Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer is upon us - think tennis and strawberries, and rain...........................


Summer. It is supposed to be summer, and I am supposed to be outside glorying in the warmth. I am not. I am here. However, the summer gatherings go on, and the rain and howling winds may bend, batter and break my garden, but the plants will pick themselves up and grow on.

So will I.

There may be an abundance of roses in this post. They are all blooming at once. They also bear no relation to the words, so skip through them!


It never ceases to amaze me - the way nature can be beaten down, and yet it all grows back stronger. There are times when I eye the neighbour's petunia baskets with dread. I am babysitting them, and they have to survive the winds and lashing rain. So I zap out (metaphorically) and move them from shelter to shelter, depending on the direction of the wind.


I wanted to go off to M&S with my daughter this morning, but I am waiting for documents to arrive via email, for me to sign. The waiting game requires much patience.


So last week passed in a soggy flash. There were gym sessions, visits to the doctor, the watering of Jean's garden and the planting out of the cucumbers and gem squash at the allotment to see to between rain showers. Church, house group, a BBQ celebration with friends and the ripple blanket to finish. I am one and a half rows from the end. I like the wide stripes, but the colours were a mix of what was left here at home, and, while they look fine, they are not really what I intended to have in it. But it will be done today and then I can start on something else. Maybe a daisy one. Or a Granny stripe. We will see. If the weather stays bad, then something warm on my lap would be good. The evenings can be chilly.


It is SUMMER, for goodness' sake.


The BBQ yesterday was great. There were many many people there, and somehow, my friends and I - all 7 of us,  ended up in the garden under a gazebo which was struggling to be waterproof. (The others were all indoors.) It (the gazebo) was also struggling to stay on the ground. And we chatted and laughed and ate and drank and it was when I realised that the onset of hypothermia was imminent that I decided home would be a great idea. We are a tough lot up here in the middle of England, but there are limits! The poor lad doing the actual barbequing was drenched to the bone. He did an excellent and heroic job in very trying circumstances. He deserves a medal. 

It took a while to thaw.


Now, changing the subject, did you go out and see the super moon? We managed to see it last night, and while it was very round and bright, it looked nothing like some of the photos I have seen. Mind you, that could be because I only have a little point and shoot camera, and the zoom is OK, but not like other camera's ones. A white ball in the sky. Maybe people photoshop it. Hmm.


But I saw the super moon. Tick the box.


Moving on.....

The year Glynis turned 60, she made a list of 60 new things she wanted to do in that year. The more I thought about it (she did 73!), the more I thought what a great idea that was. As you get older, the number rises and you have to do more things, but then life sort of speeds up a great deal, and the years become mere days, and so I decided that it would be an excellent idea to do it every year.


I will be the 80 year old on roller skates - trying to get 80 new things done in a year.
I can just see it. 


I suggest you younger ones start when you can manage 30 or 40 things. 59 is looking quite a challenge, but challenges are excellent. One thing I have committed to doing, is to read and list 52 books. This is not new for me. I used to read hundreds of books each year, but now it is really complicated, so 52 is quite daunting.

 Step One: I have started going to the local library. Well. Things Have Changed. It is all about sliding bar codes under red scanner lines and swiping books and paying a slot machine if you are late, and getting till slips telling you when to return books. Till slips. They spout out of the machine. Then I lose them. This is why I am already acquainted with the slot machine section.


However, there are some excellent books. I have a book on Mindfulness, a biography of Bruce Springsteen and a teacher's memoir. And I am half way through Dr Ben Carson's book, America the Beautiful. That one I got from Amazon after listening to his speech on Facebook. A fascinating and inspirational man. Amazon gift vouchers are the best. Did I mention that a lovely young friend sent me a gift voucher, which boggled my mind, for my birthday? She did. And I was speechless. These sort of things do not happen in normal life. But, overwhelmed, I was and am so very thankful. More so that she is my friend than the fact that she sent the voucher! Oh, the delight.


And while we are on the subject of unexpected gifts, I received another mystery parcel - this one was from my Scottish blogging friend,  and in it, there was a lovely mug, a great shopping bag and this wonderful tea bag holder! Such a fabulous surprise! 

