To be, or not to be?

The writer in me has lost focus, drive and determination recently. To be honest, the knitter, dyer, housekeeper, cook, seamstress and communicator in me has lost focus, drive and determination recently. Since the bout of flu I had before Christmas, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time ruminating and cogitating over what the next step should be.

New Year, then, brought more energy but even less will to achieve. I have my goals for the year, but not the impetus to start working towards them. And so I have spent my time in reflection. Learning from things which weren’t very good last year, hoping to do things better in the year to come. I know that January 1st is just another day, but in my mind, as in the minds of so many others, it is a natural turning point, a logical place to stop and take breath, to evaluate what has gone before and what will come next.

My ‘next’ is to lose weight. So much of my self confidence is stupidly tied up in how I look. I hate the vanity of that, and I wish I were only losing weight to become healthier in the long term, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit to donning the trainers with the thought of how I’d look in my holiday photos if I continued to do nothing. A stone down from my heaviest already, I’d like to finish this year at least a stone lighter again. In my current less than optimistic frame of mind, it feels unlikely, but I am a person who needs something to hope for, so this is my hope for this year.

But back to the beginning. My original premise was that my inner writer has lost the will to extend out through my fingers and into this blog. It has been months and months since I wrote regularly. I used to enjoy it, and find it soothing. I think if I made myself write, even a few words a day, maybe I’d come to enjoy it again. But I live in fear of my blog becoming nothing more than an advertising feature for my business, or a self-indulgent forum of ‘look at me and what I’ve done! Isn’t it wonderful?’ type posts. For me, my best blog posts have been written when I have thoughts in my head, bursting to get out and onto the page. Or when something happening in the world inspires me with thoughts and opinions which I just long to share with otherĀ people. Yes, most blogging is essentially self-indulgent, writing as many of us do for ourselves rather than to cater to others. But ‘in real life’ I don’t think I’m the sort of personĀ who jumps up and down shouting about how wonderful I am, so why would I do that here? Sometimes, I’ll admit, I’m proud of something I’ve made, and so I post a picture. And sometimes, what I’m making or doing is part of the story I’m telling and so it’s incorporated that way. But on the whole, when I write I do it to catalogue and process my own thoughts and opinions and feelings.

I’ve noticed forĀ some years now that I suffer from a form of winter depression. It varies enormously in intensity, and whilst it doesn’t often prevent me from doing very much, IĀ don’t wantĀ to socialise (tonight being a prime example – I really don’t want to go to my knitting group and yet I know from experience that if I force myself, I’ll probably enjoy it once I’m there) and will quite often go into my own head and not really know the way out. Last night is a prime example. I became miserable (for the lack of a better word) in the early evening, and then stayed miserable despite my excellent husband’s best efforts to cheer me. There was absolutely no reason for my misery, and the remnants are with me now. I’m sure that someone who hasn’t had to deal with this sort of thing would say that I should just push through it, keep busy and it’ll pass. But I hope that others who have regular blasts of ‘the blues’ will understand when I say that I couldn’t do anything. I have a large knitting project to finish, and without any exaggeration, I sat with a darning needle in my hand for well over an hour, unable to bring myself to touch the garment, before admitting defeat and putting the needle down. Something my friend Jo said in her last post struck a chord with me. Boldly paraphrasing, she said that trusting thatĀ she will get better eventually is what she hangs on to. Which made so much sense to me, because it’s what I do throughout every rainy, grey winter month we have, until the spring warmth and sunshine bring the smiles and rationality back to me once more.

Long term readers will notice that I usually have pictures of the first snowdrops up. In retrospect, this is clearly me looking forward to the spring and my winter blues disappearing for another few months. Interestingly, I was as happy as a sandboy when we had snow, so it’s not the actual time of year, but more our British dark, dull, dreary winter days which cause such chaos in my brain.

Well, without actually wanting to wish my life away, bring on the Springtime. May April be here in a jiffy, and winter misery be a thing of distant memory.

I’m off out now. Apparently the thing to do is to get outside in the fresh air when you feel low. Although I doubt the efficacy of fresh air when it is punctured by drizzle and a distinct lack of sunshine. But I’m feeling the need to search for signs of snowdrops.

