Cheer up, goth.

So, dear reader, here we are again. Another post, another afternoon of sitting with a slightly anguished expression and another (probably unwise) coffee pondering on why someone who loves to write finds blogging so dreadfully difficult.

I wanted to write a piece on gratitude, and have managed to successfully procrastinate for several days on this particular subject, not because I feel I have nothing to be grateful for, you understand, but because I don’t know where to start without it all sounding rather twee and like I am giving you a lecture in stopping ruddy moaning and be thankful, thou churlish wretch. Which I would not want to do. No. Not at all.

So I shall just sit here and do the whole stream-of-consciousness thing and just type what comes into my head, or ‘doing a Virginia’ as I prefer to call it. Gratitude might certainly work its way into the whole word-soup eventually, it might not. It’s my blog, I can do as I please.

Shall we have a meme? One of those nice inspirational ones? Oh, let’s.

 

 

Oh, I don’t know about you; but I feel instantly 400% more inspired. Shall we have another? Shall we? Oh, OK then. If you insist.

 

There we go. That even has the ubiquitous brush-writing seen in every issue of Elephant Journal, every gift shop and certainly every branch of B&M Bargains in the UK. It would probably look pretty good on a mug, that, wouldn’t it? Maybe your Monday-morning-back-in-the-office-with-a-bit-of-a-hangover mug, the one that you really secretly want to throw at someone’s head. You’d read that and feel so overwhelmed with joie de vivre and a deep sense of oneness with the cosmos that you would leave a trail of eco-friendly glitter in your wake and a unicorn would come and fix the printer.

So yes, anyway. I was on the Facebook this morning and, as usual, up popped my memories from the days of yore – all those things that happened on this day in history (well, Facebook history). Shall we see what those things were, dear reader?

2016 – Ranty posts about David Cameron resigning, Brexit, more Brexit. Oh look, a barely concealed full-on panic attack about Brexit. Whinge about the children. A very real worry about chopping my fingers off with my new knife set (won in a pub raffle in Wales, in case you have always had a long-held desire to know where I get my knives).

2015 – Occupy Welfare wordy Nye Bevan meme cunningly disguising the fact I was panicking / ranting / have a sulky whinge about the cuts to the NHS. Something about the SNP opposing something (link no longer works and I have no clue what I was ranting about). Admission of being slumped on sofa for much of the day gripped with anxiety. Another moan about the children.

2014 – Moan about children, stress about indie referendum, uploaded some photos from when we were in Tenby (I complained that it was raining), comment about not having a very good day and ‘crashing to earth with a bump’. Brief interlude where I claimed to have enjoyed the Great Gatsby film.

2013 – Miserable semi-ranting about losing friends, why I shouldn’t have an opinion and having anxiety.

2012 – Ominous silence. That must have been when TalkTalk cut off our internet for no reason. Or I might have broken another laptop.

2011 – Was strangely upbeat and consisted mainly of friends posting up things with rude names on my wall. Yes, YOU, Emma. It was also the day I broke my ribs in a bizarre hanging basket accident, incidentally.

I think we’ll leave it there, shall we? I think we get the picture, don’t we?

 

I don’t think he does, yanno.

 

(Feel free to print that out and colour it in, if you’d like to. Mindful colouring is a thing, isn’t it?)

Next year, my Facebook memories from 2017 will include me asking:

Just been looking back on my memories, what a little ray of sunshine I have been all these years. Why didn’t anyone tell me to shut up with the incessant whining?!

And lots of lovely people telling me that I hardly ever whine, no, not hardly ever. Which was lovely and made me all smiley and a wee bit smug.

Thing is, though, it really rammed home to me today how much I took for granted, how I grinched my way through the days only commenting on the ‘bad’ things. The things that made me sad, or frightened, or frustrated or annoyed. Oh, there are mentions of the community garden, there are mentions of cooking, mentions of going out with the children.

But not one positive comment. Not one.

As someone who quite openly talks about the state of my mental health, and tries to advocate speaking up and shedding the stigma of mental health issues, I am not just shocked at my overwhelming pessimism in these posts, but also about my complete disregard for people reading who could have been having a far more awful time than me, and my complete and utter failure to link this pessimism and dissatisfaction with the state of my own mental health.

