Five on Friday

  1. The London EyeIn the London EyeView from the London EyeBig BenLondon skylineTo the Thames, on Wednesday, for the sproglet’s fourth birthday. His favourite thing ever in London is the “big wheel” (aka the London Eye) – he is seriously excited whenever we spot it from the window of a train, or see it in a photo. So, as a birthday treat, we took him on a circuit, preceded by a river boat trip along the Thames. It was raining and grey and I got terrible boat sickness (must be a pregnancy thing, as I’ve never suffered before), and couldn’t talk or move for an hour after the boat trip. But all that aside, a fun day in the centre of town!
  2. His birthday present from us was a scooter. I know, I know, seriously late to the game, most kids are on them from birth these days, but I’ve been wary of them since a friend’s son broke his thigh bone falling off one when he was three, years ago. He was in a full leg cast for a month and couldn’t move from the sofa. It was a stationary fall. But I’ve finally given in to pressure, along with the realisation that in a few months I will be carting three children up and down the roads on the school / nursery run, and it would be handy if one of them at least could get along under their own steam power without constant whining about being tired or the need to hold my hand. So far, it’s been a great success; he scooted off to nursery with glee the past few days.
  3. Said scooter is red. Another slight bone of contention. For me, anyway. The sprog requested a pink one because, well, pink is his favourite colour and his best friend’s scooter is pink. (She’s a girl.) For the past four years, I’ve been railing against the ridiculous gender stereotyping of pink vs blue. If I ever encounter some item which for absurd reasons you can only buy in pink or blue (from fuzzy memory, I have been in shops where you could only buy sippy cups, bath mats or cutlery in those two colours) then I always buy pink for the boys because I think the whole thing is so insane. And yet. And yet. With the sprog starting school in September (and already very young in his year, quite shy and very small for his age) I had all these horrid thoughts of him getting teased by much bigger boys for turning up on a girl’s scooter. So we bought him a red one, which went down fine, but I was very aware that all my ideals had been completely compromised in the face of some imaginary bullying from a five year old. Is this how it goes from now on? Ideals are all good and worthy, until you worry they might stop your children making friends?!
  4. His party, joint with a friend from nursery, is on Sunday. It’s going to have a bug theme. I have purchased a gazillion wind up bugs and finger puppet mini beasts to hide around the park and we’re sending them on a bug hunt, with mini magnifying glasses. There will be up to 20 children aged four and under. I am feeling slightly apprehensive about the whole thing. But, actually, there is little time for apprehension tomorrow, as my to do list is as long as your arm, starting with making a bug birthday cake. Maybe next year, we’ll do a quiet day trip with one friend…
  5. In non-sproglet related news, we are on tenterhooks today, waiting to hear back if our proposed new house has been signed off by the mortgage company. If you can’t remember all the convoluted details; in short, our mortgage was turned down last month because they said the house had serious subsidence, though the structural engineer told us he thought it was perfectly mortgageable. It was the day after Brexit, so we wonder if uncertainty about the future led to a clamp down on lending. We’ve now applied for a mortgage through a new company and yesterday was the survey valuation. We wait to hear their thoughts on the (only slightly falling down) house we’ve fallen in love with…

So, that’s my week! Hope you’ve had nice ones. Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

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Life recently

Well after that gloriously wonderful weekend of sun and spring weather, we seem to have returned to the depths of winter, plunged back to rain, grey skies and cold temperatures (here in London, at least).

I have to say, it’s put me in a rather bad mood to have been given the promise of sunnier months, only for them to disappear so quickly. Judging by the incessant moaning and whining of the sproglets this morning, they’re feeling the same way too.

Still, cold we might be, but life has continued in an anticipatory vein around here. I’m just dropping in quickly with a few photos from the last week…

Mothers day flowersMy Mother’s Day flowers are looking very beautiful on the mantelpiece. Tulips and daffodils can’t fail to make you feel all spring-like.

The sproglet and I have been spending every spare moment dedicatedly (some might say obsessively) sowing seeds. Most surfaces in the house and greenhouse look like this now.

