Grumpity grump….

NOTE: The photographs in this post bear no relation to the text!

I had thought to include ‘appropriate’ pictures. But  I realised that there are so many images in our live of ugly or painful or simply scruffy things. Both in reality and over and over again in all forms of the media. I feel that this adds unnecessary stress to us all. And distorts the truth that we can often choose to look at something beautiful or amazing, if we are lucky.

So instead I have included random pretty flowers as a distraction from my slightly  grumpy words.


 

Travel weary.

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The train is like a worn out  dragon, screeching and squealing it’s rusty wheels on the tracks. Reluctantly dragging it’s heels  – moving against it’s will .

Much like me.

The view of the passing, scruffy fields fuels my disgruntled mood. I am sore and tired. Thirsty. The constant background roar assails my ears. It feels so hot and stuffy in here.

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The countryside is not remote any more. At least not in this area. Our humanity litters it with the debris of our needs.

From sheep to hay bales – relatively comforting – to giant hoses and destructive digging machines. Mountains of building materials. Solar panels, electricity pylons marching, scurfy and neglected canals – floating with litter and late summer dust.

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Giant, ugly warehouses, and the debris of  constant fabricating and dismantling lies everywhere. Heaps of sand. Heaps of rubble. Heaps of cement, of gravel… tangled collections of dull and dangerous metal wires.

We are a messy species.

We trudge around disregarding the earth beneath our feet.

This planet needs a plaster.

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And yet I know….

My mind is discommoded by speed and too much movement. The sky looks grey.

The job list of home lurks waiting for me..

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Another day and the clouds could clear, and I could see beyond the small scars to the wide blue skies and the deep trees ..

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.. the lure of the seasons ahead…

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Going home sucks….


 

PS … isn’t it weird how incongruous the pictures are! And also how it helps to take the attention away from the gloom….

PPS

Writing this reminded me of a poem which I love, so I will put it here.

I think it deserves to be shared.

I used to know much of it by heart and the rhythm and the meaning in the words helped me through some sticky places.

 

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

 

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

 

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

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Clueless…

You know those (impossible) crosswords where they give you hardly any clues?

Well, this is a bit like that…… only easier.

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(Yes I know it doesn’t look that great..)

….but – I took these photographs before I went away  to Cromer. And I wrote the words to go with them. Honest, I did! But the words have vanished into the mist. And to be fair, there is only so much you can say about courgettes, and I have already said most of it this summer.

 

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…..except that this little innocuous looking pot is sheer spice magic!

– Courtesy of ‘totally cultured’ , a food stall on Saffron Walden market which has recently started selling many different fermented and delicious products. I can highly recommend all the ones I have tried ( beware – the Kimchi is HOT!)

The pot above is a spice paste including turmeric, ginger, black pepper, salt, coconut oil – and it  seems to be extremely tasty with many things. It certainly takes courgettes to a new level .

 

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Ps I know this is not a courgette. Just a pretty picture. however it is a real flower and not photo enhanced in any way. How cool is that?!

 

 

Feebles and Foibles

Travel. I don’t travel lightly. Either psychologically or physically!

 

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My collection of anxieties, doubts and dreads mean that I spend much of my life wrapped in a tangle of protection.

Routines, rituals, talismans, specific ways of doing things. Eating habits, sleeping needs – all are complicated by my wayward thoughts.

( or as my mother might say… I am just too fussy!)

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Trying to give a bit of background to this subject could easily turn into several posts on its own. To attempt to explain a little….

…..most of my senses are a bit awry. In one way or another, I suspect that they always have been. I know that when the brain is faulty , malfunctioning  , maverick ((I love that word!) then to a degree senses can  be affected. This can be the case for many people on the autistic spectrum too I believe. Often, human senses can get over-hyped.

Which feels seriously disturbing to try and live with.

( This isn’t mildly irritated feelings. Most of these things are ‘chalk on a black board, knife on a plate, polystyrene squeaking, hyperventilating, panic attack inducing runaway now sensations…)

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Personally, I have very acute smell, and most man made/chemical scents make me feel frantic and panicky. I can often taste them in my mouth. This includes all scented products – perfumes and aftershave  colognes, shower gels and washing powders, house cleaners and washing up liquids, shampoos and air fresheners, ( and those are considered the ‘nice’ ones!)

Then of course petrol, cigarette smoke, paint, new carpet, plastics. The list goes on and on. Very boring.

