressing.

After the last few hectic weeks we have had with all the celebrations and my daughter’s house move I am now turning my attentions to Christmas. It feels quite late not to have done anything at all but then I feel this is my opportunity to embrace this lack of time I have……and it will force me to keep things simple and not just play with the idea.

So I am thinking what do I really need to do and what can I miss out:-

  • A Christmas tree – definitely – we always have real and because we are not hosting Christmas this year we will just choose a smaller one. We have last year’s rooted and potted one in the back garden and DH will move that round to the front to be decorated with lights.
  • The Christmas Lights and candles – how could you not have lights – I would always choose lights over decoration if I had too. DH will put up the outside lights and surprise me as usual with his artistry.
  • Christmas Decor – just as simple as I can make it though I do love all my Christmas treasures and it will be hard to just pick out a few.
  • Christmas Fare – the cake is the one food item I will make sure gets done, we don’t eat many mince pies – I usually bake them as gifts and may not even bother with them at all, but the florentines and my chocolate slab are quick and delicious and must be a MUST. The nut roast can be made next week and frozen ready to take with us to my sister’s on Christmas day – DH makes a good one, so I will pass this job over.
  • Christmas Cards – another definite as it is how I keep in touch with family and friends I rarely see – homemade if time allows but if I don’t get to do a lino cut then it will be a stamped card or even bought ones.
  • The Christmas Newsheet for relatives and friends – you either love them or hate them but I always send one to people I do not see often and I love to receive them and hear everyone’s news. So this will go on my list.
  • The Family Gifts – as most regular readers know our family does a ‘Not so Secret Santa’. This year we have reduced the amount to a £25 spend each as the younger end of the family are either on maternity pay or student loans and the older ones now on pensions and we all have less money than before. None of us would ever go back to buying presents for everyone and trailing round busy shops not knowing what to buy – the get together we have to swap the presents is the highlight of the year and more fun than the gifts. This year we will all be together on Christmas day so we have no need of a pre Christmas get together.
  • Little Gifts for Friends – this year I intended to make a calendar for each of the friends I buy for and it is labour intensive – if it seems there is too little time to make them then I will find an alternative – I might even use those free pots and buy some cyclamens to plant in them.

Did I miss anything?

Of course there are the many things that I would love to do, crafting, baking and a little Christmas meandering, and more Christmas meandering – but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself, there has been too much of that this year. So I will have a second list of ‘would like to do’ if there is any spare time.

  • making the robin teacosy I started last year
  • making little Freddie a Christmas stocking
  • a concertina Christmas banner
  • a trip to Saltaire or Askrigg village stained glass windows event
  • a photo book for mum and my aunty with Alzheimers

Last year in the run up to Christmas I did something Christmassy each day in my ‘Creating Christmas’ posts with the help of a daily advent card. You can read about it by clicking here or on the menu tab above and in the side bar.

So this year I am thinking it would be a good idea to do a ‘Creating a simpler Christmas’ one that is at a much slower pace and definitely calmer…. and perhaps there are readers out there that might have some helpful suggestions for achieving this.

Have a lovely weekend x

beach cottage :: the long awaited update

Many readers have asked me about the cottage and I have tried a few times to do this post with a few pictures, however, each time I have abandoned it as it has been too upsetting.

So here I am trying again.

For anyone that isn’t familiar with my previous blog the tale of the cottage and the flood can be found here – Beach Cottage and the tab above.

And so for the tour…please mind your step it is a bit dangerous inside as all the floorboards had to be removed.

This is the kind of state that met us when we first went into the cottage after the flood. The water level had reach 2 feet in the conservatory but only about 1 foot elsewhere. There was brown sludge everywhere.

Looking from the other direction when we had cleared some of the debris and the sludge had dried a bit.

This is the kitchen above now completely stripped out of units – the contractor’s schedule and makeshift electrics board on the walls still remain. Everything from here ended up in the skip even the fridge freezer which was like new. Luckily we had not renovated the kitchen at the point of the flood.

Likewise the bathroom – with toilet and basin removed.

