Twelve days of Christmas

Watching Lucy Worsley present a programme about Tudor Christmasses made me rethink this time of year; as did an email from Lyn Thurman and also reading Neil Oliver’s A History of Ancient Britain (not currently available on the iPlayer, sadly).

Whatever your religion, midwinter was a time of celebration and feasting, and was the ‘liminal’ time between the old year and the new (maybe not for the Romans however, for whom the new year started in March – although Janus was the two-headed god who looked both forward and back). I loved the idea of keeping a ’12 days’ diary but also it got me thinking about how we now think of the time between Christmas and New Year as rather quiet and potentially lonely; a time for contemplation, relaxation and (one hopes) restoration, before returning to the busy-ness of the New Year.

It made me think that perhaps next year I would like a big, splash-out FEAST on Christmas Day – I don’t mean just with family but with lots of people – and then to carry on partying right into January (in fact Lucy Worsley points out that day 7, New Year’s Eve, for the Tudors was actually quite quiet); to finish work on Christmas Eve, put up the decorations, and go back to work on 6th January. I also like the idea of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Day rather than Christmas Day – not so sure that will please my kids though.

The least I felt I could do this year was keep a 12 days ‘diary’, and hope there are some good omens for the New Year. Surely we can’t all be as cut off and isolated in 2021 as some people have been in 2020.

Day 1: Christmas Day, 25th December

The children were with me to start with, and pleased with their presents. At about 12 noon David came to fetch them and I started preparing the bits of lunch I was doing to take to Mark and Laura’s, feeling a little bit sad. However I had a lovely time at Mark and Laura’s and they gave me a pump for the car, which is extremely useful as my tyres are forever going flat (I have had a valve repaired and a tyre replaced now, so am feeling slightly more confident about the car at present).

Day 2: Boxing Day, 26th December

Rainy, muddy and a little hungover but ran up in Ridge Woods, as previously reported. Storm Bella approaching made the wind pick up but there was a general feeling of clearing things away.

Day 3: 27th December

Woke up feeling sad (perhaps I shouldn’t have watched two slushy films last night – A Wonderful Life and White Christmas), and with a headache again. I think I may actually do Dry January this coming year. A chat with Anne and I felt more cheerful and headed out for a longer run. There were flowers popping out in places, harbingers of spring not being that far away; and snow on the hills, reminding me that it’s still winter and that often the coldest part of winter is January and February. However it was far sunnier than it’s been for a while. As I got closer to home I bumped into Lesley, from choir, and her husband Alan and stopped for a really nice (socially distanced) chat with them.

Day 4: 28th December

Woke up feeling sad again and was in fact quite tearful as I drove down to Whinlatter. I don’t think watching a programme about Bristol and cooking last night helped; I felt quite nostalgic and ended up going to bed (and waking up) thinking how much my life has changed since I lived in Bristol. On the other hand, I can’t wish I hadn’t had my children – for all the emotional anguish they cause and the amount they cost, I think they’re amazing and turning into pretty decent human beings. I just wish I didn’t so often feel that I’m second choice parent-wise.

Whinlatter car park was heaving and I was worried I wouldn’t get a space, but fortunately as Penny works for and Tim has worked for the FC, they were able to wangle me a space. Having bought my membership only last time I was there I feel I should perhaps have my own personalised space… (no, I’m not serious).

The weather was absolutely stunning and despite a few icy patches, it was a glorious day to be out. We almost could have been in the Alps. Tim ran off ahead, his long legs making it look as if he was just ambling gracefully uphill, while Penny and I ran, chatted and took photos. When we got back Tim was having a chat with some former work colleagues, so fortunately not standing around in zero degrees getting cold.

Day 5: 29th December

Went to the Post Office and to Sainsburys, both mercifully fairly quiet. Then headed over to Stocksfield to pick up some logs from Clare and Colin and to go for a pretty walk in and around Ridley and Broomley Woods, including to one and over another ford. I wonder if Broomley Woods are related to Broomlee Lough… and as a result of wondering have found a useful website about English Place Names. Thank you to the University of Nottingham (my old University, as it happens):

‘Broomy wood/clearing’.

brōm (Old English) Broom; a thorny bush or shrub.

lēah (Old English) A forest, wood, glade, clearing; (later) a pasture, meadow.