My sense of touch is also quite extreme, and my skin dislikes anything tight and anything in man made fabrics. So no polyester or nylon, no bras or sports clothing – and one to watch out for, often ‘100%  cotton’ clothing is stitched together with polyester thread.

I am aware that I frequently go out looking pretty scruffy. But for me, the older and softer the cotton clothing, the less ‘screamy’ my skin feels. Shoes are a particular problem as I would like to have bare feet all the time….

The touch sensation of course extends to duvets,/sheets/bedding/towels. In the last few years, I have sometimes found the feel of water difficult -( yep – getting smelly!)

Sight –  well, some colours ‘jar’ like an out of tune piano chord. It makes me wince.

Sounds – often make me jump but are currently the least problematic.

Taste – is inextricably linked to smell but it is the texture of many foods which can be tricky…

SO.. by now you may be laughing. Or disbelieving? Or frustrated and perhaps thinking – why doesn’t she pull herself together! –

Or perhaps sighing in empathy and thinking ‘oh, me too’ with some of those things – or ‘thank goodness I am not the only one..’ Always nice not to feel too isolated when my brain is being particularly barmy…

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Anyway, I digress. This is a travel post. So I am going to the seaside for 3 days to spend time with my lovely family and delightful grandchildren.

This is my luggage.

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( yes, for 3 days!)

Which wouldn’t be a problem if I was going in this car but I am going on a train.

( yes, I can drive. I had hoped to try this time. But I got anxious about traffic and getting lost, fast roads and other drivers and car breakdowns..)

I am staying in a very luxurious B and B – a farmhouse with big rooms – and I have contacted them to make sure that the windows open wide and that I can go out for a walk at 4 am without disturbing anybody.

But still I have to pack; sheets and a pillow case ( the bedding may feel odd or smell difficult) – towels, ditto, toiletries and vitamins,  ( including my weird black toothpaste and wonderful bamboo toothbrush – plastic brushes make me gag). Teabags( organic, unbleached), and milk ( raw and organic.)

Warm clothes – in case..

…cool clothes – in case.. ( and swimming suits!)

……..spare shoes – in case…

Food like nuts and figs, fruit, a jar of stewed apples (!!)

Spare rubbish bags ( so I don’t dirty the bin in my room?)

Socks ( in case the carpet feels wrong)..

I booked the parking in advance

I bought the train tickets in advance

I pack one bag with soft stuff so that I can use it to sit on ( I often sit on the floor by the train doors –  to get a bit of ‘fresh’ air at each station. The carriages smell of many, many peoples perfumes all jumbled together…. and the seat fabric is just weird…)

I write down all the train times. And other possible trains in case I miss those. And all the platform numbers I might need to help me try and find the trains.

I have far too much luggage so my back hurts and I start eating the food long before I am hungry to try and lighten the load… especially at the end of the journey, when I had promised myself a taxi for the last little bit but there were none to be found..

My brain is now humming the mantra;

‘ serves you right, serves you right…

…but for what?

Just for generally being a mad, bad person I guess…

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Worth it.

 

(PS a special big thank you for Fiona and Geoff of Jonas Farm in Cromer for their kindness, understanding and generous hospitality. You can find them on air b and b if you need a  beautiful place to stay in Norfolk! )

 

 

Stock taking…

The gradual slowing down of the growing season gives me time to pause for thought.

There is lots that I could be doing – always! – but I get to the allotment and potter. Wander around, pick a few beans here and a few overripe tomatoes there.

Sit in the sun, when it is out… perhaps writing this.

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Gather jugs full of rich and complex flowers – glowing with colours to share with friends.

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My body wants me to slow down too. I feel tired earlier in the afternoon. But honestly, my work load and generally barmy life dictate otherwise. So I want to assess my energy needs too.

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I have been interested in the idea of fasting for some time. I watched some of the TV programmes about it, such as ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ which explained a lot of the more recent research in this field. I find it fascinating and exciting.

In the past, I have taught cookery classes and run courses, including  putting more value on good, basic foods. Learning about different ways to eat and nourish our bodies. Often this includes far more traditional ways of eating than the modern, western diet that many of us are used to.

Feeding our bodies with what they really need to thrive.

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Looking at long past history, and modern science, occasional fasting in a variety of ways can help our bodies to heal and grow strong. A bit of rest and recuperation for our beleaguered digestive system.

