It is Spring Again!

Photo by Alaric Duan on Unsplash

‘It is spring again. The Earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.’ 

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Today is the first day of Spring, here in Britain. The leaf shoots are just emerging from my apple tree, the winds have quieted, and I thought it would be a good day to reinvigorate my blog.

The last year has been busy for me with both ups and downs. I have been working. I published a couple of books under a pen name just to prove to myself I could do it. I am working on the reception at a local tourist site which opens again for the season next week. My children are all grown up now, and living their own lives, so I thought it was time to spend some focused time on things I want to change about my life in the coming years.

To that end, I have decided that my blog will have a bit of a change of direction.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have spoken with women who are of a certain age – usually aged 35 and over – who think that their life is more or less over. They have given up on any dreams they might have had to focus on their families. And now their children are older they feel lost. They might have tried and failed to make the changes that they want in order to feel fulfilled. They might feel like no matter how hard they try they just can’t seem to make it work. I turned 48 in January and this has been my experience for the past thirteen years. I have swayed between hopeful and hopeless like a never ceasing pendulum, suffering from depression, anxiety, and despair. I just couldn’t see that I was making any real progress.

When I was a child, like most children, I was very creative. I loved to make things. I wrote stories, I made books full of pressed flowers, wrote poetry, I would knit clothes for my soft toys, I painted, coloured, made weird sculptures with straws, sewed misshapen bits of fabric, cooked mud pies in the drain in the garden, kept a diary, read books in all kinds of genres, loved dressing up, pretending, and sang and played to my heart’s content.

At the same time, again like most children, I also had many difficulties. I was abandoned by my alcoholic father and by my stepfather, my mother struggled to bring us up on her own, we had little money, I was bullied at school, I received little love and affection at home, all of which led to being stuck in a destructive cycle of abusive relationships as an adult. My only brother eventually took his own life when he was 24. I retreated further and further inside myself.

Most lives are a mixture of these two sides of the coin. We might say they are good and bad, we might say they are just life and its accompanying challenges. I suppose life would be dull and boring if we didn’t have anything to overcome, nothing to fight for.

For the last thirteen years I have tried to improve my life and overcome the psychological issues that were affecting my mental and physical health. It usually felt like I was standing still or going backwards. Yet there was movement. It was excruciatingly slow, but like a turn in the tide that you can’t really see up close, I can now look back and see that there has been a lot of improvement and lately it seems to be picking up speed.

Over these years, I’ve read blogs, met and been inspired by many women in a similar position. Women who are trying to improve their lives, take care of themselves and their families, and find fulfillment. I’ve noticed too that often women hide huge parts of themselves, perhaps for reasons of privacy or embarrassment or lack of self acceptance. It is usually obvious to me as a reader and empath how cautious and closed many women are. We often present a sanitised, prettier, version of our lives even as we hint at secret suffering. There are parts of my life – failures, stupidity, darkness, ugliness – that I don’t want other people to know about. But I am beginning to realise that it is perhaps these things that most need to be shared. To say, hey, this is me. I am a creative positive useful wise woman, but, at the same time I have all this other messy stuff in me too.

I have also been helped by hundreds of self-help books and articles. I feel I ought to be embarrassed to admit it. This is a much maligned genre. You either love it or hate it. But, for people like me who were damaged as children and who were unable to seek professional help they have been a real lifeline.

So, back to this blog. I have decided to share some of my ongoing experiences in trying to lead a more fulfilling life in overcoming my issues and making the changes that result in a real difference. I hope to continue to rediscover that vibrant playful child I once was. I am going to be as open and honest as I dare. Some of the subjects which I will be covering include creativity, relationships, finding fulfilling work, home life, sexuality, femininity, self-care, psychology, and personal development.

I think we can prove to ourselves and to the wider world that we are never too old to change our lives, to blossom, bloom and find a way to make a difference however small. It is my dream to eventually create a community of like-minded women who can help, encourage, inspire and support each other in our quest to lead more fulfilling lives.

So, I don’t know if anyone is still around here reading blogs. I do hope to reconnect with some past readers, as well as meet new ones.

I wish you all the blessings of spring, or whatever season is turning for you in your part of the world.

Kim xx

Bowood Woodland Gardens

So, I must write about some of our recent walks before I drown in all the photographs that I want to share with you.

We were lucky to take a walk in nearby Bowood gardens recently. This is such a beautiful place to visit, it quite blows my mind. The walk is about 2 miles through landscaped plantings of mostly Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Magnolias and Bluebells which blaze in a firework display of colour..

