Showing posts with label Suffolk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Suffolk. Show all posts

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Have a Happy Christmas!

Christmas is coming on like an express train!  Where does time go?  How can it be Christmas again so soon?  And why do I need three Christmas trees this year?  I always get carried away at Christmas.

This afternoon was spent at the church carol service, with a cameo Nativity play put on by the local children.  Just as charming as I remember from when my own children were small and happily donned tea towels round their heads to become shepherds.  

Mulled wine and mince pies were served afterwards in the village hall and I swear we could have been in Ambridge.  I kept listening out for the hurdy gurdy of the Archers theme tune!

We won't have snow in Suffolk this Christmas, too mild, but I love these wonderfully evocative lines from Christina Rossetti's poem, which we sang in the ancient Suffolk church today.  The church where we were married just over 18 months ago.  

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas!

'In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago'
Christina Rossetti

Friday, 18 November 2016

Woodland Walk

There is a perfect moment each Autumn, when the trees are hanging onto the last of their leaves before the storms strip them bare for the winter...

... a secret place for two lively dogs to explore

This wet little spaniel has never seen Autumn before but he had no trouble finding the stream at the bottom of the valley

We are so lucky to have this ancient woodland just a few minutes walk from our home and usually have it all to ourselves, apart from bluebell time when it is full of families enjoying picnics and making dens.  We tend to avoid the woods then as the dogs don't take kindly to being walked on a leash and are strangely unwelcome, storming through someone's idyllic picnic!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Staying put

The subconscious plays strange tricks.  Deciding to acquire Oskar, our new puppy, was an emotional decision and totally impractical given our plans to move house and downsize to a busier, more urban environment with better facilites and transport links to our growing extended family, preferably back in the South East of England where we brought up our children. All sensible, reasonable, carefully thought through and definitely achievable with one older, settled dog (and the three cats who are well used to upping sticks anyway), but the subconscious was having none of it!

We are still enjoying a love affair with our pretty village cottage, very much off the beaten track and on the road to nowhere in particular, and with the gorgeous countryside that surrounds us. We can step out of our gate and be in fields in minutes, well away from noise, traffic and pollution and revelling in the space and unspoilt beauty of this part of Suffolk.  Ideal for dog walking and yet within driving distance of so many places we enjoy visiting.  Perhaps if we had found another house we could fall in love with, our decision would have been different, although given the cost and disruption of a house move, it would have had to be very special indeed.  

I have also had to face the fact that my wish to move is very much linked to a strong desire to turn the clock back.  Back to a time and place where I was content with my role as a mother and the hub of our family life, with my own mother living nearby and my work in my children's school putting me at the heart of my community.  But life has moved on, choices have been made and for now, it is clear that Oskar has helped us to crystallise our thoughts and, after two years of uncertainty and playing the options, tolerating hoards of strangers tramping through our much loved home, always believing that there would be the perfect house for us out there, we are settling for what we have.  We are simply not ready to give up our country life yet. The colour charts have come out and I am having rightmove withdrawal symptoms, but we do have two happy, contented dogs (the cats would be relieved too!).  

Of course Oskar is totally oblivious to his role in our decision and is happily getting on with the business of being a puppy but he has certainly changed our lives in more ways than one and I have found out why I needed him in my life.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Brand new world - living with a puppy

Every day is a new adventure for Oskar.  The world to him is brand new and surprising, or startling and frightening, and it is refreshing to see it through his three month old puppy eyes.  

This week has been a pivotal week for us, as he is now allowed out into the wider world, vaccinations having taken. He loves his short walks but has to become accustomed to the constraints of a lead as he tears headlong through the village, snuffling and sniffing, stopping in wonder and terror for every car that goes by (no pavements for us to shelter on). 

He has to learn to travel in the back of the car, behind the dog guard, and not to be afraid as the world whizzes by, and he has started puppy school - a safe place to meet other puppies and learn a few basic skills.  He is also becoming a firm favourite in the village pub, where he has to learn to stay close to us and not to make a noise, yelping and barking. Today he met his first horse walking up the hill near our home, followed by a bike.  So much to see and do and absorb.

His life is a social whirl and he is welcome everywhere he goes.  Children exclaim and stop and pet him, parents and grandparents rush over to say hello and other dogs sniff him curiously.  The party is definitely wherever he is!  Our older dog looks on with a rather jaundiced eye, the centre of attention no longer and nose temporarily out of joint, but she graciously puppy-sits him every night for us which is a great relief. 

