Showing posts with label Winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Winter. Show all posts

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sussex and Silence

Silence.  Not always golden, but sometimes there seems nothing much to say.  

2017 did not get off to the best start for me, with the sad news that an old friend had died after three years on the rollercoaster that is cancer.  Someone very special to us as it was through his family that I met my husband, and someone whose life has threaded through mine for well over a decade now.  At 64, he was too young to die and had so much to live for.  A beautiful, loving wife and four children in their 20s. Children whose weddings he will never attend, grandchildren he will never hold and cherish, although his very close family will always hold him in their hearts.

Then there have been the usual winter bugs which strike and refuse to move on and which are still lingering now, but with the longer days and brighter sunshine (on the days we emerge from under the grey umbrella which dominates here in winter), I too am feeling brighter and hopefully recovering some of my lost energy. 

We did manage a trip to Sussex in sub-zero temperatures, enjoying an invigorating walk on Camber Sands watching the light bounce off the cold, clear water, followed by a whistle-stop tour of the ancient Cinque Port town of Rye, taking time to admire the beautiful 12th century Church of St Mary the Virgin, before driving home through the frost-bound countryside. 

How has 2017 been for you so far?  What do you have planned this year and are you longing, like me, for Spring to arrive?
Camber Sands
Mermaid Street, Rye
St Mary the Virgin, Rye


Stained glass, St Mary the Virgin, Rye

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Winter in Amsterdam

Winter suits Amsterdam.  Even in mid-March there are still splinters of ice in the North wind and the cold blue-grey light is the perfect backdrop for the monochrome colour palette of the city, with its network of canals bordered by merchants houses, still as beautiful and harmonious today as when they were built.

We spent my recent birthday there, staying on the Herengracht, one of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam, browsing around the markets and churches, enjoying the ambiance in the cafes, shops and restaurants, and admiring the art in the museums and galleries, chatting with the very friendly locals and hopping on and off trams whilst trying to avoid the bikes which seem to come flying from all directions!  

Amsterdam has many faces and most of these photos were taken in the Nine Streets area near our hotel.  This area is lovely by day...








... and by night.  In the evenings, we would walk around the Nine Streets after dinner, admiring the stark winter-bare trees against the night sky and the lit-up windows of the beautiful old houses. 







 I was particularly fascinated by the shop windows, lit up at night and full of colour and life










A great city for a short break and one I look forward to revisiting one day!

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, 5 December 2014

The Ghosts of Christmas, Past and Present


Love it or loathe it, Christmas cannot be avoided in this part of the world, and I do love it, much as I dislike ongoing Christmas creep.  I know retailers need to profit from the orgy of spending we embark upon every midwinter, but I refuse to have much to do with Christmas until the beginning of December.  From then on, however, I embrace it enthusiastically.  The special excitement and anticipation I treasure from my own childhood has never deserted me and we all need to nurture our inner child.  I would always celebrate Christmas even if I didn't have a family but I know I am lucky to be part of a large combined family and there is always a lot of love around at Christmas.

As a child growing up as part of a large Irish Catholic family (now scattered to the four winds) on the outskirts of a large city in the North of England, Christmas was very much a time for church and family and with numerous aunts and uncles and 18 first cousins all living in the same city there was so much fun to be had just spending time together.   I'm sure there were tensions amongst the adults (I know there were tensions amongst the adults - my own parents, shockingly, separated and divorced; the family rift never healed), but we children had a wonderful time and no doubt drove our parents to drink.  Well, as I said, we were Irish.


I have strong memories of cold houses with ice patterns blooming on the inside of the window panes, our breath misting in the bedrooms as we dressed hastily in the mornings, the small, artificial Christmas tree being brought down lovingly from the attic to the sitting room on Christmas Eve and festooned with ancient baubles, the same ones every year, and a string of coloured Christmas lights with a fairy on top - there was always fierce competition to be the one who put the fairy on top.  I remember being woken from a deep sleep at 11 o'clock at night, bundling up into warm clothes, then the long freezing walk to church for Midnight Mass through the clear, frosty, starlit night, cold red chapped knees and rosy cheeks glowing, then back to bed longing to wake up to the weight of the freshly-filled stocking, stuffed with fruit and nuts, chocolate money and tiny treats lying across my feet, and just one very special, much-longed for new toy.  


