Coronacoaster

Hello! How are you bearing up? It’s day two hundred gazillion in the weird, unsettling, up-and-down pandemic world and here at acoastalplot we’re coping with the current state of the nation in our own ways with varying degrees of success. I haven’t written a post for over a month because I have had neither words nor energy – I’m not sure I have words now, to be honest, but I felt like dropping in, sharing a few photos and and having a little brain ramble, so please bear with me.

Work has been incredibly busy. I don’t think I have ever worked as intensely or been so challenged. I’m not a front-line worker – I haven’t had to go out to work like nurses, cleaners, teachers, refuse collectors, lorry drivers, cashiers, or any of the other wonderful people who have kept the country going. I am working from home on the phone and at my computer as part of the community hub, helping people who live in this area to access food, medication and all the other forms of support that vulnerable people need, particularly if they are shielding and live alone. People are frightened, lonely, poorly, confused, frustrated, cross, grateful. Some calls take 10 minutes; some take over an hour. I’ve had conversations that have made me laugh with lovely people who are grateful that others care and conversations that have left me tearful and shaking with a fury that we should be doing better. As a country, we should be doing better. I won’t go into a full-on political rant here, but the pandemic has shone a light onto the chronic deprivation and the failure of successive governments to fund social care and other support networks. It has also highlighted the incredible volunteers who do far more than could be reasonably asked of them, who keep many of the caring organisations going. If it wasn’t for these amazing people, we would be even further up shit creek without a paddle and in a leaking boat.

And on top of all this, there was the murder of George Floyd. The graphic and horrifying images of his death were heartbreaking and difficult to watch. Shame on us humans. Shame on a nation where the police – who are meant to uphold law and order and keep people safe – can behave in this way. There has been much social media outrage and people giving their opinions and judging other people for their opinions. Who am I to add my opinions to the fray?! I am a privileged white woman who has not personally experienced racism. But I do know that it is wrong, wrong, wrong and I will do anything I can to counter it. We should rage against it all.

Yes, we should rage but there has to be respite from raging. Otherwise we’d all  suffer from a collective breakdown. My three darling children – young adults – veer between rage, despondency, boredom, hysteria, positive motivation, despair and stupefaction. We are doing our best to help them navigate a way through this but we’re feeling our way too. Some days, when the sun is shining and the fridge is full and funny things happen are good days; some days when you hear about a friend who’s ill, or you make the mistake of watching too much news and the house is a tip, are bad days; some days are just flat, meh days. It’s not easy. I quite often want to get in the car and drive somewhere, anywhere, far away, or stay in bed and pull the duvet over my head, but I can’t. We have to keep on keeping on. Do the laundry, clean the toilets, wash the dishes, cook the food… And while doing all this, we might as well try to do it to the best of our ability and enjoy it.

We have drawn up a weekly rota for cooking the evening meal – David and I each cook twice a week and each kid does an evening – and we’re experimenting and widening our repertoire. Stand-out meals have been a fragrant daal spicy with roasted butternut squash and flatbreads, a spaghetti carbonara made without cream and roasted salmon with turmeric rice; all absolutely delicious. David has been baking bread and croissants and Harriet has been baking brownies, biscuits and cakes… My waistline has expanded. We also drew up a cleaning rota but the less said about that, the better.

And the weather… Thank goodness for the sunniest May on record. It has been flipping fantastic to lie on the grass in the sunshine and gaze at the blue sky, or sit on the steps and watch bees busily going from flower to flower. We’ve been gardening, of course, sowing and growing veg and watching our little orchard maturing. It’s been wonderful to escape outside to pull a few weeds, see the progress in the veg bed, tend the roses, pick the wild strawberries and just sit quietly taking it all in, soaking up that nature. Flowers are helping to soothe my fragile mind.

Since we’ve been allowed to gather with others outdoors, my parents have visited us a few times to sit at the front overlooking the sea and it’s been lovely to chat in person. We haven’t hugged each other, though, or been able to hold hands and that’s been weird. It seems very strange that holding someones hand could make them or you ill and be potentially life-threatening. But there it is. These are strange times, my friends.

Apologies for the rambling post. I hope you are keeping well and I hope you are having more up days than down days. Take good care of yourself.

 

Staring out to sea

Since Wednesday, I have been taking some time off work, which I really needed; the intensity was starting to get to me. I switched off my work phone and have only turned it on again a couple of times to check my emails. I needn’t have done that, really – my lovely colleagues are handling everything – but it is hard to switch off entirely.