I really want to give it a go. But I procrastinate.

( To be fair, I procrastinate about most things in life. It is my default mode. I am extremely good a being indecisive.)

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I have lived on ‘Stock’ for several days at a time before. It is the start of the GAPS diet healing protocol. I found it relatively easy and extremely soothing for my digestion.

But that was years ago and I feel much more well now. Is that what puts me off?

Trying to work it out in my mind, I am aware that I dislike feeling hungry. I know that when I haven’t eaten for a while I generally have more energy and often feel more focused and clear headed. Perhaps that is why I get up early and get a lot done – I haven’t had any food in the night!

During the day, I find feeling hungry or empty very similar to feeling anxious. Or nervous and upset. Or scared. Or all of the above. The gurgling tummy is distracting and disturbing.

In fact I believe that I often do the opposite – lots of eating when I feel anxious and panicky, in case it is hunger after all…

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So perhaps I will wait until I feel relatively calm and stable (hmm….) before I try my next fast.

In the meantime I am reading Michael Mosley’s books – the Fast Diet, and his new one, the Clever Guts Diet – to inspire me. Clear and well written books. Highly recommended.

 

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PS I am rather hoping that ‘going public’ with the idea might encourage me to do it…. if only so I can write another blog on how it went! I suspect it is more likely that I will write another blog on procrastination….

Notes to self: next year…

Try to grow ornamental climbers on separate poles to the runner beans.

….. it may look very pretty mixed together but it is  rather difficult to find any beans!

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Grow less beans per pole….. see above. ( And below.)

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Put in stronger supports for tomato plants – they get surprisingly heavy. And it is a windy site…

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Be mentally stronger  ( in every way?) – cull some self seeded sunflowers when they are small. Man cannot live on sunflowers alone…..

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Give the pumpkin plants more space?

(Like a whole allotment each ?!)

Perhaps don’t throw away the labels. At least not until you are more experienced…..

It just means you are not quite sure what to do with the crop!

Well –  some things are reasonably obvious. If it is round and orange it must be a pumpkin right? ( unless it is a red Kuri squash…)

… but does anyone have a clue what this monster is? I thought it was going to be a butternut squash – there is only one per plant – but the leaf looks more like a courgette –

Who knows! But if it keeps growing at this rate I won’t even be able to lift it let alone eat it.

Most importantly – try and make that space to slow down in. I found this card before I ever had an allotment.

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( I hope it is allowed to picture it here – apologies if not. It is a wonderful Thelwell drawing)

It epitomises a dream I have of being a woman who doesn’t give a fig what other people think and who can, at least occasionally, put herself first. One who can recognise  that a deckchair is as vital as a vegetable in this world.

So I left a big space, and I bought a bag a grass seed. The space is full of weeds again now (that has to be a good euphemism for life somehow!) and I haven’t yet saved enough for the deckchair. But at least I am thinking about it. Will that do?

Probably not.

So this autumn I promise to myself that I will sow the grass seed..

And next summer I will sit in it.

On that note – I am going to try and have a few days at the seaside with my wonderful grandchildren next week.  A few days to think about other things. And so these are the books I will be taking:

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…a roaring, lusty and beautifully written romance..the perfect distraction

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…a book that makes me cry but also gives me back a little faith in the human race..

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And the most irreverent book ever written on depression and anxiety  – which can make me laugh out loud even in the blackest moments.

Time to go for a paddle.

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Not ugly..

A gentle melancholy lurks in the wings.

The wide, high skies are here too soon…

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What is this slight lurching of the seasons? This year seems to be a bit out of kilter, as if viewed through a pier-end mirror.

Unseasonably cold springs. Long, early heatwaves. Drought in autumn. Drought in winter. A bit more drought in the spring.

Rain. Floods. HAIL. Thunder and lightning.

( Not great photographs sorry – but it was one o’clock in the morning!)

It is July. We have had mornings of 8 degrees. Stubble is appearing……

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……..and I have already driven past a ploughed field. Hailstones like marbles have shredded the big leaved plants, bruised the apples, snapped off the dahlias.

I was really trying to avoid doing a ‘weather’ blog, but there is simply too much going on to ignore it any longer!