It would be easy to come out with something trite at this point like ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’, but that might imply that people are to blame for their mental health issues and that people struggling as I do with, say, anxiety and depression are ‘just not trying hard enough’ to get through it. And we all know that is a crock of shit, to not put too fine a point on it.

However…and there is a however (as well as the usual disclaimer of your-mileage-may-vary, the nature of spectrum disorders etc), I can certainly see a paradigm shift in my attitude to life over the last twelve months or so. So, what has caused it? Why am I so much more relaxed and positive in both my assessment and appreciation of current situations and my perception of the future, despite there no doubt being trouble ahead?

I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s actually a number of things, all working together.

Firstly, my meds. The combination of beta-blockers and Citalopram seem to be doing the trick – I have the mental energy to get up and get out and be interested in things – and anyone who has ever experienced depression will instantly recognise that ‘lack of interest in things’ as a major warning flag. I am able, thank God, to leave the house and go for a walk in the woods. I am confident enough to chat to a friend and say ‘Yes, that would be fantastic, I’d love to go walking with you / call round for a cuppa / have you over so the kids can play together’. I have been reading voraciously again – when I’m ill, I just cannot concentrate on even the shortest factual articles on a website, never mind get lost in a book. I have rediscovered the joys of art – drawing, sketching, painting, embroidery, silk painting. I’m not terribly good, but I wasn’t very good at crochet once. I persevered with it, I practiced over and over and over again until I got better.

They’re not very good but the fun I had was reward in itself.

 

Getting outdoors – this is, in so many cases, entirely dependent on the individual and I absolutely loathe that well-circulated meme along the lines that ‘nature is an anti-depressant, whereas as medicines are shit’. Can we knock that notion on the head, please? And may I respectfully add that, if all your mental health issues were miraculously cured by a stroll in the park, then I suspect you are mistaking ‘having a bad day’ with ‘a serious mental health issue’. Nevertheless, I am a great advocate of if you can get outdoors, get outdoors.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs

I cannot express how much peace I get from nature. It doesn’t have to be a long walk (though I do love a good stomp, it’s marvellous for shaking the stress and worries from muscles and giving you thinking space), just sitting in the garden listening to the birds and watching the bees busying around can be equally beneficial. I have taken much joy this spring and summer in watching the wild meadow areas around the village, and photographing and looking up and learning about the wildflowers, it has become something of an obsession. It has staggered me quite how rapidly life cycles, how the meadows look completely different week on week as different plants bloom and seed, attracting different insects, birds and animals. Maybe this is my mindful thing, this slow, quiet contemplation of the cycle of Mother Nature as she moves through the year.

There are other things too. My new habit of slowing things right down, my use of social media, my work/life balance, the people who inspire me; but I feel these should be saved for another day, another blog.

Just writing this has made me realise, actually, how lucky and grateful I am that I am responding positively to the meds, and that I am able to do these things; and I am painfully aware that not everyone is as fortunate. I do hope that this hasn’t come across as a brag about how jolly well everything is going in my life at the moment – that was not my intention at all. I just wanted to share some of the things that have helped me see the beauty around us, and to find a sense a balance in an otherwise pretty crazy world.

 

 

With thanks to Phil, who inspired this blog post.

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Starting to unfurl

 

I wake each morning to the sound of the blackbird’s song. A song of future promise, of the seasons to come; but also a song of the past, hardwired into my brain over so many spring-times.

Whenever I hear the blackbird, I am instantly transported to the back garden of my family home in West Wales. I’m five or so, lying under the heavy canvas of the old tent my mum has erected for me to play in. It’s afternoon, I’m alone – I assume my sister was having a nap and my mum was busy in the house – and it’s hot. I’m smelling freshly cut grass and that familiar, comforting tent smell that even now I love so much; I’m watching the dappled shadows of the hedges dance on the roof of the tent; I’m hearing the blackbird and the low thrum of a petrol lawnmower in one of the gardens behind us.

