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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I saw a hummingbird hawk moth
but I did not take a picture
Instead I followed it, insides all squiggly
heart beating as fast as blurry wings
as it hovered near a vegetable patch and
dipped its tongue delicately
into a flower
then went about its day
and I went about mine
with excitement in my soul
Thank you hawk moth
Back in April, we were treated to a few days in Portugal courtesy of family. The first proper holiday abroad since the dreaded C, we were really grateful for the chance to escape for a little while. We hopped on a Ryanair (luckily getting through security with minimal delays or hitches) and a few hours, locator forms and vaccine passports later, we landed in Lisbon. A family member was chauffeur, and we piled into the back of the rental car. As darkness fell, we headed to an Airbnb in Colares, a few minutes from the coast.
There’s something magical about arriving in the dark, in a strange place, in a new country. The living room lights welcomed us in, as did cups of tea and the dumping of carry-on bags into new bedrooms. A pool glinted temptingly from underneath sliding covers – but that could wait for the morning. Yawning with that specific travel fatigue, we headed up the wooden stairs to bed.
I always look forward to that first glimpse of surroundings in the light of the new day when on holiday. We opened the shutters (shutters!) and were greeted by pine trees swaying in the breeze, the April clouds floating by, and the giggle of our younger family members playing around the pool below. Ahhh. Holiday!
Colares is handily located for travel, with regular buses and excitingly-old trams (well, one tram) rumbling to and from Sintra. Exploring the local area, we wandered down to Praia des Maçãs with its huge beach. Being April, it was quiet, with the beach absolutely deserted. The sea breeze was bordering on chilly, and we headed to a nearby beach café for fantastically garlicky cheese toasties and copious coffees.
Having chronic fatigue is slightly annoying for travel and so I slept a lot in the first day or two whilst everyone else did some exploring! Although lying on a deckchair under a pine tree wasn’t bad at all, and somehow way more restorative than back home…! A main aim of the trip was to eat as many Pastel del Natas as humanly possible and to go on a yellow tram. With this in mind, we caught the train from Sintra into Lisbon (cheap, clean, quiet and on time, a very different experience to the UK!) which took about 40 minutes.
Lisbon was a lot hotter than Colares – the sun beat down onto the pavements and we were glad to find a fountain and play in the mist for a while to cool down. With slight hanger setting in, we headed to one of many street cafés for lunch where I had a great lemonade – still, bitter and ice cold. I am still dreaming of it!
Luckily the café also sold pastries, so armed with a box of Pastel del Natas, we headed down to Commerce Square next to the sea, walking through the Arco da Rua Augusta. Watching a huge cruise liner float into the port, we devoured our pastries (excellent!) and headed up the hill in search of a tram. After some debate we luckily managed to catch a busy famous yellow 28 tram. I was a little disappointed with the huge adverts covering the trams which left only a slight hint of yellow on each, but once we were inside, it didn’t really matter! The interior is dark brown wood, with a standing area at the back, and we creaked along up the winding roads with the horn ringing to move people out of the way. It’s cheaper to pre-book tickets, but we just got them on board as we weren’t that organised, paying around €10 each.
There are many different tram routes, some there-and-back and others circular, so it’s worth having a look at a guide beforehand.
Back in Praia des Maçãs the next day, we ventured to a Roman fort – the Sítio Arqueológico do Alto da Vigia, located on the cliff next to the beach. Once the most Western point of the Roman Empire, we wandered around the ropes protecting the small excavation site, imagining life here, from baking summer heat to the wild waves of winter. A few miles down the coast at Praia Grande are dinosaur footprints (Pegadas de Dinossauro) – we didn’t manage to get to see them this time, but I’d love to go back to visit those, too. Looking down the rugged coastline and huge beaches, it seemed easier for me to imagine dinosaurs plodding along, leaving trails of footprints behind. Even though the world looked incredibly different in the time of the dinosaurs (the footprints are apparently on a vertical cliff!), there is something still ancient about the coastline.