Pinch, punch, first of the month, no return!

How did that rhyme start? Was it just a way to make people remember that the month had changed?? In which case, someone needs to give me a substantial injury on the first day of a new year, as I regularly write the old year on letters and cheques for months into a new year!

Anyway, I just wanted to come online and say hooray! and hurrah! In a very visually metaphorically way, I woke up this morning to a glorious blue sky and warm sunshine! It really feels like a turning point between the oh so long winter and the coming spring. I’m so…lifted up by such a nice start to the month. I know that there’ll probably be more wet, cold and windy days to come before we properly get into spring, but at least I can feel it coming now!

Surely it’s not November already?

I could have been forgiven for mistaking today for a November day. This morning, driving across Cardiff before breakfast, it was dark, damp, miserable, windy and generally as unlike a typical August day as I have ever seen. I was wearing a jumper under my coat, for goodness’ sake!

Whinge over. I’m sure the ground is benefitting from the hydration, blahdeblah. I’m seriously considering petitioning the council/assembly/government to move the summer holidays to either June or September though, so that the kids have half a chance of getting out in the sunshine once in a while during their holidays!

Thank you for all your comments recently; please don’t think I’m ignoring you! I’m just paying a flying visit today, but will be sure to read them all and reply tomorrow. Hope you’re all keeping well!

Global warming, and why I’m not moving south anytime soon

Crunchy Chicken today posted a link to, andĀ a blogpostĀ aboutĀ a very interesting article in the New Scientist magazine, offering an opinion on what the world would look like if the overall temperature of the world were to increase by just 4Ā°. It’s very interesting reading, and makes me extremely glad to be already living as near to one of the poles as we do! It also makes me wish even more ardently for our little farm in the south Wales hills. Ho hum. Maybe one day. Meantime, have a look at this graphic of how the world might be in a few decades.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain about the cold so much.

Severn Crossings closed

There are two bridges across the River Severn, connecting England and South Wales. One is only about fifteen years old, the other just over fifty years old and I’ve travelled on both of them a number of times, especially since living in Cardiff. The first bridge fairly regularly closes due to adverse weather conditions (e.g. high winds) as the road is relatively narrow and exposed to the elements. I’ve never known the second, newer bridge to close for bad weather and yet, this morning, both bridges were shut. Not directly because of the snowfall, but because large (up to a metre squared) pieces of ice were falling off the gantries and five or six cars had their windscreens smashed as a result of these huge pieces of falling ice. You can see a BBC news article about it here, which includes some scary video filmed by the Severn River Crossing PLC, showing large pieces of ice crashing down onto a mercifully empty road.

The first bridge (on the M48 ) re-opened later today, although the newer bridge remains closed due to the snowfall. I’m not sure if it’s because fresh snow fell or due to the further risk of ice falling from gantries. Motorists had to take a near hundred mile detour to rejoin their previous route. Some members of my family were travelling to Brighton today, and instead of the normal three-ish hour journey, it took them seven and a half hours! Bless them! But as frustrating as that must have been for them, imagine how scared the drivers must have been who were actually on the bridge when the ice began to fall. Thankfully there were no injuries as a result of the ice damaging the cars, but there could all too easily have been tragedy today.

I’m glad that I haven’t had to drive anywhere outside the city boundaries this week; and I’m also thankful that GG doesn’t have to drive for a living. I would have been constantly worrying about him this week. I’ve not told her this, but I’ve been keeping an eye on the state of the roads up to the farm and worrying for Jo, having to drive back and forth each day.

Anyway, I’m having a home day tomorrow, so the weather can throw whatever it likes at me! Apparently we have more snow forecast for Sunday here, which is concerning as this weekend will be very cold, so the snow will be falling on ice. Add to that the shortage of road grit currently being experienced by the local authorities, and the potential for some scary road conditions ensues. Hmm. Snow is very pretty to look at, but until Britain reaches the capacity of Sweden or Norway to deal with it, maybe I’d better grow up a little and hope for it all to melt ASAP!