I don’t know why that particular memory stayed with me so clearly; I can only assume that it was one of my life’s defining moments; maybe a subtle change in my cognitive abilities caused by some brain pathways meeting, who knows? It’s burnt into my memory now, and I cherish it. I can still smell that tent, feel the ground beneath me, see the shadows bounce and flicker on the canvas as though it were yesterday; and whenever I do I feel instantly wrapped in comfort and warmth.

When you suffer with anxiety, stress or/and depression; turning your mind off from the constant worry of the ‘what if?’ scenarios can be exceptionally difficult. Brains tend to race from one stress to the next, sometimes cycling rapidly and sometimes bringing sufferers to their knees with worry and despair, particularly if a situation appears to be, or indeed is, out of our immediate control.

Let’s face it, at the moment the world – and Britain in particular –  is not a great place for your average anxious depressive. If we’re not worrying about our children, climate change, the housing market, job security and the NHS; we can always fall back on the rise of the far-right across the West, Trump, Russian intervention, terrorism and Brexit for things to keep us grinding our teeth and wringing our hands into the wee small hours. Happy days!

One of things I learned several years ago in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and more recently when I studied Mindfulness starting with this free online course is that in many instances, worrying changes nothing. There is a massive difference between looking realistically and practically at issues that affect us and doing our best to make contingency plans; and moithering and fretting about things that, in reality, we have very little sway over.

I’ve no idea who said this, I have seen it attributed to everyone from Gautama Buddha to Ernest Hemingway (though to listen to the internet, Hemingway was responsible for 98% of earnest – see what I did there? – psychobabble memes) but

Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.

And thus, on Friday evening, I decided to dedicate my long weekend from Friday night through to Tuesday night (I’m on a three day week this week) to relaxing, going with the flow, and doing only things that made me happy. It was a rare weekend with only one or two plans in place, so seemed an ideal time.

The ‘rules’ went a bit like this:

  • If you want to do something (within reason!) do it.
  • Stop when you want to stop, whether that’s after five hours or five minutes.
  • Put your foot down nicely, and only do things that make you happy. If you don’t think you’ll get anything out of it, then be polite but firm and say no. Obviously, keep an open mind and assess what you might gain from it before saying no – that stint of volunteering in the rain might lead to an interesting conversation or the start of a new friendship; or that trip to Lidl might lead to 30% off a real nice cheese….you get the idea!
  • Be mindful of what you are doing, and make a point of looking for the lovely in whatever you’re doing; whether that’s pride at the increasingly large pile of beautifully ironed clothes or a freshly weeded vegetable patch; or drinking in the beauty of your surroundings whilst out for a walk or appreciating a fantastic song on the radio.
  • Write things down to look back on. I have a small journal I carry around and write down things I am grateful for each day.

 

Saturday was a stunning day, we woke early and lay in bed bathed in spring morning sunshine and drank coffee and chatted before heading off to our local environmental group’s Spring Clean. We’ve done this for years as a family, it only takes an hour or so of our time but when there are enough of us it makes a huge difference to the village and it’s a lovely way to meet new and interesting people.

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We were delighted to see the ponds absolutely chock-full of frogspawn and tadpoles…

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It was such a glorious day, we decided to go on a grand adventure; so we organised a couple of daypacks (always best in Scotland to pack for all eventualities, so we never go anywhere without waterproofs and food and a flask of coffee) and headed North, to Pitlochry. The town itself was buzzing with people, so we decided to drive up to Moulin and then walk back into Pitlochry along the route towards Black Spout; it was warm and the air was full of birds and blossom and I could feel myself start to unfurl, like a new leaf. It was magical.

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We stopped for chips on the way home from a lovely wee chippy just outside Stirling, this chips-in-the-car thing is becoming something of a family tradition after one of our grand adventures; but we eat pretty healthily the rest of the time so I’m not going to stress about a fish supper once every blue moon.

