Sunrise and Snowdrops

Good morning! How are you doing today?

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front, but I knew it would be a busy time ahead, in our promising new abode.  My aunt said she thought we’d be all settled in by now…what were we still doing? Well, I told her, there was no bathroom light fitting, two of the sockets were burned out/cracked, four more had broken corners. The oven was full of old dribbles and matted dog fur, the previous owner had taken the shower with her. The top of the cupboards were coated in black gunk, as was the floor beneath them. The grout was filthy. The dog flap was broken so we needed a new back door panel, the bolts on the back gate didn’t work. Chunks were missing out of the plaster on several walls, the pointing above the porch is failing, some roof tiles need replacing, the gutters are blocked, one gutter leaks, the cover for the air outlet for the tumble drier was missing. The drain in the garden is broken and full of soil. The toilets didn’t flush properly, the lights in the kitchen and dining room didn’t work, and the electrical supply for the oven had to be repaired. There was a leak under the kitchen sink. One of the upstairs doors will not open without a good deal of persuasion when shut, as I discovered to my hilarious cost. The mechanisms of most of the door handles are missing. The garage door is broken. There were two conifers growing against the lounge window. The garden fence was missing panels. The paint on the ceilings is peeling. The bottom of the drive/road was so choked with leaves we didn’t initially even know there were foul water and meter covers there. The blind in one of the bedrooms fell off the wall the first time it was used. The airing cupboard door doesn’t open properly. Shall I go on? Probably not. And that’s before we’d painted the walls four times, put up shelves, hung any curtains, built any furniture, or done the usual things that people do, like go to work.

Still, it’s coming. The holy trinity of a dishwasher, a good oven and a bigger kitchen have opened up a whole new culinary adventure, we’re enjoying our newfound peace and privacy, and we adore the location. Woodpigeons sit in the trees opposite the house and serenade us with their gentle calls. Their latin name is columba palumbus (isn’t that wonderful?), but we mostly call them The Fat Chickens. They are occasionally joined by a red kite. There are quite often a few squirrels bouncing around in the branches too, and it turns out they’re especially entertaining when they’ve found a piece of fruitcake.

Some days I take a walk before work and it completely changes the way I slide into the day. Fresh air and seeing the sun come up with the animals and birds is such a joy. I saw a bullfinch for the first time, what a stunner. After twenty years in a town, this new life is heaven. Wanna see? Okay.

We’re right on the edge of the countryside…
I’m pretty sure there used to be a big ol’ oak tree there…
Yup. There she is.
Out of the murk comes the sun…and I’ve discovered a dry track to follow. Hoorah!
How can you not be glad to see a new day, fresh and full of possibility?
On the homeward path I discovered clumps of blooming snowdrops. Glorious.

I can’t wait to see what new life spring and summer will bring us. I’ll share my discoveries as they emerge. Watch this space 🙂

The Intuitive Way, and a whole lot of camping.

Well, hello! It’s been a while. I’ve taken a break from blogging – not intentionally, it’s been a strange, busy and wonderful summer, and I’ve been immersed in life. I’ve also been trying, amid the busyness, to do a little stock-taking, with the guiding hand of The Intuitive Way.

 

When I stayed at a friend’s house, I pulled it off the bookshelf for a read at bedtime. I’ve since bought three copies. I know several people who will like it…it’s thought provoking, life affirming, comforting, inspiring. Give it a try (also, dipping into your friends’ book collections).

 

So what’s been going on?

 

We camped in Shropshire. My it was a beautiful place…we had gales of laughter…we had buckets of rain…we had archery competitions and evenings around a fire pit and a blow up tent that didn’t blow up…we had a split pipe on the car…we toured Shrewsbury Prison (well worth a visit)…we admired stunning Ironbridge and learned how weak our grasp of Roman numerals is.

 

We larped. We made coats and vambraces and leg wraps and bags and cloaks and we fought undead and performed magic rituals, and ate and drank and ran around the woods in the dark, and sang songs and laughed and cried and made new friends. We went on a treasure hunt. We got muddy. We got tired. We got memories.

