• Blog,  Day to Day

    Fitting In

    Hello from a dreary Yorkshire day -the cloud is hanging low down the valley, bringing a sort of quiet dampness which I love. In this weather the birdsong seems louder, the colours more vibrant against the grey background. The river runs peat brown, dark depths. I wandered up the valley earlier, just to get out the house, relishing drizzle on my skin and the lack of anybody else around.

    2023 has been a funny one so far. After the tumult of last year, it sort of seems that all the pieces of me that have been flying around are settling, finally. I feel solid, somehow. I’ve been in a contemplative mood recently – the prospect of turning 40 this year has meant I’ve been looking back, in a way. My thirties have been a decade of discovery, for sure. I left a few jobs, started others, left them, picked up a chronic illness. I worked through depression and put on a lot of weight. I also got a master’s degree and started a PhD. I began therapy, properly, which has been a huge help, and still is. I’m also one of the large number of ‘older’ people, especially women, finally finding out that they are neurodivergent. It’s been a wild ride, but for the first time maybe in my life, I can say I’m beginning to know myself.

    An rocky path leads under a small, craggy oak tree. The path is on a sloping valley side, with an old stone wall. Rocks to the side of the path have lichen and moss on, and there are more trees in the background.

    I think I’ve needed to wait until now, to start this blog properly. To feel in tune, not only with the turn of the seasons and the passing of the days, but with myself, too. I’ve always felt slightly outside of the norm, just that bit out of place, but not been able to explain it. I fought against it, maybe my whole life. But here I am now, four decades in, understanding it all finally. Sort of starting again, creating a space where I fit perfectly. I’m looking forward to not trying to be someone else for once, worrying about fitting in. I can fit into my own place, just for me.

    I feel the pandemic was a turning point for a lot of us – a point where things could fall apart. Through the loss, hurt and pain, we could see the things that were really important. Our stories are personal, yet somehow shared against the same background. The world trying so hard to get ‘back to normal’ is leaving so much of that new wisdom behind. Collective trauma needs time for grief, time for recovery. Grief for loved ones, for life as it was, for the world. It’s a time to follow our hearts now. It’s time to bring change, and I feel that personally.

    The sun is breaking through the cloud now, the last few minutes of golden light peaking over the fence to next door’s garden. Soon it will rise high over the rooftops, bringing heat, light, new growth, long days. Not long now. I’m being pulled back to my path, back to the wheel of the year, and I feel comfort in that. Deep roots, new growth.

    So what does this all mean for this blog? It’s going to be a place to drop in and find rambling midlife thoughts, quiet places away from the shoutiness of general life, introspection, a lot of nature, growing things, and seasonal bits. Terrible crafts. Folklore, liminal places, travel, connectedness. A place that doesn’t really fit in, but welcomes everyone who also feels that way, too. We can all fit in here, together. Or fit out. Embrace the weirdness! And bring tea. Oh! And there will be books. Of course.

    I’ll make a visual version of this post over on YouTube, too. Mostly I’ll just be reading it, but maybe another thought or two will pop into my head as I go?! Who knows. I really enjoy making videos, and although they’ll probably be terrible quality for now, it’s a way to gain momentum at least! You can subscribe here if you are so inclined.

    Stay well, friends 🙂

     

  • Blog,  Day to Day

    A New Year

    Hello everyone and of course, happy new year for 2023. It’s here, 2022 has finally faded into the distance, although I can’t help but feel I should be watching my back somehow in case it hasn’t quite left. I hope everyone is feeling ok and can look forward to the year ahead at least somewhat! Face of a white female with long ginger hair, wearing a grey knitted hat, wearing shiny green eyeshadow and smiling. I am standing outside, in front of a stone house wall.

    For me, it seems that the little idea-seeds I planted in my mind back at the end of October seem to be wanting to grow after a few months ‘thinking time’, so I’m here, riding the wave of enthusiasm, and hoping that those little seeds will grow into something more. It’s been a weird time in life, but amongst all of that, this blog seems to be emerging. So this post is kind of ‘watering’ it, I think!

