Monday, 18 August 2014

Hill and Dale

On a warm summer's afternoon there can't be many more lovelier places in England than Dovedale to wander a while, dip your toes in the water and breathe. Coming here is all about the stepping stones, crossing the Dove, forwards and back, if they're not underwater.

It does mean it can be a pretty busy place to be, something I always forget. But you can see why. It must be a favourite place for so many people for miles around. We all share it, this magical dale. 
Our smallest boy is fast becoming an adventurer. There he is, scrabbling halfway up the hillside with his dad. "On my birthday can I climb a really, big hill?" he asked. Living here almost everything is uphill so at the weekend we'll be celebrating our exploring eight year old''s special day, somewhere up high, having fun. x

Saturday, 9 August 2014

On the Turn

It's that moment in the garden now when you can sense everything tipping over from high summer into late.

I love the languid feel of August when hot colours fill the pots, everything has reached for the skies and our view is seen now through a swaying, elegant trellis swamped by butterflies and bees.

I don't use any pesticides in my garden so what gets lost to slugs and snails, is made up for by the whole range of wildlife visitors from our little ecosystem. 

There are insects galore, frogs and toads, a snuffling hedgehog, Mr Mole, house martins nesting above the bedroom window, all sorts of bird life, bats that flit around the birch tree at dusk, a buzzard family soar high overhead and a glorious, menacing sparrowhawk swoops low on occasion.

It's a precious space to us and I'm enjoying watching the changes day by day as we slide into summer's end and wait for Autum's glory to come x

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A tangle of memories

Sometimes you come across a treasure hidden in a junk shop, at a flea market or on a charity stall that really speaks to you.

I popped into town at lunchtime today, dodging the showers to catch some fresh air, not really intending to shop when I came across such a thing.

Hanging on a tangled stand in a charity shop was this beauty. Weighty, gloriously tactile with a carved wooden hook (although it looks like bone it isn't) to fasten it and the colour of deepest coral I knew this lovely necklace would be mine as soon as I saw it.
Just £3 and it is a wonderful thing. The type of jewellery that as a young girl I thought I might wear when I got to *almost* forty. 

It's what I'd call "art teacher" jewellery, worn by the type of creative, inspiring teachers I had at school. The sort of woman confident wearing prints, with a colourful home full of trailing plants, great art and interesting conversation. I wonder if a woman like that really did wear it once? (Maybe she hated it though and that's why it's in a charity shop!)
I'm no art teacher and I'm not wholly sure why I identified with people like that rather than the fashionistas etc, but i did and I love my new/old necklace. Wearing it reminds me of the aspirations I had as a teenager, reminds me to try and be happy in my own skin and despite the daily grind, to enjoy being creative whenever I can x

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Back Home

I love holidays. July, the midway point of the year and all the end of term madness leaves me strung out and desperate for a break, a rest for a while. But coming home is great. I love a little wander around the house, saying hello to all our things, enjoying the prints, paintings and pottery I've collected and the patterns and colour are always such a surprise after the plain walls of a holiday apartment. 
Before the bags are unpacked I'm out in the garden, dead heading and picking a posy for the house to welcome us home. Just one honeysuckle bloom in this little jug has filled the whole sitting room with the scent of summer.

I needed to do a food shop dash to stock us up with essentials after my first day back in the office and couldn't resist these rusty gladioli for less than £2. I haven't seen this shade before and I'm really enjoying the statuesque glamour they bring to the mantle piece. Like most homes our mantle piece is a place to display some special treasures. There's a photo of Woody and me at my sister's royal wedding street party a couple of years ago and a tiny, knitted cottage brooch I love too much to wear. I adore it but have forgotten where I ordered it from so if anyone recognises it please let me know!

The clock is nothing special and replaced a lovely old 1930s dark wooden one that I need to get repaired because it loses time so much. It perches on colourful copies of Tom Brown's School Days and The New Weekend Book I bought in a charity shop for their fantastic covers. The green candlesticks are Royal Doulton, picked up for pennies from the Collector's Market and always have red candles in at Christmas.
Woody is a fan of agate and we have polished stones in different shapes and colours, even some bookends and I really like this smooth, marbled ball. The jug on the right is Polish pottery and was a birthday present from my lovely sister and is one of my very favourite things. 

I grew up with a shelf of Observer books and loved to unwrap them and see their hidden colourful covers. My few of my favourites sit on the shelf here and remind me of my mum and dad and everything they've taught me about wildlife, the sea and the countryside. And there are always cards too, special ones I can't bear to take down that slowly rotate through the year.