The bedroom above stripped of plaster and floorboards – the bed and wardrobes all had to go in the skip. Only the light shade remained and is still hanging there like a ghost of times past.

The living room is the saddest room for me, we had almost finished the renovations in here. The old tiled fireplace had been removed and a larger opening made to take a wood burning stove. One of the windows had been knocked out and french doors fitted so we could access the conservatory at the back.

We had boarded around this room and carefully painted it with umpteen coats of paint, sanded between each one – the finish was so smooth. At this point just the skirting boards to fix…

…and now we have gone backwards as all the boarding had to be removed.

This is just a handful of the many pictures we had to take – I can hardly bare to look at them and now it just sits in this empty state – just a shell of its former self, cold and forlorn. I never go inside anymore it is too heartbreaking – it was to be our retirement home.

We have plans on the go – they keep changing as the years pass – somehow the 3 year fight with the insurers left us drained and now life has just taken over so much ( we have had a wedding and 3 grandchildren since the flood) we barely can find the time to sit and discuss what the future might be. We could just have the place renovated but I am so scared it might all happen again and although I can cope with the flood and the practical things I could never cope with the wrangle we had with the insurers to get our money, they make you feel like some kind of criminal who is trying to defraud them. We were fully insured and even they agreed that in the end.

Part of the problem was a useless building surveyor who eventually left – had it not been for DH knowing about buildings and contracts etc we could have had a big problem on our hands. They could never add up either and had it not been for my job in finance and a keen eye we would have been robbed of thousands of pounds due when they made payments to us.

I know we must get on and do something – the caravan is far too cosy but is not a long term answer. I am hoping 2020 will be the year – let’s hope everyone in the family keeps well and problem free to allow us more time to progress.

There is always a silver lining though and I am waiting for it! xx

dear diary :: sing to me, Autumn

Home once more and we are truly into Autumn now; but hasn’t it been a glorious month – apart from bouts of heavy rain (my sympathies go out to anyone that has been hit by a flood).

The words of the poem ‘Sing to me, Autumn’ are a perfect reflection of this moment and encapsulate the beauty of the season – the sunlight streaming onto the garden this morning was so beautiful – casting deep shadows whilst highlighting the crimson red berries of the cotoneaster… I reached for my camera but it is so hard to get a good photo. There is an abundance of berries down by the seat – we have left it out a little longer as it is such a nice sheltered place to sit and admire the last of the season’s flowers.

Our blinds are being drawn earlier each evening and some of the solar lights left out in the garden are struggling to stay on for very long. I am looking forward to all that the dark evenings and cooler weather brings – after the ‘gathering in’ time it is beginning to feel like the ‘snuggling down’ time.

As usual, after the wonderful slow life at the cottage, we hit the ground running once we are home. I have a long list of lunch dates to fulfill and phone calls to make – there are finances to catch up on and the garden still needs a bit of TLC. I won’t even mention the housework and cleaning that is obviously needed.

Oh and have you thought about Christmas yet?

…….No, ….. very sensible…..I would normally shriek at the very mention in September….but I feel this year that I want to get ahead as I am finding, in the more recent of past years, that everything gets so hectic and stressful the closer we get to December and I try to pack in far too much in those last 3 weeks.  So rather than rush through it I would prefer to savour each moment and enjoy the concerts and Christmas events (that I often miss through lack of time) having completed all the necessary preparations in good time.

I have made a start and though I said I wouldn’t, I relented a few days later when in Tesco… right in front of my nose the new Country Living Christmas magazine appeared – (of course I blame Sadie at Notes from an ordinary life for persuading me as I noticed she had also bought a Christmas magazine and that made me feel so much better!). I kept last years too so hopefully they will spark off some new ideas.

I am mainly thinking about the gifts (we don’t have many to buy or make) – our family takes part in a ‘Not so Secret Santa’ – though I have a feeling this may change again this year – my daughters, who say they have everything they need, have expressed a preference for having a family gathering or event that gives us memories rather than any gifts, so this may be our step towards a no gifts Christmas within the family other than the young children. I will await the whole family vote on this but I personally would find it a lovely idea and support it.   

