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Time to take stock and get on with the business of writing!

If you are reading this post as a regular follower, please accept my apologies for the lapse in posts, four months worth to be precise!

I am with almost everything else – except housework – very motivated, organised, conscientious and up to the task in hand be it work or leisure. Not so it would seem the hand of writing!

Blog posts have been started, sidelined, restarted and then left while extra work commitments, family ‘staycation’  – from the house of two halves – long-sufferings mid life crisis and then unexpectedly the death of my wonderful Mother who was always my inspiration for never giving up when I might otherwise have, early on in my recovery.

I shall miss throughout this Autumn not hearing my mother’s regular updates regarding the mess the falling leaves were making in her garden, especially as, and I quote ‘most of the leaves are not even from my own trees!’

As the plants in our own garden and the gardens I tend start to slowly retreat back from their summer exuberance……….

calm is returning.  The sense of urgency to sow, plant, weed, mow, renew and re-design that the onset of spring and summer brings has passed.

There is still much to do of course in ever shortening hours. Daily raking of leaves, bulb/bare root planting, autumn tidy up, design and planting plans for new projects. However, some days now there is a stillness and less frantic pace, time to pause and take stock.

For us the new ‘Project meadow’ has been a success. The steady succession of bulbs and wildflowers in the sparse grass previously a well kept lawn, along with the addition of new prairie borders to the outer edges, kept the show going all summer. Recently it was cut down and more bulbs planted. Next year will be the true test of continued success as I watch and hope everything added this year returns and more besides!

With the dark mornings, evenings drawing in and the distraction of the long suffering gone, as his weekly London commute restarts, the hand that once wrote will attempt to do likewise!

 

Onwards, Upwards and Heels too!

I have to admit since we got back from our travels in March my usual fitness plan has at best been sporadic! Work is busy and along with a wedding & Family commitments there never seems enough hours in a day or my hip is just too tired to do any more at the end of many hours doing all things horticultural. Swimming for so long a constant – and comfort when the hip can do nothing else –  has fallen by the wayside. The gym, I am lucky if I get there once a week although spinning classes and circuits are faring better!

In spite of this lapse my hip has still made some progress. Recently the long-suffering and I took on a new route riding our road bikes – for only the second time after my hip revision last August. We now live in a valley meaning whichever way we ride out there is a hill climb to start, one direction in particular poses a real challenge. It was this way we chose!

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Hill climbs – Post accident nerve damage is still an issue meaning the extra pressure of a steep incline can cause electric shock like pain in my bum and thigh. When this rears its ugly head, I get off, walk for a bit and then as it eases get back on and continue.

I used to get very cross and frustrated about this, especially as I watched long-suffering become a dot in the distance, riding in circles once he reached the summit to allow me to catch up. In another life I would have been up there with him! Now, I try not to waste energy with negativity, but instead hope for a small improvement each time.

Post accident cycling one handed – for hand signals/drinking – was impossible, due in part to the strength imbalance of my left leg/hip but also a real fear of falling off making our outings a very stop/start affair.

Not anymore though, a breakthrough…..The first hill climb although extreemly challenging, I cycled on almost to the top, walking only a few steps then resumed the climb. In the quiet of an early morning a startled pigeon flew out from the hedgerows and into the path of my front wheel – a true test of balance as my wheel ran over it sending me lurching from either side as I struggled to stay upright in a mix of shock, horror, fear and eventually sadness as the bird lay inert and motionless behind me.

Recovering at the top my legs like jelly the view more than made up for the spanners in the back pocket ache – always a presence after any hip/leg exertion!

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Feeling balance confident after the bird altercation I decided to try drinking while in motion! With a flat road ahead ………

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The first challenge was locating the bottle in its holder while keeping eyes on the road ahead. After a few panicked, aborted attempts I managed to locate, extract and take a wobbly quick glug from the spout. More fumbling followed getting it back in the holder – by then my legs were barely turning and I was zig-zagging precariously towards the hedgerow and ditch. Luckily, as I was about to give in and stop, the  holder was located. Long-suffering, oblivious to my trials was once again a dot in the distance!

IMG_2041More hills followed not quite as steep, by now on a roll, instead of getting off I tried standing up instead to ease the pressure. Another first! I could even do this albeit in a crazy side to side see-saw motion! All the Standing hill climbs on high gears in spinning classes I have groaned about have actually paid dividends.

 

Dancing…………progress continues, after surviving without incident a great evening spent ‘mum dancing’ – in high shoes – at our sons wedding reception, the next challenge was to get my latin shoes back on!