I am running out of superlatives, my friends, but it was a truly lovely gesture and both of these surprises kept me smiling for a very long time. 

Insert happy smiley face......

Back to that list. So I am in the process of listing 59 new(ish) things to do before May 2014. Some are relatively simple. Some more complicated. And I am only on #34 amassing the list so far. There are shows to see, exhibitions to wander through, towns to visit, restaurants to try. There is a Jamie Oliver one in a nearby town - that is on the list. There is a forest nearby with a treetop walk. I have never been there. I am going to attempt that one too. Free options are wonderful, and there are so many of them! I am also trying to grow melons this year. Another first. See? The list has easy things on too. If they are an epic fail, I will add something else to the list. Interesting things. I want to do a Coursera course as well. Oh, the Internet is such a wonderful thing!

Raindrop on a leaf. Like a diamond. 
The sharing, the opportunities to learn,. The friends we make, regardless of age. The virtual conferences to attend. The tennis to watch..................... TENNIS!! In 10 minutes, Roger appears on Centre Court, and I just remembered the rage we all felt last year when the BBC only seemed to broadcast British players on the outside courts when Roger, Nadal, etc were playing. It was ridiculous. I sincerely hope they do not do the same this year. Though maybe the Internet will oblige if they do. We will see.

So I will now download photos, and upload photos and press publish and away we will go.

I am sure there are still strawberries in the fridge.......................

Monday, June 17, 2013

People, food, music, rain and fun.....................

I despair sometimes, my friends. It has taken the better part of the entire afternoon to upload these photos. Interspersed with watering the garden and planting out things when the sighing grew too loud and the drumming of the fingers on the desk reached fever pitch. 

But here we are at last. All uploaded and in their right places. 

These photos, by the way, are all from my phone. I need to download them more often. There were 783 of them spanning months this time!

The past few days have been people days. Not to mention tea and cake days. In fact food days. Insert smiley face! So much to do and places to be and concerts, birthdays and assorted other things thrown into the mix. Not to mention a deadline for personal statements for the lawyers to take care of. Thank the Good Lord that is done, emailed and sorted. 

I then outdid myself by popping into a supermarket and walking out with just one loaf of bread. I needed petrol, you see, and this was all in the same place. Fiscal discipline at its best. One loaf of bread. I didn't look left or right as I walked to the bread department. I get a gold star. 

Anyway. A few catch up photos first - Glynis's birthday tea was at our favourite local garden centre. believe me, it is SO much more than a garden centre, and I try to take all visiting friends there. Becky will know where and what I mean! 

Annette, Glynis and Nicky. (I talk about Annette and Nicky later on.....)
More friends in the sun - waiting for the tea and cake to be served!

And then, on a different note, but also including Glynis and Jean, here are the aquazumba ladies, all out for a pizza lunch. Such a lovely bunch of friends........

Diana has been busy with choir rehearsals. You have heard me talk of the community choir we have here in the village. EBM. Sometimes 130+ singers, sometimes a few less. Sometimes a full orchestra and sometimes a band. I haven't been able to sing because of the vibrations triggering unimaginable pain - wooden pews and floors in the church where we rehearse and perform. But this time, Diana joined the choir for the "Small Screen Big Screen" performance on Carnival day, as part of the village festival, which lasted 2 weeks. 

Predictably, it rained on carnival day - last Saturday, but it didn't deter many from being there for the procession. 

I found some friends along the way as I did a circuit of the field (the Rec). Bright umbrellas are good!

Jean and I had arranged to meet at the youth club where they were serving tea and cake (I told you it was a people kind of time, not to mention the tea and cake bit!)


The hall filled rapidly as the rain arrived, and Jean and I timed things perfectly. We were served tea and coffee and then the lady and her cake trolley arrived, so we could choose which cake we fancied - Jean had a sponge cake and I had a delicious chocolate cup cake. Soon, there was nowhere to sit - but it was great. There were stalls doing face and nail painting, and a bowls section too, where people were learning how to bowl.  So well organised, and a wonderful new addition to carnival day. You can tell we are getting older! Seats are good. So is being served at a table while we sit. 