    I’m great at imagining the end product, and terrible at every step in between now and that end. I know where I’d love to take this blog and associated bits and bobs – but how to get there, I’ve no idea. I’ve made many false starts, mostly now confined to the desktop recycle bin or the great cloud in the sky. But I’m planning on sticking this one out! I have an exciting-looking mic arriving and one of those magic circular lights. After trying to squish this blog into some sort of order or shape, focusing on ‘one thing’, I gave up and finally decided to let go and just make it a reflection of myself. A bit chaotic, a bit distracted by shiny things, and a place where I’d like to hang out on the internet, too.

    The mic and the light will hopefully encourage me to finally start putting my actual self out there – my short lived youtube channel for my previous blog was one of the most fun things I’ve done, so I’d like to do more of it. I’ve bitten the bullet and set up a new one for the Ginger Feather – you can subscribe here. The blog, of course, will finally start to fill up with books, things I find interesting, terrible crafts, day to day thoughts, nature, and hopefully become a nice space for people to virtually visit.

    I think it’ll begin to reflect a bit of me as I expand back into a sense of self after a few years of ‘discovery’. I’ll be 40 this year and I’m rather looking forward to it – my 30’s have been a wild ride, mentally and physically and I’m ending the decade a very different person to when I started. This will be a place to settle, to explore my 40’s, to document whatever life brings.

    Welcome to the Ginger Feather!

     

  • Bookshelf

    Book Review: The Revelations

    The Revelations, Erik Hoel 5/5

    The Revelations (Ebook) | ABRAMSAn intellectual soup of consciousness, genius and animal testing with a suspicious death thrown into the mix – The Revelations is hard to describe, but very, very good.

    After an intellectual breakdown of sorts whilst studying his previous PhD programme, Kierk is living in his car, having left the PhD programme. However, he has an offer of a place on a prestigious programme to study the nature of consciousness. Last minute, he decides to accept the place.

    I was expecting to dislike Kierk, but found him surprisingly likeable, along with the other students on the course. Following Kierk’s manic thought processes is great – there is a lot of discussion of consciousness theory which I found fascinating but not overbearing, and I enjoyed the lengths he puts himself through to push his mind to the next level.

    The sudden death of one of the students places the others under suspicion, along with an animal rights group that has been infiltrating the consciousness research facility. Along with fellow student Carmen, Kierk sets out to discover just what happened. The descriptions of the testing facility are very realistic and could be upsetting – I found myself clearly picturing the suffering these animals go through.

    I enjoyed the slightly disconcerting atmosphere of the book, toying with our idea of reality. The ending was sudden – and I think I’m going to go back and re-read it – I imagine there are more layers to this than I picked up on the first reading! Overall I really enjoyed it – a book that challenged me and really made me think.

    Buy this book here:

    Amazon
    Wordery
    Bookshop.org

    These are not affiliate links 🙂

    (This review previously appeared on my past blog, One Empty Shelf. Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book).

  • Bookshelf

    Book Review: The Dictator’s Muse

    The Dictator’s Muse, Nigel Farndale 4/5

    The Dictator's Muse by Nigel Farndale - Penguin Books Australia

    The Dictator’s Muse is set during the Berlin Olympics of the 1930’s. Hitler is taking power and the book focuses on Leni Riefenstahl, a film-maker popular with the Third Reich, whom Hitler has requested capture the Olympics.

    Competing in the Olympics is British athlete Kim Newlands. Along with his socialite girlfriend Connie, he joins the Blackshirts, who sponsor him to compete. Alun Pryce is a communist set on infiltrating the Blackshirts. Acting undercover, he finds his way into Kim and Connie’s lives, and the three become inextricably intertwined, a relationship built on lies and misdirection with heart-wrenching consequences.