Life has changed in the four weeks since we brought him home, our world has shrunk to the village with short trips further afield limited by his nap times.  He is a very lively puppy and we are on puppy duty from 7am to 10pm with nap breaks, and it is wearing but rewarding too.  Putting in time and hard work with him now will pay dividends in the future, but I am looking forward to having two dogs quietly settled in front of the wood burning stove one day, and running free on our rambles, enjoying the country walks that are such an important part of our lives here in Suffolk.

Friday, 29 January 2016

... of Puppies and Frosty Morning Walks

Life changing moments don't always announce themselves with a great fanfare.  A week ago, as I took an early morning walk with my camera, enchanted by the hoar frost which had transformed the mundane into the magical, I wasn't thinking of acquiring another dog just yet, if at all. 

Somewhere in my head for a long time, I have carried a picture of two dogs, one black, one blond, sharing my life and although over the years I have often had one dog to accompany me on my walks, two seemed an impossible dream; time, space, money, work, practical considerations all held me back.  

So when my sister-in-law phoned me to tell me about her new puppy, a working cocker cross, with brothers and sisters waiting for their forever homes, I really tried hard to say no.  Taking on another dog, rather like having another child, is a massive commitment and there is rarely a perfect moment, but she convinced me that this was a litter worth looking at, both parents living in a home environment and the puppies being raised in the house with children, all beautiful, healthy and well balanced. 

I think the point of no return came when I picked up the phone just to have a chat with the breeder and found myself making an appointment to visit.  My husband was no help at all and frankly encouraged me in achieving this long held dream and somehow we went from 'shall we have another dog' to 'which puppy shall we choose'? (actually, he chose us).  After all, if not now, when?  Crazy I know but we will find a way to make it work and still have our freedom too.  After all, if you have one dog, how much more of a problem can two be?  No doubt we shall find out, but we are committed now and delighted to welcome Oskar to our family.

Are you a dog lover?  Would you have been sensible, or like me, would you have followed your heart?

and some frosty Suffolk scenes...

Friday, 8 January 2016

Time to Decide

Walking alone today on a rare clear, sunny but very cold winter's day, with our young yellow Labrador was a good opportunity for contemplation as another year begins its cycle.  Christmas already seems a distant memory as our lovely tree stands naked, propped against the brown bin waiting to be recycled, which is the best we can offer in return for bringing a little magic into our home.  I do hate putting Christmas away and yet there is something liberating about the space created.  The almost empty calendar is pinned up in the kitchen waiting to be filled with whatever form our lives will take this year, a blank page waiting for its fill of the special and not so special occasions which make up a life.  

Last year was a very special year as we finally celebrated our marriage and also witnessed my youngest stepson marry his girlfriend of the last eight years.  There was, sadly, my father-in-law's funeral, attended by most of his steadily increasing family - a fine testament to his life but a sad loss to those who knew him. There is another big family wedding already booked in for June this year, my step-daughter, and another engagement has just been announced.  

But as I walked through the empty Suffolk countryside this morning, what was really on my mind was the need to commit, to make a decision.  Our house has been on and off the market for most of the last two years as we try and work out how it is we want to live, what is important to us, what is possible and what is just an impossible dream. Moving to Suffolk over 6 years ago, after more than 20 years living and raising my children on the Kent/Sussex border, has been a mixed experience and I have sometimes struggled to settle here.  

We have come to love this strange, relatively empty and unspoilt county with its huge skies and stunning coastline.  The rivers are beautiful and we appreciate the sense of space, the pretty painted houses, the ancient towns and villages which nestle in the valleys and the warmth and friendliness of the people who make their lives here.  What I have missed though are the deeper connections I formed during those years of school runs, plays, matches, parents' evenings, putting down deep roots in a community which takes a long time.  So, for over a year, we have really explored the possibility of going back to Kent/East Sussex and have spent a lot of time visiting the area, catching up with old friends, trying to decide if this is a real possibility or if life has just moved on too far, whether we are just chasing a dream and letting go of something that has real value to us here.  This is our Suffolk and so many reasons to stay...