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Salsa is the only way I have ever got long-suffering on a dance floor actually dancing with me – not counting the ‘dad slow smooch’. After a few years lessons and practice together -photo right in 2010 – before the accident, giving it up is not an option! Besides which IT IS FUN!

Shoes on and a twirl in the kitchen and we were ready to give it a go – not sure Long-suffering was as totally keen, but he went along to please me.

We have since attended two latin events together in the last month and although rusty and lacking in confidence we have managed to remember……. moves = him, and following skills = me! I even managed a double spin! Watch this space………

 

 

 

 

Botanic Gardens and Opera!

Day 2 – 5am alarm, we were up, showered and out the hotel by 5.30am to capture the sunrise over Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. But first a route march to Mrs Macquaries Point backing onto the Botanic Gardens – not open as a cut through that early in the morning – a wrong turn and we were road side down an underpass busy, noisy and dusty before eventually regaining the scenic footpath to the point.

On our arrrival some professionals and amateurs alike were already set up to capture the moments. Long-suffering carefuly chose his spot although this changed as the hour progressed with a shuffling from all present to get the best shot!

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I missed what could have been my best shot from behind me where the sun was rising, as a keen photographer scrambling on the rocks to get his best shot ended up in the water drenched from head to foot!

Long-sufferings best shots then……

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The walk back to our hotel for breakfast through the Botanic Gardens was shorter and whetted our appetite for our own tour of the gardens that morning.

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney occupying a stunning position on Sydney Harbour with free entry and accessible all year round ensures these beautiful gardens opened in 1816 are a must see attraction.

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We were blessed with blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures for our visit. Although tours were available we decided as our time was limited to the morning only we would be our own guides, an easy option with clear signposting and plant/information boards along the way.

Immaculate gardens in a beautiful setting, secret pathways through the borders, long vistas and places to sit on seats and the grassy areas, nowhere it seems here is out of bounds.

Brachychiton rupestris The Queensland Bottle Tree – its common name in reference to the bottle shaped trunk which can reach a diameter of 2 metres!

Early that morning as we cut through on our way back from our sunrise – the gardens open at 7am – the main paths were busy with joggers, power walkers and commuters alike.  I can think of no better way to start the day than in this glorious place, I only wish our time had allowed for a longer more leisurely visit. Sydney residents are very fortunate to have such a place with free year round access on their doorstep every day, but even as a fleeting visitor these gardens have everything to offer.

An afternoon ferry cruise around the harbour offered us a different view of Sydney Harbour Bridge as we motored underneath its huge expanse!

There was much to see from our ferry – out to land and the busy waters…..

On our return back to land there followed a hike back up the hill, thirst quenching hotel drinks and hot showers. Finally posh frocks were on and a walk back down the hill saw us ready for………..

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A night at the Opera – Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney Opera House

The Production for that night ‘Great Opera Hits’.

 

 

 

The early evening walk Harbourside to the Opera House set the mood for the evening, as I was stopped in the street with the words from a female passer by ‘what a beautiful dress, you look fabulous’. The Long suffering his grin stretching from ear to ear gave me the look ‘I told you so!’

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Once I got over the shock of a complete stranger paying me a compliment it did much to boost my low confidence. The hip now subjected to heels after a day of almost continuous walking was having a hard time keeping my walk even. It was with renewed vigour I pulled up, tightened my glutes and walked as tall and straight as I could muster while intermittently hanging on to Long-sufferings arm whenever lurching/limping threatened!

Sydney Opera House was the perfect venue, from the buzz in the bar area for our pre-drinks, the anticipation as we waited in the full theatre to the awe inspiring vocals of the opera singers themselves. We came away after our first taste of opera with a greater appreciation for the art and a view to repeat the experience in the not too distant future back in England!

All that remained was to climb back up the hill to our hotel, a nightcap in the bar and hopefully a good nights sleep ready for tomorrows itinerary…………

 

 

 

Ne’er cast a clout till May be out!

IMG_1769And so the saying goes, but ….. does it mean The month of May or when the Hawthorn fills its branches with ‘May’ blossom?

It seems on this we mortals are divided, but whatever your preference our ‘May’ Hawthorn blossom is out in all its glory, however I am still wearing scarf and fleece, and if the last two weeks are anything to go by I will not be casting them off any time soon!

For the last six weeks or so summer bedding and vegetable seedlings have been available to purchase alongside the weekly grocery shop as well as the usual horticultural outlets. I wonder how many new enthusiastic gardeners were caught out by the late frosts of a fortnight ago, and then watched as they blackened and died, or sat and sulked becoming slug bait in their weakened state.

