Thursday, August 29, 2019

Moving, if not necessarily, grooving

Just recently, my once daily yoga has taken a hit and, in truth, it's difficult in the new house to find a space to do it in. This is likely to continue as the boyfriend sees things like "putting-stuff-in-attic" as long term projects (don't ask, I've been through this argument from all directions; it's a cul-de-sac), so the little 3rd bedroom is stuffed to bursting and my anticipated yoga space simply isn't there. 

Although I'm back in a structured class setting once a week, it doesn't feel like enough to keep me sane, and booking more than one a week is not something I really want to do as I have an issue with taking orders. Ever wondered what that sotto voce noise is from the back of an exercise class? That's me, muttering through gritted teeth: "you bloody well hold the pose for 4 breaths then."  

I've felt the need to move more since moving. Get the blood flowing and my muscles feeling flexible, not rigid and complaining. Or, not so complaining as they could be. So I have returned to swimming. Loved my birthday swim so much that I took the plunge (I'll get me coat) and signed on several dotted lines to join a local gym with a pool, albeit a small pool. 4 people in there and we're ducking around each other. Luckily, as I go before work, there's usually only one other woman in there who relentlessly swims backstroke accompanied by much splashing. 

And me, head just above water, doing my own, inelegant, version of an extended doggy paddle. Don't care. Love it.

And now, for a round up of good things that have made me happy!

1. A waste-free world in a disused Centre Parks? Best. Conversion. Ever.

2. The rise again of the Doc Marten boot. God, I loved these when I was a teenager and now they do a vegan range, I'm tempted again...

3. Maya Angelou wrote cookbooks? These I need to find. Also, isn't the image accompanying the article just wonderful? Wish I'd been at that dinner party.

4. This inspiring and moving story of Esiah and his seeds.

5. From roadside verge to wildflower meadow, a new scheme in Norfolk. 

6. Absolutely, absolutely gorgeous stained glass art.



7. I don't know what it was, but something about these photos brought a lump to my throat. My Northern roots, I guess. 

8. Some rewilding news from grouse estates in Scotland. About bloody time.  

And yes, I do know what's happening in the news. No, I can't bear it. Yes, I am refusing to talk about it here. No, I won't tell you what to think. Yes, it is all a shit show.  Spread love where you can.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Of Blackberries, Beans and Bugs

I am currently nursing a great number of wounds. They itch and sting, little beadings of blood frilling the edges. Washing up becomes a game of chicken: how long can you hold your injured hands in the hot soapy water? Sock elastic irritates and chafes them. 

It is blackberry season after all. 

The path along the canal and the allotment site are full of brambles that, right now, and for a limited period only, are bearing possibly the ultimate in seasonal foods: blackberries. And I allow no nettle, stinger or sneaking creeping branch to stand between me and a good crumble. Hands and ankles are sacrificed to the cause as I strip all the ones I can reach free from the bushes; a good number of clothes too. However, my blackberrying limits are reached once the leopard-spotted spiders start to weave webs and take up residence on the bushes. My raging (and totally rational, thank you very much) arachnaphobia prevents further picking.

I don't know what this plant is! And they are all over the site. If anyone does, let me know.

But it's all worth it when you make a crumble so awesome, it renders all other Sunday activities futile (the secret is extra oats and ground almonds in the topping). 

Once stripped, the brambles on the allotment are being mercilessly cut back as they are threatening to strangle everything within reach, including the autumn raspberries that have appeared at the top of the allotment. Some of the blackberry branches are thicker than my index and middle fingers together: the original secateurs gave up the ghost, so I had to return with new ones so sharp they cut the air. There is now a heap of drying, dying branches waiting for right amount of autumn for a bonfire. 

There is an small amount of it now I realised the other day, as the 16th Century building I work in takes on it's end of summer briskness that's enough to warrant an extra layer. As I cycle through the park, there is a chill around the edges that raises goosebumps and catches the fingers. Not enough yet to make your breath mist in front of you, but you can smell it just round the corner. This is fine with me as I love autumn. Actually I only know of one person who doesn't: she hates what it signifies, the drawing in of the nights, the months of winter, the gloomy light. This is possibly because she lives in a small town, a glorified village really, where the street lights are few and the social gatherings limited. 



Autumn makes me think I could live in the countryside again. And then I remember. For country dwellers, the Great Muddening draws nigh. That time of year where you can't move without it sticking to your boots, or the paws of your pets. You find it everywhere and for the next 4 months, the mop is rarely dry as you try to fight the rising tide of it. Having been the owner of a long-haired Alsatian-cross, I would find it drifted across the floor, almost like tidal-sand-patterns but gritty and in my kitchen. 

For now, late summer sees the allotments running wild with weeds gone rogue (the photo above of the site next door, the tenant of which rotovated the plot in April and then left it - the weeds are nearly as tall as his shed and seeding all over the place. Rotovating merely creates more weeds, I've decided.), plants gone off-piste and insects galore. Our site is full of crickets chirping like mad, chorusing through the days, and the oregano is bustling with bees and butterflies galore, making whoopee while the sun shines.

