The first glimpse of winter

It happens every now and again, that I will be shocked into realizing that the seasons are changing.  It happened this year.

By the time summer is waning, I look forward to autumn with great excitement.  I love to feel the onset of the winter chill and see the changing colours around me.  But this year my vision was filled with boxes and packing paper and cleaning products, and it was only at the beginning of this week, when the cold really arrived, that I remembered it was autumn at all!  And now it is nearly over, and I missed it.

21-11-13iI know that there are still technically a few weeks left of autumn, before winter proper arrives, so when the blanket of cloud spent itself yesterday in a fury of hail and torrential rain, I jumped on my bike and cycled to the town centre.  I had a few errands to do (stock bones to get from the butchers, 50p for about 3lbs of bone; letters to post; fruit to buy) but my, did I enjoy the ride?!21-11-13ii

The sky was a beautiful, pale blue, and the leaves along the road were a bright, clear yellow, with just the tips of the branches leafless.  The sun was slanting between the houses and reflecting in the puddles on the road (puddles that I carefully avoided).  As I returned home, the horizon was pink and misty, so I tramped out again with the camera.  Most of the leaves of the hawthorns and roses are dark brown, shrivelled and soggy, but there were still ‘coral treasures’ of hips and haws, and the winter wheat is greening the fields.  I felt that I had experienced a little fragment of autumn in the way that it should be experienced, and was satisfied.21-11-13iii

On the subject of cycling, I have a sad footnote.  There have been six cyclists killed on the streets of London in the last fortnight.  This is tragic.  Please, all cyclists, think of your safety.  Wear helmets, don’t undertake lorries or buses, and be especially careful at junctions.  Don’t risk your life trying to save a few extra seconds on your journey.  And please, all drivers, be aware of cyclists.  Don’t be angry because they’re slow and taking up ‘useful car space’.  Don’t overtake a cyclist where you wouldn’t overtake a car.  Never turn left without checking your blind spot.  And get on your bike every now and again – it’s exhilarating and healthy, and it makes you see the world in a very different way.

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To Do list

We have a whiteboard hanging up that is divided into different sections for lists.

To Do Today
To Do This Week
To Do (Long Term)
To Make
To Buy
To Take to [add parent's name]
Shopping List (for groceries)
What’s in the freezer

This whiteboard organizes our lives – well, mine, really. Seth has a To Do list on his phone, which is much more useful for him because he can carry it with him. I have to copy any portable lists (i.e. shopping list) onto the back of an old envelope (yes, we have a drawer full of old envelopes to use for scrap paper!). There’s an old sock with a hole in the heel hanging at the side of the whiteboard that holds the pens and wiping cloth (pens sit in the toe and are accessed from the holey heel!).

Top of the To Do List right now is Unpack. Then Wash Up all the things I’ve unpacked. Newspaper (our packing paper of choice) print transfers onto everything! Then I have to Make Dinner: cook beans and put a cassoulet into the slow cooker. The continued absence of an oven means the slow cooker’s been pressed into full-time service! I have to Change My Address with a few more companies, and Make A Decision On The Woodburning Stove, when we’ve finally got the third estimate. Who knew that having a fireplace altered and a stove fitted could create such a headache! It seems that the stove suppliers and fitters do not have very much imagination, nor are they very good at explaining what they intend to do. Fingers crossed for this one – they at least have a brochure full of very useful information and pictures!

And in the slightly longer term, I have to Pick Rosehips and Make Rosehip Syrup, and Forage for Sweet Chestnuts. This may involve sneaking into the grounds of a local primary school at the weekend, as there is an enormous chestnut tree that is always loaded with nuts. The ones in the woods are taller, the nuts are smaller and there are far more squirrels to compete with!

These lists are always works in progress. They get added to over the course of weeks and months, and items are crossed off in stages. So, by the end of the day, Wash Up will have been crossed off, but I guarantee there will be three more items added to the bottom!

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Goodbye to the old…..

Three weeks ago we handed in our notice for our little flat.  We completed the sale on our new house the following week.  It is the end and the beginning of an era – we will soon be moving out of our first rented home together and into our own little house.

I haven’t written anything on my blog for a very, very long time.  After our wedding and honeymoon, we plunged into life together with gusto.  We were both working full-time, visiting parents and friends at weekends and trying to have fun as well.  We had gardening to do, and at the beginning of Spring this year, we got a half-plot at a local allotment.

