Monday, April 29, 2013


Crocheting in my sleep

What can I say....... my daughter took this photo of me asleep with hook in hand and halfway through a stitch. 

I am getting old. 

Or the TV was boring.

Or something. 

Happy Monday!

PS - The link to the cake recipe is in the comments at the Back in the Water post - some of you may have missed it:  Here it is "The Orange cake recipe is here! 
I used orange juice instead of lemon juice at the end, with a spoon or two of sugar, but not much. It's amazing!" Courtesy of Diana, daughter-in-residence.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday, compost bins, inRL, coffee and pampering.............

It is a typical April day today - sunny, and showers, and not too hot. A measure of the heat is that the greenhouses are open for now. They may well be closed in a short while. We shall see. Diana, Jean and I constructed a double compost bin for the allotment yesterday. There are a couple of houses being built next to Jean's house, so she asked for a pallet or two. Well. They are enormous. So, armed with every imaginable tool, we set about constructing a bin. It turned into two bins, so the compost can be turned. And, as Diana says, it closely resembles stalls for miniature ponies. But it is a work of art.
The next problem it trying to work out just how we will be able to get it from Jean's garden, down an alley and to the allotment. But I am quite sure we will come up with a perfect plan soon. Such as grovel to the builders and get them to move it for us. In their lorry.

See? Genius.

I sort of hovered on the periphery yesterday, because Jean is a compost bin expert, and Diana likes to build things, and Mum sat in the conservatory in the sun, while we dodged rain showers and hammered and sawed and cut and measured.

Not in that order, you will be pleased to know.
Daffodils on a hill leading to a nearby town
This morning, the church in the village hosted a coffee morning for carers, with some pampering thrown in. That included a manicure! My nails look stunning right now. I do realise that tomorrow, they will probably be buried in soil and ruined completely, but at this very minute they are pink and perfect. I didn't opt for the turquoise nail varnish. Maybe I should have tried something different.

Anyway, it was a delightful couple of hours, and the coffee and cake were great too. Speaking of cake, as I speak, my daughter is making the icing for the chocolate cake she decided to bake this afternoon. Having a daughter in residence who delights in cooking and baking and reading recipe books is marvellous. Dinner is in the slow-cooker as well.

I was full of good intentions - I have yet to catch up with the inRL meet-up today on line. Maybe I will curl up somewhere, plug myself in and see what is happening. Hop on over to Incourage and register!

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kind friends and a Spring day.................

Seedlings. Bare feet on warm paving slabs. Watering cans. The smell of wet earth. Potato plants breaking through the surface. Netting to keep squirrels and birds away. Canes ready for supporting tomatoes, sweetpeas, beans. Sunflowers. 


Daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinth. 


White labels telling me what is where. Courgettes which double in size over night.



Sunlight in my Spring kitchen.........


Orange cake - delicious. Vee, I have asked the chef for the recipe, so it is pending. Can I add that the chef also made parsnip soup for lunch and a haddock and spinach risotto for supper? Splendid.

It tastes amazing when warm. 

A warm-ish day. Jean and I went off to get some vital essentials from the DIY superstore nearby this morning. I knew she wanted soil for her son's new vegetable garden so I went along for the ride. Isn't it remarkable that every able-bodied, young, strong male is suddenly otherwise occupied when 125litre bags of soil need to be lifted? Bless her cotton socks, a young girl came to help lift 5 huge bags onto the trolley, and then, after the cashier called for assistance loading it into the car, an elderly gent approached. He was mumbling about the amazing disappearance of all young men when called for as well. 

Anyway,.he managed to heave everything into the car for us. Jean and I were extremely relieved. And THEN, as we approached the village, she asked whether the soil should go down to the allotment or to home. 

I was sitting there gaping like a fish. What? The soils was for her son. No, she said, I never SAID it was for him. It is for the allotment. Huh?? Crazy. My friends are all crazy. Lovely. Generous. Thoughtful. But mad. I was quite happy waiting for a couple of weeks. I was blown away by her gift.  

Anyway, after a coffee and cake interlude, (while I struggled to stop gaping) Diana joined us and we trundled down to the allotment, where we discovered that the chickens had been eating corn, and that their straw and manure in the bottom of the raised beds was now sprouting CORN in my beautiful beds. So we yanked it all out, and managed with the wheelbarrow, to get the new bags into the beds. They are perfect. Finished. Awaiting their seedlings. I chatted to a couple of the older gents who spend their days tending their allotments (and chickens) and they are all super-impressed with my raised beds. So am I. 

And I have the world's best friends too. 

Mum had another dentist appointment this afternoon, and as I waited for her, I was paging through a magazine and happened to read a really interesting article. More about that tomorrow...............

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back in the water............

I have torn myself away from my seat under the apple tree in the glorious sun. I can say that today because yesterday was decidedly iffy. Cold. Grey. Until after midnight. Nearer to 1AM, actually, because I was determined to see a meteor and the clouds refused to budge until then.

So, there I was. Standing in the pitch dark, staring at the sky, when the most amazing meteor slid across the sky. It was huge. It was bright. And it did not shoot. It slid gracefully across the sky, giving me plenty of time to watch it, but not enough to attempt a photo. Beautiful. Worth being up at dark o' clock.