 

We got engaged. Whooooooohoooooooo! I didn’t take down the many congratulations cards until they got dusty…it was just so nice having them around! We’ve been given enough bubbly to launch a fleet of ships. We received hundreds of messages of love and goodwill. It’s just been amazing and wonderful and we didn’t expect it…we are so, so grateful for our friends. (Added bonus: We made limoncello and nojito for our party, which gave us a bagful of frozen lime zest to make lime cake. Yum.)

We had a day out at Rushden Lakes for a family birthday, and lunch in the lovely garden of The Wind Hover in Chapel Brampton. While my tribe were inside, I had a few minutes of pure rest in the sunshine, watching the clouds, the happy dogs and the leaves dancing in the trees. It was then that I noticed one of these signs on the adjacent corner:

 

 

 

Yes. Just that. Remember To Do That…the roller coaster of life will do its thing regardless, whether you hang on for grim death or wave your hands in the air. Give Way. Let Go. It will be okay. (I’ve been listening to Thich Naht Hahn a lot lately.)

 
We were given a day out at Wicksteed Park as a thank you for our voluntary work, and we had The Best Time with thirteen adult sized children. It’s a long time since I rode a log flume and I’ve never ever played laser quest or driven a go kart before, it was brilliant. I loved the Paratrooper. There is a point where you are going neither up nor down, and you feel completely weightless. As for the Snakes and Ladders slide…well, we couldn’t tear the grownups away from it.
 
And in between? We’ve adulted. Car insurance, MOTs, gutting the bathroom, budgeting. Laundry, dishes, this stuff doesn’t go away, so you might as well Zen it, right?
I hope you’ve had a good summer, and are enjoying the arrival of autumn and the changing colours of the goddess’s cloak. I leave you with this thought:

“Let us decide on the route that we wish to take to pass our life, and attempt to sow that route with flowers.”  Madame du Chatelet

ps. A wonderfully talented local artist is holding a fantastic exhibition of her work, if you like art and animals and find yourself in Northamptonshire I recommend you take a look. Just glorious.
 

Crazy golf, big skies and new leaves

Last weekend was a complete gift. Warm, sunny, begging to be enjoyed outside. So off we trotted to Wicksteed Park, where we played crazy golf with our friend Adam. All of us are well past the 40 mark, which might explain why the man with the clubs and balls wanted to know who would be playing. I think he was expecting kids. He was looking at them. It was really fun…made me feel ten years old again.

I’ve been waiting for a chance to get some photos of skies, for next term’s art classes. We’re going to be experimenting on a large scale and need some reference material, and yesterday provided some great opportunities to build up the photo stock.

 

Wicksteed Park Cloudy Sky

 

Yep, I think that counts as a Big Sky. There’s going to be some serious blue mixing going on.

 

Wicksteed Park Railway

 

I love the green lines emerging across the lake. Spring has sprung!

 

Wicksteed Park Alpacas

 

Popped by the new arrivals to say hello….

 

Wicksteed Park Ponies

 

and to see some old friends.

 

Wicksteed Park Blossom

 

Sunshine yellow erupting along the lakeside…

 

Wicksteed Park Willow Avenue

 

This magnificent corridor of new leaf makes me a bit giddy. You just can’t beat the feeling of sap rising and life bursting from the earth.

 

Wicksteed Park Mountain Ash

 

I can feel nature calling…”here, check this out…and you thought I was sleeping!” 🙂

 

Wicksteed Park Pine

Wicksteed Park Cherry Blossom

Wicksteed Park Pink Cherry Bloom

Wicksteed Park Boathouse and Boating Lake

 

There might be a painting in here somewhere…

 

Wicksteed Park Lake

 

Or maybe here?

I went home knowing what a pear willow and a tulip tree look like. Seriously cool, If you’re a treek like me.

