New Roots

Good morning! I hope life is treating you well. Here we are deep in the heart of spring, and we’re having a fine old time at Nixiemade Towers. Here’s what’s been happening…

I’ve joined One Year No Beer and I’m happy to say it’s been very easy to swap out the evening wine habit. My only moment of temptation came during a particularly stinky migraine on Monday, which was probably caused by a very long gap between meals. I slept, I ate an inadvisable amount of crisps and I took myself for a walk to admire what the woods and fields had to offer. There is nothing like clean air and birdsong to lift the spirits.

We have sunflowers and courgettes on the way, a blowsy hanging basket and a senetti to greet us at the front door, and a new brigade of bedding plants admirably doing their thing. I’d not been a big flower grower in the past. I’m converted.

I found a big pile of cuttings that someone had left in the pocket park and took home some goat willow. They’ve taken, and they’re flowering! Even a stray sprig of basil has enthusiastically taken root. This world is full of little wonders.

And so to another sea change. We have a wedding to plan, it is true, and in the meantime I’m pursuing an unexpected diversion in career. It’s a little like rolling down a hill very fast….I can’t change the speed of travel but I can sure as hell do something about the direction I’m going in. Another germination is taking place….new roots. Exciting times. And time is what it’s all about, in the end – doing what is right for you, even if it’s difficult, while we have the time.

Have a wonderful day, and make it yours.

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 🙂

Just ridiculous.

Good morning reader, I hope you’re fit and well on a crisp and frosty English day here at Nixiemade Mansions. I say mansion…because finally, eventually, after a year of long hard fight, we’ve moved! Whoohoo!

Nixiemade has taken a back seat this year while we wrestled with lenders, solicitors, estate agents, endless hours on Rightmove and mounds of paperwork. After giving and taking lots of viewings we lost a property, we lost our buyer, we found a property, we found a buyer, I ate a lot of Solicitor Chips, we packed for months on end. Just ridiculous. But we did it.

And now we’re in. I won’t say the work is over – the lady we bought the house from didn’t like cleaning, and there is much that needs attention, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel in our slightly unloved four walls, with so much potential, so we’re happy. We’ve swapped town traffic for trees, background noise for birds, hustle and bustle for tranquility. I’d like the last box unpacked before Christmas. We can do this.

So I may drop in with news from time to time, and who knows, maybe there’ll be a little more in the new year with some Actual Making (remember that?). I’ll leave you with a quote from Seth Godin which kept me afloat when things got choppy.

“A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”

ps. One of the companies we notified of our move will only send a change of address form to the old address. Is it just me?

 

A Buddhist breakdown

Hello again! How are you doing? I hope the world is treating you well on this glorious summer evening.

Life on our square patch is lively at the moment, in a hurry-up-and-wait sorta way. We’re still a bit up in the air with house sale/purchase shenanigans. We’ve had a bit of a plot twist when our seller pulled out…but it’ll all work out fine. Visualise, visualise, visualise. We’ll be in a better place before long, in every sense.

Today I’m going to share a story from a few weeks ago. I was privileged to attend a few days’ sessions by Gen Kelsang Dornying, a Buddhist monk living in Australia who travels and teaches. It was a really profound and humbling time for me and turned a lot of my preconceptions about my mind around. Turned my head on its head, you might say…

After the final teaching had finished, I drove home along a fast-moving busy dual carriageway. My car began to lose power intermittently. Odd, I thought, it hasn’t done that before. Then it lost power completely. A lay-by was in sight and I prayed I’d be able to coast that far. Please, please, just a little further. My little car just made it. Firstly, I was safely off the main carriageway. Secondly, it was much less obvious once I was parked that I was a lone woman with an engine issue. Grateful.

I don’t mind admitting that I would normally expect to have a bit of a wobble about now. I don’t know a lot about cars. My fiance’s car was in the garage so I couldn’t call him out. I could phone the breakdown people and sit for an indeterminate amount of time in the hot sun waiting, hoping nobody ill-intentioned approached me. What did I do? I breathed. I sat and I breathed and I summoned the same feeling I’d had in the meditations and teachings. I opened my eyes, I noticed that the temperature gauge was in the red. I looked in my coolant reservoir (empty). I read the manual, mixed some water and coolant, waited for the engine to cool, filled it up, and…I got home absolutely fine. Not only that, because I was taking my time to avoid overheating, I let three people onto the dual carriageway and told a guy in town that his petrol cap was undone, so my trip basically consisted of people thanking me. I walking into the house giggling.

So what they say is true. A difficulty doesn’t have a problem; just remember to breathe…slow down to avoid overheating. You might even make someone happy along the way.

(It turns out my car had a hole in the hose, by the way. We’re all good now.)

 

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.

Fallow January and the fruits of Imbolc

Hey! How’s life treating you?

We’re settling into a routine after all the hoo-hah last month with builders and pipes and other unappealing problems, I’m happy to say. In hindsight, I think it was a good time to implement Fallow January.

What’s Fallow January? Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s my decision to have a month off from normal life, from now until forever. I used to be swept up in the New Year, New You, make some resolutions, get cracking, sort out your life kinda talk. Well, it just doesn’t work in the long run (for me anyway) so I’ve decided to take my lead from the trees, this January and every one from now on. Get off the merry-go-round, allow ideas to percolate, wrap up warm, read, drink tea and talk to friends. I still have to go to work and we have all the usual household business to attend to, but the non-essentials? Let them wait. Rest. While I’m at it, I’m cancelling most of December too. With the best will in the world, I always get behind with Christmas and birthday preparations so we might as well be realistic. December is now officially about baking, giftwrap, festive films and sparkle. Excellent. A ten month year has a certain pleasing quality, wouldn’t you say?

The close of Fallow January falls in line with Imbolc. The pagan new year comes in early February, when the sap is rising and we are starting to feel the first surges of light and growth. I think it makes much more sense to start the year as the earth wakes. We had a beautiful little celebration; candles and evergreens, salt and incense, water and written intentions that we planted in the garden. And so the next cycle begins, and I feel clear-headed and ready for it. Plans are afoot. Let’s get to work. Starting with a new wardrobe for these guys…

 

Wicksteed Park Punch And Judy Puppets

 

…because I’ve started volunteering at Wicksteed Park, where it’s not just about litter picking and directing traffic. Oh, no. There’s a world of adventures there for my creative development, in a land full of trees (which I truly love) and a programme to develop local and traditional craft skills (which I truly love). Watch this space! It’s going to be a fascinating year!

 

 

 

 

 

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…