The original plants were first introduced in 1854 by the 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne and the gardens now contain hybrids which were thought to be extinct. It must take a lot of loving care (not to mention funds) to maintain its brief but stunning loveliness.

The walk is only open for 6 weeks of the year when the flowers are in bloom so it can get quite busy, but there are many little winding paths that go off the beaten track so you could easily find yourself almost alone in a little glade that feels more like a magical fairy garden.

 

 

A Blustery Day in Kington St. Michael

The longer you don’t write, the harder it gets to write. Life took over for a while… a new job, Emily’s exams, coursework, housework, you know how it is I am sure. But, I have missed blogging, and so I am determined to ease myself into more regular postings. It is the spring that spurs me on, so much is going on outside and we have been out exploring and taking photos, so who else can I inflict these on but my lovely readers?

I have been self-employed for several years, and do various work for local people mostly admin and some copy writing for business websites. I recently started working on the reception of a local caravan site and it is one of the most enjoyable jobs I have ever done. I am very much an introvert and suffer from anxiety in most social situations, yet I have really enjoyed meeting the holidaymakers as they come to enjoy their time in the South West of England. It never ceases to amaze me that people actually choose to come here for their holidays, a place I’ve lived most of my life, while we head eagerly for the coast at the first glimmer of a ray of sun. It makes you want to try and appreciate what you do have right under your nose, you know?

We have many beautiful places to visit near here. The pictures above were taken in the small village of Kington St. Michael a couple of weeks ago. It is within walking distance of my house. Unfortunately the day was cold and blustery. This was good for whisking away winter’s cobwebs, but not so good for taking photos. The pictures are gloomy to say the least. Have you ever tried to take a picture of the delicate snake’s-head fritillary on a windy day? Well the above picture was the best I could manage under the circumstances.

I get weirdly excited when all the spring flowers are blooming and have this urge to take pictures of them ALL. I’d never seen the above tall snowdrop-like plant before, but have since looked it up (thank you google) and discovered it is called ‘leucojum‘ – a peculiar name for such a dainty flower.

I hope you are all well, and enjoying the changing of the seasons whichever part of the globe you live.

K xx

11 Explorations into Life on Earth

‘Life makes the wonders of technology seem commonplace… It is worthwhile, from time to time, shaking off the anaesthetic of familiarity and awakening to the wonder that is really all around us all the time.’

~ Richard Dawkins. From ‘Growing up in the Universe’ Christmas lecture series at the Royal Institution, December 1991.

My knowledge of science is, I am embarrassed to say, very limited. When I was at school science was not a compulsory subject, and so I dropped it at aged thirteen in favour of languages and humanities. Now, later in life, I regret this and wish that I had taken biology back then at the very least. Still, I can begin to address some of the gaps in my education, with books! I was very grateful to receive a review copy of Helen Scale’s book: 11 Explorations into Life on Earth, Christmas Lectures from The Royal Institution.

The Christmas Lectures are a highly regarded British tradition. For nearly two hundred years, a scientist has been invited to the Royal Institution in London to give a lecture for young audiences on a topic of scientific interest. In this book by Helen Scales we have a taster of some of those lectures from the past. It is a beautiful little book with an intricate gold-veined leaf on the cover, designed by Anna Morrison, and I loved the natural history illustrations inside the cover on the endpapers.

It was interesting to read which views have changed over the years, and also how some of the concerns in the past are still very much concerns of today. Some topics of the lectures include ‘The Childhood of Animals’, ‘The Haunts of Life’, and ‘The History in our Bones’.

There is other intriguing ephemera alongside the words – historical drawings of the lectures, invitations, letters and even an inventory of fossil specimens that were borrowed from the natural history museum.

Sir David Attenborough’s lecture of 1973 was titled ‘The language of Animals’. And when he discussed the complexities of bee communication, he produced a large model of a dancing honeybee to emulate the movements with which the bees communicate the location of flowers and their angle to the sun to each other. This book is full of these wonderful examples of scientists who are passionate about their area of exploration.

I’ve heard it said that it ought to be enough to just spend time in nature, that we don’t need to learn the specific names or know how it all works. There are many ways to interact with nature, but I do think it can only enhance our sense of wonder to learn more about the science behind it all.

As Helen writes in the epilogue:

More than half of the human population now lives in cities and many children are growing up with little contact with nature. There’s never been a more important time to find ways for people to reconnect with the natural world and to know and care about what’s out there. The R.I. Christmas Lectures play a vital part in bringing nature into vivid view for so many people and nurturing a sense of curiosity, encouraging everyone to think about the living world in new ways, and simply to go out and explore it.