Sunday, being Mother’s Day, meant I was Princess for the day. Kid One had bought me a lovely rose scented candle and some pencils, and Kid Two had bought me a very sweet felt ‘Twitter bird’ key-ring from the Mother’s Day stall at school. (I had given them the money for this, so I actually bought my own presents, but we shan’t dwell on that minor point!). We went to Hobbycraft for supplies for this week’s Beavers’ craft activity, Bunny Bums for Easter and I was proud to go in for tissue paper and card and leave with tissue paper and card and not 56 balls of yarn, some silk paints and a polystyrene life-sized giraffe. We then spent the afternoon up in Airdrie visiting the not-husband’s mum, and we greatly appreciated her keeping an eye on the boys for a cheeky half hour so we could nip off to Morrisons and do the weekly shop without them, which was bliss as our children turn into maniacs the moment they enter a supermarket. The rest of the day was delightfully chilled out, and involved snoozing, The Archers and a delicious dinner followed by a walk and a truly stunning, blazing red sunset.

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Monday dawned gloriously – what a joy to wake to blue skies and birdsong – so I walked the kids to school and, rather than be fooled by my body telling me it’s tired and wants to go back to bed as usually happens on my days off, I decided to do the 5km circuit down past the entrance to Bothwell Castle , into Uddingston and home. It’s a route busy with walkers, and it was wonderful to share smiles and hellos with people as we passed. I listened to Radio 4, and just let the news wash over me – there is not much I can do to stop the triggering of Article 50 or hasten a second independence referendum, but I can remember to smile and say hi to people I pass.

I got home full of beans rather than feeling the exhaustion I have been feeling after the school run recently, and I went on to attack the ironing pile which has been getting somewhat out of hand. Though I did not quite reach the bottom, I have yet to find an undiscovered tribe living amongst the Minecraft t-shirts and odd socks, so I think I may have just taken action in time.

I spent the rest of the day pootling – I did a little crochet, a little embroidery, a little reading (Kevin MacNeil’s ‘The Stornoway Way’) interspersed with green tea drunk on the back step in the sun as my sheets dried on the line, and then decided to go up to the community garden and get our raised bed weeded and the strawberries tidied up and, my god, it was glorious.

I am so looking forward to getting growing this year, I found it hard to juggle my time last year what with my returning to work and my anxiety issues; and this year I am determined to make far better use of my time and remember that I view time spent in the community garden as a relaxing treat rather than a chore.

I decided to finish off a delightful Monday with a proper girlie pamper. I’m sure those of you who know me will agree that I am not the most feminine of creatures and can usually be found in a parka and wellies looking like I’ve slept in a hedge; but I am partial to the odd treat from time to time and I had just lavished a whole £12.00 on myself buying some Vitamin E creams and some face-packs from Superdrug whilst the boys were in Game at The Fort on Sunday morning. I locked myself in the bathroom, ran a bath full of bubbles and set about beautifying myself with an exfoliating face-pack, a body scrub, a soak and a read of the lovely Breathe magazine followed by a damn good moisturising. I came out as pug-ugly as I went in, naturally, but I was softer and smelled delightful.

It has been an absolutely lovely few days, despite having done nothing particularly special or even spent very much money; it was just time doing things that make me happy – even ironing gave me a great sense of satisfaction that I’d done some (and listened to Woman’s Hour at the same time, yay multi-tasking!). The key, I think, was that I chose not to worry about the things I cannot change. Whilst I cannot actually change many things, what I can choose to do is change the way in which I respond and react to them.

Welcome to British Summer Time. I hope you are unfurling too.

 

 

 

Imbolc, The Outrun and no Whiskers on Kittens

So, the wheel has turned. Depending on what you believe, and what branch of paganism you follow (if indeed you do) Imbolc – or St Bride’s Day – falls on either February 1st or February 2nd or, as some believe, when you see the first physical signs of Spring – usually snowdrops. If the latter is the case, I apologise – you celebrated Imbolc around three weeks ago up here, when I first noticed the much anticipated little white heads appearing through the dark, dank, rotting Autumn leaves.

Imbolc has dawned on a very different world to that of last year’s – I don’t need to laboriously hash out the details again; suffice to say that a time I usually welcome with open arms and a singing heart is a time that dawned heavy, laden with expectation but not much hope.

I don’t usually do much in January. I certainly don’t make resolutions. I count January as the last month of hibernation; the post-Christmas month-long trudge to the kitchen for more tea and more cheese and crackers (I swear our crackers have babies in the night, either that or Odin himself has blessed us with a crispy cornucopia, a cracker-box of plenty, as this thing seems never-ending); some gentle pootling (usually via a shop that sells wine) and that last, gentle stretch into the wheel-turn at the beginning of February.