In between all the exploring, we bobbled around the Airbnb, swam in the pool and visited some great eateries. Souldough Pizza was a particular highlight, located with a handful of other restaurants, Hops and Drops bar (great beer) veggie & vegan friendly, and with amazing wood-fired pizzas. You can order from any of the restaurants and they bring everything to your table – a great place to while away the hours, and a swing park for kids too. I had a pear, honey and parmesan pizza and it was *chef’s kiss*. We also wandered along to HopSin brewpub in Colares, a small brewery. They do small plates to eat, and we definitely recommend the 10-beer taster! I’m not a huge drinker any more sadly but the beers went down very well amongst those I was with!
It goes without saying that we just had an absolutely lovely family time. Catching up with everyone, having the laughs, the adventures, loud times, quiet times, play times and exploration times was just exactly what we needed – we had an amazing time and are so grateful to our family for the experience. I somehow managed to catch the plague in between England and Portugal, and for the last couple of days I was flat out with a stinking cold (not covid! Isn’t that a familiar phrase now whenever we are ill. ‘It’s not covid!’) and spent a day asleep feeling very sorry for myself whilst everyone else did some more exploring! I managed to wander the garden and loved all the exotic plants and flowers in bloom, even though it was only April. The bird of paradise plants and the huge cacti were my favourite.
All too soon, it was time to pack up and head home. Half of us had to return early as our flights were changed, and we left the rest of our party for another couple of nights. They managed to explore the castles of Sintra some more, catching a bus in between.
Dosed up on paracetamol and armed with an extra loo roll to blow my nose with, I still enjoyed our flight home – although security both at Lisbon and back in the UK was rammed and it took ages to get through. The route home was clear and calm and I loved watching the land and sea pass by far below. We even spotted a few other planes in the sky. After passing out asleep on the sofa when we got home, I felt a lot better the next day, typical!
I’d love to go back to Portugal – everyone was friendly and I feel we’d need a few weeks to even get started on all the places to explore. Even Lisbon itself would need a whole separate holiday! In April there are a few hot days, but near the coast I definitely didn’t bring enough jumpers – although getting them in a Ryanair cabin bag might prove a problem…
To finish off, here are a few more photos from our trip: the pear pizza, the infamous Pastel del Nata with the Arco da Rua Augusta in the background, and an obligatory plane window photo! Have you ever been to Portugal, or would you like to go? Where would you recommend?
I’m not too sure what a first glance at our garden would be like. To me, it’s years of light neglect that has somehow settled into a faded haven for slugs, bugs, and the things that like to munch on them. Letting go of the need for neatness allowed us to welcome in a growing number of cohabitants – nesting in gaps in the roof tiles, scurrying through hidden paths in unmown grass, hanging from spider webs between the plethora of spiky teasels that have self-sown this year.
The gravel ‘drive’ is couch grass, mostly. The lawn is unmown and long grass gently sways in the breeze under birch and willow. A rambling rose, perpetually angry at the world and anyone who dares walk near it is left to climb into the sky near the pond. Occasionally we’ll attempt to trim it, but it always fights back and usually wins, leaving us to retreat and tend our lacerated hands with tubes of germolene.
Four large trees live in the garden, and we exist underneath them, in a little green world of dappled shade. They drop catkins and sap onto our heads, and in turn we pat their trunks , occasionally turn the hosepipe on them, and tell them everything is going to be ok. They’ve raised blue tits, magpies, and dozens of sparrows. Wood pigeons roost and take great delight in pooping on anything and everything below.
We’re located on the side of a valley, with no part of the house facing south. This means that half the house gets morning sun, half gets evening sun, and some gets no direct sun whatsoever. In the winter, we’re mostly in shade as the sun struggles over the valley top, rolls along a little, and falls back down behind the hillside at around 3pm. The winters are long and grey. In the summer, the trees provide a cool, shady area to potter about in, whilst the other half of the house bakes in direct sun and the drying wind that is channelled down the valley most days.
