• Blog,  Day to Day

    My mind is full

    My mind is full, and it’s ok. I learnt recently from a lecturer that they weren’t able to read any fiction books during their doctorate, because their mind was full of information for their studies. It made me think about how I’ve struggled to get back into reading for pleasure, struggled to get into doing anything, really, for the last year or so. After beating myself up for this repeated failure to get anything done, I’ve realised that’s probably happening to me, too. The reason isn’t because I’m useless, as my brain keeps helpfully suggesting. It’s because my mind is full.

    A bare tree in London with neon rope lights wound through the branches

    When I say full, I don’t mean full of knowledge, although I wish that was the case. My memory keeps hold of any given fact for approximately 3 seconds before chucking it over its shoulder and moving on to something more shiny. Instead, my mind is grinding away in the background, forging connections and figuring things out when I’m not paying attention. I feel like I’m not doing a lot, and it’s true, I’m not – but my mind is there, munching through information for me, until suddenly I wake up and am able to add some more words to my word count, analyse some more numbers, put something across in a way that finally makes sense.

    Figuring out how to work with my brain, not against it, is a whole new ball game. I’m trying to comprehend this newly discovered neurodiversity, understand how I process information (or not) and divert the tempting feeling of regret into something more powerful. I’m nearly 40 and it’s the first time I feel like I might be tentatively trying to make friends with my mind. It’s there, always full of a million things, seeing infinite connections and possibilities every hour of every day. It’s exhausting – but also exhilarating. How do I work alongside it?

    I’m finally working out why I can’t remember anything that happened in the last few hours, days or weeks. Why I’ve spent three years learning a subject and can’t remember even the most basic facts about it, but I know every boyband lyric from two decades ago. Why my mind is empty yet crammed full at the same time.

    The constant bit of a song or two on loop, the half-formed images that constantly replace each other, the quote from a tv show that plays round and round, the chattering, the lightening-quick overview of any problem and a million and one solutions, the big thinking and infinite ideas, but no clue how to actually start anything. Constantly losing things, but picking up on almost imperceptible information about a situation. White-hot anger and the deepest joys. It’s all still settling with me – yet I feel a kind of peace, too.

    I know now that I can feed it some complex problem, forget about it, and a few weeks later, my brain will have figured it out by itself. I’ll wake up one day and suddenly, I’ll be able to do The Thing that just recently was absolutely impossible. I trust that I will be able to produce work absolute last-minute that will be, if not perfect, to a decent standard, without having to draft and re-draft and re-draft. I try not to feel bad that I have to follow the whims of my brain – if it’s not into something, then it’s absolutely impossible to force it. Funny old thing.

    But brains aren’t infinite as much they feel it. It’s just recently I’ve realised just how much I’m asking mine to do. No wonder I come home and zone out watching youtube, scrolling, or floating away to the deep wub of drum and bass. That little lump of grey matter is munching through universes in the background. Studying for a PhD has upped the game, and I almost physically feel the limits. No wonder I find it hard to get anything started for this blog, much as I want to. My brain’s already pre-occupied and working full pelt.

    So, I’m going to try and cut my brain-friend some slack. I’ve spent 40 years at war with it, really, when it didn’t deserve it at all – it was just a little different from the norm. Of course it was.

    In those 40 years, my mind has never been empty. I never realised that you could think of nothing, or even just one thing at a time. It’s been like a 40-year rave inside my head and I’ve been like the spoilsports that call the cops and try and shut it down.

    I think it’s time to learn to dance alongside it, finally, although I think I’ll also need to make sure there’s a chill-out room, too…!

     

     

     

  • Blog,  Day to Day,  Wild Garden

    Books, snails and the start of spring

    The sun is streaming through the window, painting rainbows from the myriad of crystals hung from the curtain pole. Dust is dancing lazily in sunbeams, and although it’s still cold, both inside and out, I feel like spring is starting to make an appearance. One brave crocus and a single snowdrop have popped their heads up under the birch tree, the slowest start, but a sign that we are tipping over into spring. They’re a week earlier than last year so a good sign things are shifting!