I knew the peak of the meteor showers was around yesterday. Apparently I was a day out. But you can still see them in the sky, just without the possibility of 100+ an hour. My one was enough. The west coast of the US is supposed to be a wonderful place to watch the meteors, for any of you over that side of the States.

I am happy with my one.

So this morning, I trundled off to aquazumba again, after a couple of weeks break for a variety of reasons. Guests, creaking etc. By the end of the warm up I was ready for traction. But I stayed in the pool, and survived. Just. I am now walking rather stiffly, but as I said, I am alive. That is what counts. I will be back in the water on Thursday.

Diana has made another of her stunning orange cakes. Absolutely delicious. The house smells wonderful too, which is an added bonus for us all. Mum has also made fruit salad, so it definitely smells and looks like Spring here today. The washing was dry early and the greenhouses are open.

Did you see that? I said the greenhouses are OPEN!! It is nearly the end of April and it has been like winter, so they have stayed shut, apart from when I have watered them. the seedlings are all growing well, and so are the ones upstairs. I must check on them. They will be needing a great deal of water while the temps are high. Anyway, I introduced them to the sun. And they leaned towards it inquisitively.

I love seedlings. My garden.

But you know that.

It is now dark. You see, I looked out of the window as I wrote earlier, and I saw the sun and wondered what I was doing inside. So I abandoned all and went out. Margaret then popped round to dump some of her garden waste in my bin, and stayed for tea and cake. She also brought me some delphiniums, so I have just been out planting them. And watering.

And as I write, I am live streaming the Exponential 2013 conference, listening to the speakers. Francis Chan was wonderful. Right now, they are talking about numbers. The whole conference is about Disciple Shift. Absolutely great. (It is free by the way. Over 20 000 were watching on line and over 5000 in the hall.

Tomorrow, I will download the photo of the cake. I can't remember where I left my camera. Mother has just brought me coffee, so I will recharge in a minute. Enjoy the rest of your day!

PS: My sister has been on the phone complaining about the lack of posts. Oops.

Edited to add: My sister sent me a message to say I had forgotten to check the spelling etc. I had. I am so sorry you had to decipher this post. I hit publish and headed for the rocking chair and fell asleep. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

A slow week...........

Hello there once again.....

Today, the wind stopped howling, and I have spent a happy couple of hours in the garden. Moving things. Inspecting things. Counting emerging flowers. Scattering seeds. Filling a pot with soil........

Garden things. It fills me with such joy to be in the garden that the hurting becomes irrelevant, and I am energised. Well, lets be clear here - there is a lot of sitting under the apple tree and thinking going on too. Just the fact that I can sit there without being either frozen or blown to Siberia, is cause for celebration.

My friend, Glynis's sister, Janine, is going to be winging her way south back home tomorrow, so we all met at our favourite place for tea (Becky? You know the place!) earlier today. That was a delightful interlude, although I do wish Janine would stay. So does Glynis. However, she has a family to return to, as do we all. But dreams are good.

This has been a hurting week, so I have been taking things as easy as I can. This does not come naturally to me, especially when I am itching to get out in the garden. So there has been some progress with the ripple, though not a great deal. Diana has noticed that I fall asleep rapidly when I sit down. I time this perfectly for when the programmes I want to watch begin. Catch up TV is a wonderful thing.

I have been following the awful news from Boston and Texas, and it just breaks my heart to see so many people hurting, coping with loss and physical devastation. It has not been a good week for all those ordinary law-abiding citizens who have had their lives turned upside down. I see that all the entrants of the London Marathon, which takes place this coming Sunday, have been asked to wear black arm bands as a sign of respect for their fellow runners in Boston. And these things are global. One of my aqua friends was in Boston, watching her husband run. He finished an hour before the bombs went off, thankfully. And they are safe.

Going back to the garden, the compost fairy, Jenny, arrived on my doorstep on Wednesday afternoon, with another load of compost for the allotment. I wanted to laugh and cry together, if you know what I mean. I was so thrilled. Receiving with grace is still something I am having to work on. I prefer things to be the other way around, and yet, such generosity is something to celebrate. And I do. She said "You know, I don't know what my car was thinking about, but it just drove me to B&Q and parked in front of the compost!" And we howled with laughter. She is such a dear friend. Diana made her a delicious orange cake which I dropped around later. Another reason to love having my daughter home!

So tomorrow, Jean, Diana and I will head down to the allotment and take the latest raised bed, which was in my garden with pots in it. Why?? It can go down to the allotment. An excellent idea. I will have to work out how to get it into the car, but I am sure I will make a plan. It can sit over our heads if necessary.

I have vivid memories, as does Jean, of my sister buying a huge gazebo for her garden a couple of years ago. It was a bargain. Her car is small, so we unpacked it in the car park, and shoved the poles all over the place. Jean and I got in, and then Marge arranged everything around and over us. I seem to remember having something over my head. But we managed to get home alive and it is a really beautiful gazebo. The raised bed is neither beautiful nor small. But, as I said, we will make a plan. Like we always do. That will bring the tally to 5 beds already. Amazing.

Right. I am now going to make coffee and do a little rippling before I need to put the chicken in the oven. Roast chicken tonight. Yum.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The wind howls............