This January has, for many obvious reasons, been one of worry. One of dark thoughts, wake-in-the-night panics, of grief and frustration. I listen to Radio 4 when I’m not working; listening with increasing annoyance, then anger, at articles on Donald Trump, on immigration bans, on the gradual dismantling of the NHS, on the omni-shambles vanity project that is Brexit. I mull and muse for hours on the grim realisation that Theresa May has few options now than to cosy up to what it looking to be the most horrifying leaders of the (free) world in most people’s living memory.

It’s not good for you, you know?

I battle with my conscience, of how much I need to be aware of to be able to do my best to educate and inform; against mindfulness and the idea that we cannot do more than live fully in the now. The latter starts to sound hollow, convenient. Lazy.

I have periods of clarity. I realise that rather engaging with news and current events, I am emerged – submerged – in them; they are sucking me under with more and more questions, more and more worries.

I seek solace in the things that bring me peace, things that I do where I can physically feel my shoulders and neck start to soften and the dark clouds, a constant dull ache in my head these days, part.

blanket

The charity blanket continues to grow. I start to knit, too, as a project for this year’s village craft bomb. I am not very good at knitting. In fact, I am terrible at it and keep either dropping stitches or picking them up; but I am only knitting 30 stitch squares so I am just using the hours as a lesson in patience and technique (I am a loose crocheter, but a much tighter knitter, but I understand this is quite usual when you start – I have discovered that two rows of the ripple blanket in its loose, effortless treble stitch, seems to be enough to limber up my hands to keep my tension looser when I pick up the needles instead of the hook). I don’t have any photos of the knitting yet, because I haven’t actually finished a square. There is a photo on Instagram of a red piece, which got to full size and then I monumentally ballsed-up when casting off. Ho-hum!

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I have curled up in my chair, or sought solace in a hot bubble-bath to read, to transport myself away from this grey, scary place; and this book has been a wonderful escape. It is, in parts, far from an easy read – Amy has lived a life that many might not have come back from; but this really is autobiographical nature writing at its most beautiful and, I’m relieved to say, its most accessible. I loved it so much, loved the pictures she painted and the way she beared her soul, that I forced myself to only read a chapter a day because I didn’t want it to end. When the inevitable end came, I was bereft, as though I were waving goodbye to a friend. Her life in London echoed so much of mine, a few years earlier, and I suspect it was luck, rather than judgement, that carried me away from the bright lights and the easy highs when it did.

We have been out – we didn’t hide in completely during January. In fact, my hormones (ha, you knew I would mention it at some point, surely?) were going so crazy in January that the malefolk would all be chattering around the three-bar fire whilst I stood on the back steps in a t-shirt, fully expecting steam to emanate from my person. So, where better to go when you really just want to feel cold?

Largs, of course! It always seems to blowing a hoolie in Largs, even in July; so off we drove in the teaming rain at the arse-end of January to be blown down a rainy beach. Remember the times when I used to moan about bad weather? Remember when I was cold all the time, even when we went to Lanzarote and it was three days of 90 degrees before I took my jacket off?

Those days, my friend, are a distant memory.

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It wasn’t blowy enough in Largs. My hands were nicely cold, but I wanted the sort of cold that makes your face sting and your jaw ache and your earlobes thrum. Fortunately, for a bargain price, you can hop over to the lovely island of Great Cumbrae. Great Cumbrae has geocaches, cows, a marvellous view of the local nuclear power station, nosy old duffers in cars who yell at you because they think you’ve abandoned your eight year old (when in fact he was just having his own little adventure and being watched by us from a few metres away), and these bizarre road signs that say that the main town, Millport, is 1.5 miles away, regardless of where you are actually are on the island.

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Millport was, by the time we got there (we walked from the slip), mostly shut; but it seemed a lovely wee place with absolutely stunning views over to the snow-capped Isle of Arran; and we were delighted when a gentleman with a dog confirmed that the wee black heads we could see bobbing around in the sea were in fact seals. My face nicely chilled, my hands and ears frozen, my heart several tons lighter and my head considerably less scrambled, we walked up to the bus-stop by the pier and got the bus back up the road to the ferry, full of excited plans to return later in the year with our bikes, after getting a train up to Largs.