So it is mainly just a few friends who like to receive my homemade offerings -though I could be wrong and be like Ella of Thrush Green in the Miss Read books,  giving horrendous handmade gifts that people then give away as fast as they can – I haven’t as yet knitted any ties… wonky or otherwise!! 

I also enjoy making the décor, keeping it as natural as I can and of course the Christmas cards (I am thinking another lino cut this year as I enjoy doing those) and perhaps now is the time to start looking at sketching out a few design ideas rather than sitting down on the first day of December and saying today I will make the Christmas cards and then not having a clue as to what I might do.

And what a stroke of luck to find Sainsbury’s are celebrating Organic September (never understand why it is not Organic October – has a better ring to it) and those who know me well will also know I eat organic food most of the time so our Christmas cake is naturally an organic one.   Anyway, Sainsbury’s have reductions across their organic range so I filled my trolley with the fruit for my cake and the nuts for the nut roast.  I am well pleased though it bumped my shopping bill up quite a bit.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s I bought this snuggly top. I have bought very little throughout the year – it has not been quite ‘a no shop’ year but close – this little top will be ideal for those chilly days at home or when visiting my friend for coffee, who has minimal heating on and I do find it a bit cool at times so tend to go in a few discreet layers.

Remember I collected a few flower heads and petals to press at the caravan – well they are now quite flat and ready to go. The only means of pressing them at the caravan was to use some kitchen roll between the pages of a notebook so the textured pattern of small dots on the kitchen roll has imprinted onto the petals but I quite like it! I have bundled them into some cellophane bags to protect them. My favourites must be the delicate blue campanula, the white daisy heads of the chamomile and the vintage hues of the hydrangea petals. I just have to find a little time to turn them into some cards and tags.

For the rest of today I will be attending to the last of our cooking apples from the cottage garden. I am thinking an apple loaf would be just right and maybe a crumble using the blackberries for tea.

Have a lovely day x

seasons :: all is safely gathered in

Come, ye thankful people, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

There is something very comforting and reassuring about the words of harvest home – gathering in for the winter ahead, reaping the rich rewards of our earlier efforts of sowing and growing – picking fruits and berries from the hedgerows – and then making, baking and preserving – what could feel better and feed the soul at the same time. It is as nature intended.

I have spent the week here ‘gathering in’; apples for cooking, blackberries for pies, ripening tomatoes in the sun and stacking logs for the wood store – and thinking ahead, I have been foraging for useful Christmas decorations – pine cones, hydrangea heads and a few lengths of willow for a wreath.

I feel now that I am well gathered!

We have lived very simply here over the last two weeks at the cottage – only buying enough food for a few days ahead and mainly fresh food – vegetables, dairy and bread. We don’t keep stocks of anything very much in the caravan just a little salt and pepper, a jar of dried pasta, some rice, a carton of lentils and tomato passata and a few teabags. You might even find a tin of baked beans, if you are lucky.

But with Brexit upon us I have been thinking long and hard about what action, if any, I should take to stock my larder at home. There will be panic buying – I have no doubt – judging by the food shopping frenzy at Christmas – it seems it is a very British thing – but I hate to be a part of that. On the other hand the words in the hymn ‘all is safely gathered in‘ suggests to me that it is a wise move to gather in before the winter storms and what could be more of a storm in the making than Brexit.

At the beginning of this year I decided not to keep large stocks of food in my cupboards at home so that it would never end up as out of date waste and I have loved the emptiness and the fact that we have not needed huge amounts of food in hand or added to the ‘waste’ mountain; but now I feel I must heed the words of the hymn and gather in for my family. So when I return home I will be buying a few extra tins and long dated dry products, ready for the long winter months, ready for Brexit whatever shape that takes.

It has been the most wonderful few days here in Scotland, dry sunny days, not too hot, just perfect for gardening; it has been oh so quiet, just us and a few birds, who have also been busy gathering in – so before we return home, and I am sad to be leaving, here are a few pictures from around the garden…..

back soon – have a lovely weekend and welcome new followers. x

dear diary :: computer malaise

In the last few days when I should have been preparing and packing for our holiday I have been sorting out computer related problems and now have come down with an attack of that modern day illness namely CFD (computer frustration disorder) for which there is no known cure.