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I myself got itchy fingers with a cold frame bursting at the seams but luckily common sense prevailed on that occasion.

Instead my attentions went elsewhere in the garden specifically to my outdoor summer-house.  Until a couple of weeks ago it had become a second shed with folding garden chairs/tables, empty plastic plant pots and anything else that never made it back to the actual garden shed!

The idea was to create a calm space to read, write, paint or retreat to when I am either too jiggered to work in my own garden after toiling away in my clients, or long-suffering has his all things sporting day(s) on the TV!

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First a complete clear out of items to be stored elsewhere, the remainder sat outside waiting while I brushed and swept, disappearing in a cloud of dust sending any resident spiders heading for cover deep in any vacant nook or cranny.

An old table I up-cycled years ago was to become – with modification – my desk, all I needed was an upright chair to sit on……. Oh the beauty of the internet, at the touch of a button – or two – a second-hand furniture store was located in Dorchester not far from us.

Dorchester Curiosity Centre trading from the Old Bus Depot. An Aladdin’s cave greeted us as we moved from room to room full with furniture, bric-a-brac, collectibles and more. It was easy to lose yourself there for a couple of hours especially with the added temptation of a hot cuppa and glorious home-made cakes to die for!

In the end decisions had to be made and we settled on a painted chair for the desk, a comfy ‘Lloyd loom’ style chair to relax in and an old milking stool to use as a side table.

My ‘haven’ is now complete with gardening, art and writing books/magazines, there is power too extending the hours I can indulge out there!

IMG_1806This last weekend although sunny, was cooled by a chilly breeze, the welcome 12mm of rain did much to perk things up! The Dahlias in the cutting patch have come through the winter and are showing strong – if a little munched – growth, hopefully the late addition of copper rings will help keep invadors at bay! Long-suffering has given my retreat a fresh coat of paint – giving up Saturday afternoon sport fixtures to do so!

The autumn sown onion sett’s planted before our Road Trip have not been a success, appearing to my eye neither strong or prolific, in our reduced plot there is not room for more! Saturday I succumbed although ‘May is not out’ to the planting in the veg plot of runner & french beans, along with nurtured flower seedlings for the cutting patch. The courgettes will be waiting another week yet though!

The fleece is ready should frost threaten although the weather man is predicting rain for the days ahead. Fingers crossed then!

Some new – car boot and bargain basement new – additions to the garden for the toddler – from the house of two halves in Cyprus. Hopefully come August when next she comes to stay pressure on the wooden duck in the border who is almost headless from being continually thrown down the slide will be relieved.

Some May flowers in the garden……….

And a Sunday morning breezy steep coastal walk to keep the hip from getting complacent at West Bay Bridport……..

Sydney

IMG_1231[1]Day 1 – We arrived from the Whitsundays into Sydney midday. Long-sufferings hotel of choice for our four day visit The Wentworth was conveniently located just a short walk uphill from the Harbour. A quick check in including a welcoming glass of bubbly in a huge lobby, incorporating shops, bars, library, comfy settees and for a short time only a single Rose encased in a glass dome at the desk, afternoon tea and ‘Belles reading chair’ situated between the entrances to the lifts and library. Beauty and the Beast fervour had arrived in Sydney!

After a brief inspection of our room, we were eager to get back out and onto the street for the walk down to the harbour, long-suffering grabbing my arm as I inevitably turned the opposite way – my sense of direction leaves a lot to be desired when exiting buildings!

Walking out from the shelter of the hotel we were forced back a step or two as the strong gusts funnelled and whooshed up between the tall buildings on either side of the street.  My hair – longer then after six weeks of travelling – an even messier untamed state without hat protection!

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We spent the afternoon walking around the harbour taking in and photographing  the iconic landmarks of this busy vibrant city packed with tourists all doing exactly the same thing!

We took drinks in the open air ‘Opera Bar’, luckily finding two newly vacated seats Harbourside to sit, relax and watch the world go by as we drank in our surroundings – the Harbour Bridge behind and the Opera House in front.

Tired now from travel and sightseeing we walked back up the hill to our hotel for a short rest, and freshen up before walking back down to experience Sydney at night!

Finally when we could walk no more we ate – after a short but weary wait for an outside table -freshly baked Pizzas at a Harbourside Italian restaurant a much needed leisurely affair after the hustle and bustle of dodging the crowds along the waterfront.  There followed a less leisurely route march – for the second time –  back UP THE HILL to our Hotel by which time we were ready to collapse into the welcoming folds of freshly laundered linens.

