Sunday morning blessings..

Once you start counting blessings it’s easy to keep going…

Yesterday we walked the dogs in the rain around Henley Lake and on returning to the car found a damp business card under the wiper. “Please ring me.  I have your purse” in pen, on the back.  Yes I had dropped my purse out of my pocket while letting the dogs out of the car and this kind man had spotted it by the car wheel and returned it (and all of my eight dollars in change, plus debit card and library card, how tempting it must have been for him)  How’s that for blessings?  Two lovely people in as many days, doing something for others that they didn’t need to.

Mr T is going back to work tomorrow (not that his flu is completely better, but I can’t dissuade him), so the dogs and I are going back down with him and staying with my Mum for a few days.  I will sort her bills out and do any other jobs that need doing and I can cook dinner for us all so Mr T doesn’t have to.

For any of you reading who do not know our situation,  Mr T works down in Wellington (about an hour and a half away from where we live in Masterton) and stays down there during the week with my Mum in her home.  Mum is elderly now and likes the company and he cooks for her in the evenings and they watch silly British comedies together.

Then he comes home and sees me and the fur children for the weekend.  This is not ideal but it’s the way it has to be for now.  I feel happier now I am within walking distance to town and my friends.  My mental health seems to be better when I am not so isolated..

Talking of mental health – I have finished reading Matt Haig’s wonderful book Reasons to Stay Alive and cannot recommend it highly enough – especially if you are looking for reasons to stay alive.  I particularly like the chapter ‘How to live (forty pieces of advice I feel to be helpful but which I don’t always follow)’ and number 27 “Listen to what Hamlet – literature’s most famous depressive – told Rosencrantz and Guildensten. ‘There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.'”

Matt talks about his book and depression here

Other blessings from this morning – rainbows, tuis warbling in the garden, the BBC’s The Now Show which Mr T has put on and which is preventing me from continuing this blog post because I can’t concentrate and I would rather listen to that than write, be thankful people 🙂

reading, knitting, blogging and snowing..

Ok, so..

Sorry to anyone who tried to access my blog in the last couple of days and found it password protected.  I did have a little wobble and thought I might like to do away with this blog, but I have centered myself now and the normal programme of not posting much has been resumed.

All is well here at present, we are snowless once again, although there is always the possibility – winter is clenching and hanging on.

I am learning to knit an actual garment (as opposed to scarves), with shaping and everything and it is a &%&@%£$@£$$££^%$&^*&^*&*&$$££@£@£@£ bitch..  I screwed it up so badly last week that I have been unable to do anything with it, until last night’s Stitch and Bitch when my lovely friend Thursday sorted it out for me – I love Thursday.

I am overloaded with reading material having found several wonderful  authors recently  Hilary Mantel, Katherine Swift (many thanks to BoxofMisc you are a treasure) and Billy Letts, as well as a  new interest in Mass Observation diaries and the diary of our local hero/weirdo Victorian curate Francis Kilvert, whose writings I find alternately, beautiful, lyrical, horrifying, tragic and amusing and sometimes several of those at once.  Reading Kilvert also reminds me just how very, very lucky I am to be living here in this time.

In addition to books, I am reading other people’s blogs and have resolved to make a effort to leave a comment every time I do – even if it’s just  a smiley or a frowney or whatever – just to let them know that I have been there, heard them and tip my hat.  A sort of a small payment, if you will, for their efforts.

I would really appreciate it if you would do the same for me, I’d love to know that you have been by.

Some photos of our lovely snow days..

The lane in front of our house
The lane in front of our house


Not too cold to chew a stick
Not too cold to chew a stick
See my snow dags?
See my snow dags?


My new crocheted jumper
My new crocheted jumper
St Mary's, Cusop
St Mary’s, Cusop, hidden under all this freezing load are the first Snow Drops
The snow makes the graves more cheerful
The snow makes the graves more cheerful

A Fine Start to a Year..