I am so full of sympathy for all the people who grow food for a living. Who are trying to  to feed themselves – and us. I know I am extremely lucky that it is mostly ornamental plants which have been damaged. That I am able to go to a supermarket for apples to replace my hail dented fruit. That we live in a part of the world where food is abundant and luxurious and can be flown in from almost anywhere. I often take this for granted.

On the good side…whatever difficulties you may have trying to grow any plant, anywhere in the UK  – this year we can certainly, genuinely blame it on the weather.

On the bad side… I most definitely do not feel ready for it to be autumn yet. The pumpkins may be getting bigger –

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– but that is not much compensation when they are ready before the runner beans…

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Come on sun..

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Please give us all a bit more summer for our holidays..

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And the ugly… Well, I was going to post a picture of these prematurely autumnal looking leaves…

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But really? Its not that bad! Just a few leaves. I need to shake myself up, sweep away the leaves and focus on the lovely bits. Put on blinkers as I walk past the stubble fields.

After all, the dahlias are recovering – and they are not ugly,  but simply lovely.

Sheep Shock

Sitting in my shed, early on a cooler morning – enjoying the comfort of hot tea…

I noticed something odd among the cucumbers. In an earlier episode they were making a bid for freedom, off to explore the wider world…

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This time I noticed…….an egg?

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What had those over-enthusiastic cucumber  plants  been up to now?!

I leaned in closer…

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……..and closer..

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They had kidnapped Shorn the Sheep!

( I know. I do know that that is the the most unoriginal name for a sheep. Half of the sheep in the country must be called that now. I tried to come up with something better, I really did. But every time he looked at me he was Shorn the Sheep – so eventually I gave up and accepted him just as he is.)

So…

I originally thought to write this post in semi-tabloid style – you know what I mean,

‘Shock Horror Sinister Sheep Kidnapping’

( or should it be ‘Rustling’? But can a sheep rustle? Surely they are a bit too woolly?)

Then I thought about it.

There is enough sinister in this world.

And honestly, could you really call a food plant and a wooden toy sinister?

So I guess they were just having fun and got carried away…

Even so, Shorn does look a little bit shocked..

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…. and perhaps a bit chilly…

 

So we wrapped him up warm and gave him a cuddle. A  snuggle day with his friends.

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That’s all most of us need in the end.

 

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NB It as been pointed out to me that I have spelt ‘Shaun’ wrongly.

Please. Really? He only has wool left on the top of his head!!

 

 

 

The Pumpkin patch

I first saw plot 2 in September 2016. I noticed several things – the autumn sun highlighting the tall, bleached grasses, and the even taller weeds…

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The holes in the (lovely) shed…

And the beautiful pumpkins and squashes on neighbouring plots, glowing on the ground like giant orange smarties.

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( by the way, do the orange ones still taste of orange, does anyone know? )

As I started to learn about  ‘allotmenting’, one of the many interesting things has been the soil differences between plot and home.

In my damp, shady garden the squashes have never done well. Even courgettes struggle. I hoped, from what I could see, that I might have a better chance here.

I wanted to try and grow quite a lot of these plants. For a start, in my bid to provide much more of my own food, they do store well. ( If properly ‘cured’!)

And you can freeze some, especially made into soup first. Or ratatouille, in the case of the courgettes.

More importantly, for my best helper, what small boy doesn’t love a giant pumpkin?

As the plot got closer to being ‘plantable’ – ( in retrospect, maybe I rushed in a bit early. I would have liked to have done more preparation) – it also looked like a vast, empty expanse of earth.

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Pumpkins were the answer! Lets get that ground covered..

Well of course I sowed too many.

…and of course they all grew..

…and they looked so sweet in their little pots..

I decided it would be fun to throw away the labels and just wait and see what appeared.. (!!)..

I sowed pumpkins, two or three varieties, some big, some small. And squashes, butternut types as well as Turks cap ( turban?) Courgettes (Three types? Maybe four!)

And now… The Giants have arrived.

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20170712_074730They are magnificent. Also slightly intimidating, with their phenomenal growing power.

Their leaves are stunning, both architectural and held with such poise.

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And the flowers huge and glowing – the bees love them, and come out drunk on pollen!

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They like my ‘burial mounds’, heaps of goodness to grow in, as I  hoped that they would.

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( the few leftover plants which I put in the ground at plot 1 are very sad and small by comparison.)

I planted 3 (3!) in the compost heap, where less than one would have been enough.