The ‘long-sufferings’ itinerary for tomorrow, well lets just say it was to be a very  early start! ………………

 

 

 

 

Before Cyclone Debbie

I started to write this post as Cyclone Debbie hit the Whitsundays from notes made of our time there, now seven weeks ago. At first I pondered whether to post at all for fear of seeming distanced from the very real suffering of those caught up in the aftermath of this devastating force of nature.

However, time has moved on tourism will be as important to help with the rebuilding of livelihoods, one such ‘Whitsunday Getaways’ our tour of choice. Their two catamarans survived the storm and they fairly quickly got up and running again. This our experience with them in this beautiful part of Australia………..

Day 1 – Back on long-sufferings planned itinerary we set sail – for a while at least – on a sunny late afternoon. Our 43 foot sailing Catamaran named Getaway II with its four comfortable private en-suite berths was everything we hoped. Our fellow sailors comprised – in order of importance – the crew, Chris the skipper who like me was prone to go ‘off itinery’ and Jess the skippers mate – Jack of all trades! And then in no order of importance the guests – one Canadian couple, one Austrian couple on honeymoon and one British couple – other than us.

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Unfortunately lack of brisk sea breeze eventually saw the sail dropped and the motor fired up as we headed to our first stop for the night – Turtle Bay. A small detail though as we sat out front or laid out on the nets strung between hulls revelling in the sea breeze whipped up as we powered through the deep waters.

Day 2 – After a good nights sleep – once we got used to the lapping waters and power noise for the air-conditioning – us two early risers rose! We crept up and out through the galley converted into the crews sleeping quarters while the rest of the boat slumbered, crew included.

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Up on deck we kept movement to a minimum and only spoke in hushed whispers as we watched the sun rise together, and a threatening rain storm on the horizon. By 7am most of the guests were awake but still no sign of the crew slumbering oblivious in the galley below! Eventually our parched throats were soothed as finally they woke scrambling sheepishly at 7.15am, to much amusement from us and breakfast followed only slighter later than the designated time of 7.30am!

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Morning – Whitehaven Beach, 7km stretch of breathtakingly stunning pure white sandy beach and turquoise, blue and green sea. We were each handed a stinger suit to help protect us against any sting rays that may be lurking – common in these seas apparently! Skipper Chris dropped us all off by tender with host Jess as our guide leaving us to walk through native bush and up to the lookout at Tongue Point. The heat & humidity under the thick canopy made for uncomfortable walking causing sweating man to return!

I was having my own sweats – of a different kind – imagining what may lurk above and below my head. With good reason as we encountered resident spiders waiting in huge webs strung between branches and Geckos, so rigid and still, almost to be missed, their skin camouflaging against bark or undergrowth.

Worth the worry and effort? Absolutely! There are few words that can possibly do this beach justice, it really is so beautiful as to be quite mesmerising. The intense brightness of the pure white sand like no other we had seen before and the mix of pure greens, turquoise and blues of the sea was captivating. Looking down onto the beach the people on the sand and in the sea  looked like an army of ants identically dressed in their black stinger suits. The tide was in, but on its way out, we were advised to come back up later when as the water retreated the sand swirls would be exposed.

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Walking partway back the same route we then took the descent track down eventually opening out to experience for ourselves this amazingly beautiful beach.

Bathing in our stinger suits – long-suffering looking like the man from the ‘lady loves milk tray’ advert – in clear warm waters and as the water retreated we felt marooned on the emerging sand bars.

IMG_1647[3] copy The soft 98 per cent pure white silica sand, we used to polish our jewellery -yes it really does work – our wedding rings sparkled like new!

Some of us did in the heat of the day make it back up the steep track for a second photo opportunity and yes it was worth it especially for long-sufferings ever increasing portfolio of instant memories.

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After a light lunch on board we sailed to Pitstop Bay for an afternoon of Snorkelling. Fish swimming in all directions, beautiful corals, it was like swimming in a huge aquarium.

Over the course of the next two days we had the opportunity for more snorkelling in Mantaray Bay and Butterfly Bay.  The only small disappointment for us was the sea  a little too choppy for the paddle-boards carried on the back. Nevertheless, with good food, great company, beautiful scenery, opportunities to just relax as we sailed – or motored – over the sea and our own exciting moment as we awoke one morning to a lone turtle swimming past our window, we were more than happy!