And you can't quite see it behind the jug but there's a nursery portrait of our boys when they were tiny wearing fair isle tank tops they'll hate me for one day but their mummy will always love. xx

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

La Dolce Vita

I've never been the best traveller. Too nervous, too worried about doing the wrong thing. Far too English. But this year I was brave and stuck with Woody's idea to go somewhere new. How glad I am.

In darkest January we stumbled across a feature in the paper about cheaper places in Europe for family holidays and saw an amazing picture of these cliff top townhouses and the most amazing beach at Tropea, Calabria in the most southern tip of Italy.
We stayed in a cosy attic apartment just out of town with wonderful views of the sea, the harbour and town itself, and spent our days swimming in crystal waters and our evenings wandering  magical, fairytale streets of hidden squares and alleyway restaurants.

Our money was exceptionally tight so we bought beautiful vegetables, delicious cheeses and fresh fish (squid one day) from the morning markets and had a feast every evening as the sun went down before walking back into town for an ice cream treat.

We met some lovely, lovely people and everywhere, so many friendly faces despite our terrible Italian.
We made precious memories this week the four of us together, laughing, relaxing (some squabbling inevitably!) that will last forever. One day I'm sure we will be back xx

Monday, 7 July 2014

Vive le Tour!

We were there. We couldn't not be; not this house of cycling nuts. To see the Tour de France pass over the hills just an hour from home, across landscapes we know so well, of course we had to be there.

Everyone on the poetically named Cote de Bradfield yesterday was in such fabulous spirits. We met some lovely people, kind and generous people who gave out chalks to the kids to #maketheirmark on the road, a nice chap who shared his radio so we could all follow the race and some properly funny types who made the waiting all part of the brilliant experience.

Well done Yorkshire, well done to all the organisers,well done to everyone behind three brilliant days. Thanks ever so much. You made our summer xxx

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

And I Walked 500 Miles (well only 20 but...)

I'm not one for epic challenges really. Taking up running this year I've got to admit has been a really Herculean task. I've always been on the other side of that life-defining fence, you know the one you discover at school which puts you either on the sporty or non-sporty side. You can guess what side I was on. And for most of my life, until very recently, I assumed that was the natural order of things and always would be.

I am curvy, asthmatic, completely uncoordinated, so always agreed with that perception that being fast, strong, having endurance etc was a state I just wasn't destined to achieve in life. I'm not blaming anyone, I just did other things instead like helping a friend exercise her horse, swimming in an enthusiastic but really rubbish synchronised swimming team and enjoyed watching hours and hours of cricket (honestly I do love it). 

Last year I got a bike and things began to change. For the first time ever I got that "buzz" thing energetic people talk about. It was hard, but enjoyable. I made some lovely cycling friends and it began to dawn that you didn't have to treat it as a sport or physical torture. I could take myself over that fence all by myself. If I only tried. I didn't need to be picked for a team (something that never happened to be honest!). I could just have a go.

So the running began. Very slowly but I've kept at it with my eye on our trip to Italy this summer and things working. My waist is a remarkable 8 inches smaller, just by eating a bit more mindfully and moving more. People keep asking when I will do a race, 10k? Half marathon? But they're not for me. I admit I shirk from challenges. They loom terrifyingly and put me off, I'd rather just keep on plodding. 

Then Helen rang me. I love her to bits. She's the sort of lovely friend you can't say no to. So when she asked me to join a 20mile walk with her and some friends for Breast Cancer Care, I agreed straight away, forgetting that I just don't do this sort thing.

But I'm really glad I did! On Saturday we met at the glorious Chatsworth House and walked literally uphill and down dale in fabulous sunshine across some of the most astounding landscapes in Britain. It made me emotional, glad to be alive, chuffed to be part of something so powerful. 600 women took part (plus Helen's two border collies) and every time we crested a hill, that snaking line of bright pink bodies pulled us on and on.

But blimey it was hard. After four hours of Helen and I talking the hind legs off each other as we walked, my legs, (well hips), suddenly gave up. I'm fitter but not fit yet and haven't ever walked more than about 12 miles before. After the 11th hilly mile the pain leapt on me and all I could do was hobble. Only half way...another Herculean task. There was no question of giving up. People with breast cancer have no choice but to face the pain head on - get walking Steph!

So I did. Poor Helen, I went very quiet and stopped taking photos (see that's how bad it was!). But she did an amazing job keeping me going, so did the darling dogs who pulled me up the hills I swear.

And we made it, upright and in one piece, just about inside our eight hour estimate (this is us with our friend Catherine who finished miles ahead with some other friends). I can't believe it, can't believe I even enjoyed it. So that old thing about mind over matter is really true. Being on the verge of 40 helps too. I just don't care anymore and I finally feel a little more confident in myself to just have a go.

I've learned a big lesson and surprised myself. How about you? Surprised yourself lately? I'd love to know x