The moon was rising above the hills as we loaded the car up with the logs, and looked absolutely stunning, though trying to take a photo did it no justice whatsoever. I checked when the full moon was due and it’s tomorrow (30th), and is apparently called the Cold Moon or the Ice Moon.

Day 6: 30th December

Something of a mixed day. Apparently the moon was full at 3.30 a.m. this morning, but it looks great this evening too. My sister pointed out that it was also a Blue Moon as it’s the second full moon this month.

I had a fantastic – beautiful – run up at Kershope Forest with Penny – a new route which neither of us had done before, where we went from misty frost to sunshine and back again – but unfortunately Anne couldn’t make it and on the way back we heard that Cumbria is now (as of midnight) in Tier 4 lockdown. The news about the schools was slightly better – most primary schools will go back as normal and most secondary schools will have a staggered return. I was really worried that they were going to close the schools again – we’ve ruined this planet already for our kids (climate change/using up resources through our greed); I was worried we were going to wreck their education as well. I know that’s a first world problem but I’m hoping our children might grow up to be somewhat more responsible than the previous generations have been. The only hope on the horizon seems to be that the world population is due to decline quite drastically by about 2050.

BUT – we do live in a beautiful world and some of us are incredibly lucky to have some of that beauty on our doorstep, easily accessible. We are privileged.

As I’d forgotten to buy pasta at the supermarket yesterday I got home and made lasagne. Kneading is extremely good for getting rid of grumpiness when you hear about more lockdowns.

Day 7: New Year’s Eve, 31st December 2020

Phoned Edward to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to him – I was due to go down to Penrith to take his presents down but he and Alex want to come up here tomorrow, so I’ll go and fetch them tomorrow instead. I went out for an incredibly icy end-of-year run – even the Tarn was partly frozen over – and then came back and finished making smoked salmon brioche and a sauce for lasagne for tomorrow. Then it was time for a game of Trivial Pursuit over Zoom with my sister, her boyfriend, and my Mum; then time to attempt to light the firepit. Fortunately Mark and Laura (my bubble and my neighbours) knew what they were doing so they got it going, and we had mulled wine and sausages in a snow-covered garden.

I got my tax paid; my mortgage renewal sorted out; a tutor found for Edward; and it snowed. Quite a definitive end to the year. Time to watch a film and then go to bed. It’s a quieter new year than normal but I think it is for a lot of people; I think that’s how a lot of people want it. 2020 is going out with a whimper rather than with a bang.

In Rowbank Woods, near the railway station

Day 8: 1st January 2021

Lovely New Year’s Day run along the river Eamont and up on to Askham Fell. My Strava said 9.99 km when I got back to where I’d parked the car!

Picked up all three children from David’s and headed home. The usual squabbles but it’s lovely to have them in the house again. Alex is rather fed up that his return to school has been delayed by 2 weeks and that he’ll be doing online lessons; and there is now a total xbox ban at both houses so he’s also fed up that he can’t ‘see’ his friends. I used to have my nose stuck in a book; nowadays for most kids (boys especially?) their noses are glued to screens. I wonder if it’s really all that bad, or if it’s just that it’s different from how I grew up.

Day 9: 2nd January 2021

Slight dusting of snow again overnight and Edward was desperate to go sledging. I wasn’t convinced there would be enough but he managed to get down the hill on the Ridge a few times. Bella went for a walk round the wood nearby, looking very glamorous in her black wool coat and woolly hat and scarf.

Day 10: 3rd January 2021

As I was taking the kids back to David’s anyway I thought it would be good to meet up with Penny for a run down that way. We decided on Thirlmere – the path (and road) on the western side is now open again so we could officially complete the ten mile Thirlmere loop.

It was lovely: Hevellyn was still in mist but the clouds were getting blown from the east and much of the time the sun was shining; there was still a frost on the ground; the reservoir was still and calm like a mirror. The path is mostly great but there were some stretches on the western side where it was quite stony or tree-rooty, and where it was beginning to fall away. We celebrated with coffee and Maltesers at the end; and Blencathra looked absolutely stunning on the way home.