    As the three arrive at the Olympics and meet Leni, the story unfurls. Leni is moving in dangerous circles, and the writing is suspenseful and gripping, showing us the knife-edge that Leni is balancing on in her relationship with the Third Reich and Hitler himself. In the present day, Sigrun Meier is attempting to piece together Leni’s life and work. Via her investigations, we discover what happened to the Leni’s film of the unknown athlete at the Olympics, and also what happened to Alun, Connie and Kim.

    The ending seemed a little far-fetched and convenient for me, and I felt that the author could have delved into Leni Riefenstahl’s relationship with the Third Reich further, as well as the history of the Blackshirts and those who worked against them – as someone with little knowledge of this period in time, I felt as though the political factions took somewhat of a backseat to the characters and their stories and would have appreciated more background on what each group represented.

    The characters themselves are excellently portrayed, however, and this is what makes the book such a great read. I was gripped by this book, more than I expected. It is a subject area I know little about and this book has piqued my interest, I really want to find out more about Leni Riefenstahl and her relationship with the Nazis, as well as the events surrounding the Berlin Olympics and the athletes competing.

    I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting a thrilling, intense read.

    Buy this book here:

    Amazon
    Wordery
    Bookshop.org

    These are not affiliate links 🙂

    (This review previously appeared on my past blog, One Empty Shelf. Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book).

  • Blog,  Garden Projects,  Wild Garden

    Greenhouse Clear Out and Tidy

    I’ve been putting off clearing out the greenhouse for months. Actually months is a lie, it must be at least a year and possibly (probably) even more. But last weekend, the great greenhouse clear out and tidy finally happened, so I thought I’d take a few photos to document it along the way.

    I must say, I did hardly any of the actual clearing out (or putting back in), that job was valiantly undertaken by Mr GF, who bravely wrangled the resident huge angry spiders to a new home (round the corner of the house). I don’t mind a distant spid, but when they’re massive and waving their hairy legs at you in rage after being ousted from their favourite tea-towel I come over all wibbly.

    Here’s a few shameful before pictures. Over the last few months/years, the organisation I had at the beginning went to pot and I ended up just shoving everything wherever it would fit. I’m terrible for keeping garden bits to ‘make something out of’ in the future, which almost never actually happens. This time we unearthed a hessian sack, two empty compost bags, an entire bucket full of plastic bottles cut in half (no idea), a couple of glass windows, endless seed trays and pots, a jar containing a marble and a bit of wire (also no idea) and handfuls of wooden coffee stirrers liberated to write plant names on (we kept those!). Originally I had some baskets and drawers found in charity shops for all the bits, organised in themes, but the bottom drawers had become spider hotels and I had avoided them ever since.

    a messy greenhouse filled with plant pots, old tomato plants, buckets, a barbeque and other garden equipment all piled in a mess inside.

    A messy greenhouse filled with garden items. There is a marble bench with a tray of earth on and a geranium. Everywhere else is piled with plant pots, buckets, and a small green barbeque. Inside a messy greenhouse to the left of the door. There are old mini greenhouse shelves piled with plant pots, a large white bucket, a small green barbeque, a chicken wire ghost torso, and bits of pallet used to balance plants on. The cobbled floor can just be glimpsed at the front. The greenhouse is held together with masking and duct tape between the panels.

    We decided the best way to go about it would be to remove everything, then jig around as we needed before replacing everything that we wanted to go back in. Mr. GF removed and I wiped plant pots, organised tubs, cleaned tools and once everything was out, washed down the whole inside of the greenhouse with warm water and a good squirt of Dr. Bronners. We ripped off any tired masking tape and duct tape, but left the bits that were still sticking the panels together effectively – I’ve found this is the best way to stop the panels disappearing down the valley in the winter winds. I’ve taped the inside and outside and yes, it looks terrible, but it works!

    A empty greenhouse with a cobbled floor and a pallet bench at the rear. Bits of tape hold the panels in place. A water sprayer can be seen through the front panel.

    You may have realised by now that this isn’t going to be an amazing transformation! Definitely no bunting here. Our greenhouse is pretty functional and is never going to be one of those Instagram-perfect glass houses with a sofa in and fairy lights! It’s full of worms, mud and spiders, and it leaks water through the roof moss into an old mushroom tray. I think if we had a posh greenhouse it would just blow away in the wind anyway so there’s no point!

