In a Vase on Monday: for Gill

I spent the glorious-weather days of this Saturday and Sunday reacquainting myself with the garden – hello tulips, oh, I’d forgotten I’d planted you, hello geums, you’re about to flower, ooh you lovely pear blossom… Anyone else talk to their plants? Goodness me, I had forgotten just how much I LOVE my garden, being out there, deep in the foliage, weeding, cutting back, pottering and how GOOD it feels (particularly now, in these extraordinary and sad times). It’s been a long, long wet winter but two days outside in the warm spring sunshine up to my shoulders in plants has done me the power of good.

Today has been cloudy and cold, with a strong wind and not conducive to spending hours in the borders, but I did have a wander and collected a few treasures so that I could join Cathy for a Monday vase. Four different varieties of tulip (‘Queen of Night’, ‘Sarah Raven’, ‘Ballerina’ and a violet-purple one whose name I can’t recall), some bluebells from the bottom of the garden, Cerinthe major (overwintered), Erigeron karvinskianus, which is coming into flower on the steps and walls, and some Heuchera leaves.

I also took a few photos while I was in the garden to give you a flavour of what’s going on out there. Look at that orange tulip with the forget-me-nots – I’m fairly sure it’s a ‘Hermitage Double’; there aren’t enough to pick for a vase so I have made a note to plant more for next year. Always more tulips 🙂

My vase today and these photos are especially for my dear friend Gill whose mum very sadly died on Friday (she is very much in my thoughts), and for my mum and my mother-in law who can’t come to and see the spring flowers this year…

We have three pear trees – an old established one in the back garden and two young ones in the mini orchard in the front garden. All three are covered in blossom so I think/hope it’s going to be a bumper pear year this year.

I hope you are finding ways to cope at the moment. Many eminent gardeners have written expansively on the therapeutic effects of plants and the very act of immersing oneself in the act of gardening – it is calming, healing and restorative,  and it helps us look forwards to the days to come and all the beauty and good times ahead. If you’re reading my blog, the chances are that you know this already 🙂

With love  xx

In a Vase on Monday: sustenance

Being able to pick a few orange and blue flowers from the garden to arrange together makes me inordinately happy – there’s something about this particular colour combination that speaks to me. I know that sounds daft, but I just love it, always have. While I was taking these photos, my daughter was watching me (giving me one of those looks that only a 16-year-old can give her mother) and ignoring my enthusiastic suggestion to “Look! Look at these flowers – see how gorgeous these little forget-me-nots are and the colour against the orange marigolds and the tulip – just look!” Oh well. I suppose appreciating these little wonders isn’t for everyone.

Flowers in the small green jug: marigolds, wallflowers and forget-me-nots.
Flowers in the apple jar: cherry blossom (the big blowsy tree in our back garden is just coming into bloom), more forget-me-nots, grape hyacinths, more wallflowers and one sweet-smelling ‘Brown Sugar’ tulip. I’m not there yet with my dream of being able to pick armfuls of tulips but there are more coming into flower, so I hope to have a few more for vases soon.

It is a great pleasure to be joining Cathy’s weekly Monday vase gathering today – I have a day off because I worked on Saturday and I’m trying to make the most of it. My three offspring actually all got up this morning (the middle one hasn’t seen many mornings since school shut) and joined me for a dog walk to the lighthouse through the wooded valley and home again, which was a real tonic. My other plans include some pottering in the garden – there is a lot to do out there but I’m taking it slowly – and cleaning the bathrooms (which is not fun but entirely necessary).

We’ll have pork noodles with loads of veg for dinner, then probably feet up in front of the tv. David and I are working our way through Detectorists on BBC iPlayer – have you seen it? I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t. Beautiful English countryside, gentle humour, wonderful characters. Just the sort of thing to help you forget the current state of things.

I do hope you are well and also managing to find small things to keep your spirits up. More soon x


In a Vase on Monday: gratitude

DSC_1040DSC_1035DSC_1042DSC_1034Although we are all having to adjust our lives on a daily (even hourly) basis and cope with increasing restrictions on our movements, I am thanking my lucky stars right now that we have a garden, where spring is definitely happening, and a view of the sea. Never have I felt so fortunate.

I had the day off today. David and I are working from home, but I had a day’s annual leave to take before the end of March and today seemed as good a day as any and it has been lovely having an extended weekend. I was hanging washing on the line this morning, listening to a robin in full, clear beautiful song in a nearby tree. For a moment, I forgot about the alternative reality we currently find ourselves in. These moments of joy will become more and more precious as the weeks turn into months of restrictions.