After a lovely warm (howling gale) and sunny day, we are back to the gloom at the moment, although I have high hopes for later on. That is why the washing machine is whirring away as I speak. Yesterday, I had the last of the linen after our Swiss visitors' stay out on the airers drying, and the airers keeled over regularly in the wind. In my dream garden, there will be a rigid washing line. As in, one which does not fall over into the bushes thus rendering the washing part of the process redundant. Ah, the frustrations of a laundress. Mind you, at least I am not scrubbing the sheets with stones in a river, so one must celebrate the small stuff.

I have been obsessively watching the soil for emerging plants. Lilies. Yesterday morning, there were 6. Last night, there were 14. However, the slug/snail population seems to be waking as well, so I have just scattered the pellets all over the garden. Do any of you use nematodes? I had coffee with a friend yesterday, and she recommended using it. I will have a word at the garden centre when I next visit. My seedlings are growing in the greenhouses, and I could not be more excited. The ones indoors are shooting up as well, Mother reports. They are on her bedroom windowsill, and she is in charge of watering them. The courgettes are winning the race at the moment. Some tumbling tomatoes are trying to catch up. Such a delight.

Today's post seems to be about all the normal inconsequential events around these parts. But this is my life. I have also started a wide band ripple, because I can and because there is enough wool in the stash to preclude any spending of money. I am on the third colour and I rather like the solid bands. 4 rows of each colour, instead of the normal 1 or 2. I rather like the new colour plan. I am using a #4 hook. I think it would have been less dense had I used the 4.5 one. In fact, I think I always use a 4.5, so what the heck I was thinking, I do not know. Let's look at it this is going to be warm. And heavy. I can cope with that.

It will also need more wool. That I am going to try to avoid somehow. There will be random stripes of any colour I unearth. I think I will call it the Leftover Ripple.


In other news, today was the funeral for Baroness Thatcher, and it was a dignified event, with some amazing music. I am trying to find out the music the band played as the procession made its way through the streets with the coffin on the gun carriage. It was absolutely beautiful. And it is over without incident. 

Now, I am off to meet my daughter who is returning home after looking after her brother's home while they have been away......

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Foreign vs home views, and a funeral.................

This is a commentary, and in no way political, although some would say that even mentioning a politician makes things political. I am not stating views here today. I am talking about how views are altered by one's global positioning. As in where the heck you are changes views. 

Well. You will see what I mean if you choose to read  on today!

Margaret Thatcher (Baroness Thatcher) is being buried tomorrow. Or rather, it is the day of her funeral. Her death has given rise to countless diverse comments/stories in the news media, Facebook and heaven knows where else. Ironically, some of the most vociferous, hysterical voices seem to be from people who were not even born when she was the Iron Lady, First Woman PM here in the UK. Or the voices belong to people who were mere children back then. What could they have known? Really?

There have been appalling songs celebrating her death. There have been great celebrations - parties in some parts of society. There have been accolades and tributes and there has been sorrow.

Now, I do not believe that celebrating someone's death is in any way acceptable. Nor do I believe that spending £10million on a funeral is appropriate, but that is beside the point. She was, by any standards, a remarkable woman, who rose to the top, in what was then very definitely a man's world. She definitely earned her place in history, for many reasons, both good and bad.

But here's the thing - I can only comment as a foreigner.

She left 10 Downing Street as we arrived here to live, and what astounded me back then was the way people here absolutely loathed her.

You see, to the outside world, ie everywhere except the UK, she was a star. A strong world leader. A woman much admired. Outside the UK, things like British trade unions were irrelevant. Unimportant. All we saw was how amazing she was. Strong. Powerful. Call it spin or whatever you like. Internationally she was a roaring success. The world stage was her stage.

Not so much here at home, and it took all of 24 hours to find that out.

Isn't it amazing how world views vs home views differ?

The same can be said (as I duck for cover) about the current US leaders. And others too, of course. They work fine internationally, but at home, it is a different story. The world view of President Obama is radically different from that of a great many home US citizens. I would have to be blind and deaf not to see that. And everyone is perfectly entitled to their own opinion, of course. But we tend to only see him on the world stage, not the home one.

Do you see what I mean about Mrs Thatcher?

So, it is with interest that I have watched the reaction to her death here. And deep sadness that anyone's death should be celebrated. And sorrow for her family. And incredulity at the cost of the funeral. And remembering the Iron Lady leading a nation to war (Falklands) - even though it was her removal of the military presence there which led to the invasion in the first place.

Everyone born on this earth is human. We all make mistakes. We never get everything right. But she was elected by the voters in Britain. She was not a military dictator. The people of Britain overwhelmingly elected her to power, just as we have elected the Coalition which is bumbling through draconian legislation here right now. (The alternative is just as bad.)(Sigh.) (Groan.) But that is another story.

So what I am trying to say is that it is vaguely surreal to be both.

A foreign observer and a home voter.

Maybe it is because I tend to look at the "what are they good at" instead of "what are their faults". I am a born optimist. I try to see the good. But nothing outweighs the fact that she was still a mother, and a granny. And all the vitriol is going to do just what? There is talk of people protesting, as is their right in a democracy, on the funeral route. That will change what?

And given the appalling bombings in Boston yesterday, it would be in order for the mood to be sombre.

It is a sad world we live in, where some people think it is just fine to destroy the lives of ordinary people. To instill fear. To strike at the heart of nations. It is right to have diverse opinions. It is right to feel great emotion.It is not right to try to enforce them on others. To do harm.