    Anyway, back to the job in hand. After Mr GF had cleared everything out, there was loads more room to move around. After whirling around inside for a bit in excitement, we decided to move the big pallet shelves to the side and keep one of the old sets of grey shelves (you can spot them in one of the photos above), but remove everything else. The shelves were really useful – originally part of those small stand-up greenhouses with see through plastic covers. I’d found them years ago in the Wilkos sale for £2 each and after a few years use the plastic had given up, but the shelves are still in great condition.

    A quick sweep up and it was time to move around! Luckily, the pallet shelves and the grey shelves were the perfect fit for one side of the greenhouse.

    view inside a greenhouse looking to the left. A large set of two shelves made from pallets stands to the side of the greenhouse. There is a cobbled floor. Outside the greenhouse is a green washing up bowl full of dirty soapy water.

    We made these pallet shelves out of some spare wood. They are just two half-pallets, one at either side, joined by a length of wood along the back. The ‘shelves’ are just planks of wood balanced into the spaces in the pallets, so we can move them around as we need. Sturdy and easy to disassemble if needed! After moving the shelves the greenhouse seemed much bigger, mainly as we can now get the the back of the greenhouse. It’s strange how just moving one thing can make it seem so much larger!

    After much tea, it was time to put everything back in. We cleared out anything expired, and donated the excess of plant pots to friends and to freecycle, keeping a few of each size. My pile of ‘projects that will never happen’ was sorted and recycled, although we kept the hessian coffee sack for future use – they’re great for hanging basket linings. I organised the baskets, using one for tools, one for garden twine etc, and one for plant food. Mr. GF has a basket for his carnivorous plant things too. We brought the geraniums in from the garden, and put back the physalis (we’ve had 3 so far from it this year and very delicious they are too!) and the avocado-or-mango (we can’t remember which).

    I have a wooden fruit tray from the local veg shop that I kept a variety of gardening related crap in, now it’s nice and organised! I balanced it on four pebbles to escape the water that leaks through the roof. And talking of that, I replaced the mushroom tray with a larger one, underneath where it leaks through the roof. There’s moss and it drips lovely filtered rainwater into the tray, which is then used to water the plants! I should probably fix it but I quite like it. The potting table is made from spare wood and the marble from our old fire surround!

    A greenhouse with a marble bench to the right inside. There are two white buckets containing bird food, and a small tray on the marble table.

    The two big tubs are where we keep the bird food. Nice and mouse-proof, and they keep everything dry as well. We hammered a nail in to hang the riddle from, and the bags of compost fit nicely under the bench once more!

    View inside a small old greenhouse. Grey metal shelves have clear plastic baskets on with gardening items in. There is a large set of wooden pallet shelves with geraniums on, and a red watering can on the floor.

    It’s been so nice to be able to actually get into the greenhouse now. It’s made such a difference clearing stuff out, and you know when you’ve been meaning to do something for ages then the relief you feel when you actually get round to it is immense. It’s a lovely little spot now and I’ve found myself popping in to talk to the geraniums, grab some bird food, or just perch on the edge of the pallet shelves and listen to the rain on the roof. I’m sure the spiders are moving back in as we speak, but it’s so much easier to find what I’m looking for now, and after getting rid of the excess mess my head is a lot clearer too. It’ll never win any Pinterest award for aesthetics but it’s an unapologetic working greenhouse, and now I can actually work in it, that’s more than enough for me.

    Happy gardening, all 🙂

    Greenhouse bench made from an old marble fire surround. On the bench is a mushroom tray used to catch water dripping from the roof, and a small wooden tray with coffee stirrers and garden shears in.

