Monday, 20 June 2016

Monday miscellany

This is a bit of a throwback to my old 'Midweek miscellany' posts, I suppose. And the blue of those forget-me-nots matches my current mood. It's wet and chilly and the house is so gloomy under all these clouds.

Joe's really pushing my buttons too. He's becoming so argumentative (usually in public) and very wilful. Preschool reassured me today (after witnessing a massive strop) that he's just 'expressing himself'. I waited until I dropped him off and reached the car before expressing myself - quite swearily. If that's not a real word, it should be.

We've actually had an OK week other than storms of the meteorological and metaphorical kind. A ride on the steam train, complete with packed lunch (his grandparents couldn't make it over on Friday and he was really upset, so we had a day out).

I escaped for a cup of tea and a slice of cake on Thursday, as we had a joiner in to finish some jobs. Joe was in preschool and I fancied a bit of a breather so I visited our local museum and wandered around the raised beds with my camera before holing up in the cafe with a book.

We now have a mantelpiece. Jay actually put that up. It's an old piece of wood I spotted in my stepdad's garage which had been on his boat for years. He kindly sanded it and cut it to size and now I can faff and arrange things to my heart's content.

I've been buying so many good things to eat lately. I'm gluten-free and have recently cut out dairy too. I'm not sure whether it's that or a supplement I'm taking, but the brain fog which has plagued me for years has gone. I feel clear and sharp-minded (well, almost) and don't feel like going to sleep all day long.

I do still eat meat (mainly chicken) and fish. But there are a lot of fruits and vegetables in the house. Joe's mad on podding peas. I'm buying nectarines, apricots and strawberries. And one of my favourite things about this time of year: cherries at the market. Handfuls of them to bring home and scoff.

Yesterday we headed over to Cheshire to collect some plants from our friend who has a nursery. We drove home with a car full of dahlias and cosmos, poppies and geraniums. He gave us some empty hanging baskets too and plenty of things to plant them up with. 

We pottered about in the garden until the rain started to come down. Jay took Joe indoors but I just put my coat on and carried on. Rain in June isn't necessarily a bad thing. It saved us a lot of watering in too.

I tried taking a few pictures around the house but it really is dark. 

We'll be breaking out the white emulsion before summer ends. The pale grey/green is nice but realistically a low-ceilinged cottage in this part of the world needs a blast of brightness. 

You can just see the old book case I finally painted pink. It could do with taking outside once the weather picks up and I'll 'distress' it a bit. (The bird box in the photo near the top of the post is painted in the yellow paint I was so excited about a month or so back).

School preparations continue apace. We already have some bits of uniform ready and waiting (P.E. kit mainly) and this afternoon I'll be taking Joe to playgroup, which is held in the school. The reception class teacher is going to meet all those due to start in September, and they'll get to go and see the classroom. 

I will probably drink tea with the other mums and enjoy the peace for a very short time.

The dill in the photo below was growing at the museum the other day. I have loads of it in little pots, grown from seed, that needs planting out. Another garden job waiting for the rain to clear.

Strange how on Thursday afternoon we were eating ice cream in the park and then by weekend we were back to jumpers and socks. I'm hoping that by the time the summer holidays begin it'll brighten (and warm) up.

And right now it's time to go and collect Joe. I'll probably walk down the lane and see how the hedgerow's changed over the past few weeks, take a deep breath and see what crazy mood he's in when I arrive. Wish me luck...

Have a great week.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Our favourite haunt

Thank you for your comments on mt last post. I'll share more pictures, perhaps at the end of the month, but for now: something a bit closer to home. Around 440 miles closer.

The summer holidays will be here soon. Cue a mild panic about how to entertain Joe every day for six weeks. Crossing fingers for good weather, feeling grateful that we have the school garden to take care of with its play area and nice secure fences.

Joe's currently at preschool for 15 hours a week. It's divided into two days of 9am until 3pm, and a Monday morning. The rest of the time we're together.

We have regular activities: Monday afternoon playgroup at the village school, Tuesday morning get-togethers with my friends and their little ones. I like routine and often I feel a bit like a P.A. to a three-year-old, running his diary and organising his social schedule.

We do the local cafe on a Wednesday after preschool, the library on a Thursday. But some of the best times are when we just have a slow morning, a bit of time in the garden, a walk through the fields.

Somewhere we visit a lot: the little churchyard across the road. It's safe for him to run about and it's a very pretty place. Telling people I like to hang out with my preschooler in a graveyard sounds a bit odd, hence my use of the word 'churchyard'.

We invariably go in through the lych gate and Joe immediately runs off ahead to collect dandelions and daisies (the latter for chain-making). I take photographs and admire the carefully-tended flower beds around the church.

There are lots of wildflowers; right now we have buttercups and vetch, cuckoo flowers and sorrel. I sometimes collect a few to take home for printmaking.

