Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sunny Sunday Morning at Home

This is my favourite time of year.  I love the blossom and the freshness of the new leaves.  My garden is at its best at this time: here a few quick snaps this morning and a shot of the big trees which surround the garden.  I'll miss my garden and my dog walks around the village when we move.  This week we've had evening walks after the rain stopped and you could really smell the hawthorn hedges.  And in the usual dog walk field the grass is knee high and full of buttercups.

Yes I'll miss the village, my garden and this house.  It looks like our sale is going through and we have found somewhere too now - a smaller house which ticks all the boxes.  It's within easy walking distance of the centre of Chester,  and has a bit more character than this one.  There are compromises: it won't be as quiet and we won't have as much space downstairs.   We'll be swapping the sound of the crows for traffic noise as we are just off a main route into the city.  But there's a walled garden and double glazing and easy access to the cycle path and canal for dog walking.  We also have plans to extend the living space downstairs to make a bigger kitchen.

All very exciting but for now I'm enjoying my peaceful May garden probably for the last time.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Five on Friday: things I have been doing while not blogging

I've been absent for a bit. Here's why. Joining with Amy for Five on Friday.

We've been planning to move for a while and after the Easter holiday decided to put our house on the market again. So I've been:

1. Spending my usual Saturday morning blogging slot super-cleaning the house, shoving stuff into cupboards etc. ready for weekend viewings.

2. Politely tolerating those who clearly have no intention to buy and gritting my teeth at their implied criticism of our undersized bedrooms ('But where would you put a dressing table?'), lack of proper garage and dog-damaged lawn.

3. Getting over the shock of actually receiving an acceptable offer and facing the prospect of moving out of this house which has been our home for nearly 15 years.

4. Spending hours on Rightmove trying to find our next home.  This is exciting but also scary as it's such a big decision.  We're viewing some houses ourselves today - I'll try to be kind.

5. Feeling sad that I'll be leaving our lovely, peaceful garden  (pictured above as it looks this morning) behind, but happier that we won't be so car dependent.  We want to live somewhere we don't have get into the car every time we run out of milk.

Thanks for the comments on my last post. about my insomnia. I also received a lovely supportive letter from my cousin who reads this.  The programme seems to be working and I am sleeping well most nights.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Tackling my Insomnia: the Sleepio programme

I've written before about my sleep problems -it's not unusual for me to be awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night or ridiculously early in the mornings.  I don't normally have a problem getting to sleep - in fact the opposite is true as I'm often so tired in the evenings that I struggle to keep my eyes open and am prone to napping in front of the TV. It is this which has eventually prompted me to take action - I want to be able to enjoy my evenings more. So I've signed up for Sleepio, an online CBT course which claims to tackle insomnia.

I found out about the Sleepio programme through my reading of a self-help book on insomnia by Colin Espie I borrowed from the library.  He's a Scottish doctor who is an expert on the subject.  The programme is outlined in the book and you can create your own tables to log your sleep and follow the course that way. But the online programme allows you to log your progress via an app, gives you access to an expert you can question weekly and an online community of others with similar problems.  You have to fork out £60 quid for this,  But I suppose the pain of doing this increases commitment  - it's a bit like the Weightwatchers model.

I'm in the third week of the programme now and it's not easy.  For a start, I've had to give up reading in bed, one of the greatest pleasures in life.  And audio books are banned too - recently I've got through the whole of 'David Copperfield' in my nightly wake ups - all 32 hours of it which is a lot of time awake.  I was even looking forward to waking up so I could listen to some more so the habit of being awake at night was getting worse. I can read or listen but it must be downstairs - you have to get up if you are awake for more than 15 minutes.  My sleep diary indicates that I usually sleep just 6 hours of the 8 I usually spend in bed so now my time in bed is restricted to these hours.  My sleep window is 11,30-5,30.  Getting up at 5.30 not so bad now it's light in the mornings but staying awake until 11.30 last night was painful as the previous night I'd had less than 3 hours sleep because I just couldn't settle.  But then last night I slept 6 perfect, undisturbed hours, achieving over 90% sleep efficiency which is the big goal - that's the percentage of time in bed actually spent asleep.

