In and out in December…

the Grand Union canal.

It’s no secret that I tend to find the low-light days of winter something of a challenge, which is why I’m delighted to say that so far this year, I’m managing to stay pretty buoyant. Maybe it’s the generally mild weather we’ve been having or just a determined effort to stay relaxed. Whichever, all I can say is that we’re now really close to the solstice and so far, so good.

Part of my strategy for staying well is to get outdoors as much as I reasonably can. It used to be easier when the Delinquent Dog insisted on a decent daily walk, but the old chap isn’t up to all that these days and we have to content ourselves with short strolls near to the house. I miss getting out into the woods and countryside so much and try hard to get out when I can.

We’re lucky to live a short hop away from the Grand Union canal, which would have been the perfect place to walk the Delinquent Dog, had he not come hardwired with the urge to attack any other furry creature he might meet. Narrow canal paths do not lend themselves to quick avoidance detours – not without getting very wet at any rate.

I’ve taken to having a quick walk along the tow-path every few days without the boy (you can see how glorious the weather was from the picture at the top of this post on a recent stroll). And there have been occasional walks around the Park at Woburn – always a delight.

There have also been proper days out.

First, a trip to Worcester with both daughters. We were there a few days after Storm Arwen which had brought down one of the stone pinacles from the tower of the cathedral, which crashed through the roof below. If you look carefully you might be able to see where the tarpaulin is now covering the hole. The pincacle came from high up on the tower, so all-in-all I’d say it was lucky not to have been a worse outcome.

the damaged roof at Worcester Cathedral

We happened to be in Worcester on the final day of the Christmas Market, so it was fairly busy, but also rather lovely. Twinkly and smelling of mulled wine – quite put me in the festive spirit.

the Guildhall, Worcester at dusk.
excellent message I thought…x

Later that week, I met up with my brother in Worcestershire and we headed off to Hanbury Hall for tea and cakes and a wander around the house. This year they’ve decorated the house in the style of Christmasses of the 1970s and 1980s and oh my goodness! What a good job they’ve made. I haven’t laughed so much for an age.

We spent our afternoon remembering toys, films, tv, pop music and food from our youth. It was magical! Tacky, but totally magical.

It wasn’t just indoors that had been decorated. Every one of these little trees had a glitter ball on top – over 200 of them, how fabulous!

Meanwhile, back indoors, there has been more needlepoint. I’ve given up trying to think about what I’m doing and instead I’ve fully embraced the stitch to relax vibe that I used to have. For now, that feels absolutely the right thing to do. I’ve always thought that stitching was primarily a meditative practice and so it feels again for me.

this is the current piece – rocking orange…x

There’s something snuggly about sitting on the sofa in the evening, listening to the TV and quietly sewing. Well, it works for me.

It’s a funny old time of year and I hope you’re doing alright. Stitching keeps me relaxed and calm, but do whatever works for you. We’re all different.

Anny x

That sort of week…

I won’t bore you with the details, we all have them in some guise or other from time to time, let’s just say it’s been that sort of week.

But the sun has come out, it’s practically the weekend and I’m feeling a lot better, so with a bit of luck next week might be a nice simple run-of-the-mill affair and I can get back into my basic routine.

I’ll leave you with the highlights of the last couple of days…

IMAG1725It’s two years since I dug out all the irises in the garden because they weren’t producing any flowers, but surprise, surprise, look what’s happened – how’s this for tenacity – just goes to show, you can’t keep a good flower down.

IMAG1719 IMAG1712And raindrops on roses – one of my favourite things (make a good song lyric that…)

Have a good weekend.

What I should be doing…

I really shouldn’t be here. If I was being responsible, I’d be out in the garden, tackling the weeds. 

Yesterday, was all about laundry, but I took a few pictures in between hanging out the washing.

Colours are creeping back in with a vengeance…

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I thought I’d lost the sage, but just look at it now.

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And taking the pictures in close up makes it harder to see the weeds. (Oh alright, who am I kidding…)

I suppose I know what I’ll be doing this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Blue and Green

Or – what a difference two weeks can make….

After such a long winter, the richness of the spring is making my senses tingle. A couple of weeks ago, there wasn’t much green…

IMAG1197Now, it’s bursting out all over…

IMAG1449_2IMAG1451 IMAG1455And the bluebells are so gorgeous, I couldn’t resist taking more pictures…

IMAG1380 IMAG1457 IMAG1454 IMAG1464A spring carpet.

Not Chelsea…

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So it’s the Chelsea Flower Show again. Yet another year and I still haven’t been. I suspect that my type of gardening is very far removed from the average Chelsea affair, but a part of me would still love to go and see what I’ve been missing.

Evidently for some people, creating a garden must feel the same way that I feel when I design and stitch a tapestry. There must be a thrill in the planning, the drama of sourcing the plants to provide the textures and colours required, the physical effort of placing each element in the allotted spot and the sense of achievement when the whole garden is finished looking as they originally wished – or better.

But although I understand that, and although I suppose I create tapestries in a similar way, I don’t seem to transfer that approach to my own garden.

There is no way I could have created a laburnum, sycamore and plum tree combination.
There is no way I could have created a laburnum, sycamore and plum-tree combination.

For me the garden isn’t something over which I have overall control – despite my vague ideas, I don’t feel that it is all up to me what grows where and when, instead I sense that I am in a gentle partnership with nature, and I know who has the upper hand (and it isn’t me).

In my garden, nature takes the lead. My role is to keep things relatively tidy, give the stragglers a chance to come through, throw in the occasional plant and let nature decide if it’s going to stay or not.

If all that sounds terribly passive, I’d agree, but the fact is, that since I stopped trying to take control, and instead decided to spend more time enjoying what was actually happening, things seem to be coming together in a far more harmonious way than they have before.

I still enjoy visiting beautiful gardens, but I no longer come home feeling inadequate about my own. I get a huge contentment watching the seasons unfold in our tiny space and that for me is exciting and wonderful. And by letting nature make most of the decisions, there’s always the potential for a lovely surprise.

IMAG1430And over the years, I’ve started to take more interest in how plants really look – vast drifts of planting can be magnificent, but there’s no less beauty in single blooms.

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You just have to look for it.

And I am convinced that nature has a wonderful sense of style – how else would she arrange for a self-seeded wallflower to grow against the peeling paint of the garage door – and match the shade of paint peeping through?

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So I’ll look froward to Alan Titchmarsh taking me on a guided tour of Chelsea, but this year it will have to be from the comfort of my sofa – again.

Blue haze…

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Earlier in the week, before the downpour set in, I’d noticed the bluebells were out in the wood where I walk the delinquent dog most mornings.

Taking photographs whilst simultaneously holding a schizophrenic dog on his lead and keeping a 360 degree watch for the approach of other dogs, squirrels or similarly tempting small furry animals, is quite a skill.

So it wasn’t until this morning that I finally managed to snap a few pictures.

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Corny perhaps, but I still get a thrill when I see patches of bluebells through the trees.

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But the most memorable part of the walk today wasn’t something I could photograph – it was the smell. After 36 hours of heavy rain, followed by a couple of bursts of bright warm sunshine, the smells through the wood and in the fields seemed intensified, more eau de parfum than eau de toilette – almost heady.

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I love spring when it’s behaving itself.

 

 

 

 

Nature’s pick-me-up…

I’ve been a bit up and down over the weekend – I’m blaming the hormones.

But it was difficult to feel anything other than pure happiness, seeing the sunlight on the trees across the way, and the frost coated field in between.

The air was crisp, but the ground is still soggy – it will need to be colder for longer before the muddy paths freeze to crunchiness.

I love days like this.