Borlotti bean seedsWe’ve mostly done fruit and veg so far: three different tomatoes, two aubergines, these borlotti firetongues (which I keep seeing out of the corner of my eye and mistaking for a plate of chocolate cupcakes), some yellow courgettes, chillies and yin and yang beans.

Next up, this weekend, are the veg that are going straight out into the garden: carrots, broad beans, chives, beetroot, radishes and some garlic and onions that I bought for Autumn planting, but which have been sitting around in the house ever since.

I’ll let you know how I’m getting on when I have some germination!

Finally, but taking up most of my time recently, I’ve been working away on my next garden design assignment. This was to create a planting plan for a shady border in a bookshop courtyard.

Garden design planting planI’ve just finished putting all the different elements together and am feeling pretty proud of my first ever design. My new A3 printer arrived today so I can print the final sheet out in proper size this evening. Exciting stuff!

Now, if the good weather would just come back again too, life would be all but perfect.

Do what you love

Phew, what a week! The blog’s been a little quieter than normal as I’ve been otherwise occupied soothing toddlers, solo parenting, thinkin’ reeel deep about what makes me happy and drawing my own hand. Yup.

Drawing of a hand
It looks oddly masculine, doesn’t it?

The sprog was taken down with a bug last week, which he’s yet to recover from, poor little pickle. And if there’s one thing in the world worse to nurse than man flu, it’s toddler illnesses. Goodness that boy has firm ideas of what he wants and what he doesn’t want when he’s under the weather. (What he doesn’t want can generally be summed up as: anything that involves Mummy not paying attention solely to him for a single second…)

Anyway, the poor little thing is back in nursery today, hopefully almost fully recovered and I have a teeny bit of headspace back again.

The illness coincided with a work trip to Portugal for the hubby (not jealous, no, definitely not jealous, no, would definitely not like three whole nights sleeping in a hotel bed the whole night through…) though my lovely Mum came up to help out too, so that was great.

On a more exciting note, I also began a few new courses. I’ve been back at Capel Manor College (where I took my horticulture course last year) to start a short six-week course in Graphics and drawing, the first step to a garden design qualification I’m hoping to do later on.

Drawing of secateurs
Secateurs. Drawn my me. (Copying another drawing, I have to say…)

It’s been rather eye-opening so far. I had expected that we would just be learning about how to draw garden designs (straight lines for the paving, scale plans of patios, nice big swirly circles for bushes and so on), but in fact we spend every afternoon just drawing. Anything! Like chairs, or our hand or a sphere… Our teacher follows the methods in the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which, in brief, posits that everyone can draw, but that we need to let go of our logical parts of the brain (that tells us, for example, that a table is a rectangle) to allow our more creative parts of the brain to actually just look at what’s in front of us and draw it.

Cross hatching
This is just me trying out cross hatching, but I kind of love it the most…

As I’ve always thought that I “can’t do art” (to my endless disappointment, I have to say), I find it really interesting. Each week we break drawing down into small elements, in order to try and help us access this creative, right side of the brain. I drew my hand (above) in the first week, and though I’m certainly still no great artist, I’m quite impressed with the results!

NB, I realise that illustrating this post with my drawings from the course makes me look a bit like a 14-year-old doing a GCSE in art (or perhaps I am being too kind to myself? Maybe art GCSE is a little more progressed than this. I never did one…) And it’s not that I am so proud of my work I just had to show it to you, it’s just that the drawings were to hand and, like I said, time has been tight, so photos of drawings were easily achievable in a short space of time…

Shading spheres
Trying out different ways of shading. Bottom right is in charcoal, wot wot. That’s like the stuff that proper artists use, y’know…

On Monday I also started a month-long online course called Do what you love for life. I’ve mentioned here before that I sometimes struggle trying to hit on one specific focus for this blog, so perhaps it won’t be a surprise to regular readers to hear that the same is true for my life as well…

Though I’m still very happy being a stay at home Mum right now, the finances are starting to pinch very tight, and I’m thinking about what I can do as my next step.

It’s not that I’m short of ideas. Quite the opposite. I have about a million gazillion different ideas of all sorts of things I love doing, and I’m hoping this course will help me focus in a little bit and settle on a specific direction for where to go next with my life.