Anyway… On to the simple pleasure of flowers and IAVOM, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden’s weekly blog gathering. After a wander around the garden, I decided on a mostly blue theme because there are loads of grape hyacinths popping up everywhere. Joining these are some Cerinthe major (which has been growing throughout the winter – it loves it here), twigs of flowering rosemary, a snapdragon stem (Antirrhinum majus ‘Appleblossom’, which has also been in bloom in a sheltered spot almost constantly since it was planted last summer), a few forget-me-nots (for added blue) and some ivy tendrils.

And here’s a close-up of the beautiful bunch of tulips and roses my children gave me for Mother’s Day yesterday:


Keep safe, my friends, and I hope you find your moments of joy, whether it’s birdsong, flowers, or whatever floats your boat, as often as possible.


In a Vase on Monday: spring is happening

Hello! It’s lovely to be joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden this week for her Monday vases. I hope this finds you well and not a) poorly, b) totally freaked out by the bad b-movie we seem to find ourselves living in, or c) bored senseless by any social isolation. While we humans are adjusting to this shift in our reality, I am very happy and relieved to report that the birds, bees and plants out there are getting on with spring. Blossom is blossoming, bulbs are blooming and bees are a-buzzing. Thank goodness for that.

I missed the gorgeous sunshine we’ve had today and ended up taking the photos above in the back bathroom to glean the last of the daylight which casts an appropriate mood for the time, I think. My vase (a lovely leaping hares jug) contains a few treasures gathered from the garden – greengage blossom, a couple of pale lemony daffodils and blue/purple vinca major. Feast your eyes on these beauties and clear your mind of any troubles for a moment.

Wherever you are, however you are, I hope you’re hanging in there and managing to concentrate on loveliness whenever you can. With love x

January treasure inside and out

Inside: two-week-old tulips, supermarket daffs and scented narcissi delivered by the postman from Cornwall (the second delivery of three, a gift from a friend cheering up my winter).

Outside: early snowdrops, violets in the lawn, hellebores, a few early primroses in the sunniest spots, lots of bulb spears poking out of the soil, forget-me-not  and nigella seedlings and all the signs of the spring to come.

The gorgeous blue skies and winter sun this weekend have been a welcome respite from the wind, rain and monotonous grey and it’s been a tonic to wander in the garden and see what’s going on. It’s easy to feel disconnected from outdoors at this time of year, so I savour any time outside in the sunshine, especially when it’s cold and frosty (proper winter!).

I haven’t blogged lately because I hadn’t (until today) taken any photographs – there is no time during the week and weekends have been busy with non-photogenic chores – and my brain is so full of work and empty of blogging inspiration. But I genuinely enjoy writing here and love reading others’ blogs and the connections made, and I suspect that if I leave it too long I will just stop, so please forgive the occasional post about nothing much in particular (like this one) other than humdrum life and a few flowers!

It feels that it’s been much longer than two weeks since the end of the Christmas holidays. Ollie and Harriet have had mock A-level and GCSEs (some ‘good’, some ‘meh’ and some ‘don’t even…’) and Tom has gone back to uni. David and I have been full-steam ahead with our day jobs and we’ve all barely had a spare moment. I think I’m now into the swing of full-time, going out of the house to work again (bearing in mind that the last time I did this was pre-children), although some days are a very tight fit and I am much more tired come Friday evening than I used to be. Plus I miss being the only human in the house – I think I did become quite solitary and happy to be so.

Planning and being organised are vital and some weeks run more smoothly than others. I have been late (thank goodness for flexitime) and we eat fish fingers more often than we used to 🙂  The job I do is challenging at times but always interesting and I learn new things every day. Four months in and I’m still enthusiastic and positive and hope that good things can happen via community work but I now know enough to see that it could be disheartening after a long time. As with all aspects of life, it’s important to have a balance and that’s what I need to make sure I maintain a healthy sense of perspective. Yoga, good food, good books, long walks, seeing friends, having a good laugh, enjoying time with my family have all kept me on an even keel these past few months. What about you? Any top tips?

Right, I can hear the dulcet tones of David wielding the hedge cutter in the garden which is my signal to find the rake and broom and go and lend a hand. Until next time, my friends.

PS Thank you for your recent comments. I’m sorry if I haven’t replied but I read and appreciate each one.

In a Vase on Monday: the returning of the light

After a long and hectic working week, I returned home on Friday evening to find a box containing these gorgeous Cornish narcissi – a Christmas gift from a dear friend. They’ve been scenting and cheering the house all weekend, so I thought I’d share them with you; a glimpse of the springtime flowers to come. It’s a sunny day here today, which is so welcome after All That Rain. The ground is sodden and dog walks mean squelching across fields and bring clods of mud home. Lucky that the dog is brown.

With the winter solstice yesterday, and the sunshine today, everything feels lighter and brighter. I know this feeling may be fleeting but the Earth is tilting and the days are lengthening and it won’t be long before the bulbs are flowering in my garden. I noticed tips of potted tulips poking through yesterday and the hellebores have fat flower buds!

