Monday, 12 April 2021

Jottings - 11th April - a slow, quiet week

 After the bustle of getting ready for my birthday garden party, and then the busy-ness and fun of the day itself, this week has felt flat and drab. It's been like that dull phase after Christmas; even sharing the one redeeming feature of a surplus of chocolate. 

To join in the mood, the weather took a wintry turn with nights so cold that delicate plants in the greenhouse had to be covered with bubblewrap.

The low overnight temperatures (minus 5 one day) and gusting wind caused some daffodil stems to snap, and discouraged me from taking any more advantage of being able to go out. It isn't pleasant enough to go and sit in someone's garden for a chat, so any more meeting up will wait till Spring re-appears.
So, it's been a non-event of a week. I've sat at home, eaten all that chocolate, and done very little else. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Jottings - 4th April -All Change

 Since last weekend things seem to have altered a lot.

The clocks changed, the lockdown rules changed, and even the weather obligingly changed (if only for a few days).

The clocks leaping forward isn't a particularly good thing, as we lose an hour's sleep, but the others were definitely changes for the better. 

From Monday we were allowed to go out beyond our suburban estate, and visit somewhere else! I'd said a trip to Shipley would be my first outing, but I wasn't sure about school holiday dates and thought it might be busy, so we headed to Kedleston, where the National Trust are offering timed entry slots to keep the number of visitors down.

It was very strange travelling out of the set 'supermarket and back' route, to somewhere I haven't visited since autumn. Everywhere was familiar and strange at the same time - closer to returning to a much-visited holiday destination than just driving twenty minutes down the road. It makes me wonder how we'll all feel when we can travel further afield to places which have been out-of-bounds for this last year. The weather was in holiday mood too - the sun shining as brightly as summer but not too hot for walking. 

The relaxation of rules came just in time for my birthday. I feel really sorry for people with birthdays falling between March 23rd (when last year's lockdown started) and 29th (when this year's ended, as they've missed two celebrations. Mine falls at the beginning of April, so last year's was a dull affair, but this time could have family round for a garden birthday party. 

Although not as hot as earlier in the week, the sun came out again, and we had a picnic lunch with TWO birthday cakes. 

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that this is the beginning of the end of coronavirus, that with to dropping infections and increasing vaccinations we'll be able to follow the 'roadmap' taking us back to normal. For now, being able to meet family outside is a huge step forward, and I'm starting to cautiously look forward to a more-or-less normal summer. 

Friday, 2 April 2021

Off Out Again - Kedleston


At last lockdown has been lifted! I've been saying for a while that I wanted to get out and look at a bit of garden that wasn't my own, to see some daffodils that I hadn't had to plant myself, so I did - at Kedleston Hall.

It isn't far away - maybe twenty minutes - but there's been a level of confusion over how far it's been permissible to travel during this last lockdown so I haven't visited.

Maybe it was good to have waited as the weather was glorious - pleasant enough to walk in short sleeves but not too hot.

First stop was the garden to see the marvelous crescent of daffodils arcing through the otherwise empty flowerbeds, then we headed up the Short Walk with masses of flowers lining the path

Daffodils weren't the only flowers to be seen - an early rhododendron was tucked away in a quiet spot of the pleasure grounds, and cherry blossom brightened up the Short Walk.

Further up the Walk, primroses and celandines carpeted the ground, with an occasional patch of wood anemones, and a tiny patch of blue marking where bluebells will soon be showing.

I hadn't quite expected to walk the whole route. In previous years I've been dreadfully unfit at the beginning of spring and only managed the first uphill section. With this year's lockdown I assumed I'd be more out of condition, so I was delighted to find I had the energy to finish the circuit. 

I was almost tempted to try the Long Walk with its extension right round the Pleasure Grounds but decided against mainly because of the time of day. Sometime this year, though, I hope to achieve my goal of walking both the Long Walk and the Wilderness Walk in one day - combined they're six miles or so; not far but further than I've walked in a while.

For this day though, I turned downhill at the more or less halfway mark, through the park with ewes and lambs grazing, and back for a few more minutes sitting quietly in the sunshine by the daffodils.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Looking forward - to Spring and beyond

 Today's the first day of Spring. The sun isn't shining, and to be honest, it's not very warm or spring-like, but the daffodils are flowering and there's a definite feel to the season turning. Meanwhile I'm longing to get out and about, and see somewhere other than my garden.

Since Christmas I've been more or less stuck at home; I've been to collect groceries, and that's about it. The local police have been very strict with their interpretation of lockdown rules, fining people for travelling too far for a walk, so I haven't bothered going beyond the nearby playing fields. 

But ... the stay at home rule ends on March 29th, so, not only can my daughters come round for my birthday in early April (crossing my fingers for a dry day) and I'll be able to visit them somewhere outside, I can go out for a change of scenery. I feel like I have a lot to catch up on from last year!

I've been too sedentary since Christmas so I'm not heading off trekking or mountain climbing but for a quite wander among spring flowers and blossom. Last year I missed out by waiting too long and then feeling I should stay at home when infection rates rose. This year, with the virus hopefully retreating plus my vaccination, I feel less at risk.

Although I have a (long) list of new places I want to visit, I'm going to start with the local and familiar. One of the last places I went just before the lockdown last March was to Shipley to see the daffodils, and it's where I'll start this year. Although I don't think I've ever caught it in full flower, the nearest National Trust property, Kedleston Hall, also has a fine display of daffodils - they've been posting photos of them flowering in the last week or so, and hopefully they'll still be there in a few weeks. 