Winter weather forecast

So, I’ve been looking at the UK Meteorological Office’s website to see what their long term weather forecast is for the coming winter months. Apparently, we are in for a winter which is colder than last year, but drier.

Cold, I can handle. Extra jumpers, scarves, mittens and gloves can all help deal with that. Rain, however, gets me down. I posted a comment over at Rhonda-Jean’s blog the other day after she said that the sound of rain falling at night helps her to sleep like a baby. I, I’m afraid, don’t share the comfort which she takes from the sound of rainfall. A few years ago, we had a flood (it wasn’t just a leak!) from the flat above, where a pipe burst and the water gushed through all the weaknesses in the ceilings in our sitting room, kitchen, bathroom and hall. It happened in the middle of the night, as these things so thoughtlessly often do, and the first that I was aware of it was when I woke up to the apparent sound of heavy rainfall. It was only when I realised that the sound was coming from within the flat that I leaped out of bed and started to run around panicking! Eventually, after getting the police out to hammer down the door of the flat above (we couldn’t wake them for love nor money) we managed to stop the flow of water, although we had no more sleep that night. And ever since, whenever we have heavy rain at night here in Cardiff, I find it incredibly hard to get a sound night’s sleep. So I welcome the prospect of a drier winter than we experienced last year. Even a drier few months than the ‘summer’ (it’s in inverted commas for a reason!) was would be nice! Maybe then I could catch up on my sleep!

Definition of Summer

My cold has come back again, and my head feels very bunged up. It is very cold and grey outside, and slightly misty. I was absolutely worn out when I woke up, which is all wrong, and even a ‘bracing’ walk to school and back did nothing to make me more alert. I am most definitely not yet in a mood today to feel glad about the weather, and with that in mind (i.e. the bitterness I feel at having to wait six more months to feel warm without artificial aids!) I started to think about the definition of summer.

This year, those months with theĀ most daylight hours did not adhere to the dictionary definition of Summer. Here are some of the definitions I have found on the internet.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4ADBS_enGB273GB273&defl=en&q=define:summer&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/summer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer

Among words in common use in various locations I have researched are ‘temperate’, ‘warm’, ‘bright’, as well as ‘tourism’. Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but my touristic endeavours were definitely limited this summer as I had very little inclination to take my children sight-seeing in the rain.

“A period of fruition, fulfillment, happiness, or beauty” says www.thefreedictionary.com. Humph. I don’t feel that I experienced any of these, but then this could be the bitterness induced by my cold inducing a form of memory loss. I’m sure I wasn’t unhappy all the way through the summer, I’m just finding it hard to remember summer-related high points right now (maybe the cold is slowing my brain function!).

I’m going to wrap myself in blankets while I watch ‘The West Wing‘Ā for the morning while I drink endless cups of tea and try to tell myself that I don’t need chocolate to make myself happy. Then, after lunch maybe I’ll feel happier and more able to be productive. I’m most definitely ‘glass half empty’ today!

Being glad about the rain

Along the lines of a post which I wrote not so long ago about being more positive about things outside my control, I thought that I should really get myself in a better frame of mind about the wet weather which is, by all accounts returning for a good long stay this week.

Hmm, this is going to be a tricky one. I think I’m going to have to think ‘deeper’ glad thoughts. I’m glad that

  1. I don’t have to worry about drought
  2. I don’t need to walk three miles to get water for my children to drink
  3. I can easily collect enough water outside to water my garden on the odd days that the rain holds off!
  4. Enough rain falls to ensure that I live in a ‘green and pleasant place’
  5. I’ve never had to worry about flooding around my home (touch wood, touch wood, touch wood, spit and turn round three times!)
  6. It’s raining clean water
  7. Rain clouds make it a bit warmer in the winter than when we have clear skies
  8. We get enough rain to keep the rivers, lakes and reservoirs topped up for all the fish and other aquatic wildlife to be happy
  9. I have enough money to be able to afford weatherproof clothes and boots

OK, I started scraping the barrel by the end of that list! Does anyone have any ideas to add?