    A field of crocuses surrounded by green trees

    It is joyously light at 5pm now here in Yorkshire. Arriving home in twilight instead of pitch black, the tantalising promise of longer days to come. This week has seen the dreary January grey give way to crisp February days. Marking Imbolc at the beginning of the month lifted that heaviness of the long UK winter for a while, at least.

    I’ve been reading a little more, which has been a pleasure. Since going back to university I’ve found it very hard to have enough ‘brain’ left to be able to read anything outside the mountains of information I have to absorb for my studies. I love reading, but I only managed 11 books last year, and seven of those were the Harry Potter series I read in seven straight days when I had covid. I miss reviewing books on the blog so really want to bring that back. The lure of escaping into a book is strong at the moment!

    The start of spring brings an urge to plant every single seed in the seed tin, way too early, but I’m resisting. Our spring seems to take a while to get going here, and it’s usually April really before the growing season kicks in. I’ve planted things in February before and paid the price! Last year we inherited a heated propagator which we filled with much enthusiasm, before realising it was still too cold to transplant the energetic seedlings anywhere else. So we’ll try and hold off on that too. I’ve stocked up on flower seeds from Higgeldy Garden and veg from Real Seeds, as well as some seed saved from last year – mainly runner beans and field beans- I’m really looking forward to planting!

    My aim is to grow at least one vegetable that doesn’t get eaten by the mammoth snails we get here that could eat their way through a stone wall if they tried hard enough. They’re a different breed, I’m sure they have sharp teeth and muscular jaws.

    A large brown snail behind a long green leaf

    The cottage rumbles on – the January rain has somehow made its way through the thick stone walls into the living room, we’re hoping due to a leaky gutter that we have had fixed, so fingers crossed it’ll dry out soon. I’ve been attempting to motivate myself to clean by making ‘cleaning caddies’ with exciting-coloured sponges and cloths, alongside various homemade cleaning potions. It’s yet to work but has been fun to put together. I feel like if I leave the caddy in the middle of the floor of the room I want to clean it’ll remind me to do the cleaning whenever I fall over it.

    This week’s book is The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson – I’ve just finished her previous book so was really excited to get the ARC for this one! I’ll review it over the next couple of weeks. It sounds right up my street, and a great distraction from university.

    I think that’s everything. I’m off to sit in a sunbeam for a while 🙂

     

     

  • Blog,  Bookshelf

    Book Review: South by Babak Lakghomi

    SOUTH BY BABAK LAKGHOMI, 5/5

    This post contains affiliate links, marked *.

    From the publisher: “South is a haunting and hallucinatory reimagination of life in a world under totalitarianism, and an individual’s quest for truth, agency, and understanding.

    B, a journalist, travels to the South of an unnamed desert country for a mysterious mission to write a report about the recent strikes on an offshore oil rig. From the beginning of his trip, he is faced with a cruel and broken landscape of drought and decay, superstitious believers of evil winds and spirits, and corrupt entities focused on manipulation and censorship. As he tries to defend himself against his unknown enemies, we learn about his father’s disappearance, his fading love with his wife, and his encounter with an unknown woman. A puzzle-like novel about totalitarianism, surveillance, alienation, and guilt that questions the forces that control us.”

    Book cover of South by Babak Lakghomi.

    South is a novel that has taken me a while to process – the bleak, blunt prose is divisive and initially hard to get along with, but since I’ve finished it, my mind has filled in more and more layers. I think it needs time to digest, and it’s a novel I will definitely return to.

    This dystopian story follows B, as he goes undercover to join the crew of an oil rig. The world is stark, grey and jarring. It is almost our world, yet it is not. B’s mission to write a report about recent strikes on the rig slowly falls apart, and in doing so, reveals more details about B’s past, his father’s mysterious disappearance and his relationship. As the novel unwinds, so does the structure of B’s life – the surveillance and authoritarianism of this dystopian world packs a punch against a hazy, dreamlike background.