What has three bedrooms, one of which is the entire attic area with velux window, which will make a mighty fine studio.  A large bathroom (well large compared to the closet which we have at the moment).  And A BATH!  And a wood burner. And a dog door. And a garden, with a glass house and an apple tree and a walnut tree. And it backs on to fields and Mouse Castle woods.  And it has its own car park. And it is furnished so we will have proper  double beds in all the rooms, And has walls so thick you can’t hear the neighbours hoick.  And costs exactly the same as the one we are in now ???

Answer – Our new house, of course!

Yes we are moving yet again, only this time it is just about as close as can be to where we are now –  five minutes walk away in Cusop Dingle.

This is the New Years Good Things post, and about time too.

I feel bullet points coming on

  • I am really loving our Stitch and Bitch group.  Just getting together with a lovely bunch of people purely for the sake of sitting and crocheting and talking and laughing.
  • A British winter – well, what a winter!  It’s still grey and manky outside BUT the signs of spring are already here, snowdrops, lambs, budding plants.  And I can smell it in the air.  Our town has got ridiculously quiet, almost empty pubs and streets.  It is amazing to think that this is the same town that just six months ago you had to walk off the pavement to get around all the people.  And soon it will be like that again – perhaps I will just enjoy the quiet for the moment.

  • A week after we move we are to be visited by our friends Julian and Kath.  This will be their first visit to us in Hay and I am just so happy that it will be at our new house.  Not only will we have a spare bedroom to put them up in BUT also we will have a proper bed for them to sleep in.  Hurrah!
  • Books – oh the books.  I try not to go into the book shops here to often, just because it is torturous to the financially embarrassed person but – sometimes you just have to.  On one of my trips I came across Paper Cutting Techniques by Sharyn Sowell which I just had to have as I have been wanting to have a go at the craft for some time now.   Then I found Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton, an account of the writers journey through and out of severe depression.  This book is well up there on my list of best depression books and reading it has helped me hugely.
Paper cut by Julene Harrison. Just imagine cutting this! There are some amazing people out there
  • Carol Shields’s Unless, is another book I just had to own.  I think Shields was one of the best novelists in THE ENTIRE WORLD – sorry about yelling but golly.  If you haven’t read this or the sublime The Stone Diaries, well then – you should 😉
  • After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash...     These sentences  come from my best read of the new year so far –  The Well and The Mine by Gin Phillips.  This doozy flew across the sea to me at the behest of an American friend Robin who I met last year at my local pub Kilvert’s, just up the road.  She was on her first solo trip around the UK and being a book seller, had to pay a visit to Hay-on-Wye.  The lovely Robin along with my friend Jenny and I spent a fabulous evening bonding over real ale and in the process I found out that not only was she from the southern states where I would just love to visit, but she was also a huge fan of Fanny Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes as well as some of my other favourite books.  Robin, sadly, had to leave the next day but we have been in email contact since she got home and just after Christmas a package arrived from her.  Not only did it contain the latest Fanny Flagg hardback I Still Dream About You but a copy of The Well and the Mine which is the authors first novel – I can’t wait till the next.
  • Just before Christmas I had received another package in the post – this time from Amazon.  I hadn’t ordered anything and so I gave it to T who promptly put it away.  It turned out to be a rather wonderful, and strange book entitled The Complete Book of Retro Crafts which I suspect was sent to me by blog buddie Katyboo.   Full of the most wonderful, crazy stuff that humans can make it includes how tos on every kitsch craft you can think of – including glitter encrusted pine cone elves, Bottlecap man, Pantyhose Poodle and festive Reinbeer.