The weather has been absolutely lovely for this time of year, perfect spring weather, which has really helped (imagine if we’d been in this situation in November!). I’ve done laundry and hung it outside to dry, I baked a cake, I’ve started reading The Mirror and the Light (the Hilary Mantel doorstop of a book), I have hung out with my children (all of whom are struggling to some extent with this less than ideal situation) and phoned the mums. I’ve cleared the kitchen worktops several times a day,  I’ve walked the dog and I have sat outside and stared at the sea. A lot. What I haven’t done is any gardening or picked up the vacuum cleaner and so I have been feeling guilty that I’m  squandering precious time and frustrated at my lack of motivation. I did what I usually do when I’m overwhelmed and idly scrolled through social media, and I came across these words in a post from my sister-in-law’s lovely mum:

~ Elena Mikhalkova
My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You see?
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Praise yourself.
Take another step.
Then another.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

Thinking about the future – even the next-week future, let alone next month or next year – is impossible at the moment. There is so much we can’t control and no clue as to when it will be safe to go about our daily business as we used to do. My darling kids are completely flummoxed by this, especially as all their academic lives have been brought to an abrupt halt. No amount of reminding ourselves how lucky we are compared to many others really helps. They know that. It doesn’t make them feel better.

All the roads ahead are dense with fog. And I’ve decided to use that metaphor as an approach to daily life for the time being – take small steps very carefully, slow right down, concentrate on the detail and trust that we’ll get there eventually.

I hope you’re keeping safe and well and finding your own ways of coping. I’d love to hear what they are 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.

November-ing

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.

August-ing

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

 

A good day

Mowed grass design at Wisley Salvia and bronze fennel Pink rose Tall alliums against roses and hedge Allium and peony View at RHS Wisley Phlomis The old laboratory at RHS Wisley Evergreen shrubs for topiary Candlabra primulas Wild meadow with willow edging Alliums Peony

My son is home. The dog gave him her special howl of happiness that she only does when her very favourite people are all together in their pack. There’s a mountain of bedding and clothes that need washing, boxes of books and bags of shoes. He’s already surveyed the contents of the fridge, cuddled the cats, commented on how lovely it is to be able to use a clean toilet and is now lying on his bed surrounded by suitcases and boxes. Happy. I’ve put a chicken in the oven to roast and we’ll have that in about an hour with new potatoes and salads, followed by scones with clotted cream and fruit. He’s been existing on pizza and skipping lunch and needs feeding up.

David had the bright idea that we should go and collect him today via the RHS garden at Wisley for a wander and a reminisce and coffee and cake en route. I didn’t need much persuasion. We used to live about 30 minutes away and would visit regularly when the children were small. I also volunteered here for a couple of years, working once a week in the Trials Department, and I also surveyed all the model gardens as part of my garden design course. I pretty much knew every metre of the gardens in detail, specific plants, views and buildings. But it’s changed quite dramatically since our previous visit about 4 years ago. There’s a major new visitor ‘experience’ (opening tomorrow, so the signs said), with a new plant nursery and various other attractions. All the model gardens have disappeared(!) and there’s construction work for a new plant laboratory, world kitchen garden and learning centre.

When we first used to visit with our babies and toddlers, we’d be among the youngest visitors by far, there was always room in the car park and you could easily wander round and not see many people. It felt like a horticultural haven where only Very Keen gardeners went. Today, there were car park attendants in hi-vis jackets, several overseas coaches, loads of people of all ages, lots of children running about, an outdoor music and dance performance going on for smaller children and a real sense that the garden was a destination, a great attraction. If it gets more people outdoors, looking at plants and enjoying all the benefits, I’m all for it but the place seems to have lost a little of its charm. Maybe there’s no place for charm at the forefront of horticultural progress.

Anyway, it was still possible to get photos without people in them of gorgeous plants! Alliums. Alliums everywhere – tall ones, taller than me, short ones, enormous globes and vibrant purples – all buzzing with bees. Glorious. And sumptuous peonies and roses whose scent hits you before you round the corner and clock them. There are still delightful touches here and there – a mown design in a patch of perfect lawn, lovely hooped hazel or willow (not sure) edging alongside the meadow. It was certainly a treat to spend a few hours here soaking up plant inspiration before collecting our boy and bringing him home for the summer.

Right, I must get that dinner on the table. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.

 

Friday flowers

I’ve missed posting Monday vases for the past couple of weeks so here are some flowers for Friday 🙂

The lupins and clematis are in my mother-in-law’s garden. We can’t grow lupins here because a red alert goes out for miles around and all the slugs and snails in the neighbourhood make a slimey trail straight for them. The same goes for delphiniums. And dahlias, although David is de-ter-mined to try growing them again this year so we have a few precious specimens in pots and I’ve been on snail watch… Also, it’s very windy here which plays havoc with tall top-heavy flowers. We don’t have much luck with clematis, either. Most varieties don’t like chalk, according to expert clematis growers. The sweetpeas are also not from our garden! They’re grown by a lovely friend whose garden I had an impromptu tour of this morning – it’s a wonderful cornucopia, a feast for the senses, and she kindly said I could go back with my camera some time.