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I looked up ‘stopping’ them. The book said pinch out the growing tips after 2 or 3 fruit have set, so you get much bigger ones. I didn’t really have the heart to do it… I may regret that.. but I also thought, I am only cooking for one, maybe many small ones would be more useful? We shall see. While  finding out about that, I read too late that I could have encouraged them to ‘climb’ more, by supplying sturdy frames. Belatedly I shoved a few hefty sticks into the compost bin. It was difficult, and very prickly, trying to tie them up!

I learnt my lesson and left the rest to roam free. (Next year I will try to put in supports a little earlier.)

And roam they do…

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I measured one of the biggest – from tip to tip, it is 4.5 metres long and still growing.

So far there are largeish round yellow fruits and small,green corrugated ones, stripey courgettes and green ones and yellow ones, and Turks cap turbans big enough to actually wear on your head.

* plus one or two which still haven’t decided what to be…

Watch this space ( or rather, lack of it ) for autumnal updates.

PS. I guess that I could have also mentioned cucumbers in this post. But they did get a lot of limelight in the ‘Tendrils’ story and I don’t want them to get big headed.

(Plus I am eating 3 cucumbers a day. Like apples. Enough with the cucumbers.)

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Ode to a Sis

Dear Sis,

I know that you are very tired and have a lot going on in your life at the moment.

I was thinking, as I tried to get to sleep, of things that I am proud of. ( Thanks, CBT!)

And then, in that vague, meandering way that brains have at night…. ( Um…mine has that way often in the day too!)

….I thought, if I did a ‘proper’ blog with feedback and so on I would ask everyone to send me a picture of something which they are proud of. Putting up pictures of all my family would be an invasion of their privacy – although they are the people in the world of whom I am most proud.

Maybe readers could send a photograph of something which they have made, or achieved?

I considered what I would send. I really like a crochet blanket which I made last winter. (And now my head is saying – ‘that is a bit pathetic! ‘ But CBT! Come on brain try and be a it more supportive…)

Sis, I realised that you would be able to send a picture of a house :

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( among the dozens of other things you could send… oh crikey I was going to list some but my mind boggles.. book author, dressage teacher, accountant, supermum, blog writer, blog writing teacher,  really too many things to mention).

Anyway. A whole blessed house. Dreamed of, designed, planned and now being built by you and yours.

That is phenomenal.

I have watched enough ‘Grand designs’ TV programmes. I know that the people doing these things always look steadily more stressed/ busy/ exhausted/ each time they film the building process.

I guess that is where you are at now – as well as shoe- horning ‘house build’ onto a job list which was already far too long! Oh, and I hear that the harvest has started!?!

Hang in there.

When I get the ‘send a picture of something you are proud of’ page up and running on my blog, you will be spoilt for choice. But you might be able to send this;

 

silly barn

 

or something pretty similar anyway…

and probably by then you will be living in it.

Not many people can say that they helped to build a house.

(er… except house builders of course….)

These are for you. Love you. Well done.

xxx

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A foggy day.

My mind feels fuzzy, like the mist which hung over the pond yesterday morning.

It was both beautiful and slightly eerie.

I haven’t got a picture of it – I don’t usually take a camera or a phone with me on my dog walks as I like to feel ‘uncluttered’, ( and unreachable).

I also  sometimes think that mist would be hard to photograph well.  It is really just air in a damper form.

My brain feels like this;

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It doesn’t know whether to be a bean or a black-eyed Susan. A bit of a weed or a wildflower.

The result is a tangled heap with nothing much managing to climb up the pole.

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And my legs feel like they are wading through this;

mud

or this;

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To function at all I write things on little bits of paper  and throw them into the air.

Then I try and do whichever task lands nearest to me.

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It is a strange way to be but nobody can see me. And I hope that it is slightly better than giving up and climbing back into bed.

PS As an example of my confusion – I saw a small, grey shape on the kitchen wall. I had the thought; ‘ That is a very unusual moth. I could take a picture of it’. As I stole up close with my camera – it materialised into a piece of old blue tack! ( er… which has been there for several weeks..)(months)

Hmm – perhaps I should have got back under the duvet after all…except … one of the small ‘tasks’ written on paper which landed near me earlier said’make the bed’. So that is done now. If I mess it up again I will be trying to walk backwards through that mud!

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PPS. Note to self.

Plant fewer things in the spaces available to you. It may allow some areas of life to grow and spread in a more comfortable way.

 

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