Trying to get to the bottom of the WordPress advertising problem, then trying to find a way to get my usual monthly to do list and my cottage packing list I keep on Todoist to print out all the pages and not just the first one (a new glitch on their part which we told them about last month and is still not sorted) has seen me tearing my hair out.

Eventually we found a work around for the lists by logging into Opera browser and the print function through Opera takes a PDF of all the pages (who would have thought). But it only took us four hours of trial and error before coming up with this; and after I had scoured the internet for a new To do list provider that will do print outs at all as most of them think everyone just wants a list on a phone now! Progress!

And yes I could have written my lists out by hand in this time or use excell but Todoist was working fine for me up till now.

There appears to be no simple work around for the WordPress adverts though – and believe me DH and I have tried but because everyone has such personal settings on different devices there is no one adjustment that will fit all.

Anyone following this thread may have read all the comments over the last few days from readers and below in the highlighted sections is the email answer I had from WordPress who investigated my query about both the type and amount of ads now appearing on my site for some readers.

Please note my comments are the underlined italics at the end of each paragraph….

WordPress say “The banner ad at the top has been in use on free sites for over a year, and can be collapsed by clicking on the tab. (we were not informed of this banner)

The ad appearing directly above the sharing buttons is the original ad slot for all sites on, so ads have been appearing there for as long as we’ve been displaying ads on free sites. (Fair enough and I was always aware of this one and its placement and it had never appeared to be a problem to readers before).

The other ads that appear between paragraphs are known as inline ads. Those are relatively new, but they’re also supposed to be there. How many of them show varies, depending both on the length and structure of your post, and on factors related to the person viewing the ad (the latter is what determines which advertisers bid on the available ad slots – if no one bids on inline ads, they don’t display. (I wasn’t aware of these at all and we were not informed these would be added to our sites – I rarely visit my own site as a reader and if I do, because I am logged into my account, I would not see them – these ads seem to be the most frustrating to my readers).

So all the ads you’re seeing are supposed to be there, and are used to cover the cost to us of hosting your site for free. They can be removed via any of our paid plans. (The ransom notice!)

If you feel the content/subject matter of any ad is inappropriate, please click the “Report this ad” link on the ad itself to report it. We serve thousands of ads across millions of sites a day, and no two people visiting your site sees the same ads. Additionally this process is completely automated, so reporting the ad directly that way is the only way it’s possible for us to review a specific ad”. (Firstly, I never see the ads anyway so unlikely I would be the one reporting them and secondly, they are tailored to the reader so I would never see the same as them – the one I did catch a glimpse of was advertising for young girls to work at home – which seemed a bit dubious to me and I feel WordPress should be the ones monitoring this not our readers – it is too late once they have gone out.

So there you have it – WordPress have increased the amount of ads and not really mentioned this to their users and take no responsibility for the content – but well done Simone for speaking up and letting me know otherwise I would have remained oblivious to what is happening.

I think eventually because of their increased adverts WordPress will send more new bloggers to Blogger for those of us who just want a free personal blog and where you can personally choose to opt in or out of ads on your site so readers can read and comment without being put off by a bombardment of pop up ads.

For anyone who is troubled with ads on sites they love to visit, and not just for my site, you can adjust your settings to a more strict mode but be aware this can also prevent you accessing some sites as it will also prevent cookies and most sites run with enabled cookies. Using Firefox or Opera as a browsing mechanism and of course Safari with Apple will limit ad problems.

Moving forward – as far as this blog is concerned it seems I have only two choices:-

Switch to Blogger ….or

Pay WordPress the ransom money – I am presuming here that they will just keep on increasing the number of ads over time until a blogger is forced to have a paid site.

Perhaps I need a holiday to think it over!