When I got home my lovely neighbours had gritted the road and my drive; also Penny has been giving me a plentiful supply of fire wood (she and Tim ordered a lorry load). People are lovely.

Blencathra from St John’s in the Vale

Day 11: 4th January 2021

Back to work today and my lovely fat tree has now been undressed and also denuded of all its branches.

Then this evening we were told of another lockdown: and this time even the schools are closing, up until at least February half term. Bloody covid. And stuff dry January. I’m off to get some tonic to go with my so-far-unopened bottle of Rose Gin tomorrow.

I wonder if people felt as fed up when the Black Death was in circulation, or whether they just resignedly thought ‘here we go again, a few more deaths’. They must have felt just as much grief as we do, but had far less knowledge to fight death.

I stayed up later than I should watching Lucy Worsley’s series about the Romanovs.

Day 12: 5th January 2021 (‘Twelfth Night)

English Heritage has apparently today been in print encouraging people to keep their decorations up until Candlemass – 2nd Feb. – as they would have done in medieval times, to try to keep some midwinter cheer alive. Bit late for my christmas tree! Also apparently Candlemass is a Swedish doom metal band…

I’m fine when I’m talking to people (thank god for friends) but otherwise I’ve felt really fed up all day; alone and kind of bored, even though I have work. But at least I do have work – a job I enjoy, which so many people don’t – and the countryside. I went for a run this afternoon after work but my heart wasn’t in it, added to which in places you couldn’t run as the ice was too slippery and on top of the Ridge the young cows started following me, so I thought it better not to run. I’m well aware that I should be counting my many blessings, but today was a day to walk into the dark tunnel and acknowledge that life sometimes just feels rubbish, however lucky you are.

But as I sat down on a makeshift bench and watched the sunset over Scotland (to the north and west), it struck me that it doesn’t matter if some days all you do is go out and get some fresh air, admire the views, and listen to the sounds of the world. I think at the weekend I might just go for a run around a lake.

And tomorrow is another day.

Mantra for 2017

butterfly-in-hand

The not-quite-the-final-farewell was perhaps in particular a farewell to 2016.  Watching the fireballs in Stonehaven at just gone midnight on 1-1-2017, I learnt later that they are intended to burn off the bad spirits of the past year and introduce fresh cleansing energy for the new.

Even so I started the new year feeling very low and tearful, for a couple of reasons.  Then today I read a feature which gave me my mantra for 2017:

I am enough; I have enough.

For anybody else who is feeling low or even depressed, the author was a therapist called Marisa Peer who was writing in Breathe magazine.

And that, for now folks, is enough.

 

Almost a Final Farewell

“take the road less travelled and simply open your eyes” – Laurence Shelley

icarus

The end of a year makes most of us consider all sorts of things: what we have achieved in the past year; what we have learnt; how next year will be different; how this year compares with those that have gone before.  As we approach 2017 I am looking in to setting up my own business, continue to try to promote my singing and writing, and am also trying to get extra work.  More importantly I am in a different place emotionally (calmer, happier and more accepting) to where I was this time last year or even a few months ago.  I have become aware that I just can’t do everything: and blogging is one thing which may need to take a back seat.  I don’t feel at the moment as if I can add anything useful or enlightening and I am conscious that I have started repeating myself.  It feels as if this blog has now come to a natural end (unlike in Febuary, when I thought of finishing but actually was only at the beginning of an emotional journey).

I started blogging in April 2010 with UnemployedinCumbria on Blogspot.  It was intended to be a blog about getting a new job in a rural county which has a small, low-density, population and not much of a commercial property market (I’m a Chartered Surveyor by profession) – though I also wanted to change career.  I had more of a career change than I expected as I found to my surprise that I was pregnant with a third child – at age 48.  The blog ended up being about being pregnant in my late 40s, having a baby at age 49, and having no job and therefore a much-reduced household income.  We had also moved into a house which needed a bit of TLC so there are bits about my coming to terms with sorting out the garden as well – the children still remember my poisoning the fish in an attempt to rid the pond of algae…!