I hope all is well with you and that you’re feeling all peace and calm and not the stress and fluster that usually accompanies two days before Christmas Day. I’m going with the flow here. Yes, there is wrapping, food prep, card delivering, room tidying, bed-making, hoovering and all the other stuff to do but I have today and tomorrow off work, my family is home and it’ll all come together in some form or other.

Here’s wishing you the Christmas you wish for yourself. Take it easy and see you in the New Year. With love xx

PS It’s lovely to be able to join in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her and other bloggers’ Monday vases. Do click on the link to see festive vases from around the world.


Red acer Copper beech France in the distance

Watching… His Dark Materials on Sunday evenings on tv. I read Philip Pullman’s trilogy about 15 years ago and was enthralled by his fictional world where humans have daemons, their alter-egos in animal form, and where there are warrior polar bears and witches. This BBC adaptation is fabulous.

Ignoring… for now, the rather large festive season fast approaching. I’ve booked annual leave for a few days, so we can all spend a decent amount of time together as a family, and I’ve pencilled in a couple of Saturdays in December for shopping. I probably should do a little more planning.

Toasting… my toes by the wood-burning stove. We’ve been lighting the stove for a few weeks now, partly to warm up the living room and partly because it gets dark so early now (around 4pm) and a glowing stove cheers everyone up.

Resisting… too many Lidl’s lebkuchen – ridiculously cheap and dangerously addictive 🙂

Listening… to anything that isn’t to do with the General Election or B***it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being informed and will definitely be voting, but I can only take so much of the propaganda. Local authority employees are encouraged to help out at election time and I attended a training session in the week to learn about our duties. The processes are incredibly well organised and secure (as you’d hope!). I’ll be helping out at the village polling station from 6am to 11pm on 12th December, one of thousands of people country-wide making sure everyone can exercise their precious democratic right to vote.

Missing… my eldest child. He was 20 on Tuesday. 20!!! It amazes me that I have such a fully grown adult child. David and I met him in London and took him for lunch and to see the Anthony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was wonderful to see him and we sent him back with his cards from home, gifts and a birthday cake to share with his housemates. It takes some getting used to, this parting of ways. I’m sure it’ll get easier but the next child is already lining up to start on his road to independence and it’s unsettling. Ollie has completed his university application for 2020 and has received offers, so come next September with a fair wind and the results he needs, he will also be off. Then it will be David, me and Harriet and she is not relishing the prospect of being in the full glare of our attention. I am not looking any further into the future…

ReadingTombland by C J Samson. Actually, I finished it this afternoon. I’ve read all seven of this author’s wonderfully rich and evocative historical novels about the fictional character Matthew Shardlake set in the Tudor era and loved each one.

Hoping… that all the allium and tulip bulbs I shoved into the soil a couple of weekends ago will not be discovered by squirrels or badgers and will survive to flower beautifully in spring. I’m not spending nearly enough time in the garden – there is no time in the week and the weather has been rubbish most weekends.

Anticipating… a delicious kedgeree for dinner cooked by David. I know it’s more usually eaten for breakfast or brunch but we often cook it when it’s just the two of us and this evening we’re on our own. Ollie has gone to a party and Harriet is at a friend’s birthday dinner. We are too tired to go out.

Forgetting… anything I don’t write down. Lists are the menopausal woman’s friend.

Wishing… I could be more disciplined with my free time. There are many bloggers who work full time and manage to write regularly. Hopefully, I’ll settle in to a routine at some point.

Trusting… this finds you well and happy.

In a Vase on Monday: a postcard from the Lakes

Autumn vase

Hello! How are you? I do hope you’re well. It’s been several weeks since I last wrote here – I’ve missed writing my blog but I’ve had absolutely no energy or inspiration since I went back to full-time work in mid-September. All my brain power has been focused on the steep learning curve of the new job and new routine. It’s been a case of work, eat, sleep, repeat during the week and family stuff, eat, sleep at the weekends. But, this week, it’s school half term and I am not in work – I’m in Troutbeck, Cumbria, and the mountains are working their magic.

We drove up to the Lake District in record time on Saturday morning (6 hours; amazing) and met Tom, our eldest, and his girlfriend in Ambleside – they’d travelled by train from Reading. Being all together in the Apple Pie (a favourite pit-stop) swapping tales of our journeys, with the gentle teasing that siblings do when they’re secretly pleased to see each other, fairly made my heart swell. It felt wonderful to be all together and to be somewhere we all love. Tom and his girl could only stay until this morning – they had to get back for lectures this afternoon – but we fitted in a good walk yesterday up Loughrigg Fell. It’s not a particularly high fell but you get amazing views from the top to Windermere, the Langdales, Grasmere and all the surrounding magnificence. It’s a lovely time of year to visit, with all the autumn colours of the bracken and trees turning all shades of orange, yellow, brown and red and I can feel my batteries fully recharging.

