Nothing much (except snowdrops)

img_1801img_1800img_1793img_9261img_1784img_9257img_1776img_1794img_1788img_9269img_1782I feel I haven’t got much to say for myself this week but I’ll start writing and see what happens. There has been sunshine, rain and Doris. I’ve spent too much time at my laptop or cleaning the house (something to do with spring approaching) and too little time in the garden. I reached the end of my tether with our old vacuum cleaner last week (one of those cumbersome, pull-along ones; it must be at least 14 years old). I drag it along roughly and thoroughly grumpily, cussing under my breath. Everyone knows to keep out of my way when I’m hoovering, even the dog. On Monday I had Had Enough and I ordered a new one. It arrived this morning and I used it straight out of the box. It’s brilliant – lighter, very manoeuvrable and there’s no flex to get in the way or plug to have to keep unplugging and plugging in again. I told the delivery guy that it was going to transform my life and he laughed (rather pityingly, I thought).

We’ve had school meetings to go to: one to explain UCAS and university funding (yikes) and one regular parents meeting. Both have resulted in long discussions with each boy about The Future. The eldest, who has decided he does want to go to university next year (next year?!!) is slowly coming round to the realisation that he should probably get his act together; the middle one, who takes his GCSEs next year, is totally on track. Honestly, there are 20 months between them but they couldn’t be more different. I do feel for our first-born, though – his parents have no idea what they’re doing. I often have this uncomfortable feeling that I’m slightly behind the curve, missing information that could help him and that I’m out of touch. We muddle along and do our best, make mistakes and hope we haven’t done any lasting damage. Our daughter gets the benefit of our third-time-round refined parenting skills – it’s probably no coincidence that she is a ray of sunshine.

Moving swiftly on… It was a glorious sunshiny day today, so welcome after yesterday’s storm, and I went outside to see if there was any damage (there wasn’t) and inspect new growth. Seeing spears of daffodils and tulips shooting up each year gives me such a huge amount of pleasure, more than any other type of plant I think. It’s their their promise of colour – gorgeous, rich, jewel-like colours – after the lack of it in winter. And I love the shapes and arrangement of the leaves and the way tulip leaves are often tinged with a hint of the flower colour to come. I’ve worked out that there are several bunches of tulips out there for cutting in a couple of months time. Or maybe a few of massive armfuls. Oh yes. There will be tulips galore and just the thought of that makes me happy.

I hope you’re not bored of seeing snowdrops yet; ours are at their peak now. I’ve noticed several clumps that need dividing and it’ll soon be the time to do that, when the flowers go over but they’re still in the green. I’m amazed by how easy-going they are and how far they spread without any help from us. Several single snowdrops have popped up in the front lawn this year, their little white nodding flowers dotted here and there. No lawn-mowing here for a while, that’s for sure. The weather forecast for the weekend is dry but cold so I plan to sort out seeds and sow some. We also need to move some hedging plants. We might have a bonfire.

Whatever you have planned, I hope you have a good one.

 

Serendipity

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Anemone blanda
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Bergenia
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Anemonie coronaria bud
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The effects of winter cold on scented pelargonium foliage
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Unknown (and nibbled)  iris – a patch has appeared from nowhere this February.
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Hazel catkin
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Snowdrops
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Anemone blanda waiting to be planted.
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Hellebore picked for a Monday vase about two weeks ago when in bud; still going strong.

The long-awaited for snow did appear last Friday night and, although it wasn’t as heavy as forecast, it had a rather miraculous effect: two of my children came with us to walk the dog early on Saturday morning before it all melted away! My eldest usually doesn’t appear before late morning at the weekends so this is highly unusual. (The middle one is still recovering from glandular fever and extremely tired, so we let him off.)

We agreed it was more than a sprinkling of snow but less than a satisfying blanket – there was probably about 1cm, not much at all, but enough to look pretty and make that pleasing squeak-crunch under foot. The dog had a lovely time, running around and around making us laugh and it was a good start to the weekend.

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We’ve had a good half term week. I’ve been to London twice, once with my daughter to see friends and again with all three children for a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. All of them are now at an age when they’re properly interested in the world (and two of my eldest son’s A’levels are History and Government & Politics) so this turned out to be a fascinating, enlightening and thoroughly interesting trip for all of us. We had a couple of hours to kill before the tour of Parliament so we decided to look around the National Portrait Gallery. The boys went off to look at the Stuarts and Tudors while my daughter and I strolled past the women’s portraits. We were particularly taken with those of Mary Wollstonecraft and Christabel Pankhurst (daughter of Emmeline) and we talked about the campaign for women’s rights in the UK. She’s 12 and can’t imagine a world where women were treated so differently to men (some would argue it’s still happening but let’s not go there..!). Later on, during the H of P tour, we admired and learnt about the contemporary light sculpture displayed in the Palace of Westminster, ‘New Dawn’, which commemorates women’s suffrage. It’s a fascinating piece, the colours change with the rise and fall of the Thames; you can read all about it here.