Once child no. 3 was lustily here I began to think about doing triathlon again, and started a blog which was meant to be more or less a training diary – Supervet-Sarah.  As this second blog developed I stopped the other, but the aim of once again competing regularly in triathlon and at ‘supervet’ (50+) age still hasn’t been achieved.  However it did track my training for Kielder Marathon at age 51 including various micro-adventurous training runs I did with Kerry, who also did Kielder, and during that time I did Kendal sprint triathlon – though very badly (I was slow on the swim and fell off my bike: First Triathlon in How Long? ). That blog ends rather abruptly in August 2014, shortly before David left.  The final words of the final post are “I’m very proud of my little girl” – something I need reminding of from time to time as she’s also very feisty and wilful so I frequently get cross with her, sometimes quite unfairly.

In early 2015 I started this blog.  There’s a hiatus between David leaving at the end of August 2014 and the start – a time when I adjusted to being ‘young (at heart) free and single’ again and to being without the children every other weekend.  By the end of the year I had come to the conclusion that 2014 was the year of broken things – my marriage, my washing machine and my dishwasher but on a less frivolous note sad ‘broken’ things happened to a lot of people.  They always do but I guess it’s how the year has been for you overall that remains in your memory.

By contrast 2015 was then a year of freedom, joy and passion.  I relished my new-found freedom and realised who I truly was.  By the middle of the year I was on a high – I got a new job; fell deeply and whole-heartedly in love with a man who had fallen passionately in love with me; and my singing seemed to be flying too: I had more confidence and performed solo more than I had previously, including arranging concerts for my group Eight + 1.  I flew high – but like Icarus I perhaps flew too high – too close to the sun – and like Icarus I crashed.

Unlike Icarus I had plenty of people to catch me before I hit the ground, and to support me, but it led to a challenging time and made 2016 a challenging year.  It has also been a year of farewells – obviously the usual round of celebrities have died, including David Bowie and Alan Rickman – but also people who were briefly part of my everyday life have moved – my lovely neighbours Margaret & David, who moved to Cornwall; and Capernaum restaurant, which was one of my favourite restaurants ever – the children still judge food by ‘the Capernaum scale’ with few restaurants beating it.  It was also farewell to my friend Clare’s husband, Bob.  He had suffered from severe COPD for several years but hung on strongly for so long.  I am incredibly glad that Deborah and I went to sing Songs for Bob at their house in April, accompanied by Martin Johnson; I am sad that I missed the funeral; and I shall always appreciate the fact that he called me ‘Pocket Venus’.  Clare and her family at times have had more faith in me than I have had in myself.

At the same time however there were plenty of hellos and I got to do some travelling in a minor way, which is something I love and hadn’t done for ages.  I was pretty reclusive for the first part of the year, barely even going into the town centre where I live in case I bumped into anyone I knew and most of the time feeling desperate to run away abroad and ‘hide’.  Six months ago (June), just as I was finally coming out of my depression, I wrote “I want to learn Italian; do lots of long bike rides and write them up; travel; sing; write… and of course there has to be time for my surveying work, which is what, after all, pays the bills.  And I want to fit in some time for trail running out on those lovely hills or along by the sea; for yoga; and for meditation.”  I have in fact managed, to a greater or lesser extent, to do all those things.

As I look forward to 2017 I hope to travel more (I still have a yen to go abroad to do some voluntary work, but it’s difficult with children and needing to earn money to pay for things for them); to write (I need to finish my long bike ride and write it up); to sing (there are four gigs coming up for Bellissima and we now have our own Facebook page as well); to run and cycle; and to earn enough money, ideally doing things I love (fingers crossed for the job I have applied for, but for keeping doing surveying as well, as I have a great boss and I don’t want to let him down) and to perhaps start my own business.  And, of course, to spend time with my kids – if I can earn enough then I want to be able to take the whole of August off to spend it with them – my dream is to tour Northumbria in a camper van.  But who knows what the new year will hold – I learnt long ago that you can’t plan your life.  Things you want do happen, but rarely in the way you expect.

I learnt a lot of lessons in 2016.  One was about being true to myself, which I already knew I should do but which, I learnt, means that sometimes I need to swim against the pack and follow my instincts and my heart despite what anybody else says (I’ve done so in the past and proved people wrong… and if you don’t try then you never know, do you?).  Another lesson, again which I already knew but which was reiterated, was that there are different outlooks on life and none is right or wrong.  David and I separated; we are happier separated but we still get on.  For us – and for our children – that works, but it’s not the solution for everybody and not everybody can manage to be as amicable as we (mostly) are (we had an argument today – he came round to make peace, we had a chat and he gave me a brief hug.  We no longer love each other but we can at least get on and not use the children as emotional blackmail against each other – which I  hope is best for the children too.  I guess he’s sort of a friend – which is what he was before we got together so there’s a sense of resolution in still being at least on friendly terms).