But it soon became apparent that we couldn’t keep this up for long.  We had no time for ourselves.  My husband Seth got cross after a week of chaos in the living room and late meals because I was trying to sew a dress together in less than six weeks – I’d been doing fifteen-minute chunks of sewing tasks over a period of months to get the first bits done and I really wanted it to be finished!  We were both tired all the time, and the number of take-aways and ready meals we were eating was increasing.  I had long, complicated projects to complete, which resulted in working through the evenings for weeks on end.  There were so many evenings that ended with me in tears because I was so fed up with chasing my tail.  I was constantly reacting to events and circumstances, usually too late and in a panic, rather than making my own decisions about life.

We’d been saving up for a deposit for a house since the wedding.  We had just about enough so that we’d be able to afford the mortgage repayments each month, and we made the decision that we’d come far enough.  We didn’t need more money – we wanted more time.

So I gave up work and became a full-time homemaker.  Now this, in the UK, is a very odd thing for a graduate to do.  You are generally seen to be lazy, or a ‘dropout’, or unambitious – an attitude that I am determined to change, but more on that at another time.  I have an undergraduate degree and a Masters degree.  I have trained in my profession and had a (reasonably) secure job.  But changes in planning policies meant that my work was changing in a way I didn’t like, and I decided that to continue to do research that was challenging and rewarding, I’d have to do it myself – my manager had made it clear that the company would not be able to pay for any non-commercial research.  At the same time, Seth’s job was becoming more and more involved.  He needed more support than I was able to give him when I was working full-time, and as he is the main breadwinner, and his career is more important in a world-changing sense, and can only be done as a job, we decided that he would stay at work and I would become the homemaker, doing all that we needed to do (cleaning, paperwork etc etc) and everything that we would like to do (making our own bread, cooking from scratch, growing our own vegetables….).

And now that his job is the only factor in our location, we decided to move somewhere closer.  And we had a deposit, so we could buy a house.  Our own little house o’dreams.

We started looking when I’d finished work, in May.  Almost immediately we found one that we liked – a little distance from the train station, so Seth will have to cycle for 15 minutes to get the train – but it is right on the edge of the town, almost as close to a footpath leading into the countryside as we could be.  It has front and back gardens, quite small, but we can do some edible landscaping and be ingenious with our planting schemes, at least until we get an allotment, and there are beautiful, mature oak trees at the front and rear.  It felt like the right house.  So we put in an offer…..and have only just got the end of the process.  It was agonising, and has stretched our patience to the limits.  But we are finally in!

First there was the cleaning to do.  Boy, was there a lot of cleaning.  There was a small animal’s worth of hair down the back of the living room radiator, dirt caked on to the floor and skirting boards, nicotine staining on every wall and ceiling, filthy, stinky carpets and even some dried cat-sick in the bedroom.  The front bedroom carpet was saturated with urine (this was the seller’s elderly mother’s room) and it was just too much for the poor old carpet cleaner.  So the carpet had to go, as well as the underlay.  But a surprise was waiting for us when the carpet came up – lino tiles in a lovely blue and cream mosaic pattern covered the floor.  These were easily disinfected, and the smell has gone – at least from this room.  The animal smell on the landing carpet might take a few scrubbings to clean out.

But my mother and mother-in-law came to help, and between us we managed to get most of the cleaning done.

Then there came the painting, and hanging of wallpaper in the living room.  This was essential painting – the living room is waiting for its top coat until we’ve had the woodburner fitted, and it has been impossible to find a nice green colour for the kitchen.  Then we hired a van and in a weekend, moved most of our stuff.  I’m back in the flat now, sorting the last things and cleaning before we hand the keys in.  It’s very strange, living in two places at once.  The same bags of clothes and paperwork get loaded into the car each time I switch houses.  The carpet cleaner and hoover have gone backwards and forwards depending on which house needs cleaning.  I am looking forward to being in one house, and getting back to the old housekeeping routine, with the fun new tasks of garden preparation and curtain-making to add a bit of spice.  The best part is that it will be ours – the colours of walls and fabrics, the furniture, the plants.  Our choice.  Let’s just hope that it will have our smell soon, though!

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{pretty, happy, funny, real}

-capturing the context of contentment in everyday life-

I’m joining in, at long last, with Like Mother, Like Daughter’s {phfr} Thursdays!