The Stour
The Orwell at Pin Mill
Butt & Oyster
Ponies at Pin Mill
There are, of course, options three and four! Renting out our house and renting another, almost anywhere, for a year and really shaking things up.  The Ari├Ęge beckons!  I have always dreamed of living in France for a while.  Or we could move almost anywhere else in the country - the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District are proving a big draw at the moment!

One way or another, the challenge this year is to commit and then to make whatever we decide to do become the right choice.  

What challenges do you face this year, what decisions and life events are on the horizon?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Gratitude - Autumn Walk

Today I am grateful for... 

...the wind in my hair, 
the damp, green autumn grass under my feet, 
the sunlight streaming through the trees, glinting on the last of the falling leaves, 
the quiet embrace of the empty woods and the peace that I find there, 
the muddy stream running through the valley, 
the uncut, faded grass in the meadow where wild flowers grow in the summer 
and the ecstatic freedom of my beautiful, bouncing, bounding, young yellow Labrador as she keeps me company on my walk, 
but most of all I am grateful for the lives and the love of my three beautiful boys. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

May - Morning Walk

Bluebell wood

Beautiful blond labrador, looking for trouble


Shady country lane

Moody Suffolk skies

Dog tired and very muddy

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Winter's Icy Grip

Disappointingly, February has failed to live up to her early promise and is busy reminding us that Winter is not yet ready to release its icy grip.

Tramping through the snow-bound fields with Asha, our yellow labrador, the iron-grey sky sealing us into the monochrome landscape, it was a real pleasure to see a few brave yellow daffodils pushing through the crust of snow.

A promise that the English winter must end soon, the sun will shine again and the Spring flowers in this Suffolk meadow will return once more.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Things that make me Happy

I don't want to wish time away, but I'm glad to be saying goodbye to January, always a difficult month in the aftermath of Christmas, with its short gloomy days and long freezing nights, the worst of the weather and the horrible bugs.  February at least promises brighter, longer days, the return of birdsong and new growth pushing through in the garden.  Bringing hope.

I have just visited the Three Beautiful Things blog for inspiration, and it set me thinking about what has made me feel happy today.

Putting on a pretty, warm, knitted dress, smart woollen jacket, winter white scarf and black leather knee boots today to go into the beautiful Suffolk riverside town of Woodbridge and do some shopping, instead of my usual jeans, jumper and fleece.

Buying two new books at the Browser's Bookshop, an independent shop with interesting and thoughtful stock beautifully laid out, where I could spend far too much money.  Today I bought Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" which struck me as both unusual and well-written and Helen Castor's "She-Wolves" about influential Medieval Queens, a subject which has fascinated me ever since I picked up an Alison Weir book detailing the life of Katherine Swynford, a commoner, mistress, then later third wife of the 14th century prince John of Gaunt and the ancestress of our royal family. Medieval history has become something of a passion and I am absolutely riveted to the Richard III saga.

Stroking the silky-soft velvety fur of Asha's ears.  I love to stroke her ears and she can happily put up with it for hours! Soothing for both of us.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hoar Frost

We are living in a deep freeze in East Anglia at the moment, the weather from Siberia hitting the East Coast hard.  The cold is intense and relentless and makes our daily dog walk a chilly but exhilarating experience as every blade of glass, every fallen leaf, every holly bush is etched with a thick coating of hoar frost, the shivering bare branches of the trees silhouetted against the bright blue sky.

Coming home is a real pleasure too and I have never appreciated more our lovely warm, welcoming house and the joys of the woodburning stove.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Musings on My Mother

She's actually very happy.  My mother.  Happier than anyone else I know.  She lives entirely in the moment and is indeed experiencing a second childhood.  The cast of characters in her mind consists mainly of her mother and father and her three brothers, whom she adored and who looked up to their older sister.  Only one is still alive.  She's looking forward to the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, the Queen having been there all her life practically and part of the long-lost childhood where she spends her time.  She still knows who I am, which is a real pleasure.

Born on a Prairie Farm in the wilds of Saskatchewan, her father having narrowly missed the catastrophe of the Titanic - a telegram from the farm manager calling him back early made him cancel his booking and take an earlier boat across the Atlantic - she will probably end her days under the wide skies of Suffolk, a place she has no connnection with at all, just part of the random pattern of her life, of all our lives.

Dealing with all this has made me step back and reflect on my own life.  To try and come to some sort of terms with the things that have happened and where I am now, the pattern of 'birth, death and the whole damn thing' as Elizabeth Luard so succinctly put it.

