In a Vase on Monday: Chocolate Box


Today is the fourth anniversary of Cathy at Rambling in the Garden‘s weekly meme, In a Vase on Monday. She has posted 208 vases and visited and commented on all the other contributors’ blogs pretty much every week since 2013! That deserves a huge thank you, not least for brightening our Mondays but for supporting and encouraging our efforts at plonking (or carefully arranging) what we’ve picked from our gardens and surrounds in vases, jugs, bowls, and so on. To mark this week, she challenged us to use something unusual…


We had a furniture move-round yesterday and while I was clearing books off a shelf, I found this lovely empty box of chocolates. Hmmmm…. Chocolates, gift, celebration, flowers… You see how my thought process went?

So, to celebrate four years of In a Vase on Monday and to thank Cathy for hosting it is a fancy box of flowerheads (mostly pink Agyranthemums with one pelargonium in the centre). Thank you, Cathy 🙂

Do pop over to her place to see her flowers today and links to all the other IAVOMers (there are some clever and funny ones).

Have a lovely week.


In a vase on Monday: in denial

Joining in with Cathy’s Monday gathering of vases is a lovely way to keep an eye on what’s going on in the garden and to mark the seasons passing but my garden is still merrily ignoring the fact that it is 6th November. For my vase today, I’ve picked a snapdragon, osteospermums, nasturtiums, a single pink rose, a stem of hesperantha, some sprigs of rosemary, a few scented pelargonium leaves and a few stems of guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) to add some autumn colour.

My garden is in denial and so am I. Yes, there’s now a chill in the air and there was even a little frost in the fields this morning but it doesn’t seem that long ago that the children went back to school after the summer holidays. Bonfire night took me by surprise and I’m certainly not ready to be seeing festive adverts on the tv and the shops full of glitter. I haven’t made cake or puddings (we have one from last year in the cupboard, so maybe I’ll skip pudding-making this year), or really thought very much about it. I would quite like time to Slow Down!

How about you? Are you organised and in the zone or are you taken by surprise by the unstoppable Christmas countdown?

Whatever your calendar situation, I wish you a lovely week ahead.


Where even the sheep (and teenagers) smile

Happy herdwick sheep

Surely there is no other place in this whole wonderful world quite like Lakeland … no other so exquisitely lovely, no other so charming, no other that calls so insistently across a gulf of distance. All who truly love Lakeland are exiles when away from it.”  A.Wainwright


Hello! I hope this finds you well and that everything is ticking along nicely in your world. It’s amazing to think it’s 2nd November today – standing outside, gazing out to sea with the warm (yes, properly warm) sun on my face this morning, it could have been September. There are still bees and other insects buzzing about in the garden, making the most of these golden autumnal days. There is still colour from zinnias and nasturtiums and cosmos – perky annuals boldly ignoring the fact that winter is coming. It’s a gift of a day.

I quickly wanted to share a few photos from our trip to the Lake District last week. October half term is when we hot-foot it to Cumbria if we can – although we have never lived there, we’ve been visiting and walking in the Lakes for years, BC (Before Children) and AC, and we do, as Wainwright says, almost feel like exiles when we’re not there. October is a beautiful time of year to visit and if we’re lucky with the weather there are enough hours of daylight to go on long expeditions into the mountains. The weather wasn’t great this year but we didn’t mind too much. We were all very tired and used the excuse of the heavy wind and rain (storm Brian) to sleep in, curl up and read, watch films and have long lunches. By Wednesday, though, we were restored enough and the weather was calm enough for us to head out for a Big Walk. David’s sister joined us from Warrington and his brother, his wife and one of his daughters drove from Norfolk for a couple of days – they all grew up in the north-west and often walked in the Lakes, so it’s almost become a mini annual pilgrimage.

We set off – 5 adults, 4 teenagers, 2 dogs – with pockets and rucksacks bulging with supplies, following the route David had planned the night before from our cottage in Patterdale, into Grisedale Valley, up to Grisedale Tarn, then a steep scramble up to the top of Fairfield (2863ft). The summit of Fairfield is a grassy plateau; Wainwright says, “Mention should be made of the excellent turf on this wide top: weary feet will judge it delightful.” Our weary feet were very grateful for it and the views were certainly worth the effort of getting there. The walk home to Patterdale wasn’t all downhill. We climbed down to Cofa Pike then up and across a ridge to St Sunday Crag (what a great name) and followed the ridge up and down, along and back down to the village with the magnificent view of Ullswater before us. This route was, as Wainwright remarks, “…an exhilarating and beautiful walk.”