  • On Saturday afternoon I was in my kitchen making a Spiced Apple cake, the first baking I have done since we came to this country, and listening to Graham Norton and then Tony Blackburn on Radio Two, grooving away to 70’s funkiness when I suddenly realised just how happy I was feeling, one of life’s golden moments had just enveloped me and given me a big kiss.  I believe you must have had depression or been through some other terrible stress to understand how incredible it felt.  I am getting better…
The best cake I have ever made

We are moving on the 11th Feb and I have packing to do.  You have no idea how much I am looking forward to having a garden again.  I have to try to not get too over excited about it all otherwise I will have to go and sit in the corner, cover my head with a towel (remember you should always carry a towel – check your Douglas Adams)  and squeak.

How Not to Have a Sex Life and Other Stories..

I have had a long day but thought to blog about some of the things I missed out yesterday.  No photos this time though.. (well, maybe one).

Firstly , and astoundingly,  I am mentally well for the first time in ages – this is wonderful and I am trying to enjoy every moment.  I had been having a go with a new antidepressant called Sertraline (a SSRI also called Zoloft), which seemed to work well for me.  After a while however I ran into a wee problem that is apparently common for many of us poor bastards on SSRIs, and is also responsible for large amounts of people not completing their course of treatment. Which is what has happened to me, except I have stayed well – long may it last!!

I had been meaning to  write about this problem for some time but could never get my head around exactly what I was going to say without giving too much information.  Then when I was paying a visit to one of my favourite bloggers  I came across her post on the same subject – and here it is. .  Why reinvent the wheel huh? And she says it so much better than I could.  It is really interesting reading some of the post comments as well.

I first came across Dooce’s (Heather Armstrong’s) blog when I became aware after four years, that the mystery illness I was suffering from was actually depression.  She had been through the hell of post-partum depression and was so badly affected that she had ended up in a psych unit.

I love her blog for many reasons, not the least being that she shows it is possible to be on  depression meds and still have a lovely life.   Also because she and her husband John strongly remind me that not all Americans are bonkers – Oh and because she takes photos of her dog Chuck with objects balanced on his head.. well maybe she is bonkers, but in a nice way..


One of the most helpful things that I came across in my research about depression was information about mindfulness, which is why I go on about it so much.  The book I probably found the most helpful is called The Mindful Way Through Depression,  another is called The Noonday Demon – An Anatomy of Depression by Andrew Solomon.    This weekends Guardian bought an article by Tim Parks who has just had a book published called Teach Us To Sit Still, A Sceptic’s Guide to Health and Healing, which I found really interesting for his discovery of how mindfulness/meditation helped him with his illness.  It is on my Amazon Wish List.

Sunday’s Observer bought a wonderful interview with Christophoer Hitchens which can be read here, for anyone who is a fan of the man..

And last but nowhere near least, is the podcast which features Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Wilson in conversation on the subject of folklore.  So if you are after a little insight into the writing of the Discworld Novels  and/or just plain fascinated as I am, in how humans seem to really need to invent and tell ourselves stories, go and have a listen.


yes, it has been a while..

i think i am still here…

yes, that’s right, I am….

Hiya folks!  This is my two hundred and oneth post – it may not be any where near the best but it’s lucky to be here at all.  Myriad things have got in the way lately, not the least of all another go at some new anti-depressants.  Also lots more hours of work at the shop and suddenly everything starts piling up on top of each other in trembling heaps and my life lands jam faced down on the carpet.

I have managed to get through some of my birthday books – Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book being an absolute unputdownable dream of a read  (Pat if you are reading this – I think you would love it), I am just starting another one of hers – To Say Nothing of the Dog.  I have got through two Terry Pratchett’s – Johnny and the Dead and Only You Can Save Mankind, which I have read before but thoroughly enjoyed again.  Also two of the Bloomesbury Group reprints, Henriettas’s War and Henrietta Sees it Through by Joyce Dennys.  I really, really want to read all of these so called ‘lost novels’,  what a great idea to revive them all.

I have a new hair cut – v short, which I love,  sooo easy to look after, but that of course necessitated a purchase of a felt hat from work, to keep the cropped bonce warm.  I think it is a lot colder in Hay than in Swansea,  I quite like it as I get to wear all my favorite cold weather clothes and lots of new scarfs.