It is not right to celebrate the death of an old lady. Nor is it right to excuse any form of carnage in the name of protest. Intelligent, educated argument is one thing. Singing  Ding Dong the Witch is Dead  from the Wizard of Oz and having it shoot up the charts here in the UK because Baroness Thatcher is dead is a disgrace -  a totally different thing altogether. I am ashamed of my countrymen.

My heart breaks for all those who are hurting in Boston. For all the pain, the suffering and the sadness. I wish there was more good in our world. I wish that evil wasn't around every corner - oh wait, that is why I am a day there will be a world like that, won't there. Evil will be defeated and good will triumph. It has been promised, and won for us.

I just have to hang on till then.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday in the garden in Middle England......

Hello there. 
I was up at a ridiculous hour this morning, because Mum woke me to tell me that the tomato greenhouse had blown down. So, LONG before I would normally get out of bed on a Sunday morning (church starts at 11am) I was up and out there, trying to work out how to stop its immediate flight to Siberia.
You know, I have had a tomato greenhouse for years. The plastic on the old one was past help, so I bought a new one from the same shop, and before I had even unfolded the cover, it was torn. It is the thickness of a cheap supermarket bag and totally useless. Then trying to get the poles into the plastic slots, I broke 3. So I had to use ones from the old frame. It is such shocking quality. I had a few words with their customer service department when I was last in town, and the man said that he had noticed the shocking quality when he assembled something for their display too. Well, why didn't he do something? And heaven knows where my receipt is, so I can't return it, even if the box is this year's design and it has the store name all over it.
I will not bother with anything else from that previously favourite place to shop. I am less than impressed.
Anyway. When I got back from church it was still in place, but bending badly, so I screwed two cup hooks to the wooden fence behind it, and secured it with fencing wire. So now, if you see a fence panel flying through the skies with a tomato greenhouse underneath it, it will probably be mine.
It would make an interesting UFO.
The wind is wild today and my hair is standing on end. And I have come to the limit of what I can do in the garden right now, because seeds have to grow and it is too early to plant other seeds and I can't pace about all day, now can I? I just love being out there, getting my hands all grubby. The child in me remains, it seems.........
 The music at church was particularly heavy on the bass and drums this morning, so my pain levels shot through the top of the scale and I was a gibbering wreck. My friend tried to help me, but all I could do was say "Don't touch me" through gritted teeth, as the body shook uncontrollably. Both my friends felt the huge vibrations and turned to me immediately, but I was holding on to the stick with a death grip as I stood on the kneeler, trying to breathe.  That was enough to cope with. And the saddest part of all this is that I absolutely LOVE the music. The bass. The drums. The volume. The sound swells over the congregation and is just fabulous. Or it once was. For me.

Ayeyaiyai. Life can be very complicated.

The cakes after the service were made by the cupcake queen in the congregation, and I asked if I could bring a couple home for mum (and me) as there were so many left over, and Jo was delighted I wanted some. Believe me, they are worth a fortune. The carrot cake ones.............. groan. I just ate mine. Divine.
Andrew and his family are on their way home from the Alps right now. Missy has had a wonderful time with her Grauntie and Uncle Peter. The snow is finally vacating the garden, and Marge is itching to get out there and see what is coming up. 
It always amazes me when her garden springs into action as the snow melts. The daffodils, lilies, tulips and other plants start shooting up almost immediately. And even if it snows again, they will keep growing, shake it off and bloom. She has become as enthusiastic a gardener as I have in recent years. Our gardens bring us such joy.
Daffodils are such happy flowers, aren't they? They are finally opening their eyes and turning their faces to the sun, and they are so tall this year! Maybe it is the brightness of the yellow that I love, especially on grey days and right now, the sun has disappeared and the skies are grey again. 
This little garden cloche is the best thing ever. Seedlings do incredibly well inside it. I only have it up for the seedling stage and then I pack it away again. This year, it, and the greenhouse, have new heavy duty covers, and the quality of these is superb. I put one of my growbag wooden frames inside, and then add an unopened growbag too, so it absorbs the heat during the day and keeps the seedlings warm as the nights get cold. And then I balance trays over the wooden frame. Brilliant invention. 
And finally, yesterday marked the emergence of the lilies. They have started appearing, and I could not be more excited. I am out there every day inspecting the spots where I think they will pop up in hope. The hosta is also beginning to appear. So, despite the appalling weather, Spring can't be that far off. 

I need a nap now, my friends. I don't have to tell you how exhausting pain is, and ignoring it is not an option any more. But I will be back tomorrow.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Seven (or technically nearly eight) years ago......

On the 15 August, 2005, my daughter set up this blog for me. I said hi, and then let it sleep. On the 9th September, I actually wrote something, and again in the next few months, but it wasn't until 2 April 2006 that I really started exploring the emerging blog world, and took a leap into the vortex.

So, it is nearly 8 years since I said hello, but we will ignore that. It is April 13 today and so it is just over 7 years since RCR built up a head of steam and the words started flowing. Seven years. I can hardly believe it. SEVEN. And along the way, I have shared illness, death, birth, celebration, goodbyes, hellos, sadness, stories, thoughts, ideas, philosophies, faith, creativity and a recipe or two. A real mishmash of just about  everything. Big decisions, work - the good and the bad, and the oh-so-challenging times. A son still at school back then and now doing his Masters degree. A daughter who has explored the world, and a firstborn learning to be a father himself.