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The day was so lovely, it inspired me to get a wee gratitude journal to write in. As you’ll remember, I did the 100 Days of Gratitude on Facebook and felt I gained a lot from it in terms of actually stripping back what we need from life rather than what we desire, and giving thanks for and cherishing memories of the right things – health, peace, a day out adventuring, laughs, a kind word, that wonderful, warm sleepiness that comes from being physically, rather than mentally exhausted. I got this wee book from Amazon marketplace (where you buy direct from the seller), it is made by a women’s co-operative using sari cut-off fabric and recycled paper, and it really is a beauty; and small enough to fit in a pocket if needed. It’s an interesting exercise to go through your day looking for things to give gratitude for, rather than dragging yourself from gloom and doom ridden news report to news report.

As I said at the beginning of this blog-I-didn’t-think-I-had-the-wherewithal-to-write-tonight (and I’m very glad I persevered!), Imbolc dawned. The wheel has turned, and the light is returning. The world is going to feel like a dark place full of long, black shadows that we feel we cannot escape from; things we are too weakened to fight. I am reminded of the snowdrop. So small, so delicate, its tiny head bowed down not in submission but in determination. Determination to blossom and spread and bring beauty, whatever the still changeable, cold and uncertain days hurl upon it.

Whatever your belief, or whatever you don’t believe; I hope you can find beauty and determination in the dark.

snowdrops

PS: Sorry if you were expecting some terrible story about baby cats with no whiskers. I was just doing my Sound of Music thang. Again.

I’ve started so I’ll finish -on bullet journals and being a control freak.

 

Last week, I started writing a blog about ranting, and how I don’t think I have the energy to rant and get angry about politics and the unfairness, cruelty and utter bastards in charge of the planet and its destruction anymore.

Clearly I didn’t have the energy to finish writing the blog either, because it has sat in my draft folder in a sad state of incompleteness ever since. Is ‘incompleteness’ a word? I know it’s a theorem, but it sounds clunky as a word. It will, however, suffice as a reasonably good word to explain that yet another thing I started has not been finished.

This is all becoming a bit of a habit, this starting-things-and-not-finishing-them; from the sketchpads and the beadwork in my drawers to the ever-growing ironing pile and the increasingly weed-filled herb garden, and I find myself getting increasingly anxious to the point where I can’t cope with anything other than hiding in my room, under the duvet, freaking out with a thudding heart, a swimming head and that horrible feeling that you’re going to faint.

OK, I admit that I am a bit of a control-freak and I would micro-manage my life if I could, because I do like to try and balance ‘must-do’ jobs like my job that pays bills, and the housework with things that I enjoy doing to calm down – my pottering and pootling, if you will. What’s happening at the moment is that I am getting so inexplicably worked up and tense about my paying job (and I don’t know why, because my job is lovely and so convenient) that by the time I finish at 1pm, I am drained and exhausted and just want to sleep. This means that my other essential tasks, like the bloody infernal ironing pile, get left undone until the kids scream that they’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for three weeks and haven’t seen clean pants since November. When I fail so badly at being a good haus-frau, I find it really difficult to do anything enjoyable for myself – I like ‘me time’ to be a reward, something to look forward to after a morning of fifty phonecalls or an afternoon of cleaning the oven (bah, who am I trying to kid?).

Jobs piling up, hormonal brain getting more forgetful, anxiety building more and more….what’s a gal to do, eh? Pinterest to the rescue once again, with an exceptionally well-timed money-suck email all about bullet journalling which is, as far as I can tell from the fifteen or so pretty identical videos I watched and the websites I drooled over,  something of the reinvention of the wheel, a big Filofax for people who like nice pens and washi tape. Washi what? Google it, crafty people. You’ll thank me.

I was caught hook, line and sinker. My mind spun out of control with how perfect my life would be if I could just buy a beautiful journal and write little colour coded lists in it everyday, along with lists of lists and lists of lists of lists all referencing back to original lists and a perfect index at the start that appears to magically order itself without any mistakes in perfect, colourful handwriting.