  • Blog,  Cosy Corners,  The Cottage

    Natural Autumn Decor

    The leaves are beginning to drift downwards from the trees, the days are shortening and the light settles into that familiar golden glow typical of October. As the season shifts, I like to bring a little of that autumn feeling into the cottage. I feel best surrounded by a natural, understated look, a few bits here and there rather than a big change of decor – I don’t have that many items, and I like to keep the same things year to year, switching them around as the months go by. Using natural autumn decor is kind of like free shopping – most of these items can be found in woodlands, hedgerows and in your own garden.

    two dried allium seed heads in front of a stone cottage wall

    When I say items, I mostly mean the collection of twigs, cones, seeds and so on I seem to have wombled from my ramblings through the year. To bring a few of these indoors is comforting, keeping the cottage in tune with the changing energy of the season, keeping the heartbeat of the house in time with that of the earth. The faded browns of dried flowers and seed-heads mirror the colours of the leaves outside. I add a candle or two and my decoration change is done.

    Honesty seeds heads displayed in front of a sandstone cottage wall. There are green leaves from a lemon tree in the background.

    For an instant autumn feel, there are many natural things that are easy to collect. Conkers, of course, but also fir and pine cones, grasses, different coloured leaves to hang on thread from the windows, pebbles, twigs, seasonal veg, logs, the last of the flowers. This year I have Allium seed heads – most are two years old now and are still going strong. We left them to go to seed after flowering, then brought them in to dry out properly.

    Three old books of differing sizes lean against a stone fireplace. They are kept upright by a chunk of cherry tree log with the bark peeling.
    I also have a large pine cone from a reservoir walk over 5 years ago, and some honesty seed heads which have turned out brilliantly. Again, the Honesty has been a small labour of love – it takes two years to flower, grown from seed (I love the seeds from Higgeldy Garden), but this year was flowering year! After flowering, the seed-heads have dried well and look beautiful, shining ghostly white in the light. We had purple and white flowers and the stems reflect those colours. The purple makes an especially beautiful contrast against the translucent seed heads.

    A small posy of dried grasses and bog cotton lies on a rectangular dish filled with beach pebbles of different colours and sizes.

    On recent walks I’ve collected some grasses to make small ‘pieces of places’ and a small posy of bog cotton and dried grass reminds me of a trip to the moors as the colours were just starting to change in early September. Collecting natural bits and bobs makes me feel more connected to the place in which I live, bringing evidence of the changing seasons into my home.

    As well as this, you could collect twigs with seasonal berries (check they’re not poisonous first!) to make a display, or consider hanging ornaments from windfall branches. Filling glass jars with acorns or conkers makes a lovely display, and settling into the season by making jams, syrups, pies and more with the abundance that can be found in hedgerows this season. Always be mindful of who or what else is relying on the free decorations and food available – only take what you can use, leave enough for the local wildlife and for other foragers, too.

    I hope there have been some useful tips here, I’d love to hear your seasonal decorating ideas too. Have you collected decoration from outdoors before?

    Have a lovely, autumnal week (or spring week if you’re in the Southern hemisphere!)

    x

     

  • Blog,  Day to Day,  Home

    Quiet Autumn Mornings

    I pad downstairs in the gloom, slippers quiet on the cold kitchen tiles. Tea, and the treat of a wheat bag warmed in the microwave for a minute or so. The quiet autumn mornings are darker now, but not the pitch black of winter just yet. As the steam curls from the kettle, the sky is lightening in the east, that October washed-out blue, hints of yellow and pink heralding the rising sun. Soon, that sun will struggle to make it over the valley tops until mid-morning, so I cherish this light, pale as it is.

    As the tea mashes, I potter outside to the greenhouse to check that yesterday’s mammoth tidying session wasn’t all a dream, and to enjoy the deep red of the geraniums I moved inside yesterday. Satisfied that everything was still tidy, I wander back indoors, feeling better for the fresh morning air in my lungs.

    A white A5 Moleskine notebook and wooden pencil lie on a patterned wool Welsh blanket covering a bed.