New Hair
New Hat

What I don’t like is that I am on my second bout of sickness since September and this flu has lasted a week already.  I was meant to be out with my Stitch and Bitch group tonight, yarn bombing for Halloween but instead I am on the sofa, typing this , taking photo’s of my head and staying warm and cozy.  I am supposed to go with a friend to Ikea in Cardiff tomorrow to buy some much needed shelving units for the flat and as well as that I am working both Saturday and Sunday and would like to be well for it.

The dear, kind people at work let me come home from work an hour early this afternoon as I was still feeling poorly.  In fact they were probably just pleased to see the back of my miserable, possibly infectious body.  I got in, tripped over the mail on the floor and discovered that my best blog buddy Katyboo and her mum Sue from Box of Misc had both sent me belated birthday gifts!!!  Talk about making my day.  A Persephone book from Kate and a rubber stamp from Sue with a Celtic design on it – I adore both of them, the gifts as well as the giftees.

Belated presents, book and stamp

Well – that is about if from me for today.  My head hurts when I cough, when I bend over, when I look up and I think it may need some analgesics.  In the mean time..

Stay cool till after school..

bad, bad blogger..

I cheerfully admit to being a crap blogger lately,  sometimes I am just not in the mood and so busy it just get missed out.  I am trying to write in the morning but that is not working out to well – will keep trying.

And then there is the other riveting news that my front tooth has fallen out again.  Bit into a kebab on Friday night and tooth just popped out.  I think that it wasn’t  stuck in properly and am hoping that nice Mr Wong the dentist will not charge me again.  So that is where I am off to this afternoon – that and dinner at Yvonne’s house, eggplant casserole, which will be good because pretty much everything I have eaten of hers is.  Must be the Italian in her coming out.

Yesterday was spent at Ocean Beach, a rough (unswimmable) beach about half an hour from Featherston.  Tons of driftwood to make a shade shelter and we spent the afternoon relaxing, reading books and admiring the lunatics floating off the edge of the small hill just up from us.

I am on to another lot of books now – A Spoonful of Jam by Michelle Magorian, one of my favourite authors.  I was late catching onto her, I found an copy of Goodnight Mister Tom in a book sale last year and after reading that I had to rush to the library to try to get hold of all the rest of hers, not terribly successfully.  Which is fortunate really because it stopped me reading them all at once.

The second book I am reading is called Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.  The writing in this is a bit disappointing after my three previous reads but I am bearing with it, purely to see what happens in the end.  This novel is about a teenager who is killed while riding her push bike.  She wakes up on an ocean liner heading for Elsewhere – the place people go when they die, and the novel so far is the tale of how she deals with being dead.

My third book is The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, this is a reread because I enjoyed it so much the first time.  This is the first scientific study into what luckiness is all about and Wiseman comes up with four principles that people use, without realising it, to create good fortune in their lives.

All good stuff and entertaining, makes me wonder what’s coming next.. So many good books, so little time 😉

Ocean Beach

Gratuitous shot of Poll
Sunset above our house

books, books, books…

I have been lucky lately with my choice of reading material.   Lucky in the sense that I have had three books that have been well worth reading.

I have been a manic reader ever since I could, inhaled books as if they were oxygen really – hated being trapped anywhere without something to read.  And I would pretty much read anything.  But then I went and got myself an education and that changed my reading habits totally – as one of the characters in the book I am reading at the moment said “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books”

For a long time after leaving university I found it difficult to find novels I enjoyed, it still is a problem  – but not at the moment.  Three books!