-pretty-

All our wedding cards arrayed to full effect on the windowledge.  I have no intention of taking them down any time soon, although I know I have to, or they’ll fade.

 

-happy-

The sewing machine we received as a present from my new mother-in-law.  Still in the box!  I can’t wait to play…

 

-funny-

My growing collection of housekeeping volumes.  The Mrs. Beeton was a gift from my new husband for my birthday about four years ago.  You see, he cunningly began to train up his wife long before we were engaged.  And my attempts to run the home smoothly are, at the moment, pretty funny.  Bread that doesn’t rise (and I’m used to making bread.  Why now???), cookies overbaked (distractions, distractions), last-minute shopping lists…  I’m blaming it on work pressures [she says, nodding sagely].  But practice makes perfect!

 

-real-

There are so many people to thank.  It is not a chore, it is a privilege to write these notes, because it reminds us just how many wonderful friends and relations we have.  Thank you to everyone who gave their time, energy and talents to make it such a beautiful day!

Have a good weekend everyone!

 

 

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Update

I’m sorry for the long silence, but there’s been so much going on, that even now I still don’t feel like I’ve quite got my feet on the ground.

Well, I’m married!  It was a big event, made bigger because we did everything – or nearly everything – ourselves.  We had a week to put everything together, with everyone pitching in, and there were still things left undone on the morning of The Day.  But it was wonderful, and we had a wonderful two weeks away on the Isle of Skye, with a night in Cumbria at each end to break up the 13-hour drive.

And we’re moved in now – pretty much – into our new home.  It is temporary, only till the autumn, and after that dependent on jobs and so on.  We’re still working some things out, and still unpacking boxes, and – aren’t you proud of me?! – the new, very fancy, wedding gift sewing machine has yet to come out of its box.  There have just been so many other things to do!  Although there is some mending piling up, so it will have to be unpacked soon.

On account of our busy-ness and our photographer’s busy-ness there aren’t any official photos ready yet, but I will post some sent by other guests soon.

And maybe I’ll get back to blogging more regularly!

See you soon!

 

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Spring, spring, spring

Spring is really here.  The apple trees were heavy with their dainty, pink blossoms, until a few days ago, when they began to sprinkle the petals, like confetti, all over the lawn.  The honesty is in a purple riot, the four huge oriental poppies are welcoming visitors through the garden gate with their nodding heads.  Every time the dog walks into the flower beds he comes out speckled with forget-me-not seeds.  Even the peony is showing eight tiny buds (there would be more, I suspect, if the apple tree hadn’t got so out of hand and shaded the entire garden, but we are encouraging the shrubs with plenty of rich mulch!).

In the woods there are more and more signs of increasing badger activity amongst the fabulous background of bluebells, now sadly fading.  And there may be birds nesting in a bush in the garden of my new flat…

I won’t say how many more weeks I have left at home, before I move to the new, though only temporary flat (very much dependent on my soon-to-be-husband’s contract becoming a more-permanent job), because it makes me quite sad.  Sad to be leaving my girlhood, though the next phase of life will be so exciting.  These changes in life are so difficult to navigate, and require so much adjustment.  Everyone’s nerves are rather fragile right now.  Thank goodness for the constant effervescence of the puppy to keep us smiling!

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Working late

Welcome to my desk, at half-past nine at night.  I’ve been working since eight this morning.

On the desk…

A list: with only a few items ticked off.  Many more yet to go.

A pad with scribbled notes on.

Two cups: one with some cold fruit tea in the bottom, the other a recent (now empty) cup of lemongrass and ginger cordial.  For a pep up.

A pile of orange peel.  My brain needs much energy when it’s working this hard.  I have to remember to move snacking debris at the end of the day, as it is very depressing to arrive at work in the morning to find compost next to the keyboard.

My screen: I do love having a wide screen.  Plenty of room to put windows next to each other – word-processing document on one side, photo on the other.

DVDs: Jane Austen to play in the background when I’m doing something mindless, like compiling a photo register.  I’ve seen these shows so often they’re like audiobooks now. (For the record I don’t really like the new P&P, but it’s got a great soundtrack!)

My tips for working long hours: make sure you eat plenty of protein.  The brain is a hungry part of the body.  And drink lots of water.  Take plenty of exercise.  Stand up frequently and stretch.  Rotate tasks so you’re not doing the same thing for hours – keep fresh.  And have an understanding family!

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