    Today is a day for the blog, so a relaxing ease into the day for me. I light a candle and take it back upstairs, along with my tea and almost-too-hot-to-touch wheat bag, climbing back into the warm spot under the duvet (the ultimate bliss!) and pulling another Welsh blanket up to my chest.

    The candle flickers across the room and I watch it for a while, gaze unfocused, the light from the orange flame warming the crooked walls behind. Rummaging for my notebook and a pencil, I spend a little time writing as the day brightens outside, still trees and damp rooftops. The traffic noise, a low hum previously, begins to rise around 8am and I pop on a YouTube ambience to drown it out some. Currently I’m discovering a channel called ‘Nostalgic Atmosphere’, with real-life scenes. Today’s is rainfall in an English village that looks nothing like my own village – the streets deserted and the raindrops pit-pattering into puddles on the roads.

    A bright red geranium plant with the greenhouse plastic panels visible in the background.

    I think of the day ahead, and feel a fizz of excitement at getting to do blog things all day, although probably interspersed by a smidge of cleaning. Giving myself the time to choose to work on the blog is freeing – I’ve spent so long feeling guilty for not spending my time working on my university projects and it’s nice to have got to a space recently where I’ve changed the way I work and can feel comfortable about doing both.

    The camera on my hand-me-down phone has finally succumbed to the google pixel curse, so I am using my husband’s real camera and I look forward to editing the pictures I took on our slow walk yesterday. But for now, the scratch of pencil on paper is soothing, so I write on into the morning. Happy mornings, all.

    Mentions:

    Nostalgic Atmosphere YouTube channel
    I like blank Moleskine notebooks
    I made my wheatbag (this one looks similar -I used pot barley)

    A jumbles mass of flowering Ivy with a tree in the background.

  • Blog,  Day to Day,  Home

    Word-Seeds

    The chill in the air took us by surprise, in recent weeks. Those heady summer days of heatwaves and endless light snapped into an unseasonably cold September all of a sudden. The leaves, yellow from droughts, are now falling faster and faster each day. As September settles into October, autumn waves a gentle hand over the valley.

    I’ve been quiet on here, I know. Summer, with its languid days, also had a dark side this year. Covid, a family illness followed by an eventual bereavement and alongside this, big decisions in the other part of my life, at university. This melting pot has meant the last few months have felt like a storm.

    But all storms pass, or slowly move on, at least. I quietly accept the fallout, the grief, the recovery. I learnt some things about my brain and the way it thinks and sees the world which have also taken some adjustment. At 39, looking back, it explains so much. So I’m settling into an identity that’s shifted a little, bit by bit, but it’s not a bad thing.

    As the year turns inwards, I feel the pull to do so too. To sow some small seeds in this season ad see how they grow and root over the darker months. As ever, Samhain approaches, bringing this turn of the wheel to a close, and I feel the urge to contemplate and look back over the last twelve months, good and bad , painful and joyous.

    A seed I want to nurture is this space here, for sure. Now I know a bit more about how my brain sees things, I can begin to build a sustainable way of writing. I’m looking forward to it.

    Otherwise, life rumbles on here in Yorkshire. We are clearing, organising and beginning to put the garden to bed. The fire has been lit and the blankets are out. As the nights darken here, I think of those in the Southern hemisphere and the light returning to them. Balance, as always. I’m not a winter person, but acknowledging that ebb and flow of seasons, the dark followed by the light, gives me comfort through the long, grey UK winter.

    So, I will start to sow these word-seeds very soon, and nurture this space in coming months. Hopefully this space will soon bloom with cottage homeliness, small adventures, wanderings and wonderings. I send soft thoughts to you, this autumn, and if the days are also shortening wherever you are, I hope you are looking forward to kicking piles of leaves as much as I am!

     

    Autumn sun rays shine on a lichen-covered stone wall next to an empty lane. A large sycamore tree grows behind the wall and casts a shadow.

  • Blog,  Day to Day

    August Updates & The First Rain

    It’s nearing the end of August and the first rain has finally arrived after the heatwaves. Proper rain, falling freely from grey, leaden skies. I’ve been out, face turned to the sky, feeling the fat raindrops on my skin and breathing in that heady petrichor, water mixed with the dust of long summer days. With the rain comes relief, a release of a tightness I didn’t know I had.