Finally, I learnt that I can’t do everything.  Emotionally, physically, mentally or even in terms of time.  I have had to accept that Child Tax Credits may need to bolster my income if I want to spend enough time with my children as well as, importantly, allowing the creative side of me some outlet; I also have to accept that there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do.  I tried to do it all: to be a mother (teacher, taxi service, cook, housekeeper, gardener…), a writer, a singer, a lover, to keep fit, to work full-time and to commute, and it didn’t work.  2016 as much as anything has been about getting some balance back.  I’ve even said ‘no’ to some things – I didn’t sing with choir this term and I’m not going to be touring with them in May (I can’t afford to but more importantly I don’t want to go abroad without the children).  I have learnt over the past few years though that allowing the creative side of me some outlet is hugely important: it’s a fundamental part of who I am.  It’s not about being self-gratifying however but about how you can make it fit into a life where you have to provide for your children and do the washing up as well.

This blog has been great for getting my head straight and I hope I will look back at my posts and still enjoy reading them.  People have criticised me, mostly when they have felt criticised by me, but writing has always been a type of therapy for me.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be so public (though the maximum number of readers I have had for any post has been 210, which really isn’t that many) but if just one person has felt better because of a post I have written – if just one person has thought ‘yes, that’s how I feel too’ – then this blog has not been in vain.

From time to time there may perhaps be another, but for now this, my 99th post in this blog, is a farewell – with best wishes for the New Year to you all.

butterfly-in-hand

Sayings

p.s. the basil plant is here because in some cultures it represents peace – and it’s one of my favourite flavours and scents.

As this year winds to an end the troubles in Syria seem to be getting worse rather than better and it feels as if generally there is a lack of peace and harmony in the world.  It saddens me, and worries me when people I speak to express concern about where the world is going.  The optimist in me is always hopeful that things will get better and that troubled regions will achieve peace; that Donald Trump and Brexit won’t turn out to have the dire consequences which some people predict; and wants to seek out the best in people and see human greatness, not the worst of us.  The realist in me knows that mankind has always fought and I then wonder if the human race will eventually kill itself out (there are an awful lot of us but we don’t half do some stupid, catastrophic things).

I feel so small and insignificant and unable to do anything.  For much of the past year/year and a half I have wanted to go to work abroad to help in some of these troubled areas: but I have my own children to think of and finances and, if I’m truthful, I’m also scared to take so big a step.  As I sing carols I think about the words and wish that some of them could come true – that we could somehow manage to love each other, whatever religion or race we are.  After all we are all human beings.  It seems to me that all too often we forget that about each other – I loved the video on facebook earlier this year showing how our genes and DNA can make us more closely related than we might ever have dreamed to people from other countries and continents (I’d love to know what my mix is – even as a child I hoped that I wasn’t ‘just’ English).

I was going to write a ‘farewell 2016’ post with some of the best sayings which I have come across as this year comes to an end: and then I decided they warranted a separate post of their own.  So here they are, in no particular order – and I’m hoping that I haven’t repeated ones which I have quoted elsewhere.

And I then looked up prayers for peace in all religions: Peace.  I particularly like the two I have chosen here because they are about nature/the world, and anyone who has read several of my blogposts will know that I often find my inner calm at the top of a hill, in the woods or by the sea (or a mixture of the three).  Again as I a child I was always fascinated by the Native Americans – I had a fantastic book of stories which my grandmother gave me, but which sadly was given away long ago and which means I don’t have it available for my own children.

“The only way to do a great job is to love what you do” – Steve Jobs

“A winner is simply a dreamer who never gave up” – Nelson Mandela

“When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her”. Adrienne Rich (from another wordpress blog – Saved by Words).