And me. How I have grown, and in so many unplanned ways. I have had the enormous privilege of getting to know some of you in real life, and so many more through words alone. I feel that I know so many of you, and yet at the same time, I am also aware of how little we actually share most of the time. It is only natural, in this wide open Internet world.

I have been alongside some of you as you have faced difficulties, and as you have celebrated too. It is like one constantly moving film clip, rolling through my mind, with bits of all of you and a good helping of me as well.

I have never regretted the words. We are all interesting people, with our own opinions and ideas, and of course, we will differ at times. Hopefully, with grace. We come from so many different countries. We have cultural differences. We live in different worlds. The rich, the poor, the older and the young and yet all of that is unimportant, because here, in this place, we all have the equal right to space, and to share. You know, I have met people I would never meet in real life around here, and it has been so fascinating to get to know every single one of you. You have added both colour and texture to my life.

Back then, the world was humming along merrily. Well no, actually. Back then, Geoff was very ill only I didn't talk about it until the last few days and even then, I spoke about it very briefly. So, during that first year, everything changed with his death. With my world imploding, and trying to make my way out of the fog, it was a scary place to be. There were many sleepless nights, and then I discovered that someone was always awake and on line, and I could communicate.

The blogging world. I was not alone.

It made a huge difference to my life.

It still does.

But in different ways. I have watched some of those first friends move on to wonderful success and I have cheered them on. I have also seen some amazingly gifted writers sort of disappear into the ether, and that has been so sad. I have seen friends move continents. Write books. Cope with so many changes in their lives. Children growing. Going. Staying. Parents ageing. Medical dramas. Empty nests. Classroom chaos. Tiny babies. Weddings. Bunting................

Life. In all its glory. And in all the mess.

Back then, I would not have known that 7 years later I would still be here, pounding the keys. Nor would I have even begun to guess that it would still be on that aged computer which chooses to expire now and then. I am good at computer first aid. My talents know no bounds.

If I hadn't started writing, and then dared to comment and become a part of a wonderful band of women blazing the blogging way, there would never have been a combined US/UK choir of 140 voices singing Zadok in a village church with a thousand year old tower in the middle of England last year. In that first moment of music, when Becky and I looked at each other and didn't know whether to laugh or cry, we knew it had all been meant to be. Part of some amazing plan. It was pure magic. Pure joy. Pure delight.

If I hadn't started writing, I wouldn't have learned as much as I now know about the Internet and, thinking back, life has changed so radically since the inception of the Internet, smart phones, tablets etc. Being able to recognise a cassette tape or slide rule makes one a dinosaur, and yet I am only 58. Only, please note.

You know, it was just a decade or so ago that man suddenly discovered that the human brain was not fixed in place at 18. Unchangeable. We know now that new neural networks are being built every microsecond in our brains, and that it keeps changing, evolving, and will keep changing for the rest of our lives. We are always a work in progress. not only physically, neurally, psychologically and emotionally, but in so many other ways too.

You are never too old to change. To learn new things. To dream. To dare.

Neither am I.

So, let us look forward to the next while. I am not going to say years. There may be years more with me rocking away in the corner here. But then, I may decide to harness a camel and depart into the hazy distance. You never know. Life is full of surprises.

It has been a good 7-8 years here at RCR. I have loved it. Am loving it. So stick around, my friends. You make my world a little more technicoloured. And I am immensely grateful.

Seven years already. Amazing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

High wires and fun outdoors ..........

There is a very dark cloud overhead right now, and it is going to rain heavily again. It has been doing this since last night. Rain and more rain. I don't think I told you that a fairy godmother left me some bags of compost last week, did I? Well, she returned this week (10% discount for over 60s on a Wednesday) with 3 more even bigger bags. AND the other fairy godmother (Jean) stopped at the same store on the same day and bought me 3 more HUGE bags of compost! I have been swamped with it all, so Jean and I went down to the allotment yesterday and two of the raised beds are now full and ready for when I want to plant, and the other 2 still need more soil or compost, but there is always next week, and I will go and get some more. I am SO excited at the way those raised beds are shaping up. They are going to be fabulous.

Anyway, I told you that last weekend was sunny and mild, so I got out into the garden and planted the first 4 potatoes in their pots, and the peas, some broad beans, the godetia, larkspur,  love in the mist flowers and more in the greenhouse. The tomato plants are indoors with the butternut and gem squash and courgettes. The greenhouse has the leeks, more flowers, and more vegetable seeds, and they are quite happy. I think. I love going out and checking them every day. Do any of you go and check to see if the lilies are poking their way through the soil in the mornings? Or maybe I am the only weird one! This year, I am taking plenty of anti squirrel precautions. They have been snapping off the heads and running off with them. Horrible little pests.
1506 - Copy
Anyway, moving on from the garden, my visitors arrived last week, and after a few days in London, they came back here. Sara needed to do a lot of shopping, so that was Monday occupied, but the kids were less than enthralled. They loved playing up at the village Rec, and we fitted in a couple of visits, but I knew they needed something more, so on Tuesday, we went to Irchester Country Park, which is not far away, and they had a wonderful time playing on the equipment. I went to find out about the high wire Jungle Parc, and they have 2 courses. One for the 4-11 age group and one for everyone else. So, Sara thought they would enjoy it.
1518 - Copy
The one and a half hour session started with the safety instructions, and detailed instructions of how to hook on, behave etc. They were clipped on with their safety harness at all times, and just had to move the other thingy as they moved from one section to another.
1526 - Copy
It starts easily with two simple (low) green courses, then 2 blue courses. Getting higher and more challenging all the time. And I mean higher. 
This was on the red course. You can see how high they have got already, because Sara is down there taking photos and she is an inch or so shorter than me. That is her daughter up there. (Above)
Sara's son, N, was a total daredevil and raced around the course. He was supremely confident. And he is the younger one. No fear whatsoever. S, who is 9, took a little longer, and was a total girl, but she loved it too.