Being up early has allowed me to catch up here again too so it's all good.  Perhaps I'll write a post every morning for a while.  Anyone out there tried sleep restriction? Would like to hear from you if you have.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

My favourite theatre: Theatre Clwyd in Mold

Last weekend I went with a friend to my favourite theatre, the Theatre Clwyd in North Wales, about half an hour's drive from here.  We saw a play called , 'Jumpy' by April de Angelis which had caught my eye when I last visited, It's a comedy about a 50 year woman, her mid-life crisis and her relationship with her rebellious teenage daughter. Neither my friend nor I would describe our teenage daughters as rebellious but nevertheless we could identify with some of the situations on stage and the dialogue was spot on.  A very entertaining play: funny and honest and brilliantly staged with minimal set, and really effective use of music and movement to show scene changes. We watched in the smaller Emlyn Williams theatre so were close to the action and paid less than £20 for our tickets. This is one of many excellent productions I've seen at this theatre, my favourite being 'Dancing at Lughnasa', Brian Friel's play about 5 sisters in 1950's Donegal.  It stages serious plays - I recently saw Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  there - as well as those which appeal to a wider audience such a Rock and Roll Panto every Christmas.  And they do excellent cake: we shared a huge piece of coffee and walnut on Saturday afternoon.

Talking of cake, here's my Easter cake made for Sunday when my sister and her family visited.  It's a carrot cake rather than the traditional simnel.  I never have much success with cakes but this recipe never lets me down. I missed going to Northern Ireland this year for Easter as we have done for the past few years.  Catching up with one sister was good fun and we even had an Easter egg hunt for the kids though we had to do it indoors because of torrential rain.

Treated myself to posh Easter egg selection from M&S. Verdict:looks pretty but not really worth the money. 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

A Morning Walk in Aldeburgh

The Easter holidays are here and we've just returned from a very welcome break in Aldeburgh, Suffolk where I caught up on sleep, read loads and wound down from a very busy term at school. We stayed in a little holiday cottage on the High Street and enjoyed taking it easy; exploring the town; walking on the beach; and catching up with old friends who live in Norfolk and Suffolk. The weather was wintry when we arrived - a biting north-east wind blowing in from the sea made walking the dog a fairly unpleasant experience on Saturday.  But it improved. On Tuesday morning I was awake and up early before others and so I took the dog and my camera and went for a walk.  I didn't take any glasses with me so some shots are a bit wonky but thanks to autofocus not so bad.

The beach in Aldeburgh is shingle rather than sand so it's not exactly bucket and spade territory.  We used to visit here on days out when we lived in Norfolk.

This building, some sort of look-out tower which is now an art gallery, is actually on the beach.

Many of the houses in the town are painted in pastel colours - it really is a very pretty place.  Kate, a big fan of Cbeebies, said it looks like Balamory, which, if you don't know it, is a programme for young children filmed in Tobermory, also full of coloured houses.

 Spring is well on its way here with lots of bulbs on display- these daffodils were even growing on the beach.

At the north end of the beach, there is a square with a statue of a little dog.  The inscription says it is a memorial to a doctor who cared for residents of Aldeburgh for many years.

Ronan the dog and I met a few other dogs and their owners out early and an occasional jogger, but it was very quiet on the beachfront.  We walked past the war memorial...

and the museum, which doesn't open until May.

..and past some of the many little shacks which sell fish on the beach.  Aldeburgh is a working fishing town and one the few people I saw on my walk was a fisherman degutting a very large fish.  We bought some smoked fish from this stall - I had mackerel and husband had some very smelly kippers.

There are many boats, nets and fishing gear on the beach.

We walked back to the cottage down the high street.  There are lots of attractive shops mostly aimed at visitors.  I think Aldeburgh attracts a lot of rich Londoners and so most of the clothes shops were out of my budget.  A top in one of the windows caught my eye so Kate and I went in and had a look:£179! 

Aldeburgh is famous for its fish and chips but a word of warning if you ever visit.  Make sure you go to the main Fish and Chip shop beside the White Hart pub - it usually has a queue outside when it's open.  We made the mistake of going to  the Golden Galleon, which has this rather well-endowed mermaid statue outside, as the main shop was closed on Monday evening.  The Golden Galleon's fish and chips were not that nice.

There are many art galleries and antique shops like the one above on the high street and branches of middle-aged/middle-class clothes shops such as Joules and Fatface.  Kate was not impressed.  We did like the bookshop though - it's a rare treat to find a proper well-stocked independent bookshop these days.

We came home with one purchase - a 8 pint barrel of Adnams Broadside beer, made locally in Southwold.  

I liked this painting of some fennel and garlic I spotted in one gallery on my walk - would be nice in my kitchen I thought until I looked at the price tag. 