Through the Silence of Nature

Through the silence of nature,
I attain Thy divine peace.
0 sublime nature,
in thy stillness let my heart rest.
Thou art patiently awaiting the moment
to manifest through the silence of sublime nature.
0 nature sublime, speak to me through silence,
for I am awaiting in silence like you the call of God.
0 nature sublime,
through thy silence I hear Thy cry.
My heart is tuned to the quietness,
that the stillness of nature inspires.
– Hazrat Inayat Khan

Cheyenne Prayer for Peace

Let us know peace.
For as long as the moon shall rise,
For as long as the rivers shall flow,
For as long as the sun shall shine,
For as long as the grass shall grow,
Let us know peace.
– Cheyenne Prayer

The Christmas tree isn’t here to say anything particularly christian, but purely as Christmas, to me, being so near the new year, represents a time of a possible new start and gives us all a chance to think about others.  Next year, as David will have the children at Christmas, I’m going to volunteer at Crisis at Christmas – one of the many things I’ve been meaning to do for years and haven’t done, and now I’ve stated it out in public I shall have to do it!!!

To you all, of whatever religion (or of no religion) – season’s greetings and best wishes for a harmonious 2017.

christmas-tree

Anno nuovo, vita nuova!

The end of 2014 (‘the year of broken things’) and beginning of 2015 was pleasant but I was still having the odd ‘wobble’ about my marriage break up and separation and had a row with my ex on New Year’s Day, which resulted in his not coming around for a meal with all the rest of his family and my children. On the whole however I was feeling great about being single again and I was feeling attractive and ‘me’.

The end of 2015 and early 2016 was far calmer, although my depression due to basically just having too much to juggle in my life, cast a sad spell over the final months of the year.  On the whole however I feel very positive about 2016: I think this will be the year that the creative side of me is more fulfilled.

New Year’s Eve celebrations were great.  My parents generously paid to take the children and me to Capernaum bistro for Edward’s 5th birthday.

This was Edward’s cake (for some reason there seem to be fewer options for editing photos in wordpress today, so I can’t work out how to turn the photo round) – spot the Lego mini figure heavy metal band!

The children then went to see their Dad and his girlfriend while I got ready for New Year’s Eve dinner – as last year, at my house.  Dave Brooks brought some amazing Prosecco Punch with incredible ice cubes in it, which started the process of new year inebriation.

The menu was Insalata Tricolore (it was meant to be Insalata Caprese but my basil plant had all but died, so we only had a basil garnish); Salmon with a sort of Prosecco Cream (see note below) with Pommes Dauphinoise and green veg.; then dark chocolate mousse with a warm cherry and cassis sauce to finish.

Please note that the Salmon in Prosecco Cream is my very favourite dish at Capernaum and so it was a case of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.  I have to say that whilst my guests were very complimentary about my cooking, the Prosecco Cream (which was a bit of guesswork rather than a recipe) was nothing like as good as Ant’s (the chef-proprietor at Capernaum).  Also my green vegetables were a bit overcooked, which I hate.  However I was proud of all my other dishes and I was really glad I had chosen salmon for the meal rather than a heavy meaty dish.

The chocolate mousse is a Raymond Blanc recipe except he adds port rather than cassis, and serves the sauce cold.

The lovely, lovely evening ended with several games of Bananagrams, which Nicola’s mother kept winning, and then a game of Carcasonne – which Nicola’s mother and I won as a team.

I then started the New Year well with a short lie-in while I read in bed and had a coffee, and then went out for one of my favourite runs.  The air was slightly icy but stimulating and I stopped several times just to enjoy being out.  The swing which Alex and his friends had pointed out to me a while ago was wonky and whilst I swung on it for a bit, the rope cut into my left leg.  I paused by the stone memorial which had appeared at about this time last year, wondering again who Lorna Games was and what the significance of the calf or whatever it was on the stone was; and of course I had to stop to admire the view.  Despite it being a rather dull day and hence not particularly great for photographs, I love this view over towards Walton, the Solway Plain, Kielder and then Scotland – the misty Scottish hills touched with a sprinkling of icing sugar snow on their tops.

As I ran I thought over my goals and desires for 2016: you will have seen them in my other post, and details of singing events and of published writing will follow on my website.  Meanwhile, I wish everyone (me included!) an incredibly happy, successful and abundant 2016, and that your dreams may come true – however remote they seem just now.