PS: whilst writing this post something quite unexpected happened – I have been spelling WordPress throughout with a small ‘p’ but when I preview the post it has always changed automatically to a capital. So isn’t it amazing that now WordPress do not have a spell check facility for a post any longer, as mentioned by me in an earlier post, they do have some setting to automatically change their name to what they think is the correct spelling. Even though I am writing WordPress now with a small p I have no doubt when you read this it will have changed to a capital P. If it has then why can’t they have a spell check for everything?????

PPS: apologies for any typo’s and spellnig mistakes.

dEAr diary ~ a simple life for me

If you want to live more simply then try living in a caravan and you will undoubtedly satisfy that desire.

There is no room for any extras on board – only the basics.

Clutter is not a word that I would recognise living here as there is none – everything in the caravan is a considered item and has to have a home otherwise you would soon find yourself falling over things.  The cupboards are few and none too generous in size so sometimes you have to be very creative with the space.

We have just enough dishes to make and eat a meal, nothing to bake with but then that must be healthier, although I did bring an apple cake with us, we just eat fruit or nuts, oat cakes, crackers.  No puddings either but we have the occasional ice cream treat.

We have only a minimum of bedding and towels – one of each in use and one spare, just enough clothes for gardening and trips to town and a few necessities like toiletries and cleaners. We do have a small Dyson, a small bucket and a tiny hand brush and pan…that just about sums up the cleaning aids.

We eat very simple food as we have no electrical equipment like a blender or food processor.  Our pans consist of a large 3 tier steamer, a milk pan, a medium pan with a lid and a frying pan with a lid.  We also have a colander and I might consider buying a lettuce spinner for the summer as my one luxury.

Above the fire-place there are three shelves for decoration and display.  I display only a few decorative items on here – a glass vase with a collection of tiny seashells inside, an empty vase for when I pick a few flowers, a little bowl full of dried rose petals from the garden, a lino cut picture of some geese by a local artist (our only picture) and a tiny set of wooden houses.  The other items come under the useful rather than decorative category – a small china mug, a water jug, some heavy stemmed wine glasses that we use for most cold drinks and a clock with a lovely soothing tick.

We keep a small selection of books mostly gardening books for information and ideas and a novel or two.   I also keep a box with a few stationary items – stapler, sellotape, scissors and the like, some coloured pencils and a notepad.  We have a folder for instruction manuals and another for the few bills we have, water, electricity, council tax and that is our filing system.  At home we have a large filing drawer with the archived papers in the loft.

Of course there is no loft here – instead there is a little storage space under the beds but they are empty – we have no need of anything to store – we use everything we have here.   I don’t even keep any spare bedding for the 2nd bedroom – I am not expecting anyone to stay.   I can look at something and think – yes I have used that in the last couple of days and it is a good feeling.  If I were a nomad and had to pack all this stuff up to move on I daresay we would have even less.

For entertainment we play cards, read, write blog posts, of course, or listen to the radio.  We have no television nor want one and at one time we had no internet connection so only brought the lap top with us if we just needed to access our documents and didn’t need to access the internet – now I can attend to my blog while I am here but that is all I do.

The mobile signal is quite pathetic at times so no-one tries to contact us and we rarely phone anyone other than my mum to check on her and my daughters just to let them know we are still alive.

Being so disconnected from the world might not suit everyone but I love our little retreat here – I could easily live here full-time but on the other hand I do not want to miss our new grandchildren growing up.

It is a dilemma not easily solved.

Today was another sunny day in the garden, slightly cooler but pleasant.  I have been on weed patrol again digging over boarders and filling in the rabbit holes where they have scratched the surface to get at the plant roots.  I will have to get more chicken wire to protect my young plants.  Funny they don’t like the campion – there is plenty of it.

DH did a bit more of the ditch – here he is with his shovel and barrow (he is a bit blog shy – so only half of him).Hopefully it will stop the pond overflowing onto the path, though the primulas quite like the water.……. And then he shimmied up the old apple tree to lop the top off. All our best apples grow at the top.  It is a half standard tree that was planted by the previous owners and was left to grow unchecked so it is a bit of a beanstalk and we have to wait for the apples to drop off rather than pick them.  Now it has been checked I have no doubt it will retaliate by not producing as many apples this year.

A day of pleasant pottering and pondering.