(I could hear my therapist calmly advising me that she spent considerable amounts of time and NHS money convincing me that I could survive without meticulous lists and forgetting the lentils in the Co-Op or not doing exactly an hour of ironing every day was nor probably going to bring the Earth to the brink of disaster, but did I care? I cared not a jot. I was looking at pretty, pretty journals….)

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They see me coming every. damn. time.

 

I spent ages looking at all these gorgeous journals and eventually settled on this beautiful ‘Bullfinch and Cherry Blossom’ journal from the Peter Pauper Press, which has 160 sumptuous, barely lined sheets of satisfyingly thick paper and a good sturdy cover for lugging about in bags, trugs and wicker baskets. I haven’t tried using my Letraset ProMarkers or my Sharpies on this thing of beauty, because I think they could probably soak right through the paper, and that would be a crying shame. My Staedtlers (pictured) are perfect for the job, but a standard biro would do. I just like colours to cheer me up.

I’ll not go into details about how you’re supposed to order everything, because you can click the wee linkydink above and take the tour and besides, I’m such a rebel I’ve already thrown out the rulebook and done it my own way. Did I mention I was a control freak?

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Is it working? It’s too early to say, and I haven’t yet made the inevitable horrible mistake like miss some pages or write the wrong date or spill wine on it (the sort of thing that sends me into a snottery rage and then a spiral of despair at my general uselessness). There is something very satisfying about thinking about what needs to be done – jobwise, around the house, or admin work for Scouts, the community garden or the Scarecrow Festival  – the day before and jotting it down to prepare myself; and there is a huge sense of satisfaction in giving them a little tick once completed. There’s also a lot to be said for reminding myself that doing lovely things for my own peace  – whatever it is- by writing it down as though it were a self-care task rather than something selfish and indulgent that I ought not be doing helps me to balance my day out, and it does seem to be having a positive effect on my anxiety levels. I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows as time goes on, and what else I could incorporate into it (dreadful reprobate rule breaker that I am), and if it doesn’t work then I will chalk it down to experience as something I have tried that perhaps wasn’t quite my thing.

However, tonight I go to bed not only with everything I had scheduled for today neatly ticked off as completed, but with additional things done and really enjoyed, because I had time in my slightly-more-structured day to do them, to indulge in them without feeling guilty or that I ought to be doing something more useful or worthy. And that feels really, really nice. It’s a sensation I’d like to feel more often.

 

 

 

 

Of chairs and cushions and blankets

It seems like an age since I had five minutes to dedicate to sitting down and doing my WordPress thang – those of you who follow me on Instagram where I can be slightly more photographically creative but considerably more lazy word-wise will see that I have, in fact, been pootling and pottering with the best of ’em. I had my very lovely family up from Wales to visit after my birthday this year, which was amazing; and I’ve taken a few days to recharge my batteries (and cleanse my liver!) and get used to having a quiet, empty house for much of the day again.

My sister took all the Christmas presents for family back to Wales with her, there are a couple of handmade goodies in there (I say ‘goodies’, the recipients might not be blown away by them but, as my sister pointed out, they will no doubt be better than the goats and clay ovens I bought for African families in my family’s name one year, gifts they seemed to find both bewildering and hilarious. I swear I’m making her a crinoline lady bog roll holder next year.). This, of course, left me with a noticeable lack of things to do, crochet wise, so I finished off the cushion covers I’d been working on. These are starter projects, I really cannot emphasise that enough. I’m just a beginner, self-taught from YouTube tutorials, mostly.

chair

I needed something desperately to jazz up the rather drab and old-fashioned three-piece suite that we were given as a freebie a few years back. It was from a house-clearance, and we were incredibly grateful to  have been given the nod over this suite as the one we had that the landlord put in for us had been slowly disintegrating for thirty odd years before we even got it. It’s wonderfully comfortable, with seats big enough to curl up in, and a sofa long enough to really stretch out on, but I have always felt it lacked a bit a zing and we’ve never really had the money handy for jazzing it up.

As it happened, my cushions didn’t stay there long. Oh no.

The big yin had a cub camp this weekend over Stonehouse way, and we had to drop him off at the Scout Training Centre on the Saturday morning, so off we pootled. It’s a rather lovely, largely ignored part of South Lanarkshire, just the sort of place I would like to have a wee cottage.