Of course, these days always feel like the last time to make the most of summer produce, rushing to grab what I can find. Tiny courgettes are in the market; the last of the summer fruits; runner beans and tomatoes still on their vines, smelling like my paternal Grandad's greenhouse. 



Now there was a man of infinite patience and a desire to stay out of the way of his termagent wife. She could rule the house with an iron fist, and she did - the tiny bungalow was her territory - but the garden and the greenhouse was his. I cannot smell tomatoes without remembering him. And I cannot look at runner beans without thinking the same. His patience extended to slowly removing the stringy edges, then painstakingly slicing, with his old wooden-handled knife, the beans into matchstick thin pieces, equal in length and thickness, one eye on whatever race meet was showing on the telly. 

A rear-gunner in WWII, shot down over Italy and left permanently deaf from the roar of the plane engines and gunfire, he dwelt mostly in his own little world of silence. Returning from war an atheist, he became an engineer, had a realistic and uncompromising view of his own worth as a human and helped raise 3 children, teaching his youngest to overcome his stammer with endless calm. Followed the horses, supported Arsenal, accepted the never-altered weekly dinner (served at lunchtime) menu without complaint. 

I can never manage to get my beans as fine as he did and my knife is plastic-handled but every time I slice them, I'm 6 again, colouring in and chatting aimlessly, listening to the horses race on the radio, in his companionable silence.



Thursday, August 8, 2019

Things I have learned recently

I started (and abandoned due to lack of time) a post last week after recovering from a bit of minor surgery that was to remove some pre-cancerous cells from my cervix. As the letter from the doctors said, "this is not cancer, but has the potential, if left, to turn into cancer." 

That was a less reassuring statement than I think they meant it to be.

 The boyfriend strimming away with an expression of fierce concentration, 
seconds before the strimmer wire ran out and we admitted defeat.   

 Must say that, damn, they worked fast. Not only in the treatment but in keeping the gaps between letters and treatment short. The speed they work at reassures me: within 4 weeks, I'm back in the coloscopy room. Within 30 minutes, I'm back in the car, pre-cancerous cell-less, asking the boyfriend if he wants pasta for tea.

For all the moaning that this city's hospital gets, I've never had anything but positive (if they can be called that) experiences with them. Although management not letting the nurses park on site (we were gossiping during procedures) is frankly outrageous, and I hope each and every one of the management who are allowed to, stub their toes on the way to their cars.  

The bramble mountain. There are wallflowers there too. 
One day I'll explain my wallflower intolerance. 


Spent some time on the allotment this week. One of the beds that we'd covered in membrane had finally given up and was living-weed-free, so we cleared the dead stuff, strimmed the paths and wilder areas, tacked down membrane that had worked it's way loose and hacked back at the brambles that resembled triffids (after I'd raided them for blackberries, obviously). Found what looks to be asparagus gone wild, albeit asparagus with it's own beetles. 

Little wee red and black beetles copulating freely with nary a care in the world for my
 asparagus. Little buggers.  
 
Those blackberries may be the only crop we get from the allotment this year: the ground underneath the dead weeds is so hard and compacted that it broke the fork. And then the spade. Hopefully the deluge of rain that's promised for tomorrow may actually soften the ground enough for us to do something with it. 

Met the allotment neighbour - an earnest young man with a small baby and 2 allotments. He's clearly going down the self-sufficiency route, which I once considered, having fancied myself as something of a Barbara Goode. Truth (and experience) is, I'm more of a Margot Leadbetter. And I cannot warm to hens.

 

Said bent fork. Useful for picking up brambles that you've cut down. Sod all use for anything else. 
 
So the message to take away from this post is:
a) never skimp on your garden tools - a bent fork is use to neither man nor beast
b) always have your smear test
c) always know your own body and have the courage to say when something ain't right
d) don't let your boyfriend see the "What Symptoms To Watch Out For Post-Surgery" letter because he'll then use it as a running gag for the next few weeks
e) spend a really uncomfortable night sleeping on a deflated airbed the weekend before so that, honestly, the procedure was a doddle compared to waking up at 5am after a heavy night and trying to stand up in a 2 man tent. 

I am not, and never will be, a happy camper. Although the marshmallows toasted on the open fire were almost worth it. The first sip of coffee in the morning after? Definitely worth it. 

You can't see them, but there are people there too. Taken before the great marshmallow rush.

But here are a few things that have made me happy this week:
  • sea eagles are making a return to the Isle of Wight 
  • the wild tiger population is finally rising
  • the amazing pink seesaws
  • this twitter campaign
  • the museum I work for finally getting it's National Lottery Heritage Fund grant after 2 years of work, research, bid writing and trying to find match-funding
  • finally starting to learn Spanish thanks to the Language Zen app. Been meaning to for years, can't see any reason for delaying it
  • late, so late, to the Community party but loving it
  • Medieval marginalia, a small obsession of mine, on Instagram. No, that's not me. This is me.
  • My epic Saturday night Scrabble win
 Yeah, that's me on the left. I lost the next night, so we're all good.

Gathered In

Its that time of year again. The worktop by the sink is cluttered with empty jars and bottles that all need a long soak in hot soapy water b...