Total spend at the village shop for 6 yoghurts, a bag of peas and a  2 x Magnum £6.60




dEAr diary ~ just a little thank you

Thank you for all your lovely supportive comments and suggestions  from my last post – I have obviously connected with a lot of people in the same boat, or similar boat, but of course each of our lives and problems are different but I think we all agree on a few points –

  • Caring for the elderly and looking after younger grandchildren even at a distance is hard work and falls hard upon our generation – mainly the women –  to deliver care as best we can, often whilst running our own homes and working at the same time.
  • It can be very frustrating at times in our own advancing years to care for 80 and 90 year olds. I feel like I have spent my middle years caring for firstly my grandparents and then my own parents as well as the in-laws.  We try to keep them going in whatever way possible attending to their needs as it becomes too difficult for them to take care of themselves but this route we follow is one that becomes harder to manage, placing additional stress on our own lives and reducing any free time of our own to take care of ourselves and which can often lead to resentment building up – as one or two of you said life starts to feel as if it is passing you by.
  • Health problems that require doctor intervention and prescribed drugs, although intended to make us better, could be making us worse or indeed creating new problems for the future.
  • Soon we will be the ones who are old and need medication – I hardly know anyone now in my age group who is free of taking any medication.

Mum is back home now and once again my sister is doing the day-to-day care, meanwhile I can at least carry on with a few more of my tasks until it is time to have her to stay again.  I have spent the week winding down a bit as I had begun to feel I was welded to the car seat with all the trips up and down the country and I was exceptionally tired after looking after her and her needs.

I have lots of other news to tell you and maybe I will get to share it with you now.  It is impossible to blog when my mum is here and I spent last week catching up with myself in the house and with shopping.

I feel like I am back on track now. x


dEAr diary ~ thoughts on growing old

Having mum to stay for a few days has certainly made me think about old age and its effects upon a person and those caring for them.  She has become so limited in what she can do recently that it seems to have had a snowball effect – that old saying ‘one thing causes another’ problem.  Her mobility now is certainly more limited and she is not getting out and about like she did other than with my sister and so is becoming increasingly anxious, a bit lonely and quite fed up with herself.   What you might call out of sorts.   She keeps saying things like ‘when I get back to normal’ or ‘when I get myself right’ but my experience is that with the elderly they never do it is an inevitable downward slope.

It looks like everything began last September when mum thought her vertigo had returned as she was constantly dizzy.  However, the wait to be seen by the consultant in the vertigo clinic was a few weeks and in December it turns out it was a bit of a misdiagnosis by the GP and her blood pressure, a shortage of B vitamins and potassium was the actual cause.  The additional blood pressure tablets prescribed to lower her sky-high blood pressure worked only too well and caused it to drop too low throwing her into a zombie like state and we had to revive her once or twice!

They are trying to get it sorted but in the meantime she caught a rather nasty virus after Christmas and has developed Housemaids knee when she was kneeling on a chair to have her hair front washed at the hairdressers as she could not tilt her head backwards over the basin without becoming extremely dizzy.  So now she is hobbling about in constant pain but that is sometimes because she won’t rest it and refuses to use a walking stick.

Her confidence to go out by herself diminished very quickly along with her ability to cook a decent meal for herself replacing them with quick snacks.  She has suddenly become much more reliant on my sister and her DH who live nearby –  requiring escorting to the hairdressers and shops, things she did for herself that kept her active.  She would like our presence all the time but of course that is not possible.  If I am honest I am feeling a little trapped between helping my mum and helping with my 3 grandchildren and although we love my mum her constant demands are becoming a bit of a strain on us.  As she does less and less now for herself she likes to be taken out to tea shops and cafes – the ones in garden centres and shopping malls and whilst having a drink and a bite to eat she will tell us the same old stories of things that happened years ago over and over again, often in the same day.  In fact her memory of the past is better than that of the present but she gets the people and time of events rather mixed up and forgets you have heard that story many times.  It is not quite dementia but it is very annoying to those who have to listen.