I passed this amazing dragon, which was part of the Shrek bit of the procession. I think it was the Cubs who all dressed up in Shrek costumes.
I LOVED the dragon. Just look at his face. It was a real work of art by some parents. 

This village has a Facebook website where you can buy, sell, swap or give away things, and yesterday, that dragon was offered to anyone who wanted it free. I really hope it found a good home, because it didn't deserve to end its days at the tip.
The carnival crowd. With assorted stalls around the centre arena. In the rain.

The pipe band marching and playing. In the rain. There was also some funky dance lesson in the arena too. The young ones loved that. In the rain. 

I was soaked, even though I had a coat on, and I headed back to Jean's house, which, conveniently,  is next to the Rec. And she and I made a dessert dish - lemon cheesecake sort of thing on a ginger biscuit base for a party I was going to. It is delicious. And we sat in her conservatory and chatted and drank more coffee until the rain stopped. And then I headed home to get ready for the concert. 

Diana had organised baked potatoes for an early supper, because I was doing front of house duty. I volunteered to do it, because that way I could hear them sing, while being on a stone floor in the entrance of the Methodist church. 
Just there inside that door.

Over 90 sang. You can't see half the choir in this photo, but Diana is up there on the left. The concert was sold out. And believe me, they were superb. Especially their performance of Skyfall, which Jon, the founder and music director, had scored for the concert. The lead vocalist (think Adele), Stacey, was unbelievably good. I recorded it, but it is too big a file for here. I will check with Diana and see if there is any other option, because, Oh, I would love you all to hear it. The only auditions for the choir are for solo parts. Anyone can join. And everyone absolutely loves it. 

A wonderful evening. Just perfect. 

And then there was yesterday which was another epic day here in Middle England. 

Church first, and then our monthly shared lunch at my friend, Jenny's house. Jenny is the lady on the left below. She and her husband built a new home in the garden of their old home, and now she is just diagonally across the fence from my house, so we get to chat at times in our gardens. Her husband has built her a step so she can see me over her fence! She is one of the aqua ladies too. 

Her new home is stunning, and their garden is a total delight. Jenny is one of life's gems. A gentle lady, full of love and empathy. We all love her dearly. 

After the shared lunch - there were 14 of us sharing yesterday, I went along to another friend, Nicky's home, because she was hosting a dinner for our friend, Annette's 60th birthday (the dessert I made, remember). The party was last night.
We all got together and sorted the meal between us, initially as a surprise for her. But in the end, she received an invitation, but didn't know all of us would be there. So I popped along, with made-to-measure bunting to decorate the dining room. Remember that pile of triangles? I had everything here and ready to make, so I did. 4 lengths for around the room and 2 crossing it. I think I have more photos on my phone, but they will have to wait for next time. 
This is Bob, Nicky's husband, attaching it to the corners. It looked great. And then there was just time to come home, flop for an hour, before I set off for the party, clutching the cheesecake. Diana was at the 2nd performance of the show in a neighbouring town. 

The weather cleared in the evening, and we were all out in the garden with our aperitifs when Annette arrived. She was really thrilled with the whole party. We also did a Mastermind quizz where she had to answer questions we all submitted. Some on Canada - she is Canadian - we are a mixed crowd of friends! The food was superb, and company great and there were 18 of us for dinner. 

I told you about the people and the food. 

Lots of food.

Many people.

And so this morning it was back to reality, and paperwork to take care of. And a garden to sit in, because the sun started shining this afternoon at last. Maybe the weather will start improving? I certainly hope so, but it didn't stop us from having a wonderful time. 

People don't melt in the rain. And friends just grin and get bedraggled. 

I love that word. 

Now I need to go and finish the watering. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Exploring ..................