    Now, with my stripy top steaming dry on the bannisters, I sit in a blanket and bounce to myself on the old leather-covered poang chair in the office (a freecycle find). Ag the cat joins me, sat on the large office desk (again from freecycle), a drop of water on her chin from drinking out of my glass a few moments before. She is most disgruntled by the rain and has been complaining vocally, a yowl from a few gardens away, growing louder and more demanding as she nears the front door. She temporarily forgets her cat flap, of course. Either that or she’s got me well trained. I feel it’s the latter. I have some crisps and she is oozing towards them, trying to be subtle.

    Summer this year has been hot and dry, with high temperatures, sticky days and nights spent sleeping downstairs covered only with a cotton sheet. The birch tree yellows now in pseudo-autumn, a result of stress due to the dry conditions. Blackberries arrive early, tomatoes are over and done. After two and a half years I finally caught Covid , luckily feeling only a little grotty for a week but left with a breathlessness that persists still. Uni work ebbs more than flows, as does the blog. A million possibilities makes it hard to focus on one. But the tide will turn, as it always does.

    Summer has been full of wild swims and long, dusky evenings, moths and bats and parched grasses reflecting the setting sun. Slow, almost static days, spent under trees and parasols, eyes closed and the scent of baking flagstones in the air. A little upheaval, a little settling. Holidays and home days. A busy spring gave way into a slow, lethargic summer, and I fought against it for a while, but now, I slow too, matching that exhalation after lughnasadh, the ripening of harvest after the burst of spring growth and energy. Plants dwindle, readying for colder months ahead. I find myself reflected in them, a need to stop fighting against slowness and just be, for a while. Just breathe.

    I hope, though, to write a little more here as I settle back into the rhythm of this house, this land and of myself. In these quiet moments, I hope I find direction, a little honesty, a little inspiration. To write out the reflections of days and to follow that focus. The blog will come from there, if I let it.

    And that is it, for today. The cat has long disappeared back into the rain which is still falling, falling as if saved up for months. I feel the land stretch up to meet it, the water bringing a new energy to the valley. Time to shift, I feel.

    A garden in the rain. A tall holly tree with an overgrown veg patch in front, with differing shrubs growing in the foreground, all needing a bit of a trim. Raindrops fall and the skies are cloudy.

  • Adventures,  Blog,  Bookshelf,  Miscellany

    A Box of Maps and Time-Travelling

    I love old maps. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the lure of a seemingly quieter time, an expanse of fields and greenery. I’m fascinated by comparing old and new maps, to see what’s changed, names of roads hinting at old structures and pathways.

    Luckily our local second-hand bookshop always has a great pile of maps and local history leaflets and booklets and I can’t go in without a few of them finding their way into my possession – I try not to visit often!

    There’s just something about maps – obviously the old book/map smell and feel, but something more, something magical about looking at that record of human existence in a place, of how the land rises and falls and how we ride along with it. Sometimes changing the face of that land, sometimes the land reclaiming those once wild spaces back, footprints fading back to earth. It’s all there, in folded paper, in contour lines, funny symbols and dotted pathways.

    a cardboard box containing numerous maps. I wrote 'maps and other interesting things' on the front of the box.

    four old maps displayed on a stone flag. Three are bartholemew's maps (one of North Wales, one of Wharfedale) and one is and old material ordnance survey map of the peak district.

    I have an old cardboard box where I keep maps and other interesting ephemera. It’s a treat on a rainy afternoon to reach up to the high shelf, grab the box and pick out anything that catches my eye. I have a few favourites – the old material Ordnance Survey map of the Peak District, with the map separated and individually glued into place. A pamphlet on the M62, full of interesting titbits with which to gleefully regale your travelling companions as you whizz along at 70mph, Scammonden Dam blurring past the windows. Waterproof tracking guides to stick in a pocket when venturing for a snowy walk, following the pid-pad of footprints that are usually invisible.