    The writing is minimal and almost harsh, with Lakghomi eschewing details that initially I wished were present. I finished the novel feeling confused and almost empty – a feeling which, on reflection, echoes the style of writing well, and is not necessarily negative. Lakghomi conjours the feeling of a world that is not just teetering on the brink of something dark but has stepped over the precipice and is now in free fall. There is a creeping, insidious sense of dystopia that lodges itself in your mind and really makes you think. It is a haunting and somewhat uncomfortable read, but that is what makes it great.

    South is published on 12th September 2023.
    Order from Amazon*
    Dundurn Press (Canada, available 15th Aug 2023)

    Thank you #Netgalley for the ARC of this novel!


    *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not cost you any extra, but means that if you make a purchase after following the link, I earn a small commission that helps to keep the blog going! You can find out more about my use of affiliate links here.

  • 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!

    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!

     

  • 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 ÂŁ2 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,  Words

    Death and Distance

    Tears down the phone from a thousand miles away, the final call to tell of my dad’s death. The weird twilight hours afterwards, a quick flurry of phone calls, guilt for bearing bad news, the huge, safe embrace of my husband, endless nose-blowing on bits of kitchen roll. Then sleep, that dreamless sleep of exhaustion, the sleep at the end of a chapter when all that has come with it has gone.

    I don’t know how I feel, yet. There’s a deep loss, somewhere in my heart, but it is familiar and sits alongside the one I’ve become used to every single day since he left our family years ago. A raw grief is smoothed by that familiar ache, and although this is final it doesn’t seem new. At arms length for years, and the same at the end.

    I thought I’d feel a peace, where the years spent alongside that younger self that couldn’t understand why we weren’t good enough could start to be put to bed. But I hold it still, alongside the ‘should have, could haves’ a death brings to us all. I am glad, in the end, that he found his place, with love around him, community, new family. I know he loved us too, and maybe things could have been different, but maybe they could not. We visited last year, in a previous time of ill health, and it helped me begin to let go a little. It wasn’t my place, any more, as it hadn’t been for years. The visit helped me to realise that.

    I can’t really sum up the last few decades, and it probably isn’t the best time to. Writing it out helps a little, to name those intangible feelings flitting around every part of my body. Acceptance of the stark fact that at the end, it was no longer our story. A resignation to that, and a squeeze of the hand to the part of me that tries too hard to please, to be heard.

    Alongside those things that run deep, there are the weird little things that catch me off guard – I’ll miss the exchange of endless desert rain frog pictures, spherical animals and the occasional political meme. Childhood memories pop into my mind from simpler, happier times- being swung around and around on the cricket pitch, washing a car in our old cottage in a time where only a few cars parked on the steep road. Secretly eating ready brek dry out of the packet in the kitchen of that same cottage. Bopping his head on the lampshade every night after saying goodnight. A gaggle of kids in the back of a van with no seats, tumbling around corners.

    In later years, being in the passenger seat of that same van, watching the road rush by through the hole in the floor. Him teaching me how to reverse hill-start at the golf club and nearly crashing into a golf buggy, going to the driving range and me being terrible but having great fun. The way we made fun of his finger twitching just before making a shot at pool. Frowning at me having a pint at the pub but being fine with having two half pints. Him borrowing his mate’s Alfa 156 and tearing up the local dual carriageway – and in later years, letting him drive my own Alfa round twisting Pennine roads at terrifying speeds.

    Like my husband says, whilst placing a finger on my forehead – those memories live on, inside us. The good, the bad, the painful, the hopeful. All the ingredients that make a life. The next few weeks will be weird – a funeral in a different country. A distance, a closeness, and a distance again.

    I’m not sure how to end this, and I’m not sure there is an end. But for now, words help, writing helps, keeping busy helps. I know that initial shock will settle and that time will continue to beat on. I sleep, and wake, and sleep again, and carry him in my mind. In this final distance, there is still closeness.

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