This is the second book celebrating the Christmas lectures, the first is 13 Journey’s Through Space and Time. The Royal institution is an independent charity connecting people with science. For more information on the lectures and book, you can visit here: The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

Biddestone

We took a walk around the small village of Biddestone last week. This is a small village just a few miles away from our home with a population of about five hundred.

I have a photo of myself at about eighteen months old in an immaculate white dress balanced on the stone stile by the pond here. My usual clothes would be scruffy trousers with patches and old faded t-shirts. But when I was with my nan she liked to dress me in pretty feminine dresses, much to my mum’s disgust. So it is a rare picture of me in a dress, but there is a scowl on my face to go with it!

When I was a bit older we would ride our bikes through the winding lanes to Biddestone. We would take food for the ducks who live by the large pond and sit outside on the benches. My brother and I would drink bottles of coca-cola through thin straws, and eat salted peanuts or crisps before we all set off for the ride back.

Last week, the sky was blue and the sun was shining, however it was bitterly bitterly cold. Perhaps the coldest day of the winter and we didn’t get far before we had to go back to the car to return circulation to our fingers even though we had gloves on.

The village dates back to Saxon times, and has been home to many industries, people and activities over the years. Though there is no longer a shop or school here, there is still a village hall and two pubs – the 18th century Biddestone Arms and the White Horse Inn.

If you have seen the 2013 film The Christmas Candle, you may recognise this village as some of it was filmed here, including at the White Horse pub.

The village water well in the top picture with its beautiful shelter still stands beside a row of cottages and traditional (still functional!) red telephone box, and we stopped to see the grade I listed St Nicholas church with its 13th century bell tower. The overgrown churchyard showed signs of spring bulbs pushing through the soil – narcissus and snowdrops – and flowering hellebores were dotted around the sinking gravestones.

There was more surprising wild beauty to see at this the most barren season. A long driveway was carpeted in yellow winter aconite and crocus. Overlooking the real ducks on the pond, there is a thatched roof with its own brace of ducks made of straw.

So the walk was short, but it was well worth venturing out on this chilly day. I am looking forward to many more walks in the coming months

Winter Heron

‘To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir-trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall. And winter, which modifies the note of such trees as shed their leaves, does not destroy its individuality.’

~ Thomas Hardy, Under The Greenwood Tree

I hope you are settling into the whispering rhythms of the new year.

It was my birthday last Monday, and although they seem to come around so much more quickly as I get older, and even though I was in bed with the flu, still, I like the quiet that accompanies birthdays these days. I can read, or go for a walk or cook something unfussy but delicious and there is no pressure for it to be anything more than that.

This heron was spotted from my bedroom window, I almost didn’t see him as he blends in so well with the bare branches and greyish bark of the winter trees. I like the way his white head is turned toward the sun and he seems to have his shoulders hunched like an old man. There is a pond not far below where he’s sat, and we often see herons fly over and disappear behind the hedge in search of fish.

Christmas wishes

 

The tree is up and twinkling with lights. The presents wrapped beneath it. It will be a very quiet Christmas this year. There are no complaints about that!
I made an advent calendar inspired by so many on the Internet and Emily and I have been enjoying our Christmas baking. This is one of my favourite traditions at this time of year.
In the photo above are Salted Caramels. We’ll also make Peppermint Bark, peanut butter kiss cookies.
 I just wanted to wish you all a peaceful Christmas and thank you for reading and commenting here over the past year.
Warm wishes to you all,
Kim xxx

Remembering Summer in Brighton

Back in August, Emily and I took a trip to Brighton. We only went for a few days, but this was our first trip away in years and the first time for both of us in Brighton. I usually prefer to travel somewhere a little more off the beaten track, but was pleasantly surprised by how quiet Brighton was despite it being the middle of the school holidays.

Our favourite things to do were to walk along or sit on the beach and read, or talk, or listen to the waves crash and see who could throw their pebbles the furthest. We had the beach almost to ourselves some of the time in the early mornings and late evenings.

We walked along the pier at night, which was also very quiet, although there were plenty of people inside playing on the games and fruit machines. Needless to say, we won and lost countless 2p pieces. At the end of the pier all the fairground rides were closed down for the night and it was quite spooky to see them all in the dark.

We had the most delicious very posh cream tea for Emily’s special belated birthday treat. It was a struggle, but we managed to polish off the lot between us, and I fell in love with a beautiful cast iron teapot, which has made it on to my Amazon wishlist.