See? Getting higher all the time.
And this was the nemesis. The high point of the black course. N managed beautifully. Those boards have metal wire holding them in place, and they don't swing much at all. He leapt about. Easy. And then came S. Well. Just as she got to that cross in the middle, she froze. And she was HIGH up there. Her mother and I were trying to calm her down, encourage and praise, and urge her on - as was the other mother whose child was just behind her. I was standing underneath. It was HIGH. And her tears were raining down. On me. And so help me, none of us could get up there, so she HAD to do it. And she did in the end,. but all the adults in the vicinity were hoarse, and needed a nap immediately to recover. And what did the kids do? They went off and did another round of courses again.
GO,  S!!!! You can do it!!!

The kids loved it. They were absolutely on fire and so happy and so tired. So was I. Thank the Good Lord Jean had invited us to supper and I didn't have to cook anything. She has had a visitor who lives in the Caucasus staying for a couple of weeks. Glynis has her sister visiting, Marge has my son and daughter-in-law - we have all had visitors at the same time around here.

So supper with Jean was great. So was getting to bed relatively early.
Aren't these trees beautiful against the sky? 
And on their final day, we all went to tea with our friends, Jackie and Simon and their 3 children. Sara's kids were about similar ages, and even though they didn't speak the same language, they all had a wonderful time, while the adults chatted and ate orange cake and relaxed over tea and coffee. Home for a real fish and chips supper and then yesterday my Swiss friends flew off back to the Alps with their bulging suitcases.

I spoke to Sara last night, and she was very indignant that the customs search people in Luton had confiscated her Betty Crocker tubs of icing. It was a cream they said, and a danger. Give me strength. Icing. A danger. (Frosting to those in the US.) But they were safely home, and had a great time, so that was excellent. Except for the icing saga.

The sun is shining again now. I have been outside checking on the seedlings, and yanking out a few weeds as well. Diana will be home next week, and she will not want to see weeds in her beautifully cleared beds.

And so normal life resumes back here in the middle of England. I have not made it to gym this week, and next week is looking rather full as well. Mum has had a lot of dental appointments with more to come, and life rumbles on. I need to start making things again. I have no idea what yet, but I will find something. I can't sit and snooze ever time I sink onto the couch or the rocking chair, now can I .

Anyone would think I was aged.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hello, I am back...................

Well, hello there. It has been a while. But I am back, and now that my fingers have thawed, I can say hi and chat a little.

I mentioned thawing, because I spent a very miserable hour and a half standing in the bushes alongside the M1 motorway this morning, on one leg, like a stork, leaning against a pole. My car decided to get a puncture in one of the rear tyres as I was cruising home from the airport after seeing our Swiss visitors off. Just before the home junction. It was freezing. The wind was, as some Englishmen may say, bracing. Hah. I lost all feeling in my hands, and the hair was standing on end. Just imagine me in a black jacket, hood over wild hair, high-vis jacket over the lot and somewhere in between the layers, my handbag slung across my body. In bushes. With the stick.

As the AA woman said, "you are in a very dangerous place so get as far from the road as possible". So I did. And forgot to switch of the headlights, so, by the time the AA man finally appeared, I had to break the news that the battery was dead too. He grinned. And fixed the car. But, by the time I had to sign the papers, the brain and the hand couldn't connect, because the hand was so cold, I couldn't write. I scribbled something. He said it would do. And then I got back in the car, and tried to take my bag off , only, it was under the high-vis jacket, and I couldn't get that off, and the hood of my jacket was caught under the bag................. you get the idea. So I plugged in the seatbelt over the whole lot. I must have looked exceedingly strange.

And then I came home.

I am just thankful that it happened on the way home and not the way there. I am also thankful that they had too much luggage for Mum to fit in as well, and so she stayed home. I am also writing a memo to myself to stick those folding chairs back in the boot, because I needed one today.

My life is very exciting.

My young friend, Sara, and her two children arrived last Thursday for a week's visit with us, and there has been a lively, noisy, busy, fun atmosphere ever since. There has been a great deal of laughter, a lot of German, and some interesting knitting going on. And visits to play parks, high wire courses and friends. Fish and chips from the Chippy in the village, dinner at Jean's place, a lot of running, and much shopping. I will add that I had nothing to do with the running, shopping, or high wire courses, but I did take photos.

They also went to London for 2 days, and it coincided with the first Spring-like days of the year, so I spent them out in the garden, planting seeds in the greenhouse and doing some weeding. I did not rest at all because I just LOVED being outside.

So, right now, I am intending to do a great deal of nothing-ness. But it was lovely. And they had a great time.

And I need a long nap.