This morning, Jean and I made another trip to Market Harborough, to the auctioneers, to pick up the 2 things which did not meet their reserve in the sale last week, and that took all of 5 minutes. So we went back into the town, and parked in a totally different place to where we normally go, and explored another part of the town. I can't tell you how delightful it is to go into little "one-off" shops, instead of the larger chain stores. They are all there, the larger stores, but they seem to co-exist happily with the small ones, and that is what gives the town its wow factor. I could live there. So much to see and do. And a little river running through it all as well. People look happy there.

Have you noticed the facial expressions of people in the street? Or in the stores? There are so many frowns, and so much focus on speed - hellbent determination, attached to them. I wonder, sometimes, if it would be worth touching an arm now and then, and saying, it is OK, you can slow down a little. But then, I would probably be locked up somewhere. In a padded call.

I have though, started stopping ladies in the street and complimenting them on their hair, top, dress etc, and I tell you, it makes such a difference. All I get then, is a real smile. And gratitude. It takes a second or so, but oh, people, is it ever worth it. Try it. Go on. Hand out compliments and smiles today. You will see what I mean.

And so I get to walk away with a grin too.

Anyway. We discovered a new to us coffee shop at the back of the small Cook Shop, for those who know the town. Fabulous, bright, happy place, with a courtyard too, and home made cakes. And scones. And tea cakes. We shared a cake and a scone, and the coffee was delicious too. The kitchen gadgets are amazing. We OOOOHed and AAAAhed our way around the shops and I left, having acquired one egg cup. This is because I couldn't find one for Mum last week. I know I have some. I also know that no-one ever uses them. Until now. Mum wanted one. I now have one. It is IN THE MUG CUPBOARD. That is to remind me when I have lost it again. 

And then we came home the pretty way, through the countryside.

It is supposed to rain today and tonight. But it is not raining, so I went to the allotment and gave it some water. The courgettes are growing beautifully. I do believe there are at least 10 growing right now. And the broad beans are through the soil and the butternut are waiting for the sun. Here at home, Diana has already commented on the growth in just 6 days. I know. It is quite amazing. She has a frightful head cold and is prostrate on the couch as I speak, poor thing.

I made a chicken dish in the slow cooker yesterday, and, because it tasted a little bland, I poured in the remains of Nando's hot peri-peri marinade to give it a little oomph.


It is hot enough to make flames shoot from the ears. Happily, I think it helped to clear Diana's sinuses for about 5 minutes. She declared it lovely, then said she couldn't taste a thing. Maybe another large helping will help get rid of the plague, because I do not want to get it. Absolutely not.

Returning to the weather topic for a moment, I have just watered the garden while I have any energy. The rain should start falling any second now. The skies are black and the lights inside are on. Sigh. I am so good at this sort of thing.

Right. I think I may go and do a little more of the giant ripple now. It is a cosy type of day here. A blanket on the lap is a good idea. 

I will be back.............

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The silence is broken..............................

I sat down at this computer for the first time in 2 weeks, and let me just tell you, it has taken 1 hour and 59 minutes to download my photos from the camera, and upload them to Flickr and I am losing the will to live and have overdone the coffee intake for women of steel. 

I may need to take a walk around the garden and slow the breathing and get the blood pressure under control, because, you know, after two weeks of SILENCE, you may just want to hear reasonable language and sweet sounds instead of what could just be a human version of Mt Vesuvius erupting. 

When I last wrote a word here, Missy was here and I had just had my birthday. Then everyone left, and there I was in an empty house, and I had stuff to do, seasons to change in the house and the laundry pile was toppling, and people, I was just tired. So, I sat in the garden which led to pottering in the garden, which led to rearranging the garden, which led to a BBQ or 2 and that led to  repotting stuff, and did I mention that the sun shone all week? 

That was last week that it shone. This week is grey. But that is beside the point. THEN I got all creative, seeing that it was the end of May and I needed to change the house to summer, only all my summer stuff is in the loft and I was not going to consider an expedition up there. So, I hauled out what was around on ground level, and then I made some more rainbow bunting for the kitchen and the garden. And then I made pompoms for the kitchen. And then I changed the lounge to pale colours, because one can have TOO MUCH COLOUR and nowhere to be calm and serene. (I am still in search of serenity. It is still nowhere to be found.)