Have a great week! Keep an eye out for those skies…

 

A little venture into Robin Hood Country

 

Happy Sunday! I hope you’re having a good day, whatever you’re up to.

We’ve just spent a few days celebrating Paul’s birthday in Robin Hood country. We stayed at the 18th century Forest Lodge Hotel in Edwinstowe, a charming old building with a history as an inn, fish shop and tea room, spitting distance from the magnificent Sherwood Forest with its fabulous craft centre, unspoilt woodland and of course Major Oak (reputed hidey hole of Robin Hood and his merry men).

Major Oak Sherwood Forest

 

Spectacular. This little guy followed us on our walk through the forest, serenading us 🙂

 

Sherwood Forest Birdwatching Robin

 

We loved these little houses that have been carved from tree stumps along the way.

 

Sherwood Forest Stump Treehouse

 

This chap fascinated us, trawling the trees for his supper. He’s a treecreeper – the first we’d ever seen. Treecreepers don’t sit still for long, I can tell you that.

 

Sherwood Forest Treecreeper

 

The hotel window faces St Mary’s church, the site of the church where Robin was said to have married Maid Marian, and its restaurant is sited on the original stable block – the archway for the horses remains. It’s a wonderful place to stay, with a cosy bar and glorious food for the winter evenings – perfect for a pint and a game of Quirkle or draughts. We loved it there. And look at the rather delicious birthday present we found in our room!

 

Forest Lodge Wine

 

A rather beautiful room at that.

 

Forest Lodge Buddha Room

 

If you’re in that part of the world, I’d recommend a walk at Creswell Crags.

 

Creswell Crags

 

It’s a stunning gorge and lake with an abundance of eerie and curious-looking caves.

 

Creswell Crags cave

 

We were too late for the last tour of the day after our horsey adventure with Derbyshire Pony Trekking. It’s about 30 years since I’ve ridden – we absolutely loved every second of it. Thanks to Rosie and Mr Tubbs for taking such good care of us! Oh my, did we ache later! Totally worth it. You can see four counties from this lookout point.

 

Derbyshire Pony Trekking Four Counties View

 

So it’s back to reality tomorrow…let’s see what this week has in store! There’s a monk, John Piper, a new art class project, Punch and Judy costumes, a few new recipes, a dentist appointment, some pensions paperwork and a time management book on the horizon. I’m going to need that last one.

Excavations

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a strange and eventful start to the year at NixieMade Towers. Is it me, or is there a digging theme hereabouts…

After a three week break from aikido, I was given a surprise grading. I don’t mind admitting that I grade kicking and screaming; I’m sure I can’t do it until I’ve done it. Aikido has been a huge battle with my own mind that has gone on for years, so making it to the middle grades is a massive win. At every milestone, we are asked to dig deep…

 

Aikido Orange Belt

 

I’m told I aced it. I need to remember that.

At about the same time, our neighbour’s boiler packed up. They weren’t allowed a new one because their water pressure was low. We share a supply, and ours is fine…so the problem’s on their side of the T-piece, right? Out comes a builder, who exposes the pipework and finds (a) lead pipe with (b) a leak in it. The water board are contacted…what a mission…but they can’t cope with the idea of two problems in one piece of pipe…so when they eventually send out an assessor, they send a second one at the same time. Getting them to replace the pipe was another battle. When they did, they sent four men. Yep. Four. Then the builders found the next leak (think Italian fountain), so the entire shared pipe has been dug up and replaced. Every time we talk to somebody about this another couple of hundred quid evaporates. Man plans, God laughs. Ever feel a bit like this…

 

Adrift

 

Still, life’s a long journey, the world keeps turning, and there’s always a bigger picture. I have a bit of a thing for social history and I’ve just discovered Bernard Cornwell. I’ve worked with norse runes for a while, and when we went to the St Mary’s book sale I picked up The Last Kingdom, the first in a series about the Danish occupation of England. Loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in ages, and then a talk on local archaeology came up and my geek gene got all jiggly.