Happy New Year!

 

Brampton awakes and other musings

St Martin's Church Brampton (2)

I slept soundly last night so I had no idea whether or not the storm hit us badly.  In fact, other than my bay tree falling over despite its brick ballast, there seems to be rather less debris around than there was after the previous storm (when my back garden acquired several plastic cartons, some bin bags and various other bits and pieces.   If anybody wants some plastic crates, please let me know – they’re under the trampoline.  Or at least they are at present.  I guess if the winds continue then they may continue their journey further long the road).

I drove the car down to David’s this morning so he could take the children to school and then get to work.  As I went outside the first of the church bells were striking 8 a.m. – I could swear that as I was walking back I heard another set striking.  Rather than a deafening riotous clangour every hour on the hour, Brampton’s clocks politely take it in turn to strike the hour, starting (I think) with St. Martin’s Church clock, as seems right and proper: it’s the largest, oldest and most central church.

The sequential striking of the hour does, however, mean that you can’t be sure exactly what the time is.  This is something I am quite comfortable with as the clocks in my house, at school, at nursery and in my workplace all tell a different time.  You would think that perhaps in this digital age timepieces would be far more accurate: I’m rather glad they’re not.

Mind you, my time-keeping was something David always criticised me for.  A stickler for promptness himself, he said I was always ten minutes late for everything.  I know time-keeping afficionados will think that this is rude and inconsiderate.  It’s not intended to be: it’s just that there’s always something I think I can ‘just fit in’ or ‘just finish off’ which will still give me precisely the right amount of time to get wherever I have to go.  Very often this works perfectly: sometimes it means I am just a little bit (well, ten minutes) late…  but it does mean that whatever was bugging me to be finished will be finished, and you will – or should – have my full attention once I’ve arrived.

The nursery clock is one I’m particularly fond of as it always makes me feel that I’m not quite so late as I had feared, as I dash out of work (I rarely leave work on time, but usually about ten minutes late…) to fetch Edward.  Fortunately he can’t yet tell the time.

As I walked back through Brampton I was musing over how much I like the first week or so of the new year.  Christmas and the New Year can be relatively hectic and I certainly feel that I’ve eaten too much and drunk too much alcohol: my stomach is showing the effects and large meals washed down with glasses of wine do not currently appeal.  I went to see some friends last night and to do some singing and they were rather apologetic about the supper they provided – a piece of quiche, a piece of pizza, some potatoes and a pile of salad.  Actually it was perfect, particularly the salad.

But in addition to that this is the one time of year when you really feel you can catch up on things.  The pile of random papers on my desk has reduced and my ‘to do’ list is somewhat shorter (and feels more manageable) than it has done for a while.  Things feel relatively controlled.

And I don’t have the children this weekend, so once I’ve written my Nordic Walking feature and done a bit of pitching, I shall get out for a couple of runs and perhaps even start some decorating.  I’ve even – finally, hooray! – now got my child/working tax credits sorted, so I can sort out the mortgage and other financial matters.

Life feels relaxed and full of possibilities…. time for me to go to check out my internet dating site!

Start as you mean to go on

OK, so it may not be the first day of the year – but I think it’s near enough to have started putting some of my New-Year’s-non-resolutions into practice.  The first day of the year started off very well at midnight but went somewhat pear-shaped later when I argued with David (as an aside, what do I call him?  He’s still legally my husband so do I call him my ex-; my estranged husband; or what?).

1st Jan. is always a bit of a wash-out anyway: everybody feels tired from New Year’s Eve, aware they’ve overindulged, and too lethargic to implement ‘resolutions’ straight away.  So I didn’t get out for a run on 1st or even on 2nd.  Torrential rain welcomed the new year in here, which didn’t help – it didn’t really beg me to get outside into the fresh air.

On 2nd I stacked wood: Jeremy came round with his chain saw and sawed my old decking into wood-burner sized pieces while I stacked them in the crates I have turned into a log store.  By the time I’d then faffed around with various other things on the computer, it was time to get out to tea at Chris and Mandy’s – my sense of time completely confused by the kitchen clock which was running about 20 minutes slow (it needs a new battery).