I’ve spent years stressing about the encroaching grass, especially on the driveway, but recently am seeing it for a new habitat – the area is boggy, and after watching Nick Bailey on Gardener’s World suggesting planting irises in between long grass, I think I’ve come to a nice conclusion. I have a chronic illness so energy is in very short supply, which is why the garden has somewhat overtaken me over the years – it can be overwhelming, especially when I see people pottering about for hours, pulling up weeds, replanting and dividing – that’s mostly unachievable for me.
At first it was a challenge learning to live within those limits, to sit with it and notice the positives of having a wild garden. But of course, the more overgrown it became, the more wildlife came to join us within these stone walls. It’s changed the way I look at gardens entirely.
I think there’s a pressure to have a traditionally ‘beautiful’ garden, or at least an organised one. I admit I still get frustrated a little, but then I sit out with a cup of tea, on a bit of wall or stone, and just watch and listen to the buzz of life around me, and that feeling of comparison fades away. Frogs plopping into the pond, or raising their heads above the water covered in duckweed. Wasps scraping away at the beanpoles. Badgers bumbling through at night, the hedgehog snuffling around at dusk. The absolute rampant display of dandelions in spring, accompanied by just as many bees. Although I’m almost obscured by couch grass, it’s what supports the life that belongs here.
I think of this little piece of land and the phases it has been through. Old aerial photos of wartime veg beds, extending out into the fields beyond. A small road that ended in the garden (and that we uncovered when trying to build the veg patch – the plan changed rapidly to a raised bed!). The rocks and earth beneath, the water running through, deep below the surface. All we can do is exist lightly upon its surface, with our quirky human views of ownership. It’s a blink of an eye, our time in this place. We just try and make a good home for whatever else is here alongside us.
As what we would usually class as weeds amble slowly into the garden and make themselves at home, I’ve been looking them up and seeing how to make use of them. Viewing them this way reminds me that it is such a treat that they’ve chosen to spend a little time putting down roots in the same earth. I’ve made rosebay willow herb tea, bramble leaf beer and dandelion jam, whilst learning of the healing properties of plantain, clover and cleavers. I’ve held my nose bubbling nettle leaves into fertiliser, and woven reeds into Brigid’s crosses for Imbolc. After a while, weeds become abundance. Even the angry rose bush donates petals for tea and hips for syrup, albeit grudgingly.
These long June days are my favourite time of year. Time where the garden is rampant, spilling leaf over leaf in an exuberance that is unmatched. The more I take time to exist, quietly, alongside these plants and grasses and trees, the more I’m pulled headlong into that joyous energy that abounds. That relentless stretching growth, fuelled by the sun almost directly overhead. It’s a different feeling to spring, or summer proper, where flower heads are blooming then setting seed, veg is ripening, and everything seems to breathe out in readiness for autumn. June is the golden time for this rambling cottage garden – and rambling it most definitely is!
It’s the day before solstice, the shortest night. As the breeze floats through the grasses and the branches, I watch the robin pipping angrily at the woodpigeons that have dared to take over the shallow plant tray used as a birdbath. Dunnocks flit along the ground under the fir tree, skirting the variety of grasses there, the result of bird seed spillages over the years. It feels very much like it’s a space for all of us, no matter whether we have wings, arms, roots or many pairs of legs. We all just co-exist, in this little piece of land, no matter what we are. And that, I think, is the best feeling of all.
I find it hard to describe the few weeks run-up to summer solstice. I feel as if there is not enough of me to stretch into the heady long days. I cannot expand myself to feel it all – the smell of summer coming, the fresh leaves, the expectation, and that undercurrent, that something else none of us can put a finger on. I want to dissolve into it, every molecule fizzing into the season, expanding and stretching my soul into the dusk, the 3am light, the days that could go on forever, if we just let them.
I belong here, in these few weeks. It tugs my heart and I wish with all my being that I could just hit pause and stay in this rush of energy, of light and warmth, for just a little longer. It’s the final few seconds before the rollercoaster tips over the top of the track. That last held breath, the possibilities, the surge of adrenaline and hope and fear and just life, life, the joy of experience, all wrapped up in endless daylight and growth and wonder.