I discovered that a few streets away, ancient lead coffins were unearthed in back gardens (coins had been placed on the eyes of the dead), along with Roman mosaic pieces, pottery with a woman’s name scratched into the base of some bowls, a dog skeleton, a chisel, and brooch pins. In the centre of town, underneath a charity shop, is an old smelting site – two thousand years ago a manufacturing area thrived right on our high street. We didn’t have a local mint, yet there are a lot of locally produced coins, so it looks like there were some busy forgers. A Roman sandal was found in the bottom of a well (what happened to said Roman?); there are three wells in the area that I hadn’t known about. There are pouches of coins and jewellery buried beneath our feet, safely stowed before battles and never retrieved. There are driveways that we know cover untouched artefacts, so one day who knows what else will come to light. All I know is, every time I look out on our garden, I just wonder.

And I wonder what the next few weeks will hold for us, our little lives, as the world turns and we go on…

Have a glorious day. I’m going to eat cake in my pyjames and draw pictures and watch Buffy. When it comes to adult responsibility, this house is a zero tolerance zone right now…

 

Make No. 31 – Syringe Driver Bags for Ipswich Hospital

Happy Sunday morning! How’s your weekend so far?

We had an unexpectedly lovely day out yesterday…we had only planned to stay home and get some jobs done, but when we found out there was a huge book fair going on in a stunning church nearby we couldn’t resist.

 

st-marys-church-exterior

 

st-marys-church

 

I think a separate visit to hunt down green men and gargoyles with my camera is in order soon. It was only built a century ago so I might be out of luck…but in the meantime…tea and books. Lots and lots of books. Heaven. Paul bought two, I got sixteen. Greedy girl 🙂

Next we shopped for some bits and pieces for a Halloween party next week. It was a strangely liberating experience, buying stuff to trash (don’t worry, the costumes will be re-used, my eco conscience doesn’t stretch that far). Zombiedom awaits! Then off to a housewarming party, to meet some new people, hug some old friends and giggle at kids wearing pampas grass tails and setting fire to marshmallows. Fabulous.

Today will be our day of Doing Jobs and Making Stuff. So, on to Make 31, which is in response to this appeal from Making For Charity.

We’ve had a request from the staff at Ipswich Hospital, they are in need of some syringe driver bags. if there is anyone in the area that would like to help out the address to post them is

FAO Sister Jane Mooney,
The Stour Centre, Ipswich Hospital,
Heath Road, Ipswich,
Suffolk IP4 5LS

Here goes with the first set…

 

ipswich-syringe-driver-bags

 

If you would like to learn more about the charity, or specifically syringe driver bags, you can read more at the links below.

http://makingforcharity.co.uk

http://makingforcharity.co.uk/node/340

Syringe driver bags are simple to make and it’s been touching to hear some of the happy responses from people who are going through a tough time. If you sew, or are thinking of taking up sewing, they are a wonderfully straightforward project. All straight lines, no zips or buttons. I’ve got more fabric lined up for future bags, which I will slot in between bigger makes.

Have a good Sunday!

Walk in peace.

 

Seedheads, swimming and chilling.

 

Hello good people! How’s your week going? I start a new term of art classes today. I am SO looking forward to it. There’s talk of seed heads, and later on a Victorian theme. Eeeeee. I don’t even know what a Victorian theme looks like…but I’m jumping in with both feet and a grin on my face. I love art class. It wakes up the excited kid in me.

 

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On the other end of the scale, Wunderlist has been broken since yesterday. This is very, very bad news. I may have to go back to a notebook. At least that usually gets returned to you if you write your name and phone number in it…

Today I thought I’d share some of my discoveries at swimming classes. (Paul and I signed up for adult improvers’ lessons because I want to extend my range of strokes and he “swims like a brick”.) For instance, no other activity is transferable to the pool, which is why I get so tired out, but everything achieved in the pool is transferable to other activities: fitness, breath capacity, stamina and co-ordination. I find that weird trade-off quite fascinating. Not fair, but fascinating.

