Monday, 26 August 2013

Summer Ritual

Our beautiful long summer stretches on. There's been a little overnight rain but mostly days have moved gently on, bathing us in sunshine, calm days and peaceful nights. It's a Bank Holiday in England today, our last until Christmas, and it's been what I can only describe as a belter!
We headed into the hills to sit with an ice cream and watch the dragonflies and housemartins dive across a beautiful pond. It was too hot to do anything else and a hot Bank Holiday is such a rare thing that it just must be savoured and every minute soaked up.
Yesterday was what we around these parts call "proper puthery". Overcast but warm as anything with the air full of thrips and gnats. And it was a day that called for blackberrying.

I've got this mad urge on me to get ready for winter during these last few weeks of balmy weather. We're having fences fixed, a new kitchen fitted (yippee!) and every cupboard in the house has been turned out. Our recycling pile is so high we're car booting to sell soon - a real novelty for us to be honest.
So after a morning turfing out broken toys and jigsaws with bits missing, my boys and me strolled over the fields to see what berry treasure we could find.
Blimey its a bountiful year for blackberries. In the pony field we walk through past the local pub, there are mounds and mounds of them, I've never seen anything like it. We were good and only took those we could reach from the path. The blackbirds, thrushes, field mice and insects must be having a banquet.
We walked on, along the tree line a field back from the canal and watched the new tank engine pull the train down the valley. This maize field is a new feature, it's too hilly for many crops around here so it was quite exciting for us to see this huge crop rolling across the fields. Pheasants and long tailed tits ran ahead of us all along the footpath.  (If any of you know Alton Towers, it's a couple of miles over that ridge on the horizon.)
Down on the canal side just typically all the best berries seemed to be on the far side of the hedge but isn't that always the way? My two helpers were so careful and luckily we don't get too badly scratched or nettled and we left lots for the wildlife too. There are tons yet to ripen as well.
As we reached the road again there was a jazz band entertaining the crowd at the pub and we treated ourselves to a well deserved ice lolly from the station café and listened a while.
It was the most perfect afternoon. My boys and me and a couple of hours of wandering and aimless chatter. Whenever I see a blackberry I will think of our special afternoon and

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Biking Through Summer

The past eight months have seen me on a bit of a journey, literally. Way back in January I bought a bike. A proper bike with lots of gears and no basket.
I started gently. Just a few flat miles once a week along the canal towpath then a steep walk up the hill to home. Slowly though things have got better and by the time the snow finally disappeared I was into double figures and out more often.

I did a few longer trail rides with my lovely friends and my biggest boy and learnt how to breathe better so my lungs didn't always feel as if they were about to jump out of my chest. And I started to go UPHILL!
Uphill scared me an awful lot. I'm unfit, approaching 40 and a bit of a weakling but if I wanted to actually get out of the village I knew I just had to do it. And slowly, gradually I got up them and I'm getting a lot further.
And I completely love it! Exercise and me have never really mixed well, apart from swimming. But even with swimming I never got that buzz that people talk about or looked forward to doing it again.
But there's something about my bike and being out that makes me smile; like a loon. It's really hard work and I'm still really unfit but I really enjoy it.  I'm out three times a week now and try to cover a hundred miles a month. July and all that scorching weather was lovely, I got up early and was out before the heat (6am one day), up and down the quiet lanes with just the birds for company, whizzing past farmyards where the cows were lining up to be milked.
 And now? Well it's all getting more serious - but in a fun way. I've joined the  brilliant Breeze Network and been out with a fantastic ride leader on the city trails, building up my strength and speed. Today we went out on our bikes as a family for the second time this summer and my biggest boy managed 10 miles along the Manifold Track.
And then my friend (who did an epic 140 mile charity ride earlier in the year) asked me a big question. Do I want to enter the Ride London 2014 ballot with her. Errm...yes please. Cripes! 

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Our boy is ten! I've no idea where on earth the last decade has disappeared to if I'm honest. Somewhere along the way I'm sure we must have skipped a year or two.
He's growing into such a caring, gentle chap with a great sense of humour, smashing company and is fascinated by all manner of things (lots of computer games admittedly at the moment!) Ten seems such an enormous landmark and I'm struggling a little when I think of how much of his childhood is already behind him.
So to help me, and hopefully him, remember what fun he's had I put together a photo collage of his first ten years and he seems pretty pleased with it. It's a lovely reminder of places and adventures we've had since that day a bundle of dark hair and the softest skin came into our world.
Thursday was the big day and he'd asked for a cinema treat, his best friend for company and a party tea. He's not the greatest eater and not really a cake fan although lemon drizzle and jam tarts go down a treat. So hence this slightly odd birthday cake but he loved it and I loved making it for him even more.

I loved dressing the house and table too. Colourful bunting, curly straws, balloon cups and windmills. This could well be the last party tea for him I'm allowed to indulge his childhood.
Happy Birthday B. Hope the next decade is just as much fun xxx

P.S. Thanks for all the lovely kind wishes for my brother-in-law. He's doing ok, still one step forward then two steps back but he'll get there. Thank you xx

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Away For A While

Well, since I moaned and groaned about the weather on that last post, things have sort of moved on a bit!

There has finally been a summer in Britain - the first decent one for years and years and I have been out there enjoying every minute, no time to blog. Sports days, gardening, tea on the patio and long evening bike rides filled every minute I've not been at work.

And then suddenly life sped up here and it was difficult to keep up. We've had some tough family stuff to deal with, Woody's brother is seriously ill and there have been long distance trips to hospital to see him. Luckily it could have been so much worse although his recovery will take many months, but he is with us and coping manfully and we are very grateful. He will be in hospital for many more weeks and we still don't know the outcome so there is still much to worry about.

The whole situation made us re-examine things and our planned holiday to the West Country, that we couldn't logistically make, went by the wayside. But when we knew P was stable and in between surgeries for a while, Woody decided we should grab life while we could and escape to the sun for a few days.

Swimming in the sea, eating good fun and just spending time watching the world go by in one of our most favourite places has been completely wonderful. Tamariu is one of the happiest places I know and we had such a fantastic time there last summer we were really happy to be back for a short while.

Technology brilliantly kept us in touch with everyone and Woody and his big brother have talked more in the past few days and weeks than they have in years, which is a very nice thing. We came home yesterday and Woody is up in Cumbria visiting today to watch the cricket with P on the hospital telly and keep him company.

So these pictures tell a whole extra story of not just getting away, but living life to the full while you can, relishing the summer and being glad that there may be a happy ending out there on the horizon somewhere, whenever it may come.