Monday, 16 August 2010


We hadn't planned a visit to Orford yesterday.  The idea was to take the boat upriver and spend the night moored up close to a nearby town and explore, but the strong winds that are sweeping through East Anglia at the moment made us rethink our plans.  Just getting the dinghy up to the boat and back was an act of faith and involved a great deal of splashing and bumping on the choppy river water.  Luckily the dinghy stayed the right way up and it was a huge relief to have solid ground under our feet again. 

Thwarted of our goal, we decided to drive to Orford instead and visit The Jolly Sailor, a lovely traditional English seaside pub, for fish and chips by a nice woodburning stove with the Sunday Times.  A couple of hours later, replete and satisfied that we had made the best of a disappointing day, we started our journey home. 

The diversion sign on the road home was a red rag to a bull.  Of course my partner had to investigate in the firm belief there would be a way through, so when we hit a solid lake of muddy water, with another car firmly embedded in it, he carried on regardless.  We made it to the far side and stopped to see if there was anything we could do.  Eventually, after much toing and froing, we managed to attach a tow hook and pulled the car and it's stranded occupants clear of the water.  The two adorable dogs trapped inside with their owners were particularly relieved!  The engine was, however, completely dead.  We ended up towing the lifeless car for several miles, at one point through a deserted airfield in the fading daylight - a surreal experience. 

Home turned out to be in the town we had originally planned to visit on the boat, so despite our diversions and changes of plan, we arrived at our destination, although not quite in the way we had intended.  Even more surreal, it turned out that our new friends live in a churchyard, the path to their front door marked by ancient gravestones.  We enjoyed a convivial thank you drink at their lovely house and finally headed back to our own home around midnight, well satisfied with the way the day had turned out, and possibly with some new friends.

Monday, 7 June 2010

East Coast Mud

We turned off the busy 'A' road and headed into the empty countryside under wide East Anglian skies.  After a few miles we took another turning, down a dusty single track lane, deeper into the remote countryside.  A few minutes later, the river glinted at us through the trees and we reached our destination.

We had moved the boat up to its new mooring late last week and are being initiated into the joys of inflatable dinghies and east coast mud.  Having unloaded and parked the car, it took rather a long time in the hot midday sun to pump up the dinghy, attach the outboard and load it with supplies for an overnight stay.  As I gingerly stepped onto the treacherous thing, it floated away from the jetty slightly, pulled by the tide, leaving me straddled, one foot in the dinghy, the other slipping off the jetty into the thick gooey mud.  Not my most dignified moment, but a baptism of fire into the reality of a river mooring, after the luxury of marinas and pontoons. 

We finally managed to get ourselves onto the dinghy, started the outboard and set off  a quarter of a mile upriver to our boat, sitting rather closer to the water than is entirely comfortable for a landlubber.  We tied up and somehow managed to haul ourselves precariously on board.  At last we got the sails up and drifted up the meandering river on a light breeze, moored up by a riverside pub, lowered ourselves into the dinghy again, rowed ashore for a well earned drink.

There are now two things I have added to my wish list that I would never have dreamed of in my other life.  One is a nice firm fibreglass dinghy, the other is a boarding ladder.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Nobody said it was easy.

Sometimes there's a glimmer of hope and I start to think that I really can do this, I really can make a life here, but the truth is I'm like a plant without a tap root, frantically trying to push out a network of fine fragile new roots into the somewhat reluctant soil to compensate for what is lost, and I feel discouraged.

I know I've been here before, more than once, in a new place, building a new life and I also know that it takes time and that, sometimes, it never takes at all and you just have to go back to where you were and begin again from that place, and maybe that's going to be the answer in the end.  We no longer have children to help establish us in a strange place and I am struggling to find meaningful work and ways of passing the time.  People are very kind, but I have no deep connection with them and I'm not sure I have the will to keep trying.

There are wonderful things about life here.  The house is as lovely and welcoming as we had hoped, the village is idyllic though very sleepy and set in it's ways, the surrounding countryside is stunningly beautiful and we are enjoying exploring our new terrain.  We plan to carry on getting to know this part of the world, to enjoy what is available to us, to sail all over the coastline this summer exploring the inlets and rivers and try not to worry too much about the uncertain future. 

But I miss the life I had, with all its mess and difficulties.