We’ve hired a gorgeous old farmhouse for the week, all wide wonky floor boards and slate tiles, and there’s a little garden, so I went out to see if there was anything I could use for a Monday vase – I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to join Cathy and other bloggers for the popular weekly floral gathering. As it’s not my garden, I limited myself to a few Japanese anemones and fuchsias, plus some jewel-like acer leaves but they look quite pretty in the sunshine.

We’re off out now to enjoy the autumn sun and soak up some more of that great mountain energy. Wishing you a good week and I hope to be back here again soon. Bye for now.

PS I post on Instagram more often than here, so you can catch up with me there if you like 🙂 Click on the link in the sidebar.

In a Vase on Monday : dahlia goals

A short post today to join in with Cathy’s Monday vases.

It’s my birthday today and, oh, what a scorcher of a day. In years gone by, it has rained and hailed and even snowed (yes, really), but not today. Today it has been the most glorious blue sky, hot sunshine, late summer sort of day.

These flowers were on the breakfast table this morning – dahlias and nasturtiums; a sunny late summer bunch from our few dahlia plants in pots and self-sown nasturtiums (from last year’s plants). David and I visited Goodnestone Park Gardens this afternoon where they have a massive sweet-shop-style patch of dahlias of all sizes and colours. I remember a time when they were considered ‘old-lady’ plants and were out of fashion but I’ve always had a soft spot for the perfect pom-poms that are a wonder of nature. We wandered about from shady patch to shady patch, eating ice cream (honeycomb – yum) and made plans to dig up an area in the garden to plant more dahlias next year.

A quick swim in the sea, then we’re all off out for dinner this evening, so I must get a move on. Hope you’ve had a lovely day and that the weather has been wonderful for you, too.


Noticing the swallows and flocks of finches in the recently harvested fields. The swallows zip low over the cut stubble, snatching insects, while the finches flitter about at the field edges looking for spilt seed.

Sheltering from the rain showers this week. So much for summer – it’s feeling distinctly autumnal today.

Planning for my return to full-time work in mid-September. Eeek! It’s a career change and I am chuffed, excited and nervous all at the same time. It’s been many years since I last had a ‘proper’ job and I have got used to the freelance life and working from home, so it’s going to take some time to adjust. I will definitely need to buy a few smarter clothes; tatty jeans and t-shirts won’t cut it.

Celebrating Ollie (my middle child) passing his driving test. Hurrah. Having another driver in the household will certainly help, especially with me going Out To Work (it feels funny, writing that), although the car insurance for new drivers is extortionate, isn’t it?!

Smelling the delicious scent of cloves that waft from the pinks planted in a pot on the wall next to the path and the vaguely digestive-biscuit scent of my dog’s head. The rest of the family can’t smell it.

Neglecting the housework and the garden. I’ve been so focused on applying for jobs and preparing for interviews, and all the associated fretting that goes with it, that I haven’t been able to think about doing much else. Silly really, when I know that an hour in the garden is great therapy. I’m going to have to be much more focused with my time (and maybe find someone to help indoors).

Hoping we will be able to get away for a few days over the bank holiday.

Watching my daughter dance in the corps de ballet in a wonderful production of The Nutcracker. Her dance school puts on a festival ballet every summer and invites professional ballet dancers to take the lead roles. It’s an intensive two weeks of rehearsals followed by five shows and she loves every minute. We all went to watch and were amazed at the incredible dancing and professionalism of the production. I found tears leaking from my eyes throughout most of the show.

Ignoring the political news. I am fed up. With it/them all.

Cursing badgers. It may be one badger or it may be more but many of our raspberry canes have been flattened by the greedy creature. It has also eaten all the gorgeous, big, fat, on-the-verge of perfect ripeness tomatoes. It doesn’t go for the cucumbers or courgettes, so at least that’s something to be grateful for. Red yes; green no. Grrrrrrrrr.

Picking any of the raspberries that haven’t been eaten/trampled by the aforementioned badger.

Guarding our apple trees (see above).

Reading novels to help me relax before sleep. I’ve just finished Stoner by John Edward Williams (beautifully written) and Big Sky by Kate Atkinson (I am a little in love with Jackson Brodie).

Eating too many sugary palmiers from Lidl. They are delicious and they remind me of holidays. It’s a good job I won’t be needing to wear my bikini this year.

Sending my fondest love to my sister-in-law in Cheshire (if she is reading this).

Borrowing the ‘-ing’ idea from Christina at A Colourful Life – if you haven’t read her lovely blog, do take a look. I am full of admiration for her quilting/sewing expertise and her general approach to life.

Wishing you a good week. Bye for now x