 

Disused viaduct near Larkhall

Disused viaduct near Larkhall

 

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We were on our way home from dropping him off, and decided to have a wee noseyabout in the car, we weren’t really in a hurry to get anywhere and it was drying up to be another glorious day after some rain in the morning; it really was one of those gorgeous, clear late mornings where you could see miles and miles of gently rolling countryside, with the odd glimpse of the (reassuringly familiar) sprawl of Glasgow and the tower blocks of Motherwell when you reached the summits of some of the hills.

We were headed down a narrow country lane when I spied just ahead a hideous mess. Seriously, who are these people who just clear out their garage / shed / attic and, rather than take it to the dump (or, rather Civic Amenity Centre) decide to drive out to a lovely part of the countryside and just dump it at the roadside? Honestly, what goes on in these people’s heads?

I was tutting and muttering under my breath at the sight of the abandoned, broken and dilapidated junk (baby things, mostly – buggies and highchairs and those awful baby walker things you plonk them in and they invariably end up in A&E) AND THEN I SPOTTED IT!

“STOP THE JALOPY!” I shrieked.

(I didn’t, but, you know, poetic licence)

I’d been looking for a wee chair to use downstairs, either in the living room or in the ‘void’ (a room/space between the kitchen and living room where the front door is that I haven’t told you about yet). Something small and neat enough to be easily moved between the two rooms, and upstairs occassionally as required; but a cosy chair suitable for crafting, supervising homework, or, if you are small of stature, daydreaming or curling up and reading comic books (notably, in this house, The Phoenix Comic).

And there it was, forlornly dumped alongside half of Babies ‘r’ Us, unloved and unwanted.

I knew the fly-tipping was recent, as it had been bucketing down that morning and yet the fabrics of the other goods underneath and beside the chair were bone dry, so it must have happened within the last hour. I quickly checked the general integrity of the chair (seat, legs, arms) and checked for signs of woodworm and any damage from maybe months spent in a damp shed; then happily jammed our new baby in the car boot. Then drove off at speed, lest the chap hurtling down the hill behind us thought it was us responsible for the fly-tip.

So….here we are, the great reveal and the umpteenth gifted / skipdived / found dumped in the wild item to grace our living room:

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Isn’t he fabulous? You’ll notice a pile of wool in the background – I thought it would be a great chair to use for crochet as I can put it near the window and make the most of the natural light. Ha! Some hope. Fin has declared it ‘the ultimate gaming chair’ and, as you can see, this is now their favourite spot for Phoenix reading. Oh well….

For those wondering, I did immediately email the council to inform them of the fly-tipping. I am a responsible grown-up like that.

With the cushion covers and the Christmas gifts finished, I was itching to get onto something else and I have had my eye on the gorgeous cosy stripe blanket on the amazingly inspirational Attic 24 website for a fair few weeks now. I am so grateful to my friend Sarah who sent me a link to Lucy’s website when I first started on my crochet journey, it really is a joy to read. Whenever I’m feeling a bit down in the doldrums and in need of some cheer, Lucy and her gorgeous creations and the way she writes about her life never cease to make me smile. I think we all need a little Lucy in our lives!

Attic 24 Cosy Stripe Blanket (pattern and tutorial in link above)

Here it is shortly after starting. I am very aware that I don’t have Lucy’s fantastic eye for colour and, at the moment, I am being very cautious about my choices and should perhaps be throwing caution to the wind a bit more. I was very happy with the colours at this point – I have done a few more rows now and I must admit I am feeling a little uneasy that mine is too clashing now I have worked more primary and secondary colours in. But we shall see – this is only a teensy fraction of what will be a single bed sized blanket / throw so I think it is probably far too early to speculate or, indeed, worry. There’s far too much worry in this world without me adding to it.

Well, well, well, would you look at that? Yet another hour set aside for blogging where I had in my head what I was going to blog about and then ran out of time on the preamble. This post was going to be about hunkering down for the winter and the mental recalibration that involves, but that will have to wait until next time, where I also hope to show you an update of the cosy stripe blanket.

Until next time!