March: A Love Story in a Time of War by Geraldine Brooks – (not for the faint hearted), she tells the tale of Charles March the father of the girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Thoroughly researched, beautifully written, fascinating, an absolute gem that I will read again.  This also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006

Miss Garnet’s Angel by Sally Vickers – the story of a retired school mistress who , after the death of a long term companion, goes to live in Venice for six months.  I love stories about people who have sudden crises in life and go off and do the unexpected and this is one of them.  Woven in with Miss Garnet’s story is the apocryphal tale of Tobias and his journey which is also fascinating.  A book that I found hard to put down and really looked forward to going to bed at night to have a read.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer –  Half way through this I am enjoying immensely.  The title is cutesy but this belies the sometimes deeply sad nature of the book when it deals with the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. Despite that there are also some deeply funny bits as well and it feels well balanced.  Another book I am finding hard to put down and yet at the same time I want it to last forever!  The only thing I regret is that the author is dead and we will get no more of her wonderful writing.

Fave word of the day – Lucubration – mainly cos I think it sound rude 😉

Wellington – The Cutest City…

I love Wellington city – it is only small but packs lots of punch.  It has to be coffee capital for a start, and that’s a good thing as far as T and I are concerned.  One of the reasons we go there is just to sit, watch the world go by and drink excellent coffee.  Our people watching fun was enhanced on our visit last Friday by the presence of what seemed like fifty million ACDC fans in town for the concerts and the passengers from two huge cruise ships parked at the docks.  You could certainly tell the difference between the two 😉

I, of course, also go for the shops – lots and lots of lovely shops, full of interesting and beautiful stuff that I covet.  On this visit I was determined to find a shop called Minerva that Lisa from my craft course had told me about.  Minerva, she said, was up the very top of Cuba St, opposite Fidel’s Cafe.  Now I have been up Cuba St many times but always on a limited time budget.  It’s filled with great shops and I because of this I have never managed to get to the top, so this was a bit of an adventure.

Well – Minerva was sooo worth going to see, its shelves filled with craft books, I was like a pig in muck.  Also it was torturous.  We have limited finances at the moment and with most books costing forty, fifty, sixty bucks each, buying one was not an option (roll on Amazon UK).  However I did splash out and buy a copy of my latest magazine fixation, the incredible Cloth, Paper, Scissors, subtitled Collage, Mixed Media, Artistic Discovery, it is filled with all sorts of ideas and how tos for making stuff.  Right up my alley.

The Christmas issue  of Cloth Paper Scissors that had been lent to me, introduced me to what could become another fixation – Zentangles .  Zentangle is the term invented to described the drawing of repetitive patterns as a form of meditation.  You do not have to buy the Zentangle kit from the website – all you have to do to create your own is the following.

  1. Make a pencil dot at each corner of your paper. Connect the dots.  Draw the “string”, a squiggle/swirl.
  2. Use a fine tip pen to fill in the sections with “tangles” – repetitive patterns.
  3. Use the pencil to add shading, and a paper stump for blending and smudging.
Tile by Nick from Zentangle Gallery
Tile by Nick from Zentangle Gallery

A Cup of Chai Tea…

The weather is still practising for winter.  We have been out in it and got wet, as has the dog.  She is now curled up next to me on the felt blanket, chasing a rabbit in her sleep, back legs going.

I have a cup of chai tea while I write this and contemplate doing some craft work.   I read again to T this morning, from The Long Winter.  The descriptive passages seem to go on forever when you are reading out loud.  I keep waiting for T to get bored with it but he is riveted.   Laura Ingalls Wilder had spent years describing the world to her blind sister Mary, that must have come in handy, writing her books.  Also, although she never kept a diary, she did write a lot, and kept every single scrap.

Certainly puts into perspective this dreary old weather.  Can’t begin to imagine how cold it must have been during the blizzards described in the book.  Not being able to see across the street for flying snow and the fear of being caught out in it, losing your way and wandering out into the vast prairie landscape that held no shelter whatsoever.

Anyway – on a more cheerful note, T has just lit the fire and made me more chai tea.  He reports the courgettes are getting away on us ( I can just see them bounding off across the garden) and need to be eaten,  so that is part of dinner sorted.  I think I will watch the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special again and do some knitting – killing two birds with one stone.

Mid summer - lighting the fire