    Three pamphlets: the yorkshire pudding almanac, the trans-pennine motorway, and i-spy wild flowers are held in a fan in front of some grass and a stone wall in the background.

    Two small waterproof leaflets on tracking wild animal prints, lying on a stone flag. One is open on 'badger prints'.

    I lose myself in layers of time, tracing fingers over footpaths that fade into fields, hedges that turn into housing estate boundaries. We were given an old map of our area as a housewarming gift, that had a tantalising ‘x’ in biro. Needless to say, an adventure was afoot.

    We navigated only by the old map, travelling in a time-bubble of 70 years ago. Watching present-day people driving by, it really felt as if we were time travellers. We were only occasionally surprised by the odd new dual carriageway or dead end that had appeared in the intervening decades. We grumbled at these intruders, turned around, and carried on on the old roads. What would be at the ‘x’?

    Eventually we arrived at an inconspicuous corner, populated with a few trees and surrounded by farmland. Would there be riches, buried just below the surface? Archaeological artefacts? Did something important happen here, many years ago? As the car doors clunked shut behind us, we stood in the silence and looked around.

    We’d come entirely unprepared, and scuffed around under the trees for a while with our feet, avoiding crisp packets and pop bottles. This area was decidedly unromantic, and we felt very much back in the present day the more we scrabbled around. Suddenly, a glint caught our eyes… could this be it?

    Parting the long grass, half concealed in mud, we pulled out a thick, clear glass bottle, possibly an old milk or pop bottle with ‘Laws’ on the side. What a treasure! The map spoke true to us, there was indeed buried treasure at the ‘x’! Full of joy, we headed homewards, again on the old roads, our find safely nestled in the footwell. It is now used as a candle holder, along with other old bottles – I love the look of the melted wax as it builds up over the years. It is as much a treasure now as when we found it.

    Thee vintage bottles now used as candle holders with melted wax dribbled down the bottle sides. The clear glass bottle in the post is in the centre, with a blue wine bottle on the left and a grolsch beer bottle on the right. All three bottles have half-burnt orange candles in and are in front of a white wall.

    I’d fully recommend navigating via old maps. I find it takes me away from the present day, back to a time without motorways, which only occasionally pop up to surprise you where you least expect it. It’s even more of a treat when navigating to a point of interest that is now decidedly built up, but still exists in the ‘real world’, as it were. It’s like finding a treasure all over again. And of course, finding an old map with an ‘x’ on it fuels anyone’s imagination, and treasure can be anything you want it to be. Put your own ‘x’s. Find your own treasure! Or, hide some beforehand and take the family.

    I find having a box of maps brings immense joy. Similarly-minded people will pop round for a cup of tea and find the same delight leafing through a collection of maps. Annotated maps are even better – our Iceland map is full of campsite reviews, exciting iceberg finds and locations where the showers are free – it brings back great memories to spend a nice half hour or so reliving our road trip round Route 1. Another of my favourite maps is one I got as a present a few years ago – a map of the rude place names in the UK which always leaves me in fits of giggles every time I look at it. I have added a picture below for your viewing pleasure. I think Bell End is my fave! Although Cockstubbles is a close second.

    A section of a map of rude place names in the UK - notable ones are Bell End, Willey and Butthole.

    I love this box of interesting things. Spending a few quiet moments leafing through is one of life’s joys, especially as you can then go outside and actually find yourself in the places you’ve just looked at. Planning adventures to interesting looking places and features, finding out what used to be built down the road, or just wandering from map to map following a road. Picking up a pamphlet of local history or something interesting about nature and settling down with a brew and a biscuit. A box of interesting things is a must. What would you put in yours?

    An old map of the Peak District with the insignia of King George on the cover. The map is made of material, and has a watercolour of a lake and hills on the front.

    FOlded oout material map of the peak district. Each map section is individually cut and placed on the material.

    Top view of a box of maps with my hand leafing through them.

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