Sunday, 25 October 2015

Following On

This is amazing - I now have 3 followers.

Thank you lovely followers - you have made my day!

Tidying Up

It's the official 'End of Summer' here in the UK as the clocks go back from Daylight Saving Hours to the Greenwich Mean Time.  This means lighter mornings and darker evenings with the sun setting about 3.30 around the winter Solstice. 
This makes it the perfect day to start tidying up the garden and greenhouse.  I cleaned the old tomato vines out of the greenhouse, raked it over and planted up the winter crop of chard.  We both love chard and planting it the greenhouse gives us a delicious cut and come again crop throughout winter.  

Tiny Chard seedlings.
We also have some kale that has survived the predations of snails, slugs and the sneaky and incredibly persistent small green caterpillars, which those lovely butterflies I've been admiring all summer on the bee and butterfly friendly border, have laid on them. Oh the irony!

I hoed and raked over one of the veggie beds (removing all traces of the local cats visits!)

I then turned to a much nicer job and harvested some herbs, the last few calendula flowers, the fennel harvest, some rosemary and sage.  These are now drying in the summer house.  The summer house is great for drying herbs and we have put a cheap set of pine shelves in there for that purpose.

While I was doing that Jean-Luc was painting the wall in the front room; we had it decorated last December but last month we had to have some work done on that wall as it became obvious that we had rising damp. :-(

At the same time as the rising damp was sorted out we had the outside toilet converted into a secure tool shed.  

 This is quite different from Jean-Luc's shed.
Jean-Luc's shed isn't for storing things, oh no! It's for doing 'stuff'; it is in fact a 'Man Cave'.  
I'm not sure what a man cave is for but it definitely isn't for storage.  
Actually it's a workshop; it will have a workbench, shelves and cupboards for nuts, bolt, screws, hand tools and other accoutrements of a potterer and aspiring amateur woodworker.and artist.  
Truthfully we originally got this shed for storing garden and other tools but when we stepped into it Jean-Luc just stood there and said 'Wow. The light's really good in here, it'd be great for painting wouldn't it', and so it became his man cave.
 The compromise - to get all the stuff from the old shed out of my pantry/ storeroom - was to convert the outside loo.
The next job is to replace the front of the pantry as it is wooden and starting to rot at the bottom; and then remove everything from the pantry, clean it down, paint it and set out my shelves and worktop.  Not an easy job with a store cupboard, two freezers and a whole set of shelves - but it will be done!

 A pantry/ store before freezers and all the stuff from the shed.  
Boy does it need a clean now.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Rainy Day Snooze

It's a cold, wet rainy day with very fine rain being blown in sheets by a cold wind.

Some of us have looked out of the window and decided the only option is to go back to bed.

This wasn't posed, I had popped upstairs with a cup of tea for Jean-Luc (we're both working from home with colds today) and found the Nu snugged up fast asleep.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Preserving My Sanity

In amongst all the angst and worry about my father, garden and greenhouse remind me of that important fact; that life carries on, the world turns and my tomatoes need to be harvested.

 As well as over 8lbs of ripe tomatoes (41/2 lbs already frozen as pasta sauce and turned into tomato and roasted pepper chutney), we have over 6lbs of green tomatoes to make into chutney; one load of green grape chutney - all those small tomatoes - and one of ordinary green tomato chutney.

Tomato and roasted pepper chutney

 We also had a small choggia and golden beetroot harvest which were delicious roasted; sadly there weren't enough to make into relish but our local farm shop came to the rescue with some lovely produce.

 I also 'forced' Jean-Luc to go foraging and we picked enough elderberries to mix with some damsons (a gift from a friend last year which we'd frozen) and made into jam - it is delicious and tastes remarkably like blackberry jam.

And last but not least, our chilli harvest - although I'm not sure why the picture seems to have cropped itself.

 All this harvesting and preserving activity has really helped me to ground myself, one of the unexpected benefits of trying to pursue a more simple life.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Threads of Entangled Dreams

I've been a fan of Julies blog and knitting for some time.
Julie designs and makes the most amazing animals; delightful creations full of personality and chutzpah.
I am constantly at awe at her skill and creativity.

