Accepting my early retirement I am filling my days with quilting and sewing projects as well as catching up on my blog and organising my huge backlog of holiday photos. I have also started the Royal School of Needlework's Diploma classes at Hampton Court Palace. That's what I love – hand work, travel, being around my family and writing about it.
I had a good long walk at Bushy Park yesterday having a wee cry about Pepper (again) remembering all the times we did that walk together come rain or shine. Near the end I met a man sitting on a bench with his gorgeous long-haired Jack Russell Terrier puppy snuffling in the nearby grass. She was fourteen weeks old and an absolute charmer. The man and I chatted about dogs for a few minutes and then he asked me if I had any. “We lost our Norwich Terrier in November,” I said, “he was nearly fifteen!”
“That’s really hard,” he said, “but here’s my advice. Give yourself a year [to grieve], travel abroad somewhere (not hard for me) then come back and get another dog.” Simple wisdom.
In one of the grandest settings in England, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire plays host to three Christmas events not to be missed. One is a lovely Christmas market situated in wooden huts with a mix of food and craft stalls. Despite one guy who tried to sell us a subscription service for flowers and who wouldn’t take no for an answer I did manage to buy a Christmas pudding all the way from Australia (!) and a pair of Wristees which were great for using my camera in the cold.
The second event is Alice in the Palace where some of the interior rooms are decorated for the season on the theme of Alice in Wonderland. Not being a big fan of the book Alice in Wonderland my family and I decided to give it a miss in favour of the third offering – the outdoor light trail. A mile long, which took an hour and half to walk, the trail featured string art, a colourful waterfall, two light tubes to walk through, a penguin house and a light show on a palace wall. It was all very well organised with loads of double decker buses ferrying people from an offsite parking lot to the main entrance right to the front door of the palace. A little snow might have added to the seasonal ambience but one can’t have everything.
Living in the UK is exasperating, breathtaking and unusual all at the same time. Steve and I sat in a traffic jam for half an hour this morning only to discover it went on for several more miles. We turned around and went to another National Trust property to walk the dog and have lunch. Here there was birdsong and amongst fields of buttercups there was the most amazing view of an old church and colourful farmers fields.
On the way home we saw a motorcycle hearse with a casket inside driving down the motorway. Obviously taking a bike enthusiast to his/her funeral – I have never seen the like before. It was a bit of a strange day but we had the top down on my car and the sun was shining!!
We’ve had a crackly landline phone for the last few days and finally had to get a British Telecom technician to come have a look. After climbing the pole the guy told us that a squirrel had chewed some of the cables and water was getting into the line. I was happy to have a clear phone connection but Steve’s response was all for the squirrel, “Aw I hope he’s okay?”
An amazing thing happened at our house today – Steve and I actually had the best Christmas baking day ever! We didn’t fight, we didn’t burn anything and Steve only sighed at my untidy cooking habits once or twice. Ask our kids as this is a truly a remarkable event – normally one of us wants to tip the basin of cookie dough over the other one’s head! Don’t get him to help you say? I can’t not as he’s so good at the steps that require patience, he times the baked items to perfection and he absolutely insists that the dishes are dried and put away before we’re done.
My beloved VW Beetle, Suzie, turned over 30,000 miles today which isn’t bad for four years of driving. Since VW isn’t going to be making Beetles in the near future my car will soon be a collector’s item. Note: nobody was hurt in the taking of these pictures as Steve was driving at the time!
The British schoolgirl in me has a hereditary rule that one doesn’t wear white shoes or sandels or go without tights until after Easter and winter shoes and tights must go on after early September! It had something to do with summer and winter uniforms and somehow it’s stuck in my behaviour no matter what the temperature! Today, however, I’m rebelling. I want to wear a skirt for a nice Sunday lunch with the kids but I’m damned if I’m going to put the damn tights on again. Ssssh don’t tell anyone. I’m living on the edge – I’m going tightless BEFORE Easter!!
Many years ago my mother bought me a pleating machine for smocking on the proviso that if she ever needed anything pleated I would have to do them for her. A year ago she gave me three items to be pleated – she said there was no hurry. Do you think I could find that pleating machine in the myriad of boxes and junk that is our attic (it is not something I use on a regular basis)? We’ve looked many times over the last 12 months, but this weekend, determined, Steve and I were not going to rest until we found it. Today success and I now have three Christmas balls pleated for her ready for stitching. I also have a much, much more tidy attic along with a firm belief that the last thing written on the box lid is not always what’s inside!!
The tulips in our garden were particularly good this year. Then a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Gardens provided even more photo opportunities for taking flower pictures. Oh and a couple of photos of a duck who was investigating my ice cream during a quick break. Isn’t nature wonderful?
Colour and activity is slowly coming back to the UK as Spring begins its steady passage towards Summer. These pictures were taken in the Cotswolds and in Freeland, Oxfordshire – perfection in the petals and the new lambs.