I live two hours away from them and cannot offer much relief on a regular basis but I go up as often as I can and have mum here to stay.  It has reached the point now that when my sister says she might be going away for a weekend or holiday mum suddenly panics at being alone.  She lives in a retirement apartment that has a manager on call during office hours and this reverts to a call centre at night so if she were in difficulties help would be on hand,  but like many elderly people they do not like to use the service preferring instead to be attended to by a relative.

In the past I have looked after my gran and my dad through many years of their decline and one thing that is apparent to me is that having good health is key in old age.  Learning to look after yourself and eating well is a must because as soon as you start with any medical intervention you end up on numerous tablets and often this is quite a cocktail that triggers yet another complaint.

My dad’s demise started when he was in his early seventies and in pretty good health;  a consultant prescribed aspirin for his eye that was showing signs of a condition called macular degeneration.  The consultant ignored dad’s medical history (dad had a condition where he bled a lot called Von Willebrand disease) and we questioned the wisdom of this but were told it was necessary to help with the circulation in his eye and protect it from the degeneration.  Of course dad was worried about the possibility of losing his sight so took the Aspirin as prescribed.

A few months later the aspirin caused a serious bleed in the artery to his good eye which left him with partial blindness.  The loss of blood from this (4 pints which bled from his nose and required an emergency operation to stop him bleeding to death) also resulted in a blood transfusion.  A few days later his body reacted to the transfusion and turned against itself causing the destruction of his platelets which dropped considerably to a dangerous level (normally about 150,000 to 450,000 per mcl of blood) dad’s went down to 2,000 a condition called Thrombocytopenia.   He was rushed into hospital again and to rectify this he had steroids (they didn’t work), then immunoglobulin by drip (worked for a few days only then they dropped again) and finally the last resort to stop his body from destroying his platelets he had to have his spleen removed and was put on antibiotics for life as you require protection from infection. He was at this point told to stop the Aspirin!

Because he had little immunity he had to have vaccinations against pneumonia but even with these he constantly suffered with this.  At one time he saw the GP as he felt unwell and had extremely noisy and laboured breathing but the GP did not pick up on the pneumonia and thought he might have the beginnings of heart failure – a few days later dad became far worse so I called an ambulance as I knew something was not right.  They got oxygen to him immediately and once stabilised took him straight to hospital.  They told me if I had left him for another half an hour they would not have been able to save him.  After two weeks bed rest in hospital he came out as good as new – no heart failure after all, just pneumonia.

The following year he had a fall breaking his hip, shoulder and foot.  They could not operate straight away as once again they found he had underlying pneumonia which had no doubt made him weak and caused the fall.  Whilst waiting for the pneumonia to subside enough to operate he was given high doses of pain killers and then anti-sickness for the effects of the pain killers.  He became delirious with all the drugs and his kidneys could not cope with the overload of medication and began to fail.  Within two weeks of the fall he had died of kidney failure.

…. And all that because he was prescribed a little Aspirin.

My mum has gone from being on one tablet for blood pressure to a cocktail of tablets including Aspirin and statins.  Of course I worry.  She seems unsteady and a bit confused a lot of the time and is so frustrated at feeling unwell, her blood pressure seems to be all over the place and her knee and foot swollen and not getting any better.  She is certainly in decline and she was doing so well for 93 it is a shame that she has had so many problems recently.

A study conducted by the University College London showed that happy and positive people are more robust and fit in later life.  The research concluded that unhappy people were twice as likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.  Mum is certainly not happy at the moment and I feel powerless to help her get better when her problems seem to be compounding.

My own observations of people growing older tell me I need to address my own niggling health issues and put my diet and fitness way up on top of my list of intentions to act upon, as prevention of illness seems far better than hoping for a cure.  I do not wish to end up on a cocktail of medications other than the Thyroxine I am reliant on.  I have always taken my own health issues in hand preferring to use natural remedies wherever possible and only resorting to medical intervention if it is absolutely necessary.

As I age I am finding I am a little creakier in the mornings, my brain works a little slower and my digestion not as tolerant.  This must be the time to sort this out as old age is so hard without good health on your side and once that starts to decline it is like a runaway train.