Thursday, 29 March 2018

New start

As I wrote earlier this week, I've decided to abandon March to its snow and ill health, and begin April a little early - in fact I feel a bit like being an April Fool and starting the year now, with a whole new set of resolutions (or at least the old ones dusted down, and renewed)

These first three months have passed in a blur, with so much happening (baby grandson, daughter moving out, parents being ill) that 'real' life seems to have been on hold. Now at last I feel things are quietening down somewhat, and I can pause, take stock

 The troublesome events of last month left me exhausted in a way I don't ever remember being, and at times like these it's hard to deny that I'm not so young any more. Dashing round after others is a sure way to neglect your own health, and I feel this is what has happened to me - too many quick, easy, ready meals and takeaways, no time for fresh air and exercise, and no time either to really relax.
So from now on, things are going to be different...
First and foremost, a determination to eat more healthily. I'm not dieting (that seems a silly thing to do when I've no energy) but instead eating more! Don't panic, it's only in the form of adding salad to my lunchtime sandwiches, and extra vegetables to my evening meals - even upgrading fish and chips with corn on the cob, and BBQ beans.

The recent warmer weather has tempted me out and about to Chatsworth, Shipley, and Lea Rhododendron Gardens, so I've taken more exercise, but, equally as important, relaxed for a while.

Now I'm feeling ready to start the year anew, get back to my sixty new things to celebrate my birthday (with some exciting plans coming up), and generally take on the world again.  It's rather strange now with only two of us in the house, but gradually we're getting used to it, and starting to find positive aspects to having no grown-up children around. There doesn't seem to be much hope of taking a proper holiday while my parents are ill, so I'm planning short over-night breaks, and another summer of staycationing from home. All in all I think (hope) things are looking up, that the sunny weather will soon be here, and summer will be good!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

First trip of the year to Chatsworth

Sunday was lovely and sunny (even warm!) so the perfect day to start my 'take more exercise' plan with a walk round Chatsworth gardens, heading for the higher, wilder areas, that feel like woodland rather than manicured gardens, and following the streams that feed ponds, waterfalls and fountains.

For Easter there's a trail (really aimed at children) on which you can spot all sorts of animals made of basketry - sheep, chickens, foxes and even deer. We decided to tackle this the hard way, by not picking up a map - so didn't find all of them!

We had out own animal along too as Chatsworth is one of those rare places that allow dogs into the gardens.

We don't bring him along every time but he must remember previous visits as he got excited the minute the car turned off the road, and he caught sight of the house!

I hope he enjoyed his day out :)

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Writing-off March

March has not been a good month. In some ways it's raced by, in others it's dragged, but throughout it life seems to have been on hold, either due to my parents' ill health and the associated round of hospital and care home visiting, or the snow that's plaguing this spring. I feel I'd had such great plans for what I'd intended to do this year, and they're as squashed as the daffodils flattened by snow
But I'm not one to stay down for long. We've passed the equinox, the clocks do their forward leap this weekend, and schools have broken up for Easter, so, despite yet another troubled week, I think things are looking up and it's time for a new start.
I'm going to declare March a useless sort of month, put it behind me and start April early. There's a couple of days of sunny weather forecast, giving me a chance to get out and about, and I'm planning things for later in the month, so this pre-April week is starting well.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Oh look, snow again!

I thought we'd seen the last of the snow at the beginning of March, but no! It was back again this weekend.

On Saturday I though we'd escaped - the ground was hardly covered, and most of it seemed to have gathered on the fence struts.

Then overnight it started to fall in earnest

and these were the gardens views on Sunday morning, with snow clinging where ever it could.

At some point though, the temperature must have risen slightly, as the south-facing patios door had a fine range of icicles with even a small one on the door handle!

But while the outside world suffered with plants covered and flattened by snow, inside it remained Spring, with mini daffodils flowering happily.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Late Snowdrops and Early Daffodils at Shipley Country Park

In the middle of a frantic mixed-up week, I was determined to get outdoors, grab some fresh air, take the dog somewhere marginally more exciting than his usual walk, and forget my problems.