We didn’t get lost in clouds, we didn’t get soaked, we had enough food, no-one went off in a strop (it has been known), the dogs didn’t try to chase the sheep (firm hands on leads) – seven and a half hours after setting off, we were all back at the cottage, smiling and tired, slightly sore-footed and looking forward to a slap-up meal in the pub. It may have been the last Big Walk we will do as a family for a while – this time next year my eldest son will hopefully be at university, a fact that wasn’t lost on him and may have been why he seemed to enjoy it so much.


Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments on my previous post; sorry I haven’t replied individually yet. I am still mulling it all over 🙂 More soon.

Have a lovely weekend.



Autumn glow and falling out of love with Instagram

By far the hardest part of moving away from the area where our children were born and where they went to primary school was moving away from the friends who’ve chugged along with us on the roller-coaster parenthood journey. I miss their easy company, the laughs and the camaraderie. Luckily we do still live near enough to meet up halfway and we try to arrange to get together as often as possible. One good friend and I have been steadily working our way through various gardens and places of historical interest that are roughly equidistant to walk, discuss our children’s exploits and life in general, and have lunch; the most recent one was Great Comp Garden near Sevenoaks.

The garden was glowing with autumn colour from salvias, dahlias, asters, grasses, shrubs and trees, and I kept stopping to take photographs while my friend stood waiting patiently. We caught up on our news as we meandered along the woodland paths and through the garden areas. The grounds apparently cover 7 acres but we didn’t have time to see it all. We also didn’t have time for cake so we’ll have to meet there again in spring to see the magnolias and hellebores, which are meant to be fantastic.

The garden was created by Roderick and Joy Cameron who moved to the 17th-century manor house in the late 1950s. It’s now run by a charitable trust which relies on the entrance fees and donations for the garden’s upkeep. The house isn’t open to visitors but the garden is from 1st April to 31st October, plus a few other days. You can find out more here. If you’re interested in salvias, this is the garden to visit – there are loads of different and unusual varieties and you can buy most of them in the nursery.

Ok. I’m about to have a rant. Skip to the end if you wish…

If you’re on Instagram, you can’t fail to have noticed the increase in ‘sponsored content’, otherwise known as adverts, and the fact that you don’t get to see what the people you follow post when they post it. Sometimes a pic will appear a few days after the event. I’ve also noticed an increase in ‘advertorials’ among the accounts that I follow. I’m getting extremely cheesed off with this. I loved the immediacy of Instagram, the inspiring photo with a bit of text, little windows onto other parts of the country/world, little insights into others’ lives – it’s quicker than blogging and a lovely way to get a dose of inspiration when you have a few minutes to scroll through photos. I like being able to quickly share how gorgeous the sea/sky/etc is looking today, or cake, or things on my mind, etc, without many words. And, as through this blog, I’ve found a lovely community of like-minded people.

If I choose to follow someone, I want to see what they post when they post it; I do not want my feed curated by some algorithm. I also do not want to see adverts and I find it irritating/disappointing when people mention their stats, how many followers they have, how their grid is looking (or changing their content in order to appeal to more people) and I really don’t like people trying to promote stuff because they’ve been paid to do so. I don’t care what type of coffee they’re drinking (because they’ve been paid to promote it), I don’t care what their kids are wearing because they’ve been sent a load of clothes, I don’t want a review of an event or book because they’ve been given a freebie in return for promoting it. They’ve sold out to the man. I’m so cross about it that I’ve unfollowed some accounts and I ‘report’ every advert (when I have time!). Do they think we’re fools? Or sheep? Or both?

What I want is honest, authentic, genuine recommendations (‘I’ve just read this book from the library, it’s brilliant!’), or just beautiful photos. I’m thoroughly fed up with Instagram being commercialised. It’s obviously Facebook’s fault. Bloody behemoth social media companies; I hope they eat themselves. I used to love Instagram and now I don’t.

You may wonder why I don’t just take myself off IG altogether. Well, I might but there ARE some genuine, funny, charming and inspiring accounts that I’d miss. For the time being I’ll try to ‘curate’ my own account!

If you’re still reading, thanks. I feel better for getting that off my chest. Hope your week is going well.



In a vase on Monday: October sunrise

There’s something special about sunrises at this time of year – there is probably a technical explanation about the angle of the Earth’s axis but whatever it is, the colours seem more intense. These photos were taken at 6.50am when our little patch of the world was bathed in a glorious pink-tinged golden light as the sun appeared then disappeared behind a blanket of cloud.