The tour of Parliament totally impressed us. Our guide was an incredibly enthusiastic, knowledgeable and funny young man who obviously loved his job. He brought the history of the place to life, roping in some of the younger children in the group to demonstrate the falling-out between Charles I and Parliament, explaining some of the finer points of our constitution, the respective roles of the Lords and the Commons, while making it all so relevant to our daily lives – we came away inspired and feeling mighty lucky to be living in a country with such a robust system of government. Whatever your political leanings, you can’t fail to be impressed by the place. Do go if you’ve never been and get the chance.

Anyway, enough of all that. It’s gone 5pm and it’s still light outside! It was about 10 degrees warmer today than this time last week and I spent a lovely hour or so pottering outside taking the close-up photos above. There’s a surprising amount going on out there. The snowdrops are nearing their peak and looking gorgeous in the sunshine (I missed the sun, though, so the flowers are closed up in the pic), tulip and daffodil spears are growing taller and the birds are singing their heads off (I heard my first skylark earlier in the week which gladdened my heart). I called in at a plant nursery earlier, you know, just for a look – I was passing; spring is coming… I bought some seeds (sweet peas, beetroot and purple-sprouting broccoli) and three little pots of Anemone blanda to plant under a tree by the path. They were such good value, I couldn’t resist them.

I’m planning to do some tidying in the garden this weekend, cut back the raspberry canes and Miscanthus, and maybe sow some seeds. I hope you have a good one, whatever you have planned.

Waiting for snow

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You remember I said there was a tiny hint of spring in the air? Well, not any more. There’s a raw east wind and snow is forecast. The Met Office website showed heavy snow showers starting at 4pm and carrying on overnight until early tomorrow morning but I have only spotted a few flakes floating down so far. The sky is heavy with it, though, and I would so love it to dump a whole load on this little patch of land. The children are giddy with the thought of a whole week off school (in as much as teenagers are ever ‘giddy’; that’s more my exaggerated interpretation) – waking up to a fresh blanket of snow in the morning would be the icing on the cake, the snow on the clifftops, the best start to a week off in February.

Drifts of snowdrops are appearing throughout the garden although they are not in bloom yet. The clumps spread every year and I’m impressed by how easygoing these gorgeous flowers are. I’m forever accidentally digging up a load of their mini bulbs in the summer or autumn, so I shove them back in again and it seems to do them no harm whatsoever. I picked a few little stems with tight buds earlier this morning to bring indoors and within 30 minutes in the warm kitchen they had opened their petals to reveal the beautiful markings. These are common-or-garden Galanthus nivalis and they have a deliciously delicate scent. I also snipped the first Muscari which was blooming all alone in a sheltered spot by the back garden wall. These little bulbs also love the conditions in our garden and have spread everywhere, between paving slabs and cracks in walls, in every nook and cranny. There will be lovely patches of blue dotted all over the place in a month or so.

Although I’m excited at the prospect of snow, I am more excited at the prospect of getting back out into the garden, to get going with the sowing and planting. In the meantime, I’m flicking through my gardening books and catalogues and dreaming of colourful borders full of flowers. We have plans to renovate the greenhouse this year. It’s on its last legs; there’s a hole in the roof and the door jams. We’re opening our garden again in June for the charity garden safari that happens in our village every two years, so that will give us a boot up the backside to get things done!

I have no specific plans for the weekend ahead other than to walk the dog then sit by the fire, drink pots of tea and read. Meals are planned, the fridge is stocked, there’s a large pile of logs and all is well in our household. I hope it is where you are, too. (I’ve just looked outside and there’s no snow. Yet.)

Have a good weekend x

Five on Friday: Hello February

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Violets under the front step.
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We had a wood delivery on Monday…
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Tulips! They’re coming 🙂
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Snowdrops are starting to unfurl. They’ll be peaking in a couple of weeks.
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This is a very fine and hardy borage plant, sitting bolt upright in our veg patch. Frost? Pah.


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 There’s a definite whisper of spring in the air, a tiny hint, a minuscule glimmer – it’s warmer than it has been; warm enough to go outside to take some photos without wearing a big winter coat, hat, scarf, mittens… There are bulb shoots and buds galore and the birds are starting to get busy. February 1st was St Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, and marks the start of the pagan festival of spring. I only know this because I read it on Sultanabun’s blog last year and looked it up. Her blog regularly makes me laugh out loud and I learn stuff, properly interesting stuff.