We didn't have much time, so opted for Shipley Country Park which is maybe only quarter of an hour away, and has a short walk through trees with snowdrops and daffodils to be seen at this time of year.

This is our second 'snowdrop trip' to Shipley this year - first time we were a little early, this time we were maybe a little late, but the flowers still covered the banks which once lined the drive to the old Hall

and there were already daffodils bursting into flower - another couple of weeks and the ground beneath the tree will turn from white to yellow.

We were a bit against the clock, so probably didn't stay as long as we would otherwise have done, but it was a welcome break in a stressful week.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A "Half-full" Week - despite parents' health problems

Since the beginning of the year we seem to have been in a loop of disruptions, and just when I thought things were settling down, after earlier-than-expected grandson, colds, my daughter's move, and then the snow, something else came along to throw everything pear-shaped. This time it was health problems for my parents. Something comparatively minor really - apart from the fact that if you're in your late 90s NOTHING is ever minor, so when a younger person would be nipping to see a GP, older folk end up in hospital, and when one goes in hospital, the other goes into respite care. So we've had a week or more spending all day out, dashing, or sitting stuck in traffic queues, between hospital and care home, getting home with barely enough time to walk the poor dog (who's definitely feeling neglected), grab a takeaway/frozen dinner, and collapse on the sofa, numbly watching old Star Trek Enterprise and Big Bang Theory, before falling asleep.
Nothing prepares you for having to turn into carer for your parents, and it's been a week that's left me physically and emotionally drained. Sadly, such weeks are bound to become more frequent.
It's too easy, though, to fall into the glass-half-empty mindset, so instead I've decided to list all the good things that also happened this week.

Firstly, a competition prize arrived. A Taste of Arran gift box won through CalMac ferries in the run up to Christmas. It's taken a while to arrive as e-mails got mixed up, but it's here! And filled with cheese, chutney, oatcakes, and (my Scottish favourites) haggis, and tablet (sort of like fudge but better).

Making time on Mother's Day to take the dog out for a special walk at Shipley Country Park, with new places for him to sniff, oh and daffodils and snowdrops for me to admire.

Later that day, tea with our eldest daughter to celebrate her first Mother's Day, and look, a wonderful 'first' for me too, a card from my baby grandson.

Retail therapy and discovering a fab new (to me) clothing brand, Lily and Me. FB has been showing me their adverts for a while, and this week I thought, Why not? Let's try them - and these first two tops are great.

Food - yes, we've eaten a LOT of frozen dinners and takeaways, but one day we treated ourselves to lunch at IKEA - hardly gourmet dining but it was different (Moroccan chicken), self-service so quickly picked up, and, most importantly, on the route from care home to hospital.

Our new armchair, on order for six or seven weeks, arrived.

More food! Lemon muffins from Morrisons. I don't often shop there but we were restocking my parents' food cupboards with cake, amongst other things, and I thought it best to test these myself.

The garden daffodils have survived the beating they took from the snow, and are now in flower.

And don't forget social media. I know lots of people knock it, but at times like these it reminds me that there IS more to life than sitting in traffic queues and hospital wards