As spring progresses, I want to spread my wings a little - first to Bow Wood, at Lea Bridge, to see bluebells. It's a regular trip we make to see the hillside covered in a sea of misty blue and something I really missed last year. Then to the other side of the valley to Lea Gardens for their magnificent rhododendrons, and
perhaps finish the day with a walk along Cromford canal. Ina different direction, the woods at Felley Priory will also be filled with bluebells, but I also have an idea about staying in a shepherd's hut surrounded by them, so perhaps a holiday is called for.

A little later, moving into May, wisteria will be flowering at Calke along the kitchen garden walls, and if all's still going well I'd like to head over to Powis Castle for more rhododendrons, and Bodnant Gardens to see their laburnum arch.

Then we'll be moving into summer - time to sit on the terrace above Hopton Hall's rose garden.

Somewhere in between all this, I'll be visiting Chatsworth, which has something for every season, and miles to walk in the gardens alone!

With luck, it's going to be a busy few months.

Monday, 15 March 2021

A Year Ago ...

 Today marks a year since my last real trip out - to Manchester to see my youngest daughter.  We went out for lunch to Grub street-food market but the city seemed to have already entered lockdown with the streets strangely quiet.

We all knew a pandemic was coming, but rather hoped that the three week lockdown would see the end of it. Obviously that was far too hopeful an idea.

It's hard to believe how suddenly life changed completely, and how this change has become 'normal'. The actual lockdown didn't start till the 23rd but (apart from an evening trip to Locko Park) from this point we stayed home, just to be on the safe side. Being somewhat older we've erred on the side of caution, so since then I haven't eaten out anywhere, haven't been inside a shop or to the pub, even though over summer these things were possible. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've seen my two daughters, though at least we had video get-togethers. How would we have managed without modern tech? I did go walking a lot - but only to pay-to-enter places, such as National Trust estates, where the numbers of visitors were limited. Looking back, I think I could have been a little more daring, but it didn't feel that way at the time. 

I've been luckier than many - I have a garden to sit/potter in, husband to watch tv with at night, all of my family are still well - but I've really envied those who live in the countryside or, even more so, by the sea.

I'm really hoping now that we're putting covid behind us, and that things will be slowly getting back to normal after Easter. I'm not quite convinced about it though yet

Monday, 8 March 2021

Jottings - March 7th - a lazy week

 I don't seem to have done or thought much this week because, having had the Covid jab, I was left exhausted. 

It was very strange having am event marked in my diary - somewhere that I had to be at a certain time - and stranger still to see so many people! As I've been relying on 'click and collect' so not going into supermarkets, I think this was the greatest number of people I've seen since the beginning of lockdown. There were people around was I was out walking last summer, sometimes they felt like too many, but even then they weren't all heading into the same building. 

Up and down the country various venues are being used as vaccination centres, and here n Derby the cycling arena has been taken over, with hundreds of people funneling through each day. It didn't take long at all, and I think the fifteen minutes wait afterwards, in case of immediate side-effects, was longer than the whole queuing process. I didn't get a sticker or a lollipop though.

Four family members have now had the jab, and none of us has reacted in the same way. I didn't have aches and pains, or even the headache reported by some people, but for three days afterwards I was sluggish and lethargic. For several days I ended up taking an afternoon nap! It's better than catching the virus though.

At the end of this doing-nothing week, I had another engagement - an online escape room with family. This was harder than the last we played but great fun. Somehow while playing these games it seems like we're all together - more so than on one of our regular video calls. During the evening my eldest daughter asked if and when we'd be ready for some toddler-minding. Obviously we need to wait for restrictions to lift a little more, and for this initial jab to take affect, but I'm more concerned that I've become used to a quiet life, without a tumult that a toddler brings. I suspect that ten minutes of running round might exhaust me more than the jab did.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Jottings - 29th February - good news

 It's been a glorious week weather-wise - sunny days, followed by dramatic sunsets. 

The flowerbeds are filling with purple crocus and the first daffodils have come into flower. 

After the recent cold spell, Spring seems to be dashing along, and I'm spending a lot of time in the garden. For now there's still a lot of tidying to be done but some of the trees needed a hard cutting back before the leaves grew and birds started to nest. 

News has been good too.  The newly announced 'roadmap' gives me hope for a normal sort of summer (I know we all felt this last year but I'm keeping my fingers crossed) The easing of lockdown restrictions means I can look forward to a family get-together for my birthday in early April; I've known snow to fall on the day so we might have to wrap up in coats or hide under umbrellas, but it will be worth it. In addition, I've managed to book my first Covid jab for next week. 

Meanwhile I've been busy cooking, using up homegrown veg in things like borscht, and making bread and pizzas with my sourdough. The one above is a normal cheese/tomato pizza; that below has sugar added to the dough, a swirl of apple and cinnamon jam and a topping of apple slices. I doubt any of it helps my intention to lose weight.

Rather late in the day, I've settled on my New Year's resolution - to continue to try new things. If life really does get back to normal there'll be plenty of opportunities for this; if not, there are still things to be tried at home.

 Generally though I feel hopeful about the coming months. Maybe, just maybe, things are looking up. I'm not entirely confident that we've seen the last of the virus and it's accompanying lockdowns, but the future seems much brighter.