I feel the sun, pulling us all upwards, trees spreading branches into huge skies, reaching as far as they will go. I reach my hands upwards, stretch, lengthen my limits and my soul and my thoughts. Every part of me belongs, finally.
I hop and fizz each evening as twilight begins to descend, eyes bright in the gloom that’s never quite darkness. Soul season, bare feet in late nights with the ghostly flit of moths, the bats, the deer quietly whispering through the long grass. The campfire twang from millennia past, the feeling that one moment stretched back over echoes, hints, a scent on the breeze. For these few weeks I am wholly, truly me.
It’s four days before solstice and I breathe this headiness deep into my lungs, treasuring every smell, every rustle of every leaf, each caress of that breeze on my skin. I place my hands on tree trunks and share that deep contentment, where light is plentiful and the days are warm. I push down that knot of sadness that all too soon it will be over, darkness returning, temperature falling, the UK grey seeping in at the edges – but for now, I dance into my season, on and on and on into these endless days.
I can’t quite believe it’s Sunday Chat time again, another week has flashed by in the blink of an eye. It’s cold here today, that chill wind over the last few days has reminded me that summer isn’t quite here yet – the jumpers have found their way back out of the wardrobe and the heating has snuck on for a day or two. The UK weather, notoriously indecisive as always. Mr. GF is laying paving slabs (from freecycle!) outside and I’ve got a cuppa and a biscuit (or two) and am settling down to write this Sunday post under a blanket. I’m quite looking forward to having a catch up so please share what you’ve been up to this week! How has your Sunday been so far?
I’ve had a slow week again, mostly pottering around the house and garden, a few errands run and that’s it. It’s one of those times that is small, quiet, kind of folded in on itself. I somehow just wanted to be alone, forget the world for a bit, spend time hiding away. I’m not sure why but some weeks are like that, and I’m learning to go with the ebb and the flow. I spent a while fighting this sort of feeling, but eventually realised there’s strength and healing in it, learnt to listen and to relax into it. There’s still a tinge of guilt, that ‘should be doing something’ feeling that never goes away, but it doesn’t shout any more, just mutters along in the background. It helped to pop up to the moors for an evening – the wide spaces always help me gain some perspective.
Something that has brought me great joy this week are the lengthening days – there is a glow on the horizon still at 11pm now, and I just feel my soul fizzing with the joy of it.
I’m a light person, a heat person, born in June and full of it person. Those evenings that go on forever, those days that begin before we’re even aware of it. Just a soft touch into darkness and then off again, that swirl of energy, life, warmth. I could live my life in summer, always. May is that tantalising month, that promise that it’s coming, the slow tick up the track, just before the rollercoaster tips over the top and rushes into the riot of summer. Soon, so soon. Although as the sky darkens this afternoon and the wind cools even more, I’m not sure it will be all that soon at all…
Weather aside, everything is green in the valley. To look around is to absorb millions of shades of green and it is absolute joy. It’s weird but just spending some time looking at all those different shades makes my eyes relax somehow. It’s sort of a reminder that instead of screens, this is what I should be looking at instead! We walked around a local nature reserve this morning, under branches bursting with those soft new leaves, almost like velvet.
In garden news, the blue tits fledged earlier this week, and sparrows this morning – I love to watch them all learning how to ‘bird’… cue much falling off bird feeders and shuffling precariously along branches. I sat in the car and watched a new fledgling blue tit perched on the woodpile, being fed and ‘encouraged’ by the parents – I made an Instagram highlight if you want to have a look (it’s called ‘fledglings’). Very cute indeed!
The garden is blooming well – here’s a little posy of flowers I collected displayed in a very upmarket ‘vase’ – a tomato sauce bottle! I really like the shape of it, don’t judge me ;). Here there are chives, bistort and ceanothus.