Two  February is punctuated by half term – a week off from the regular routine. There’s one more week of school and then the children will be at home all day ‘resting’. It doesn’t seem five minutes since they went back to school after the Christmas holidays. My middle son has made it through this week of school (early nights, no sports) and is hopefully fully on the mend but it’ll be good for him to have more time to recharge soon.

Three  I went out last night for pizza, prosecco and pudding with friends. The friend who hosted the evening is an extremely Good Cook and produced a succession of delicious handmade pizzas while we all guzzled prosecco spiked with raspberry liqueur, chatted and laughed. The whole evening was a tonic and just what I needed.

Four  ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two…’ – we’ve been treated to renditions from ‘Oliver’ for weeks and weeks now. They are such ear-worms catchy tunes. My daughter is an orphan and an urchin in her school’s production. There have been two performances so far, we’re all going to see it this evening, and there’s a matinee and evening performance tomorrow. She’s loving every minute of it but I suspect she’ll be much quieter come Sunday.

Five  I took a few photos of stuff lined up on the kitchen windowsill because I thought it would make a good photo. It wasn’t until I uploaded the pictures that I noticed how filthy the windows are and I’m too embarrassed to show you! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to clear clutter or wipe a surface before taking photos or artfully crop them afterwards. There’s an admirable Instagram hashtag called ‘reallifehome’ as an antidote to all the perfectly styled pics. I’m generally all for it but my mum reads my blog 🙂

I’m delighted to be joining in with Amy for her Five on Friday.

Have a lovely weekend x

 

In a Vase on Monday: January treasure

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Dank. That is the perfect word to describe what it is like outdoors today (yes, in bold). According to the urban dictionary, dank can also mean ‘excellent’ or ‘a general insult’, or a few other things, but I’ll stick with its original meaning of ‘unpleasantly damp and cold’.

Undeterred by the grey, I ventured out into the garden to see if I could find any colour for a Monday vase. There is a lot of soggy, brown foliage out there and I had to avert my eyes from several areas, including a patch of hundreds of new crocosmia shoots where we’ve been trying to clear it. Grrr. I had a good rummage in the undergrowth and was delighted to find some fresh, perfect hellebore stems with fat pink buds underneath a veil of fallen leaves. I also snipped a couple of sprigs of white heather (no idea what type and I’m sure it was pale pink last year), a few beautiful cyclamen leaves with their delicate, silvery patterns and some tendrils from a mass of tangled ivy .

These treasures are plonked in a glass that I bought a few months ago for this very purpose. I spotted it sitting on a supermarket shelf, on sale for £2, and imagined it full of Monday vase flowers. I’ve taken several photos of it against different backgrounds with artificial and natural light. Despite the dankness I feel much better for getting in to the garden and having a good poke about. I feel even better now I’m indoors and I’ve spent some time absorbed in gazing at the leaves and buds, the patterns and colours. I know, I’ve said it before, but I do love faffing about with flowers and taking photos; I reckon it’s time well spent if it perks me up!.

I’m taking a new look at the ivy in our garden after reading an article in the latest RHS magazine. I knew it was good for wildlife but I didn’t realise how important it is to leave ivy plants to mature (about 10 years) so that they provide flowers and berries. And I didn’t realise how many species and cultivars there are of Hedera. I spotted quite a few different leaf shapes in my short expedition to the bottom of the garden, so I’m going to take more notice of this plant now and try to persuade David not to pull every last bit of it out of the hedges.

Thank you, as ever, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this weekly gathering of pickings from around the world. I’m off over there now to see what everyone else has found.

In other news (and quickly) – thank you for your get well wishes for my poorly boy. He roused himself over the weekend and has gone in to school this morning. Fingers crossed he’ll continue to improve.

Hope you have a good week x

Catching up and talking to the wall

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I must start by thanking you for your kind and supportive comments about Agnes. It feels as though it/she(!) has taken over my life recently and there’s no sign of a let-up. I naively thought that once we published the website, I’d have time to get back to other aspects of my life but I had no idea how time-consuming it would be trying to get it noticed. It feels as though we are talking to a huge, impenetrable wall. I don’t think either of us realised how difficult it would be to get publicity and we are feeling a tad despondent. After all, what’s the point of creating a fabulous resource for teenage girls if they don’t get to hear about it or find it. I know; it’s only been a week… (Impatient and naive!) I’m not going to bore you with tales of us trying to decipher the dark art of search engine optimisation and Google indexing, or our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and emailing exploits but let’s just say that it can lead to serious overload and slight mania. So, as soon as I’ve hit the button on this post, I’m shutting my laptop, stepping away from the stats and the mad world of social media and taking some much-needed time out for the rest of the weekend.