Away from the beach, Brighton seemed a little tired and run down, but maybe this is because we visited the week after Pride. There is some refurbishment work going on to revive the seaside town, and I felt in parts it was sorely needed. But it didn’t much affect our trip as, like I said, we preferred to stay on the beach anyway.

There is something about the atmosphere in Brighton that is very relaxed and welcoming. I definitely plan to visit again one day.

Orange and Rust

There are so many orange and rusty burnished tones around right now. I know it is said often, but it is a beautiful time of year and it never gets old for me. We have delved into autumn here with enthusiasm. Emily carved a pumpkin after school on all Hallow’s Eve, and I made pumpkin pie. We’ve never had pumpkin pie before, it is just not a thing in the UK and you’d be hard pushed to find a can of pumpkin purée in a supermarket around here. I made my own in the blender and the pie turned out better than expected for the novice pie-maker that I am. I used ‘this’ recipe. Not too sweet and set perfectly. The rest of the pumpkin purée was used up nicely in a vegetable curry and the seeds in this recipe.

Hanging the washing out on the line today was a risky business – will I be racing out in half an hour to bring it all back in? The skies are grey, but a slip of blue is seen momentarily. I don’t want wet school uniform, tablecloths and towels strewn about the house. So I say a little no-rain prayer, and do a little no-rain dance.

I pick a handful of spinach for  lunch and rinse off the dirt and a tiny grey slug washes down the drain.

The butterfly I saw yesterday, may be the last of the year. It looked black under the leaden skies. I think it may have been a red admiral, and I just caught its underside. It was bittersweet to see this symbol of another dying year.

Today we have leftovers of mushroom, lentil and ale pie that I made yesterday from this recipe. So delicious it was too. I used the rest of the pastry for a quick blackberry and apple tart. The kind of autumnal fare that defines the season.

I am still getting used to the evenings. The darkness falling so early now, it feels like midnight at half past five in the afternoon. Maybe I’ll never get used to the speed at which this happens. I enjoy the dark evenings though. My library books are overdue so I will catch up with them this evening. I am reading Neil Gaiman’s short stories ‘Trigger Warning’ right now. He is a perfect writer for this time of year. What are you reading on these dark autumn evenings?

Station Eleven ~ Emily St John Mandel

 

This was a book I took to Brighton in the summer. Borrowed from the library after a recommendation from Sarah (read her enchanting blog here).

I’m so glad I chose this to read as it was an engrossing journey from start to finish, though it raised many questions. The story-line follows the events as the world’s population is ravaged by an infectious disease leaving only small groups of survivors to weather the subsequent collapse of civilisation.

The focus is less on the cause and details of this apocalypse than the after-effects and new meanings it brings to relationships between people and to their things. Objects we might give little significance to in our current world, a paperweight perhaps, or a couple of science fiction comics (from which comes the title) take on a whole new value in this irrevocably changed world.

I loved the way the author played with time throughout the novel. It was masterfully done, and I can’t imagine the kind of planning that went into crafting the constant to and fro between the past, present, and future. And also the way a minor character comes to the fore to play a key role at one point in the novel then recedes or disappears again at another point. The most consistently main character is Kirsten. She is a child at the beginning of the novel, acting a small role in a play of Shakespeare’s King Lear. After the apocalypse she joins a travelling group who perform Shakespearean plays and musical entertainment for the small settlements that have evolved out of the dying civilisation.

The author Emily St John Mandel was extremely courageous to attempt such an ambitious tale. It is not a long novel, but it is intricate and daring. At no point did this novel feel like a work of fantasy. This scenario is a real, if very unlikely possibility. Can you imagine a world without electricity or electronic devices; no cars or planes or the vast populations and the complex infrastructures they uphold including the food system, but still knowing what we know? It is horrifying to read about and to imagine, yet there were elements of it that were appealing. Life might not be better, but it is simpler when surviving is all you have to think about.

Inscribed on the front of the caravan in which the travelling group tour from settlement to settlement are the words ‘survival is not sufficient’, a quote from a long forgotten Star Trek episode. What is sufficient? What does make life worth living. What would be worth saving? Despite my sometimes love often hate relationship with technology, computers, the Internet, and mobile phones, like the characters in Station Eleven I know I would miss them. And I know I too would turn to books (I’d be lugging around a suitcase full of ’em), art, poetry, music, dancing and friendship for in these I find meaning in what often feels like a meaningless world.

It was a thought-provoking read and I recommend it wholeheartedly.