So, that brings me to the end of this post – a quiet week all in all! Do you find some weeks quieter or slower than others? How do you feel about slower times? (And let me know if you also use ketchup bottles for vases…)
This week I’m:
Reading – The new book from Dainty Dress Diaries aka Catherine Carton. She’s one of my favourite YouTubers and this collection of 50 DIY and upcycling projects is just what I needed to spark my creative mojo!
Brewing – Darkwoods Coffee Roasters Colombian Mikava. Full of funky fermented flavours, fully recommend if you’re into great coffee that tastes unique.
Watching – Huw Richards and his fab garden – recently talking about how he has stopped weeding, very inspirational for us as our garden is about 90% weeds and we’ve just been letting them get on with it to be honest! We’ve been watching Huw for years and his videos are an absolute goldmine if you’re into any sort of gardening or interested in permaculture or no-dig.
P.S. My coffee wax melts arrived and as promised last week, I can report they smell lovely! I got the morning coffee ones from A Slow Sunday. Plus there was a free sample of ‘Spring Blooms’ which is also beautiful and will probably fall into my online shopping basket at some point in the future 😉
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Welcome to our Yorkshire cottage kitchen – the place where cake and tea and coffee and biscuits lurk! Hoorah. You’ll need some slippers as the tiled floor is freezing, the walls are insulated with actual rubble and one single old duvet stuffed under a windowsill, and the sun only shines through the window for approximately 2 months of the year… but it’s homely, welcoming, and today I’m going to chat through how we did it – including how much it cost!
It’s important to us to use as much secondhand stuff as we can. Having previously worked in charity
retail for a good few years it really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of amazing, perfectly good stuff that is thrown away every single day. Most of our furniture is from charity shops, freecycle and eBay (and most of my clothes, too) and we try and repair things as best we can. With this in mind, and on a very tight budget, we decided to make over the kitchen a little to fit more with our style.
So firstly, we enter through this small door! Mr. GF has to duck everytime. It was originally dark brown woodstain like pretty much everything when we moved in, so we painted it blue and put the window in too to let some light in as the kitchen is very dark. I painted the frame white too (of course it was brown!). I love this door but have no idea why it is so small!
The conservatory tiles are the original ones from when we moved in, we haven’t had either the budget or the motivation to do anything about them yet. They’re fine, not quite to our taste but not entirely offensive, so they’re staying for now.
Back to the kitchen!
We bought the table with the house and I love it. We wood-burned our names and the date we moved in onto it so it feels special! It’s a good size for the room although we have no idea how the previous owners managed to get it through the door…maybe they built it in situ?!
One wooden chair is from my childhood home and the rest are from Oxfam (£5 each!). On that note, the Le Creusset kettle is also from Oxfam, as is the enamel breadbin.
When we moved in, there was a gorgeous Rayburn tucked in the chimney breast that also heated the hot water. However, it proved so expensive to run that we decided to change the oven. Luckily we were able to give it away to a good home, and even more luckily, found this beautiful blue Rangemaster on Freecycle! We were able to snap it up and bring it home, and after a VERY good clean we had it professionally installed (this is a must due to legalities!) across on the other side of the kitchen.
We had to buy a new cover for the back as it was missing and not legal, but this was cheaper than I expected (I think about £25?) direct from Rangemaster. We also bought an extractor which was on sale. Whilst the gas fitters were here we had the old gas pipes sealed off in the chimney area. After one too many times bumping our heads we decided to turn the chimney space into a pantry/larder instead.
We reduced the amount of cupboards when we re-did everything, so having this space to keep dry goods, baking supplies and tins in is so helpful. The curtains (terribly sewn by myself) also hide the microwave. We just have wire racking inside and a few baskets. The spice cupboard to the left was here when we moved in, of course, again it was stained dark brown! Many coats of paint later it’s now cream-ish and full of lovely smelling spices.
The clothes airer is so useful – one of the iron hangers was snapped when we moved in. Luckily a friend had some spare so we did a barter exchange. I can’t believe it but yes, again, the original wood slats were stained dark brown (!!) resulting in every bit of washing absorbing a nice dark brown line across it… so we replaced the wood as well. We are going to strip the beams too, one day, but after doing the same in the living room we still haven’t quite recovered from the ordeal. So it may be a few more years!