(Failing that, if anyone has a great idea how I could combine garden design, writing, blogging, making stuff, having a smallholding, owning alpacas and the ever nebulous fabric empire into a well-paid job in which I choose my own hours and always manage to do nursery / school pick ups, then please let me know in the comments, ha ha ha…)

I’ve not actually had time to do more on the course so far than the first few days’ assignments, so I’ll have to do a bit of catching up this weekend, but so far I’m really liking the clarity it’s brought to my many and generally very varied thoughts about what’s important to me.

Finally, if you’ve come here this week looking for my latest Grow, forage, cook post, then my apologies. (What? You haven’t recorded my posting schedule in your calendar?!) My next post will be up, a week late, next week; it’s all about planning a kitchen garden…

In the meantime, if you’ve not seen it already, do head over to Laura’s blog to check out her interview with Rachel from Fore/Adventure to hear all about foraging and the good life in Dorset. I tell you, my friends, at Fore/Adventure they’re already doing what they love for life…

 

A new house

Meet Mabel.

Toilet paper doll
Mabel greets you and says she’s pleased to meet you

Mabel scares the crap out of me.

You can see why, can’t you?

scary doll
This look is just absolutely terrifying…

For the last seven months, Mabel has been sitting on top of the cabinet above the sink in my bathroom.  Under her skirts, she’s been keeping her treasured belongings safe:

medicated loo paper
What’s that under your skirt? Oh…

But this morning, I’m taking Mabel off to the charity shop. It’s a momentous occasion and I thought it fitting to photograph her before she goes.

Mabel is the very last remnant of the previous owners still left in my house. (Well, apart from all their decoration, wallpaper, tiles and such like, anyway. Perhaps I should say she is the last possession.)

We moved here last September, to a house that had clearly been someone’s home for a very long time.

On the one hand, it was the perfect opportunity for us. A classic “fixer-upper”.

The house hadn’t been updated for a good while, at least 50 years. There’s no central heating (yes, I know, we picked the absolute worst Winter to go without central heating, with the temperature still at “fricking freezing” even in April), there’s no shower, there’s no dishwasher, there’s nothing, in fact, that you could call a “mod con.”

So we get to start afresh and do it up exactly as we like. It’s a massive project and I love nothing more than a project.

But on the other hand, it’s also quite sad. The couple who lived here before had been here for 65 years. Raised their family here. Watched their children grow up and move out. Filled the house with their possessions. Possessions like Mabel.

When we moved in, the man had just died and we were buying the house from his children. So we said it was fine to leave any furniture, possessions or anything they didn’t want to have to clear out.

We slightly regretted having said that, after we moved all our furniture in and there literally wasn’t enough space for everything.

But over the last seven months, we’ve sorted through things, got rid of bits and pieces, earmarked the things we want to try and keep and find a new home for (well, retain their old home, really) among our own possessions.

And now, Mabel, and her old-fashioned loo roll, are the last things to go.  Sure, we’ve got a phenomenal amount of renovation and work to do still, but once Mabel’s gone that marks the point from which the house holds only our possessions.

Which is nice for us, but the end of the line for the previous inhabitants.

We never knew the family, but I’ve felt as if we’ve got to know them a little. From all the 1950s furniture left here; from the choice of flowers planted in the back garden, and the fruit trees espaliered against the wall; from the pack of photographs we found that had slipped behind a cabinet, showing them sitting in the garden in the summer, surrounded by blooming flowers; from the neighbours who stopped, aghast, to tell me off when we cut down the giant cactus in the front garden; from the stories they told about how the man used to give miniature cactus plant cuttings to the local school children; from the floral wallpapers, a different one in every room and the rolls of spares we found in the attic.

I’d like to think that we’ll be here that long as well, a fixture in the community at the ends of our lives, our children reluctantly selling our house and the neighbours reminiscing fondly about us. But, you know what, I suspect it’s unlikely. We’ll probably move on in a few years, tempted by the lure of the countryside or a bigger house or the chance to live abroad…

So goodbye Mabel, may the charity shop treat you well.

Charity shop pile
Mabel in the charity shop pile by the door. Also, a little peek of one (just one) of our many floral wallpapers

And may you find a new home among people who don’t think you’re half as creepy as I do.