We sit on the bench (Joe has a favourite. He's very into order and exactness at the moment) and talk and I sneak cuddles from him.

Last week we took paper and crayons for making rubbings. He opted to draw spaceships instead.

On the way home we stop off at the farm to buy eggs and get a lolly (yellow) from the sweetie jar. And that always means scrambled eggs with ketchup for tea.

I do love a good churchyard. I often seek them out if we visit somewhere new. They're perhaps even better savoured alone. I like reading the headstones and their inscriptions. Some are sad, like war graves or those belonging to children. And those long-forgotten resting places, covered in lichen and moss. I like the peace and quiet, the trees and and birdsong and the overgrown corners.

With a little one they're somewhere to explore, to share stories. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Holiday postcards: Skye

We've been back from our holiday on Skye for almost a week now, and I'm well aware I'm behind with posting. So many photos (these are just a small selection; I haven't included any from a beautiful forest walk, a trip to Waternish, a visit to Dunvegan Castle or a day taking in delights such as the Fairy Pools).

It's also been a busy time. My work is taking off and while that's a good thing, I'm still trying to figure out how to best use my time. But more on that another day. Here's a snapshot or twenty of a week in the Inner Hebrides.

We stopped at Crianlarich overnight as the journey's such a long one. Lots of mist and a lovely host. He insisted on not charging us for our wonderful breakfast the following morning.

We were blessed with beautiful weather all week too. And our little cottage didn't disappoint either.

It's been in the same family for forty years and they use it for their own holidays. You can tell. It had a homely feel to it - no sleek, impersonal hotel stuff here. 

Yes, I'm now coveting a rocking chair. And thinking we should replace the sheepskin we used to have.

The garden wrapped around the cottage and descended steeply up at the back, giving us views of the sea and mountains. It was filled with bluebells, violets and cow parley. The fence had a stile where you could climb over to the moors beyond.

Joe's room had three beds. I'm also coveting cabin beds and matchboard panelling. And I fell a little bit in love with the seashell wall decoration which was in our room.

It was so peaceful; the roads are very quiet, often single-track with passing places. Every other house sells eggs. And sheep wander freely. There were lots of lambs too.

There are quite strict planning rules on the island, so most houses are only single storey or one-and-a-half floors high. I saw several Grand Designs-type dwellings, timber-clad and minimalist and probably eco-friendly. 

We didn't want for anything. And although the weather was warm we did light a fire one evening (at Joe's request).

The landscape is really varied; huge mountains, bleak and remote areas and green fields and sheltered beaches.

I hadn't expected Skye to be quite so big. We stayed in the far north-west of the island, which necessitated long drives if we wanted to go and visit places we'd read about. The roads are very narrow and winding, so 'as the crow flies' isn't really an option.

But why would you want that when the scenery is so spectacular?

The picture above, by the way, shows the view from our front gate. I had a read of the visitor's book and was glad I did. I learned that the track led down to a little private cove where we spent a morning beachcombing. Yes, I came home with two skulls. But we also saw a sea eagle while we were down there. 

We haven't made any secret of the fact that we want to move to Scotland in the next few years. Is Skye an option? Maybe.

The people are really friendly and welcoming. And it's a very creative place - galleries are dotted about all over the island. Some are clustered together. The pace of life is much slower, property is very reasonably-priced. Yes, there are very few shops. One high school serves the whole of Skye.

But Joe loved it. A great place to grow up. Yet it has an ageing population. One school we saw has a total of five pupils; another had closed down a few years ago due to lack of intake. Realistically it could be unfair to take an only child to live somewhere with not that many playmates.

Still, enough of the pondering.

I can confirm that there's very good ice cream to be had.

And beaches which look like a page from a Mediterranean holiday brochure.

There are little islands everywhere along the shore, some with seals basking on them. We had a cuckoo in the garden and Highland cattle down the road.

Gorse everywhere.

Lighthouses and pine forests, harbours and castles.

We did some touristy things and visited the main town too. But mostly we just explored and meandered and slowed down.

I have so many other pictures of Skye. Some are really beautiful.

Maybe I'll share some in a 'looking back at June' type of post.

Of course, I bought a few things. I tend to follow my mum's tradition of buying presents for the house when I go on holiday, so we came away with a few prints (one from here) and a little ceramic crofter's cottage. And some undyed wool which I'm currently knitting with.

And no end of seashells, pebbles and stems of cotton grass. Again, perhaps another post...

Thank you for reading. It's a long one this time!

I'm looking forward to catching up with my favourite blogs. This evening I have to mount and package lots of prints (which I spent yesterday making) ready to take to the Lake District gallery on Saturday. 

Perhaps on Sunday we can take things a bit easier. Because you know that a holiday with a three-year-old isn't really about relaxing, is it?

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