But, I am back. I have photos which I will sort for tomorrow. Oh - this weekend is supposed to be REALLY warm, so I may get out in the garden again!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

David is 24, and friends.................

You know, I am finding a great deal harder to believe that the baby of the family (the 6'4" one) is 24 today than I had accepting that the older two were in their 30s. In my oldest son's case, approaching the dark side of the 30s. Isn't it strange how the brain, coupled with emotion, works? 24. How did that happen? Nearly a quarter of a century, as he cheerfully announced on Skype this morning.

We were going to go down to the coast to visit him today, armed with a birthday cake, but while the spirit is very willing, the body sort of ground to a halt. So we skyped instead, and will see him as soon as the world returns to an even keel, and more to the point, his brother brings back his shoes from Switzerland, and Diana is back and can do the driving instead of me. David needs his posh shoes for his professional practice which starts in May, I think. This MSc in Forensic Osteology has been a fascinating year for him. Bones. Old bones. He is loving every minute. And I am so proud of him too. Happy Birthday, David!

Fortunately, Glynis and Peter are going down to Poole to visit their son this weekend, and, as he lives 5 minutes walk from David, they will take the cake, cards etc with them. I need to bake a cake. Friday night, probably. Our visitors arrive tomorrow evening. Granny has the dentist on Friday and everything is very likely to be chaotic.

I am used to chaos. It is my second name.

So, for an update on the weather: sunny with howling (freezing) gale. The hair is standing on end. It is still useless to try and get out there in the garden and do anything remotely garden-like. The frustration mounts. Shifting the toppling piles of seeds around the kitchen as I do things, is also frustrating, irritating and a reminder of how far behind I am. I am sure seeds will start sprouting from the floor tiles any day now. They are so small.

You know, there are an awful lot of posts out there today from women - possibly all a lot younger than me - asking if and how to become friends/have close female friendships. About how workplace friendships are both risky professionally and also just not the same. About how finding friends with whom one could become close enough to share the vulnerable sides of our souls is so very difficult.

I am so glad I reached adulthood, moved countries and started all over, before the Internet exploded into our lives. I am glad I was a stay at home Mum. I am also glad that, when we moved, my children were young enough for me to make friends at the school gates. Back then, there was time to go for coffee. Explore interests. Find common ground. And back then, we had nothing to compare ourselves to, other than TV stars and celebrities who graced the pages of papers and magazines. And I was never in the slightest bit interested in any of them, anyway.

The advent of the Internet, Facebook, Pinterest, fascinating blogs, posts about all the successes and not so much of the failures, has perhaps, given people unrealistic expectations of both life and friendships, fostering feelings of inadequacies. The other thing to bear in mind is that blogs, by their very nature, are about stories, sharing the details of our lives. That can be threatening to those who don't understand the urge to write. The subject matter could be a barrier.

I have always found making friends easy. That first step is not a problem, because I talk a lot. But close friends, the ones who you can expose your vulnerabilities to, who actually get to see the real you under the protective layers, those are the friends you have to grow. Slowly. Steadily.

Being a part of a church body makes that a little easier. Joining in at house-groups/small groups is also good, because, by definition, what is said there stays between the people there. Trust. And church, hopefully, is full of caring people. I say hopefully, because sometimes it doesn't work quite like that. Remember, no judgement, just acceptance, and love.

The closest friends I have are those I have had since a child or a student. They are the ones I turn to, and distance is not a barrier, although sharing a coffee in the kitchen would be lovely, now and then. We use the very same Internet which may serve to keep us shut inside our homes, and not out there making social contact with people, to stay close. It is wonderful to be in instant contact with those close friends, and these are the ones I run to, because they understand ALL of me, and have known and loved me and watched my life from childhood. A shared history. We laugh, you know, about being really old, and sitting in our rocking chairs reminiscing about our school days together one day. That might be all we can remember by then!

But there are so many other ways of making friends. You cannot tell from first meetings, whether you will become close. That is something that evolves, and you will know when the time is right, or the friend is the right one, to trust enough to unburden your heart. Desperation, or loneliness sometimes make us want to rush in and skip the first few steps of friendship, and this is a real mistake.  Signing up for evening classes, the knit and natter sessions at the pub or library. The walking groups. Choirs. Gym. Sports clubs. Anything. All these things offer opportunities for friendships to take root and flourish.

 Cross generational friendships are also a real blessing. I have older friends, and much younger ones as well. And yes, they all have different degrees of closeness. You do not have to be confessional friends with everyone to have close friendships. Different friends for different areas of your lives.

There is no glib solution to the problem of finding friends who could become close. I have some local friends who I absolutely love, and to whom I would entrust my life. These are not childhood friends, but rather those made in the past 23 years. And then, I have friends, who moved from being acquaintances to good friends with the discovery of common interests over the years, and then on to close trusted friends, when church became another common delight. Friends made over papier-mache monsters in a class of 10 year olds. (Mums helping in the art class one afternoon, and so a friendship of 23 years was born.)

But now, most mothers have to be out there in the work place, or at home in front of the computer working. Social contact IRL is not as easy as it once was. While I am the first to say I love the Internet and all the friendships I have made, it is also a real hindrance to face to face chatting. And no, Facetime doesn't count either.