Today, however, has been one of those great days when I feel as though I’ve achieved things.  You know, one of those days when you tick quite a few things off the ‘to do’ list.

It started with a trip down to Borwick, near Milnthorpe, to interview Edwina about Nordic Walking.  I met Edwina when I ran Ullswater Trail race at the beginning of November, and was impressed and inspired by her positive attitude (and glowing, youthful skin, despite being 3 years older than me).  Rather than giving anything away here, there will be a feature about her, written by me, in an edition of Lancashire Life at some point in the not too distant future, and I’m also hoping I might be able to get her story into the nationals.

It was lovely to see a different part of Cumbria/Lancashire and also just to drive from the top of the county to the bottom.  Even though it was mostly on the motorway, it’s still a stunning and scenic drive.  On the way back I did some singing practice, singing through my Grade 8 songs again.  Despite not having done any singing since before Christmas, I still remember all the words.  Just as well as I have concerts coming up at which I want to sing those songs!  If anybody is interested, I have a playlist on Spotify where they are sung by far better singers than me.

Edwina also gave me to contact details of her Nordic Walking instructor – another feature possibility.  I need to get pitching…

On getting home all the grandparents were here and were happy to continue to child-sit while I went for a run.  My father-in-law had also bought me a camellia, which I really appreciated as it’s something I’ve wanted for several years.  I now just need to decided where best to plant it.

My favourite run at the moment is up the Moot and along through Ridge Woods – you can do a big figure of 8 or loop which takes in at least two hills (when I get fitter I could fit in even more).  It was an absolutely glorious, golden, late winter afternoon and I wished I’d taken my camera, although I have taken lots of photos up there in the past.

Family walk up Brampton Moot towards Lanercost 5th March (2)

Looking up at the trees in the wood they glowed copper in the sun; the grass shone brightly green or yellow, shadows lengthening across it.  I love pausing on the Ridge and gazing over to Scotland and the Solway: I think being up high and staring across at water and/or hills makes you incredibly aware of being part of the world – of the Universe.  There’s something that makes me feel very grounded but also somehow lets my spirit fly free, in a way which just doesn’t happen in the hustle and bustle of a big city (standing on top of Carlisle Castle and looking over to the Lake District fells isn’t too bad…).

By the time I had finished my loop and was heading towards home the sky was turning red with the sunset.  The colours were fantastic and it felt good to be alive.

My parents then offered to take Bella and me out to dinner (Edward by then had headed down to David’s with his other grandparents).  We tried Capernaum, Brampton’s newest restaurant, first, but unfortunately there was a private party on.  So instead we went to Brambles, which was lovely.  The food isn’t quite as classy as Capernaum’s but it was still nice and the service was lovely, the waitress putting up with our queries and fuss with a good grace.  My Mum and I had Brambles Cocktails, which are lovely but which slip down very easily…

As we walked home there was already frost on the car.  I’m hoping to go running again tomorrow.  And perhaps do some more singing practice!

1st January 2015

It’s taken me some time to get going with this website/blog, but what better day to start a new blog than on New Year’s Day.

Edward, my youngest, was 4 years old yesterday.  4 years ago I was in the Cumberland Infirmary with my new son in my arms, having had an elective caesarean.  At midnight that night I heard fireworks going off and the midwives and medical staff having a party: whilst his birth may have been of little consequence to them, the fireworks seemed to be especially to celebrate the birth of this unplanned but gorgeous, happy and healthy child who had come in to the world.

After the initial shock of finding I was pregnant it was as if he was meant to be, and certainly hardly a day goes by when I don’t rejoice at the happiness and laughter he has brought into my life at an age when many women are becoming grandmothers.

My husband left us in August 2014 (‘the year of broken things’) but two things came out of my marriage which can never be taken away from me and which make life worth living: my three children, who have taught me that a mother’s love is an astounding and deep experience; and confirmation that I have a good sense of self-esteem and confidence.

There were all sorts of things I was going to write about a few months ago, when I first planned this blog: but I am resolved to live in the moment and look forward and not back (though to learn from the past and to be glad about it is, I think, a good thing).  So the experiences of 2014 will be largely unrecorded here: it’s time to start afresh.

Please share my journey with me: your feedback and comments now and in the future are welcomed.

Happy New Year!