At eight years old, I was actually secretly disappointed to be given this gorgeous book which I now treasure and will pass on to my grandchildren... 



  
... but I was thrilled to find this baby doll at the end of my bed one year (she had more hair then) and  I wish I could remember what I called her all those years ago.  But what I really, really wanted for Christmas was a kitten and that I couldn't have, my father being allergic, or so he said.  Of course, ever since I have collected cats and currently have three sharing my life and scratching the furniture, part of my animal family, and books and children have continued to be a huge part of my life.


Now my partner and I have a big combined family of seven young adults, many with partners of their own and one living in another country with his small daughter and Christmas has evolved to accommodate our new circumstances.  We no longer focus on Christmas day as, with so many families in the mix, we all need to be flexible and we would hate the children to feel they have to come, so we just try to spend time with as many of our children as we can reasonably see in the run-up to Christmas and spread the pleasure of a big family Christmas.  It works for us.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

London - Winter Walk


    I love the light shining through the winter-bare trees, just before dusk


    the stark, strong lines of the Albert Bridge seen through the bare branches


   the fast-flowing River Thames which continues to thread through my life


   and the wonderful London parks - the lungs of this beautiful City.

  Taken in Battersea Park, London, January 2014

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.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Let it Snow

Snow and icy conditions certainly make cocooning the most inviting option and tomorrow I am planning a satisfying session of marmalade making and bread baking, having spent most of today tramping cross country to the lovely foodie pub in the next village for a bowl of hot, spicy soup while thawing out by the fire and reading the newspapers.




With schools closed across the country, I was thinking of the heavy snowfall in South Yorkshire where I grew up, during the severe winter of 1963.  At least a foot of snow fell overnight but, nevertheless, we got up before first light as usual, dressed in our freezing cold bedrooms, breakfasted and went out into the thick snow well wrapped up against the biting cold and waited patiently at the bus stop for the first of the two buses I took every day across the city to reach my Catholic convent school; a journey of over 6 miles.  Amazingly it arrived eventually. Those were tougher times and people just carried on regardless.  We didn't get far however as the bus got stuck on the first of the many hills we had to negotiate on the journey and, delighted, we returned home for a day of snowballing and snowman making with mugs of hot chocolate by the coal fire.

The reckoning came the next day by which time, amazingly, the roads had been cleared and transport was back to normal, despite the heavy snow still lying in drifts all around.  The nuns kept us under a strict regime of humiliation and tongue lashings and we lived in daily dread of being singled out, annihilated by an icy look, seared by a harsh word, made to stand isolated in front of the class for a sharp character assassination.  The survival strategy was simply to keep our heads down, not to be noticed.  So, each girl who did not make it into school the day before, and there were many as we came from miles around, had to stand up and explain to the class exactly the circumstances that prevented her from making the epic journey.  The feeling was that we should have walked to school, even if it took us all day.  I still remember how, a very shy child, I was quaking in my shoes, waiting for my turn to justify my awful transgression!

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.

 

Monday, 7 April 2008

Cocooned

The iron-grey sky sealed our small corner of the countryside as we tramped through the whitening fields, the rest of the view lost in the horizontal blizzard that whipped our cheeks rosy red, hats pulled down over cold ears, scarves tightly knotted, gloved hands thrust deep into pockets. We turned for home, taking the short cut this time, as the world turned empty and white around us.

Back at the farmhouse, he split the last of the winter logs and we lit the fire, opened a bottle and idled the rest of the snowy afternoon away, cocooned from the outside world. The Sunday papers kept us busy, then a late lunch in the snowbound conservatory, candles lit, spring flowers in a jam jar glowing on the snow white African table cloth. We ate a delicious leg of lamb from the local butchers, with roasted vegetables in olive oil and garlic, red wine gravy, then chocolate pudding. My favourite.

For a little while, it was time out of time, and a lovely magical day.