I returned from my walk to join the rest of the family and get ready for lunch with friends we haven't seen for about 7 years at the Lighthouse Restaurant. Much lovely food, good conversation and more wine than was sensible at lunchtime.  This was my pudding: chocolate truffle cake with marzipan top. We also met some other friends we'd not seen in ten years in Diss on Saturday evening, near where we used to live.  Time has gone so fast but in both cases conversation was easy and we enjoyed sharing news.(None of us bother much with Facebook.)

At one time we'd talked about moving to Aldeburgh when we retired, something that's not so far off for us now.  But although I love visiting  I'm not sure I would want to live here.  Most of the properties on the High Street are holiday cottages and out of season I suspect it could be rather bleak at times. And it's a very long way from anywhere else,

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mothers' Day 2016

This is I the last photo I have of me with my mother,  at my sister's wedding in July 2003.  I think she is smiling as we are watching Kate aged 3 who was bridesmaid that day.

It's nearly 12 years since my mother Sadie died now and I still miss her terribly.  On Mothers' Day when friends are making a fuss of their mothers, I am jealous and so sad we lost her so young.  The first year after her death I recall crying in Morrison's when I saw the display of cards and it hit that for the first time I wouldn't be buying one.

I've just discovered that I had already written in June 2013 the post I'd planned about her while lying in bed this morning.  I'm finding that about the blog recently as I've written a few repeat posts - the snowdrops at Ness Gardens in my last post for instance.  And I notice that in my five year line-a-day diary, which is now on its second year, that this week's entries are almost identical to the same week last year.  These repetitions and routines are comforting and familiar but sometimes lull us into a false sense of security.  I feel the need to shake myself awake and remind myself that things do change and the loss of those we love is inevitable. This line from 'Stop all the Clocks' by W.H Auden comes to mind:

 'I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.'

I think it's the directness of the line which makes it so powerful.

On this Mothers' Day, I'm going to stop fussing about the usual stuff.  I won't fill my day with chores, as I often do, or get lost in lesson preparation and getting ahead for the week.  I'm going to spend the day giving my full attention to my husband and daughter who are now beginning to emerge this morning, so I'll finish here.

I love this photograph of us celebrating Mum's 70th birthday with Dad, Kate aged 2 and her cousin Alice

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Dickens versus Insomnia

Life is stressful in our house at present. Work stress for both husband and me; GCSEs for Kate.  And uncertainty about next year's plans too. Kate has to choose A levels and a new school for September and there are decisions to be made for all of us.  As a result there is a fair amount of grumpiness and, for me, sleep problems as I tend to wake at night and worry about things.  I've written about my battle with insomnia before and my attempts to deal with it have had limited success.  I'm now bored with the Mindfulness book audio tracks I used for a while to help reduce stress.  It does work in helping me switch off, but it sometimes seems such a waste of time lying there thinking about 'just this breath in and this breath out' when there are more interesting things to do. ( I kind of feel the same about 'relaxation' in yoga)

So I have a new weapon. I recently discovered audio books, thanks to Christina who has blogged about her love of 'reading' this way.  After a few technical hitches I succeeded in downloading to my phone Dickens' 'David Copperfield' for 99p, choosing this mainly because of price: if I didn't like the audio book experience, I wouldn't have wasted much money.

One of the problems with my insomnia is that it affects everyone else.  If I get up and go downstairs, it's cold and it disturbs my husband; the Kindle 'Nook', my birthday present last year, which is designed for reading in bed, actually emits quite a bright light which disturbs my husband and my neck gets sore after a while.  Listening to my phone with headphones is less annoying for him. (Although not when I fail to put the headphones in properly, as I did last night, waking him up with a blast of DC!) And I can stay cosy and warm, lying down fully relaxed with my eyes closed as I listen.

So I'm loving listening to 'David Copperfield', a classic I never quite got round to. It's narrated by someone called Peter Batchelor whose voice is fairly inoffensive although he attempts a squeaky voice to convey David as a child which is a bit annoying. So, instead of visualising nightmare work scenarios or rerunning things in my head at 3am, I'm picturing Aunt Betsy riding her pony trap through Canterbury or Uriah Heap rubbing his hands, or Mr Micawber telling David of his latest financial problems.  Brilliant.  I don't sleep any more, but at least I am relaxing and,
after a hour or sometimes two, I go back to sleep.  It's 32 hours long. I have 23 left so it was well worth the 99p.  And plenty more Dickens to go.  And then I might start on Hardy.