Cold Snap

As the first cold mornings of Autumn start to arrive, it reminds me of what needs to be done before the winter sets in. Last year we replaced our extremely draughty aluminium framed single glazed windows with uPVC double glazing. We noticed such a difference once the steady current of cold air stopped circulating around the flat. So this year I’d like to have cavity wall insulation installed, but because I live in a flat (albeit ground floor) I’m not sure whether it will be possible. We have a condensation problem during the winter and so I’d like to try to reduce this with the cavity wall insulation.

I need to go through all of our clothes and make sure that we have enough jumpers and other warm clothes to see us through until Spring. My older son (who I will start to call Handsome from now on) takes me by surprise with his growth spurts and so it is quite possible that he doesn’t have a well fitting jumper to his name! My younger son (a.k.a. Cheeky – an obvious pseudonym if you have ever met him!) is easier to clothe as Handsome is easy on his clothes and can generally pass most of them on to Cheeky. I’m glad that it’s not the other way round as, once Cheeky has finished with his clothes they are generally fit for nowhere more sophisticated than the rag bag!

Once it gets colder and the evenings start to draw in I have an unstoppable and undeniable urge to hibernate. I yearn to live somewhere with soft deep armchairs in front of a roaring open fire. I crave casseroles, warming soupsĀ and puddings at meal times and I pile the blankets onto my bed to make a snug nest at night. My slipper socks have already made an appearance this month, keeping my toes toasty warm.

I’ve been on a foxed rate for my electricity for the past year, but that comes to an end after Christmas. As a result, if I want to have the heaters on a lot this winter and I don’t want to end up in debtor’s prison for failure to pay my fuel bill I’m going to need to cut back on other things to free up the money. I don’t have central heating and the storage heaters are next to useless as wellĀ as greedy as very greedy things when it comes to getting through electricity. Due to their lack of sufficient heat production I need to use convection heaters to supplement them. The convection heaters are even thirstier for electricity and so our winter electricity bills are very steep.

Finally, one of my pre-winter yearnings which I talked about yesterday has been made possible. In my organic fruit and vegetable box (again, more about that another day) yesterday I received two large oranges and a lime. Together with the large orange from last week’s box and a lemon which was hiding at the bottom of my fruit bowl, I have enough to make some three-fruit marmalade! I’m so happy! So that will be my task at the start of next week. Happy weekend!

Autumn approaches

It’s a glorious day here, and unusually for South Wales this is the second nice sunny day in a row! I honestly can’t remember the last time that we had two lovely days in a row, which either speaks volumes for my mental state or for the climate this summer!

Despite the sunshine (for which I am very grateful – I washed and dried all my laundry yesterday) there is a distinct chill in the air and, as I was driving to the farm the other day I noticed that the leaves are starting to turn to their fall colours. It only seems two minutes since the leaves came out of bud this year, but then I’ve been expecting the summer to start any time soon and not that we would skip straight from spring to autumn. At the very least I’m hoping for a dry autumn so that I can go for long walks in the woods, kicking up clouds of crisp fallen leaves and watching the dappled sunlight dance on the floor.

Autumn is definitely on the way, and my body clock is more tuned into that than is my mind. I am getting the urge to make jam, although I don’t know anyone who can give me free or cheap fruit with which to make it which is a bit of a nuisance. I also have the urge to bottle things and make chutney. On the whole I don’t like pickled food or chutneys so I couldn’t tell you why. And also, we still have two jars of plum chutney in my cupboard from last year. Hmm. I’ll be making the mincemeat soon for Christmas so that it has time to mature, and at the start of October I’ll have to make my Christmas cake. Christmas is starting to enter my conscious mind more in the last few days. I’m thinking of making my Christmas cards this year, which means that I need to get organised into doing that sooner rather than later. I don’t want to be staying up all night on the 18th December trying to finish and write hand crafted cards in order to get them posted before the last posting day.

I love looking through my kitchen window at blue skies. I love being able to hang laundry outside without obsessing over how long it will be before the next rainfall begins. I love ambling to school in the afternoons to collect my children, not thinking about the weather or having to cower next to walls all the way to avoid getting drenched! I love that my children can play outside after school. And I love that my bizarre and very confused strawberry plants are still producing fruit!