Whitsunday Getaways did not disappoint, from the time we booked months previously to our arrival in Airlie Beach the information and organisation for the trip was faultless. We left on time and returned on time, the boat was comfortable, food good – maybe not the frozen fruit breakfast, but it did raise a smile or two! Thank you Jess! The stinger suits, snorkels and fins in good condition if you don’t have your own.

Chris was a mine of information about the area we sailed and beyond, keeping us entertained throughout with lots of laughs, including his own ‘adopted Island’ found while sailing ‘off itinerary’ aptly named ‘Christo’ what else!

Maybe one day we will return, but for now we wish the Whitsundays much calm after the storm……………..

Where did April Go?

The whirlwind that is our family from the house of two halves in Cyprus have flown back to their home after spending sixteen days living with us. Calm – but not necessarily order – has returned to our humble abode

This past month has flown by in a whirlwind of activity as first we faced the reality of back to work after two months away on the other side of the world, whilst at the same time with the garden in full wake up mode there was jobs to do outside as well as in.

In the midst of all this activity, our sons Wedding Day was fast approaching – eighteen months of planning now only weeks away. Our daughter in Cyprus was to be bridesmaid the reason for their extended stay and our frantic endeavours to prepare the house for a family of six!

Preparations started out in the garage as the long-suffering swung himself monkey style up on the rafters to retrieve stair gates, Jumperoo, collapsible buggy, outdoor slide, toddler car seat and booster seat. Next it was the loft, down came the old  cot, toys, high chair and changing mat.

Through the door over the course of two weeks there followed by courier a steady stream of baby wipes, nappies, fold out mini bed, extra bedding, baby cream, breast pads and much more besides as the long-suffering catered for every eventuality.

Meanwhile I took the recyclable option and toured the local charity shops for toys and books to help keep the little ones entertained!

And like all the best Grandparents entertain we did! Every morning we woke up to read the wheels on the bus or incy wincy spider until we knew them word for word and the actions too.

Breakfast, first the toddler – a surprisingly clean affair, next the baby – totally the opposite – with that mornings offering over her, me and floor! My own breakfast was always a shared affair with toddler finishing hers extra quick to help me with mine. The older two – boy and almost teen – followed down later at intervals boy first with messy hair and teen her ponytail perfectly smooth after hours of repetitive brushing.

The end of the day always finished with the regimental routine of bath-time this used to be long-sufferings time, but now baby in too means back up is needed, we both and baby end up looking like drowned rats as toddler demonstrates her prowess at splashing every one and thing in sight!

I am left to do nappies and pyjamas, a stressful experience as the toddler has hers so tight as to stop leakage and possibly circulation!  The baby now rolls constantly while sucking her toes – her only option as sucking thumbs is frowned on by the parents – causing powder to not always land where directed, still the carpet has a lovely marbled effect now! Story time follows, book of choice Incy Wincy Spider!

The days went by too quick a never ending cycle of daily washing, cooking, working and best of all spending time playing with the young and chilling with the parents when young are in bed! Easter came and went leaving behind a mountain of Easter eggs in its wake.

Plug plants from Sarah Raven –  my guilty secret this year – steadily arrived at intervals in the midst of all this increased activity sending my stress levels through the roof as I secretly potted on the tiny fragile seedlings, so as not to alert the toddler to the delights of water and compost.

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And then the big day arrived, our son, ‘the baby’ of the family married his long term girlfriend. The ceremony was conducted and held at Athelhampton House in Dorset, more on this to follow in another post as I write my review!

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So here we are in present day ‘the aftermath’……………The washing machine is ready for a rest from the relentless daily offering of all things messy that only babies, toddlers, boys and teens provide. We have given away or are eating the Easter eggs left behind along with half eaten packets of biscuits and wedding cake – bad news for long-sufferings expanding waistline!

We have dismantled equipment now stacked waiting for the return to loft and rafters.  Our lounge once again is a grown up space as is the kitchen without high chairs, bibs, wipes, baby cups and cutlery.

The vases of table flowers so carefully arranged for the big day by the brides father and myself are gradually dying, each day on my return more petals from the ever depleted blooms have fallen until soon they will be no more.

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Only now in the eerie quiet of a house without children, we are suddenly both in mourning for the holiday of a lifetime so long in the planning over and gone, grandchildren arriving and then leaving, a wedding excitedly anticipated – bringing family and friends together if only for a weekend.

We will rally, quicker than we think too, already the long-suffering is back enjoying the rectangular box in the corner of the room showing all things sporting.

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Me, I will happily retire to tending the garden and endeavour to get back to regular writing again, away from all things sporting!

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