I mean how good are these!  And look even more tiny toys for the animals. Amazing!

Julie also sells the patterns to these lovely animals so you can knit them yourselves -something way beyond my ability to do.

So - and here's the weird and totally lovely thing; after a day discussing with various family members, my fathers move to palliative care I was stressed and upset.  I went to bed and spent a surprisingly peaceful night dreaming of knitting these animals - complete with a Halloween theme of pumpkins, black capes and miniature burning horned skulls knitted in red angora to mimic flames.  
I know!  I was surprised too - I love the randomness and bizarre accuracy of dreams.

So thank you Julie for a peaceful nights sleep and a wonderfully surreal dream.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


She did it.

Nadiya won The Great British Bake Off...

...with her wedding cake!

The Lady has style.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

All Change

The autumn equinox has passed and the northern hemisphere moves from summer to winter as the seasons change.  This use of seasonal change as a metaphor for the changes in our own lives is not new but never has it resonated quite so loudly with my own life before; for things are definitely changing here in my life; things that cut to the very core of who I am and how I identify myself.

Firstly and most importantly, my father is 82 and growing ever more frail; we visited him recently and the day after we returned mother found him collapsed in a chair and he was taken into hospital with pulmonary oedema and kidney failure caused by ongoing heart failure; thankfully he is recovering and is now much better but the heart failure is chronic and untreatable in an 82 year old in overall poor health.  Over the past few years he has had several small heart attacks and strokes and as well as suffering from diabetes and arthritis, he is almost completely blind and in constant pain.  We haven’t rushed down to hospital as he is improving and the consensus it wait until he’s back home again rather than all rush in; 5 children and attendant partners and grandchildren make quite a crowd and he finds it very overwhelming even when we stagger visits.
 We are all desperately worried that should he get flu or another virus, this winter might be his last.  My visit made it even more obvious how limited my time with my father might be and the disadvantages of living so far away.  We had some lovely conversations and a heartbreakingly poignant moment where we said goodbye; just in case we didn’t see each other again.  I hope beyond hope that I do see him again but I know that his failing health may mean I won’t. It is a real possibility that I may very soon not be my father’s daughter; the first step on becoming not the next generation but the first generation – mortality growing ever nearer, one step at a time.   
 My father and I are massive Terry Pratchett fans.

Secondly I am officially menopausal.  It is not so much the physical changes of hot flushes, night sweats or the loss of fertility that get me down; no it’s the mental symptoms of massive mood swings, the crazy, mad evil witch queen of the planet Zorg  that I seem to be channelling.  Jean-Luc has been the personification of caring calm (especially in this last crisis with my father) but I do worry that my constant tears and angry outbursts will really stretch his patience and soon begin to wear thin.  The menopause is really a trial in how far you can push something before it breaks; and I think that includes love and relationships.

Thirdly; and thankfully finally for you dear reader; it is a very real possibility that by April next year I may have no job.  I work in local government and with the current insane focus of central government on austerity and cuts in public service to help pay off the national budget deficit in part caused by bailing out the banks which have escaped the financial censure which is being visited on the more essential public services.  This has resulted in local councils battling with massive budget challenges and paring back services to the absolute legal minimum, with associated job loses as staff costs need to be cut by several thousands.  This means that as nice as it is to be able to offer the public the services my team provide; the truth is the council can probably no longer afford to.  That means I’ll probably be out of a job.  I have always (until recently) been passionate about my work; I’ve loved doing what I do and it has formed a major part of my how I’ve identified myself.  
And so as these things in my life change so do I.  I am moving from one season of my life to another and what this will look like I’m not yet sure but it will be an adventure, albeit an internal one.

On a much brighter note tonight is the final of The Great British Bake Off and my money is firmly on the incredibly charming and talented Nadiya; she of the deadpan humour, wonderfully expressive face and beautiful bakes – that peacock was stunning!