Also, the more relaxed I become, and the more fluidly and confidently I am able to turn my body in the water to take a stroke or a breath, the easier it all becomes. And the easier it is, the more enjoyment I get, and the further I can go. Isn’t this like life? When we’re confident and flexible and unafraid to move forward freely, doors fly open to us. People are drawn to us and our relationships become  positive and energised. We are less stuck. We make things happen. It’s all about trust.

Finally, my teacher’s words, that have been bouncing around in my head for a couple of weeks:

“If you find you’re getting tired, you’re not breathing out enough.”

It’s top advice. Exhale!

Make it a beautiful day. Walk in peace.

 

Make no. 25: Medieval masquerade leaf masks

Well hello! Yes, I’m still alive and kicking…but what a few weeks we’ve had. Mostly good, but with a couple of hard challenges that have taken up a lot of mental energy for me. Isn’t it funny how you’re sailing along quite happily, and something monumental comes to light that upturns your boat in the space of a day. The tranquil mind is a lifetime’s work.

We’ve also had some time away, which was wonderful. We had a weekend of larp, which inspired Make 25. Our faction is very druid-like, worshipping the land and the Goddess, protecting the natural cycle and freedoms of the people. So when we were asked to bring masks to a day of the dead masquerade to honour our fallen around the campfire, my mind immediately leapt to leaves. I made four in the end, and they did look pretty cool in the firelight. I’d really like to make a coat out of leaves, and one day I will…but that will surely take a while 🙂

 

Leaf mask

 

After our weekend of drinking mead and battling undead and werewolves, we took ourselves off to a valley in Exmoor for a few days’ holiday. I hadn’t realised how beautiful that part of the world is…steep wooded valleys (how do the trees hang on? I have no idea), a wide river that ran through the campsite and on for a three mile stretch of forest with a perfectly charming tea room at the end, a gorgeous sandy beach with hundreds of rockpools, evenings giggling around the fire and more stars that we’ve ever seen before. Exmoor National Park is a dark sky reserve, the first in Europe and the second in the world. And oh my, it was breathtaking. No TV, no internet, no phones, no radio…just birds, wild ponies, deer and a silent, voluptuous landscape, resting in its magnificence. We had one day of solid rain, during which we dozed, read books, chatted, ate, dozed, read books, chatted…and the world didn’t end. Even though the most productive thing I did all day was wash the dishes 🙂 Wonderful.

So here we are back home, all recharged and filled with inspiration – and I’m still kinda behind with my 52 makes! So I’ll be catching up with them over the next few weeks, I hope you enjoy them.

Have a wonderful day. Walk in peace.

Are you a hummingbird, too?

Hello on a beautiful fresh spring morning! I hope you’ve had a lovely few days, whatever you’ve been up to. Or not! Sometimes you just have to stop, right?

Our garden is getting a makeover at the moment. It’s wonderful to see the vague ideas I’ve had rumbling around taking shape…but at the same time as I’m weeding, planting, repointing and head-scratching I feel the pull of the other things I could be doing…that colour block top needs redesigning, it’s sunny and I could be out taking pictures and having a picnic, but then the house is full of dust bunnies, and I want to learn how to make that peyote necklace, and there’s that notepad to experiment with for a friend, and we need new cushion covers and I want to carve my own stamps and …but wait, shouldn’t I just be enjoying my garden? Oh yes. So I’ll concentrate on wildflowers and trellis, right now.

I can’t do everything I want to do this instant. I haven’t even started half of the things I’d like to try, but you know what? This wonderful video makes me realise that it’s okay to be in the carnival funhouse. It’s absolutely fine. I’ll never be one of those people who has one passion and follows it in a straight line. It’s a relief to know that I’m not failing, because I’m a hummingbird, because I’m going to spend my life collecting nectar from a thousand flowers. The trick is to take it one flower at a time…so for now I’m just going to decide where the strawberries will go.

Have a wonderful day!