Tenuous link… There are still bright sun-filled flowers in the garden, most notably zinnias still doing their thing. They’re a little tatty from the wind, but valiantly producing powerfully coloured blooms. And the deep red nasturtiums seem unstoppable – they’re spreading and flowering all over the place and I’m happy to let them. I’ve cut a handful of these sunshine flowers to bring a little sunrise indoors. The red-tinged leaves are from Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ and they smell delicious.

Astoundingly, I also found these sweetpeas on a plant that was destined for the compost heap. A last hurrah because it knows its days are numbered, perhaps.

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who I’m sure you know by now hosts this weekly gathering of vases, has links to many others from around the world, so do go and take a look if you have time.

Thank you for the insightful and encouraging comments on my last post. You are a lovely lot. Wishing you a good week ahead.

Life changes

I think I’m a little high from the fumes of a certain cleaning product. We have incredibly hard water and a limescale problem; I’ve been standing in the kids’ shower scrubbing and scrubbing the glass doors, occasionally sticking my head out to breathe fresh air, and contemplating life. I’m waiting for a delayed manuscript to edit, so in the meantime I’ve been getting ahead with all the housework and laundry. All this housewifery means I’ve had brain space to draft a blog post in my head. Dog walks and housework are when I do most of my thinking.

My first-born will be 18 next month. This time 18 years ago I had no idea, no idea at all, about how my life was about to change. I had absolutely no idea how much love it was possible to feel, how much pure joy, how much fretting and worry, how much mess and chaos, how much disorder, how much your life is thrown into the air and how it settles back to earth completely reordered, priorities totally changed. To be honest, I can’t really remember how we filled our days before parenthood. There was work, of course, and there was a lot more socialising, eating out and going to the cinema and theatre, and travelling. We certainly had a lot more spare cash! But I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one thing.

It’s an exciting time for my boy and I keep finding him lying on a sofa with his eyes shut, headphones plugged in. I suspect he might be finding it all a little bit overwhelming. He has a lot to do – a personal statement for applying to university, working out where he wants to go and which course, keeping on top of all the essays for school, working the occasional shift at the local hotel, socialising, sleeping. And he’s flying to the Washington DC at the weekend on a school trip. I’m cutting him some slack.

I’ve made a couple of big personal decisions recently. The first is trivial but a big decision for me nonetheless. I’ve decided to stop dying my hair. You know, it annoys the hell out of me that I have felt the pressure to keep looking youthful by colouring my hair. I’m cross at my conforming. I don’t judge anyone who chooses to dye their hair, but I don’t want to do it any more. I’m fed up of sticking chemicals on my scalp just so I’m not reminded of my ageing when I look in the mirror. For a start, there are the health concerns but it’s also blinking expensive. I did start growing out my grey hair last year but chickened out after meeting up with a friend who gave me a good talking to and told me I was effectively letting myself go. I was at a low ebb, took it to heart and promptly booked a hair appointment. Shallow, no? Grr. Well, no longer. I am embracing my real self. It is perfectly possible to look gorgeous with grey hair by keeping it healthy and having a good cut. If people don’t like it, it’s their problem not mine. (Of course, I can always change my mind but I hope I don’t!)

My second big decision was to enrol in a local adult education art course. I did Art A’level at school and always intended to go to art college. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do but I lost my way in my late teens and ended up following a completely different path, putting away my brushes and paints for a very long time indeed. I still have them. I’ve been carting around my old palettes, brushes, paints and portfolio for over 30 years. I held on to the tiny thought that one day, one day I might give it another go. Well, I am and it’s so exciting. I am rusty but there was a spark in my brain when I started drawing again. It feels like I’m rekindling a fire.

That’s all for now. Back to the housework. Hope your week is going well.

In a vase on Monday: Octoberfest

The leaves may be turning on the trees, conkers may be falling, berries ripening and seed-heads forming, but there are still plenty of summer flowers in my garden. Cosmos, osteospermum, snapdragons, verbenas, nasturtiums – all continue to produce blooms in jewel-like colours. Joining these flowers in my Monday vase are a few Crocosmia seed-heads, a length of hawthorn heavy with berries, a twig spindle leaves, a sprig of old-man’s beard (wild clematis) and some field maple which is just starting to turn.

October (before the clocks go back and it starts to get dark in the afternoon) is one of my favourite months. There’s the prospect of a walk through crunchy leaves, burnished and shiny conkers to find in the soft autumn light, and fruit, berries and seeds to harvest. It can be warm enough to be outdoors in a t-shirt (like today) or chilly enough to need a coat and scarf. Whatever the weather, it’s a month when you can really sense the seasons turning and I find that reassuring and comforting.

Thank you to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting all the Monday vases. Click on the link to see her lovely collection of persicaria and links to many other vases from around the world.

Wishing you a good week ahead.