There are very few photos to show you due to a battery malfunction (I forgot to charge my phone and my camera battery…) and the fact that I haven’t stopped to properly look at much for a while. The photos of the gloriously frosty winter-wonderland that appeared here last Monday are from a friend’s phone. We don’t often get a hard frost here so close to the sea and it was a rare treat to see the land gilded with ice. The dogs loved it, sniffing furiously and running about. It was also slightly misty which added more ethereal atmosphere to our walk. I’m hoping that the deep cold has also worked its magic in the garden, killing off any nasties. There are so many plants that have survived past winters – including geraniums that have been going strong for three years – that I don’t mind some frost damage. I much prefer this proper winter weather, bone-cold and icy, to the mild, wet and windy winters of recent years.

There have been some other big things going on here recently. My middle son has been off school for the past three weeks with glandular fever. At one point I was seriously worried it was something dreadful but thankfully it’s not, although glandular fever can be pretty debilitating nonetheless. He’s spending most of his time in bed and I’m doing my best Florence Nightingale. You’d think that, and the fact that he hasn’t seen his girlfriend for weeks, would be enough to encourage him to get up, so he must be feeling rough, poor thing.

It was David’s birthday on Thursday and he was home a day early which was lovely. We had a special birthday dinner and cake (Nigella’s Birthday Cake – the favourite in our house). Again, I have no photos. We’re going to see La La Land this afternoon, then to a friend’s party this evening so it’s a weekend of good things.

I’m not going to say much about what’s going on in the wider world but my son has just told me that the new president has made his inauguration day a ‘National Day of Patriotic Devotion’. Seriously?! Have you seen the Bad Lip Reading version of the inauguration? It’s hilarious. Find it on the internet if you haven’t seen it and want a giggle.

Have a lovely weekend x

 

 

Introducing Agnes

img_5980Some people believe in fate; I prefer to think that life is a massive tangle of random threads and we forge our own path by the decisions we make. All those swirling, whirling possibilities.

There were many and varied threads that led to the point where I am, right now, at this particular moment. I could go back to 2003 when we decided to try for another child. My desire to have a daughter surprised me; I adored my two little boys, mothering them was enough, why on earth would I want another baby? But I did. And, luckily, along she came, my beautiful, headstrong, kind, funny, loving girl.

I could go back to 2012 to the decision to move to this village, to this house.

I could go back to the September of that year and the decision to walk my children to their new school along a particular route where I met Helen. And I could go back to a few weeks later and the decision to accept Helen’s invitation to lunch where I met Charlotte.

Charlotte and I struck up a firm friendship straight away. She had an idea for a book for girls and when she discovered that I worked in publishing, she sent me the outline. As a mother of a pre-teen girl it struck a massive chord with me and so I put out a few feelers. No luck, but undaunted we continued talking about the idea over many months’ worth of dog walks and the idea grew and morphed into an idea for a website. Should we do it? Could we build it and write it ourselves? We decided we should and we could. And many, many months later we’ve done it.

We have worked on it as a labour of love, during any spare time we have; we’ve bored our spouses, our children, anyone who’ll listen to us; we’ve dreamed of chatting to Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour; and we have encouraged and chivvied each other along.

We haven’t done it all on our own, though. We’ve worked with some wonderful people who have donated their time and expertise – a psychologist has written the pages on mental health, expert relatives and friends have checked the copy and advised us, several teenage girls (and mothers) have given us feedback, and we’ve even had material from a couple of blogging friends (thank you Lynda and Gillian).

And now, this morning, Agnes is ready for public viewing. We are smashing an imaginary bottle of champagne onto her hull and sending her out into the wild ocean of the world-wide web.

The whole point of our website is to help girls to navigate their teenage years. It’s full of relevant information, sound advice and inspiration. I wish I’d had something like it when I was growing up.

I won’t go into detail about it; I’ll let it speak for itself. Please click on this link and see what you think. If you have a teenage girl in your life or know someone who has, it would be fabulous if you could help us to spread the word. Thank you.

And now I’m going to lie down in a darkened room for a while and have a little rest. Who am I kidding?! I need to clean the house and catch up on all the stuff I’ve been ignoring. I need to get out into the garden! If you come here for the gardening, there will be more. Soon.

Have a splendid weekend. x