So, there you are. Some beautiful Friday flowers not grown by me.

I hope all’s well with you. Life plods on here. My daughter and younger son are half way through their end-of-year exams and the eldest will be home from university on Sunday as it’s the end of his first year (which has flown by). His sister will have to vacate his bedroom which has become an extension of hers (because it has wifi and hers doesn’t!) and I’m clearing the backlog of laundry and filling the fridge and cupboards in readiness.

Have a lovely weekend.

PS I’ve been having trouble commenting on blogs that aren’t WordPress. Sorry to my blogging friends who are on Blogger, etc (CJ, CT et al). I am reading and would love to comment but for some reason I can’t! I will ask my technical support to take a look.

Springtime goings on

Before I go on, I must say thank you for the lovely comments on my previous post. Sorry I haven’t responded individually. I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since I wrote it – the days are flying by with little time for blogging or taking photographs. I meant to write this yesterday but here I am, on Saturday evening, tapping at my keyboard.

It’s been the most beautiful couple of days here – blue sky, warm sunshine, birds singing their socks off, butterflies flitting about (brimstones, whites, tortoiseshells) and bees busy in the flowers. It’s the time of year for daily garden inspections, if possible, to see which trees are blossoming, how many buds, say hello to the tulips, pinch off the faded daffodil heads, pull out gigantic weeds (already!), so I took my camera out with me yesterday to take these pictures. I’ve had to be very relaxed about what’s going on (or rather not going on) out there lately. I haven’t sown any seeds at all yet and I’m only part way through cutting back the ornamental grasses and perennials. It doesn’t matter. All the plants carry on regardless and I will catch up.

We will need to start getting our act together in the next few weeks because we are opening our garden again for the local Garden Safari at the end of June. It’s good to have a deadline… In the spirit of perking things up outside and to make a small start, I bought a few pink Bellis and red-pink Ranunculus this morning to plant together in an old stone trough and, amazingly, have tucked them into their new bed already. It was so good to get my hands in the soil again. Gosh, I’ve missed it.

I am itching to spend a good amount of time out there – several hours would be wonderful; hopefully next weekend. It’s a little full-on here chez acoastalplot at the moment. On Thursday morning my younger son flew to Delhi for an 18-day trip, working in a school in West Bengal, then trekking in the Himalayas (not jealous at all…). I won’t bore you with the preparations for that! On Thursday evening, two Spanish exchange students arrived to stay with us for a week and later that night my eldest child returned home from university for the Easter holidays. The Spanish girls lovely, very appreciative and polite and they both seem to get on well with my daughter. There’s lots of laughter and chatter. We’re their tour guides this weekend – today we did the beach, Deal and Dover Castle, tomorrow we’re taking them to London – and they have a packed schedule with their classmates next week. They fly back to Barcelona on Thursday, then my daughter heads off on a long coach trip to Austria on Friday for a school skiing trip. Apparently there is still snow.

For the following 10 days there will be just me, David and one grown-up child here and he mostly does his own thing. It’s going to be quiet and strange but there should be plenty of time for gardening 🙂

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Bye for now x

 

 

 

 

 

Hibernating

My daughter woke me up at 6.15am sounding much more excited than she usually does at that time of day to tell me we were snowed in. “There’s a load of snow out there, Mum, and it’s still snowing!” Was a snow day on the cards?

Several text messages and pinging on the station run WhatsApp group later, plus constant refreshing of the national rail website to check whether the trains were running, and my two conceded defeat. The trains were running, school was open, it was possible to get to the station in a 4×4 and our neighbour had room to take them in his. Off they trudged, up the path to the gate, rucksacks over their shoulders with a very hard-done-by air. I waved them off, poured myself a large mug of tea and felt relieved that I didn’t have to be anywhere other than here.

It is a pain having a broken wrist and there are things I can’t do but on the upside there are Things I Can’t Do. Like drive. And thorough housework. And anything that requires two steady hands. Luckily I didn’t have any work-work pre-booked in this month (which is good because it’d take me ages) so once the essential household chores are done, I have plenty of time to myself. I can read, watch films and chat to friends and I’ve been doing as much of all three as possible. In addition to the books pictured above, I’ve also read ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman and ‘A City of Bells’ by Elizabeth Goudge on my Kindle. I’ve been absorbed by them all but if I had to choose my top three, they’d be ‘Someone at a Distance’ (couldn’t put it down), ‘The Music Shop’ (lovely, lovely, lovely) and ‘A Man Called Ove’ (I absolutely loved Ove).