And in a real moment of delight, the phone rang this evening as I was cooking, and it was my dear friend from Cape Town. One of David's godmothers, and we talked and talked as if it were just a day since we last spoke. That ease and familiarity has taken 33 years to evolve, and it will always be there. How blessed I am with my friends, and how dearly I cherish them. Given the lifestyle I have had, with Geoff being away 9 months of each year, I needed friends. I knew that I would be needing back up and they have been there. But, and here is the big but, it is a two way street. They are there for me. I am there for them. It has to work both ways for friendship to bloom. Like a see-saw.

There is no easy answer, is there. No quick fix. Friendship takes time, it means maybe stepping out of our comfort zone. It means letting go of rigid self-containment. It means daring to trust. It means stepping forward to help. Propping up. It means stepping back when it is none of your business. It means holding on to confidences. It means trust. It means "I have your back".

It also means laughter, tears, painted toe nails, rescuing culinary disasters, sharing rotary cutters and fabric. Head massages, dog walks, sitting in on medical appointments.

And, as one very very dear friend has just done for me, it means the surprise delivery of an "Easter Egg". 3 huge bags of compost.

Just because.

As I said. I am very blessed.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Post-Easter Post................

Good morning all. I wrote half a post yesterday and have spent the past 10 minutes trying to change the tenses, and I gave up. Hands in the air and here I am. What I want to say first is that I hope you all had a really lovely Easter. A very belated Happy Easter to you all from the middle of England!

The sun is shining today and it sort of lulls one into a false sense of security, because it is FREEZING out there. Apparently this will be the same for the rest of the week, and the weekend was Arctic.

We all - the friends who help me on the allotment, went down yesterday. I wore David's wellington boots. They are size 13. I am not a size 13. Nether is he any longer. He takes a size 14. However, there was a lot of mud and soil to contend with, and my good boots do not need this, so I clomped about like a clown, and had some interesting balance and co-ordination problems. 
I concentrated on spreading chicken straw and manure into the beds - all 4 of the new raised beds- and then tossed some compost over them and mixed it all in. The men rotivated the ground again, and Margaret did the edges, replanted stuff, dug and weeded. We were all moving, because stopping meant freezing to death.
The allotment is really looking great. Hard work pays off, and they worked hard. Me, well, I did what I could. But my raised beds are a source of great pride and, while pride may be a sin, I am good with that. They are beautiful. If you like gardening...... 

I still need soil. Loads of it. Compost. I have decided that I am going to request bags of compost for my birthday at the end of May. My family may think I have lost my mind, but compost is good. 
Jean producing a delicious Easter lunch for us all
The weekend has been a social whirl around here. I seldom go out, but we had friends for coffee on Friday, Mum and I went to Glynis and Peter's for dinner on Saturday night, to Jean's for Easter Sunday lunch after church and I was out at friends last night for chili. 
I need a week to recover. We have been waddling, I tell you, not walking. 

And it was really lovely. 

Now if it would just warm up, I would be VERY happy. 

Anyway, I have now sterilised the potato pots and they are drying in the sun as I speak. I will stack them before the sun goes down to try to protect the terracotta ones. 90% of my terracotta pots have declared their days over. The cold winter has meant they are cracking and dropping parts all over the place. They seem to drop more bits if you even breathe near them. I cannot tell you how stunning they are. Oh well. They just have to get through 2013 and we will be happy. Much though I despise plastic, the plastic pots as a) lighter for me to carry and b) last through cold winters. So any new ones in the future, will be plastic.

I was just thinking that I could use a little more artistic thought when posting to get balance and interest and whatever. then I thought to myself, hey, Linds, just keep doing what you set out to do in the first place. Find a place to write, share and record. And that is what I will keep doing. It is too easy to slip into thinking I should be someone who I clearly am not.

I don't write a great deal about my thoughts, or things swirling around in my mind. Or feelings. Or my opinions. I have a great deal of those. Opinions. I like to keep up with current events globally. I read all sides of the spectrum and try to come to a balanced viewpoint. Neither do I write much about legal battles. Nor do I write much about pain. Or my children. Or so many things. Good heavens, that doesn't leave a great deal. You see, I am made up of all those things. Faith, family, dreams, knowledge, pain, and warrior tendencies.

I don't write about what I CAN'T do. I try to focus my life on what I CAN do. But that does not wipe out the things I can no longer do. They are there constantly, a reminder. But there are new and wonderful things to try and to experience as well. And now I am getting all philosophical. I do philosophical as well sometimes.

My hands are rough and covered in cuts and scrapes. These are hands which dig and saw and cut and screw, and wash and bleach and prune and clean and crochet and cook and write and steer, and scrub and drill and sew and dust and shape and bake and plant and water and dial and hold and are raised up and support, and carry and pack and ......

These are the hands which have created the person you have come to know here at RCR. The grubby ones. The hands which transfer the words in my heart and mind to the little screen in front of me. The nails are broken, dried out and splitting. You can tell it is Spring by looking at these hands. They will get worse before Summer is over and Autumn comes. They are arthritic and swollen and stiff and dry.

But you can't see that, can you? Of course you can't. (I hate wearing gloves to work at anything. Or to dig in the soil. I like the feel of the earth against my skin.) I wonder what your hands look like. What wonderful things they have made, or touched. I wonder if your hands scribble post it notes and leave them all over the place. I wonderful if those hands look like mine?

A mother's hands. A woman's hands. A gardener's hands.