Monday, 12 March 2018

Read Women - Top Ten Books by female authors

Last Thursday, 8th March, was International Women's Day, and Twitter (or at least my section of it) was filled with people posting their Top Ten favourite books by female authors; the books they couldn't live without, those which made the greatest impression, those which meant the most.
You know me - ask for a Top Ten of anything and I'm there in a shot. Make a Top Ten involving books, and if possible I'll be even quicker. So, how could I resist?
Here they are, in no particular order, other than making sure they were stacked safely enough to photograph ...
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan - This is actually a French copy dating back to my schooldays, and, though I could read it back then,  I'm not sure I could now. When I first encountered this as a seventeen year old, I was taken aback by the 'heroine', Cecile; she smoked, had sex with her boyfriend (unheard of way back then), schemed and manipulated people because life wasn't going her way, causing heartbreak and despair, and all against the backdrop of the exotic-seeming French Riviera. It was like nothing I'd read before!
Villette by Charlotte Bronte - it was a close call between this and Jane Eyre, but I looked at them both on the shelf, wondering which to choose, and Villette won. There are a greater array of characters in it, a country-dance partner-changing series of love affairs, and an (unusual at the time) admission that a woman might have a crush on one man then change her mind and fall for another.
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin -  my introduction to her work, a blend of sci-fi, politics, and personal relationships that made it stand head and shoulders above any other sci-fi I'd read before.
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers - Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are married at last, but their plans for a quiet honeymoon disrupted by a murder (almost as you'd expect). What makes this stand out in my mind is that Sayers takes the story beyond the catching of the villain, to his trial and hanging (remember this was written in the days of the death penalty), exploring Wimsey's state of mind as these inevitable events follow his unmasking of the criminal.
The Waves by Virginia Woolf - another book discovered in my teen years, it was possibly a case of jumping in at the deep end with Woolf at her most obscure but I loved it, and to me it's the backdrop to the heatwave of 1976.
Persuasion by Jane Austen - a tale of second chances in love. You might prefer Pride and Prej, but this is the Austen book for me. Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love but were separated by interfering friends and relatives. When they meet again after several years, their relationship isn't all easy sailing, and for much of the book it seems quite possible that they'll end up with different partners. It doesn't have the Bennet family, but the Elliots are almost as comical.
Possession by AS Byatt - plots within plots and subplots everywhere. Part detective story, as various academics try to trace previously unsuspected correspondence between two Victorian poets, and uncover more than they'd expected, and part romance (as suggested by its subtitle) as love flourishes in both timelines.
Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton - another back to my teenage years book, chosen by me as a school prize. At the presentation I remember being wrong-footed by thinking I ought to have picked a serious non-fiction book BUT this turned out to be the start of my love for sci-fi/fantasy fiction, and although it came from a 'teenage reads' section, I still reread it today.
Weathering by Lucy Wood - a story about the, not necessarily smooth and happy, relationships between mothers and daughters, about home, and belonging, told in beautiful prose which slips into poetry
A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson - another close call as I almost choose Atkinson's Life After Life, which shares characters with this. Carefully and cleverly constructed, this is the life-story of Teddy Todd, moving back and forth in time, but always circling round the all important, formative war-years. Two things particularly make this book stand out - it's unusual to find a war novel written by a woman (and Atkinson does it as well, if not better, than many such stories penned by male authors), and the final twist, which casts a whole new light on what you've just read.  

Friday, 9 March 2018

To the Woods ...

 It's been a mixed-up week here so I ended up in charge of dog-walking. It was nice weather, even warm in sheltered spots, so we pottered off up to the wood looking for signs of spring on the way (well, I was. I'm not so sure about the dog. He finds lamp posts and the poo bag bins more interesting than primroses or catkins)

There were also shoots of bluebells to be found, proving Spring is on the way, somewhere or other,

but I couldn't see any signs of tadpoles as it isn't  possible to get close to the pond any longer.

 I haven't been to the wood for a while, possibly not since the bluebells and anemones were flowering last Spring, so something struck me, that perhaps regular walkers don't notice.

 Usually in winter, with no bracken under the trees, I'd expect to be able to see clearly through the trunks, but brambles and small holly bushes seem to be taking over the woodland floor, and the area generally developing a 'wild', un-managed feel.

Hopefully these 'weeds' won't strangle the bluebells. Theyve always been spectacular, but last years seemed ragged, and photographs from a few years ago show a much clearer woodland floor. It was such a delight to have them flowering within walking distance, especially in the middle of a housing estate. It would be a shame to see them die out.

Something I should perhaps add is that after the second day of doing this walk I felt exhausted - so I've decided I need to get out and about more!