The two cookery books were Christmas gifts. ‘Black Sea’ is a fascinating food/travel book about the countries bordering the sea – Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Russia – and contains some delicious recipes like Raspberry Buttermilk Tart and Bedtime Pudding with Tahini Cream (there are plenty of savoury recipes too) and foods new to me, like börek (a Middle-Eastern pie) and bulz (a Romanian savoury doughnut). ‘The Art of the Larder’ has been on my wishlist for a while because I aspire to be someone who can rustle up a magnificent meal from packets, jars and tins when supplies are low. Also I want to save money on our food bills. When I’m back in full cooking action, I’ll definitely be making several of the recipes and I’ll report back. This not being able to cook (or, rather, not being able to cook independently) is probably the most frustrating aspect of being one-handed. I’ve a box of Seville oranges waiting to be made into marmalade and that definitely requires two hands! I don’t think I realised before how much a part of my life cooking has become and I miss it. It’s actually best if I stay out of the kitchen while it’s going on…

On to film recommendations, there are only a few because I’ve watched some seriously average films (on Netflix and Amazon Prime) to distract me from pain and to pass the time. Being irritated by a film can be as distracting as completely loving one, I’ve found! However, I really enjoyed watching ‘The Bookshop’ (starring Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy), ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society’.

TV-wise, I’ve been glued to ‘Les Miserables’ on a Sunday evening (isn’t it fabulous and aren’t they all thunderingly miserable?!), am slightly annoyed by ‘Cold Feet’ on a Monday (I think this is probably a series too far), and have discovered Marie Kondo’s magic tidying series on Netflix. I’d like her to come and meet my house and my husband and children and work her magic here.

I am trying not to miss being able to get stuck in to the garden too much. Strolling around to check up on the snowdrop action and to spot where the bulbs are pushing through helps but there are roses and fruit trees to prune, a greenhouse to clear out, seeds to sow… These jobs will wait, though, and it hopefully won’t be long now before I can spend proper time out there. In 10 days it will be six weeks since the accident and I hope the plaster will be taken off. I’ve been doing my finger and arm exercises and eating bone-building food full of calcium, vitamin C and protein to speed things along. Fingers crossed (on my left hand!).

I hope January is going well where you are and that you’re having a good week. Bye for now.

 

 

 

End of Month View: December and the turning of the year

Hello! I hope you’ve had a very lovely Christmas. Ours was ‘different’. I managed to fracture my right wrist on 22nd December (ice-skating) which pulled me up short and I’ve spent the days since mostly in a fog of painkillers, not being able to do very much at all. The fracture is a tricky one and I have to try to keep my arm raised and as still as possible (but keep wiggling my fingers) if I’m to avoid an operation. Various festive plans were abandoned and I had to resign myself to letting go (which is not easy if you have slight control and perfectionist tendencies!). Then my poor mother-in-law, who was staying with us, succumbed to a nasty flu-like virus on Boxing Day and retired to bed. She’s still not properly better but is recovering. David has coped magnificently with all the catering and general looking-after and the kids have been great (wrapping each other’s gifts, clearing-up, discovering the bus…) and have – I hope – enjoyed an extremely slow, laid-back time. I’ve watched films, read books, eaten too much chocolate and tried not to be grumpy because I’m so incapacitated. It’s certainly made me appreciate my usual independence and I can’t wait to get back to full, two-handed mode!

Anyway, all that explains my absence here – I haven’t been able to get out and cut material for Monday vases, I can’t take photos with my camera and it takes me an age to type with my left hand! Today, though, dawned all bright and sunny and full of that new-year, new beginning, shininess. It filled me with positivity and my lovely daughter agreed to wander in the garden with me and photograph things I pointed at (and a few I didn’t). So, all credit goes to Harriet for the photos and to my kind husband for helping me wash, dress and butter my toast, for fetching and carrying and for ignoring my bad-tempered frustration over the past 10 days. I have resolved to try to make the most of this enforced rest by reading, dreaming and creating and coming up with schemes and plans for the garden and life in general. The days are already getting longer and it won’t be long before the first snowdrops and daffodils appear.

Thank you for joining me here in this little part of the www over the past year, for your comments and likes. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope 2019 brings you all you hope for and more. Happy New Year.

PS Thank you to Helen, The Patient Gardener, for hosting gardening bloggers’ End of Month Views.