Fairy lights, Wharfdale speakers and blue glass net float all from charity shops!
We re-did all the cupboards as the old ones were really small, old, and starting to fall to bits. We got the actual cupboards from a place on eBay that sells B&Q returns and damaged stock and luckily just the boxes were damaged so we got a bargain! The oak doors were very kindly given to us by my lovely cousin who was redoing their kitchen. I’ve contemplated painting them but really like the bare wood so am sticking with it. I’ve seen lots of kitchen units and doors on freecycle over the years so it’s worth keeping an eye out. There are also companies that do new fronts for IKEA cupboard units so that might be a cheaper option to refresh, rather than buying new units.
The splashback behind the oven and around the worktops is made from reclaimed roofing slates which were pretty cheap and look great. We varnished them once in place, so they’re easy to scrub clean. The total cost for all the slates came in at £20, plus another £15 for grout and adhesive – I can’t quite remember the exact adhesive we used but it was similar to this
Evo-Stik adhesive and grout*.
The wooden cupboard on the wall houses the electrics and is made out of old pallet wood by DIY maestro Mr. GF. Talking of pallet wood, all the windowsills are also made from old pallets! It’s doing the windowsills in this house that you realise why it’s so cold.
These kitchen ones have just a huge gaping space underneath, with some convenient holes in the wall that go straight outside. No insulation at all (the rest of the house has none either, just rubble in between the thick stone walls!). We had an old duvet so stuffed that in to try and stop the wind whistling through, and jammed the worst holes up with expanding foam.
I had always dreamed of having a Belfast sink, and we managed to get ours from ‘Bargain Corner’ at IKEA for less than half the price of a new one. This cost us £40 as we also had a £20 voucher! I think it is an IKEA Domsjo, which has apparently been discontinued now, which is sad. (I had a look on Amazon and this looks like quite a similar Belfast Sink* that seems to have good reviews). Mr. GF made some legs for it from metal poles, and again I used my awful sewing skills to make a curtain to hide underneath (washing powder and spiders!).
I love the old tiled floor even though it is freezing and shatters anything you drop on it. I get tempted by all the beautiful shiny kitchens you see on social media but I just really like that we’ve managed to make a quality, homely space that’s unique. Using lots of old bits of wood and pallets to turn into shelves, cupboards and windowsills gives it quite an organic feel – again I like colour but I think really I prefer the natural wood with all its knots and grain.
Lastly, here’s our coffee station – not much second hand here except the Krups grinder from eBay (you can find a similar Krups Coffee Grinder on Amazon* but definitely look for a second hand one, you can get some good bargains!) and the shelving made from old planks. Fun fact – the top one is straight when you put a spirit level on, but looks wonky…optical illusion! Or too much coffee, maybe. 😉 Again, the tiles are roofing slates.
We painted this whole wall in shiny copper paint in a fit of excitement and I love it. It really warms this cold, dark room up. I’m not sure metallics are so ‘cool’ any more but I don’t care. It makes all the wood look nice and really goes quite well with the white and grey of the other walls. We used Crown Metallic Paint in Copper*. The walls themselves are very wonky and the metallic shows up all the lumps and bumps which actually I quite like, it gives areas of shadow and light where you’re least expecting!
In total, the kitchen cost £845 for absolutely everything. That includes £200 for tradesmen, all the petrol to drive to collect bits and bobs, all the fixtures, paint, and fittings (including to change the hot water heater over). It even includes paint brushes! The most expensive thing was the Saljan worktop which we got new from IKEA and cost £150, followed by the cupboards which cost £140 in total, for 8 units (1 corner one) and a wine rack!
Well that’s really everything for the kitchen, I think. I’m sure I’ll think of other things as soon as I put this post live but hey ho. Have you refreshed a room on a budget? What’s the best thing you’ve found on freecycle or second hand? I’d love to hear!
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