Then I needed something for the front door, and I didn't have a pale welcome sign, but, in a moment of genius, I had bought a few extra signs when they were on sale for £1.00, so I repainted one. Then I needed a wreath, so I found an undecorated one, my glue gun, some raffia, fabric and old flowers and it was sorted. 

And then I headed back to the rocking chair and dozed. 

And here I am. Do you want to see what I have been doing?????

First, just before Ann and Missy departed, we attempted some "4 generations of women photos". They were a hit and miss affair, as Missy has decided that cameras irritate her intensely, and co-operation is not something we saw a great deal off in our photo shoot. However, faces or not, here are the 4 women. Mum. Me. Diana. Missy. 
And here we have the kitchen/family room mid change from Spring to Summer. The cloth is changed, but the Spring bunting is still in place, because, there on the table is all the summer bunting. The piles of colours waiting to be stitched and finished off and sewn together, after the miles of binding is ironed.

The little rainbow lanterns are for the metal poles I have in the garden if I have an evening BBQ.
And, moving into the garden, here are a few of the flowers. We have been in a purple phase with the irises, lilac, aquilegia, aliums, bluebells and other purple things. But this is one aquilegia  which I didn't know I had. Pretty, isn't it?

Everything is growing. Actually, it is all a lot bigger now, but I haven't taken any photos in the last few days. The allotment is also doing well. Stuff is growing. That is all good.
This is the vegetable garden part. I move pots around, and I have things ready to go into the potato pots as soon as they are ready to dig up.We have already been eating the spinach and the lettuce. I LOVE wandering into the garden and picking leaves to eat!

Back inside again. All the triangles sewn and finished off. Actually, these are the left over ones. I may just have cut a few too many. I had left the rainbow bunting up in the garden through the winter, but it was looking sad and faded. Rather like its creator, I have to say - the faded bit. I need highlights. I look grey.

Oops - back outside again, to see what I meant re the purple phase. It looked lovely. It still does in places.
New bunting on the fence! A vast improvement.

So, once the colour was sorted in the kitchen, I started on the entrance, and the painting of the Welcome sign.
I should have arranged these photos. But I have lost energy. So here we are BACK in the colourful room. Did I mention pompoms? I had nothing for the centre hanging thingy, because everything is in the dark corners of the loft, so I checked out the yarn supplies, and managed to find a rainbow. Then I tried all the new-fangled Pinterest ideas for pompoms and tossed them all out, and made cardboard circles in 3 sizes. And then I sat there for two nights, making pompoms. It was very therapeutic.
The nook is also bright and cheerful. I have to say, the colours make me smile.
Right. Moving on.

 The entrance. The sign in place and the new wreath. The summer part was a Christmas one I made, but I just turned it over. I was looking for my shell supply, but only found them yesterday, so now I need the glue gun and that is in the cupboard and I can't be bothered to move everything around to find it at this moment. Maybe tomorrow. So the buttons cover the holes I drilled for the Christmas work of art. It will do. The flowers I had. They are made from wood shavings, and the petals had been damaged, so I used the glue gun to reattach them in some semblance of order. It looks fine.
Natural raffia is wonderful stuff. So is wire.
So after you come through that door, you will be in the lounge. The cool calm and serene lounge. See? I love it. I wanted to get some white lilies for the vase until I saw the price. I will wait till mine grow. They are on their way. Tall and strong in the garden.

So it is not all bright colours. Bits of both. Two sides of me.

And there you have it. My last 14 days of silence were not wasted entirely. I just did not have the energy to think.

But I have been to two consecutive days of aquarobics and aquazumba and I am still alive. Last week we were at an auction on one of the days, so missed a class. Maybe the sun will come back soon too. It is our village festival at the moment, and for two weeks, there are things on the go, like Art Exhibitions, coffee mornings, movies, concerts - and, of course, the Carnival on Saturday. I do hope there is no rain this time. Last year it was postponed because the Rec(reation ground) was waterlogged.

So, I will head off now to feed Glynis's dogs, and leave you with one last photo of the garden. It is growing. And I will be back. I promise.