Yesterday was my birthday. And, as usual, I took myself off for the morning and visited Hebden Bridge. It was a bit of a pain getting there: sheep in the road (there are always sheep in the road), slow-moving tractors and so on. But get there I did.
I didn't take my camera though. And I should have. So many things to photograph, so many missed opportunities... beds full of purple alliums, trees heavy with blossom, rows of terraces with names like 'Thistle Bottom', 'Groudle Glen' and 'Woodland Dell'.
So instead you have some pictures of our activities these past few weeks, and the May loveliness that's blooming away and perfuming our woodland walks.
Yes, so - Hebden Bridge. We visited a fortnight or so ago. Joe was being a nuisance so I decided to return alone on my birthday for a mooch around in peace, and perhaps to spend some birthday money. But when it came to it, I didn't really feel in the mood. I did, of course, buy Joe something (three books, to be exact). But after an hour and a bit of wandering around, admiring the lovely shops and topping up my vitamin D levels, I headed back home.
I did, however, meet up with two of my best friends in the village cafe for lunch. Turned out to be a bit of a panic as I suddenly decided to call in at Ramsbottom beforehand and look in the clothes shop there. And yes, I spent my birthday money. Just like that. On a Seasalt raincoat.
I already have one like this, purchased two (or was it three?) birthdays ago. But there's always room for more outdoor clothing in my wardrobe. And I tend to buy the one expensive thing which I wouldn't normally treat myself to at any other time of the year. I go for quality and know it'll last. This particular coat has a lifetime guarantee which is reassuring.
Birthday money gone (it never hangs around), I ate lunch with my lovely friends who had kindly clubbed together and treated me to a voucher for an aromatherapy massage - I can't wait for that - before going to collect Joe from school.
We ate chocolate and biscuits together in the kitchen and I decided that my birthday had been very nice indeed, if a bit hectic. I suspect a lie-in, a daytime bath and the chance to lounge around with a book all afternoon will happen on a future 18th of May.
I have been spoilt though. Another lunch last Saturday, lovely gifts, cards and well wishes. It's hard when I think of spending these special times with my mum so I like to imagine she's around somewhere, keeping an eye on proceedings and perhaps guiding me over that sheep-bothered moor road.
So I'm now 42. It looks older on paper (or screen) than I feel inside. I'm still the same person as I was twenty (twenty five?) years ago. Older, a little bit wiser, definitely more tired, but still as confused and silly. In a good way.
I did go out for a very brisk walk this morning though. In the spirit of taking care of myself and all that. I felt so virtuous that after lunch I finished my birthday chocolate off. Like I said, only a little bit wiser.
This picture makes me laugh. Not because Joe's cute (he is) but because the farmer next door had to wave back. Said farmer isn't the friendliest. But you'd have to be a real misery to ignore a disarmingly smiley four-year-old.
I've been a little bit absent lately, at least in an online capacity. Ironically enough it's online stuff that's been keeping me busy. I'm currently doing battle with Squarespace and Squarespace is winning. It's taking a lot of stubbornness to keep going, but I'm determined to build a new blog.
It doesn't help that everyone I mention it to says how easy Squarespace is to master. But my graphic designer friend came over the other morning and was just as bewildered as me so that somehow made me feel a bit better. In other words, I'm not thick. Just digitally challenged.
So the constant tinkering and experimenting has eaten up a lot of my non-Joe time. Which means not much blogging or Instagramming action.
Still, it's May.
So plenty of bank holiday stuff going on (mainly walks); we've stayed local and wandered through the woods and near the river. We sometimes take a packed lunch or Joe's bike with us. It's heartening to see everything becoming very green.
I just wish these winds would die down. Blue skies, bright sunshine and it would be warm were it not for the constant blasting of chilly air. The washing's getting whipped off the line. Bins are being blown over.
So, what's in the miscellany?
Books. I've just read Secrets of the Sea House by Elizabeth Gifford. Quite timely as we're off to the Hebrides again in three weeks. I loved the folklore and the way it switched back and forth from current day to the 1860s.
And now I'm onto Alexander McCall Smith's The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine. The next in the series, Precious and Grace, is already waiting on the bedside table (which is, in actual fact, an old chair). And I'm also dipping in and out of The Sleepyhead's Bedside Companion by Sean Coughlan. It's great; lots of little facts and bits of history about all things sleep-related. His style of writing is light and humorous so nothing too challenging late in the evening.
All were found at my local library. I love that place. And I was so pleased to see there's a move away from e-books back to actual physical ones.
Television. I recently discovered Versailles and am completely addicted to it. Praise be for catch-up T.V. We're also watching Second Chance Summer: Tuscany - it seems that BBC2 is the current favourite around here.
Travels. I went up to the outskirts of Bradford a few weeks ago, to meet up with Susanna who runs this beautiful online shop. We first met last summer at the Gather.Harvest.Feast. event in the North East and we're doing a little bit of something together later in the summer.
We had lunch and a wander around Salt's Mill, Saltaire. I've always wanted to visit and it's only an hour's drive away. It's a fantastic place, particularly if you're a creative type, and I really want to go back and explore the village. Joe would love it - there's a train station - and the architecture looks so imposing. The cobbled roads, the quaintly-named streets with their blue and white signs, the little independent shops...
Eating. A bit too much. I actually emptied half a jar of Nutella into the bin this morning. Joe (inexplicably) doesn't like it, whereas I do. A lot. There's still chocolate stashed everywhere from Easter and whilst I won't eat anything bought for Joe, anything else is up for grabs. Hence the bin episode. If there's anything tasty and unhealthy knocking around I'm all over it.
And in the spirit of stating the obvious: fat-free yogurt isn't a patch on the creamy, full-fat Greek stuff. Frozen berries without honey drizzled on are squint-makingly sour. And so on. Being virtuous isn't enjoyable.
Work. Other than my ongoing Squarespace nightmare, I do have other things on the go. It's plant pressing season. The hedgerows are getting very dense and I'm collecting and squashing like there's no tomorrow. Once I've got plenty of stuff stored I know I can make prints throughout the year.
I've been writing pieces for Creative Countryside and This is Your Kingdom. There are line drawings and sketches to be done, social media updates, bits of admin. My online shop needs updating. Which means more product photography. And I need to do a lot of making.
In fact, I'm considering going to this in the hope of getting myself going creatively again.
So, that confession.
I dyed my hair. After several months of growing the colour our, of watching the grey appear - well, I got tired of it. Because it was taking ages. Because the condition felt rubbish. And because the little flyaways, all silver and pale on top of the (natural) dark brunette underneath, were making me resemble a crazy cat lady.
So I bought some dye. A shade too dark, as it turns out. That necessitated a 7am trip to the supermarket for a bottle of Head and Shoulders (which, apparently, lightens things if you've gone a bit too far over to the dark side). In case you're wondering: it doesn't work.
Joe, however, was delighted to be out food shopping before school. Especially when he got to choose chocolate brioche rolls for breakfast.
I'm back to brown again. I have to say, despite the iffy shade, my hair feels much sleeker and softer. Probably something to do with nasty chemicals so moving swiftly on: that horrid, demonic doll peering out of an empty house (above) the other day scared the living daylights out of me.
I do like her hair though. It's what I was going for in the first place. How come she managed it and I didn't?