Morning meditations

On some days of the week I get into work early leaving my husband to sort out packed lunches, breakfast and setting our teenagers off to school. On these occasions I  have time to sit and think before the business of the day gets underway. Printing materials for class, last minute marking feedback and the listening to teenage angst are put aside. School days are packed with conversations and I crave the silence of an empty classroom to centre me in preparation for these – space to slow down and relax a bit.

A five-minute morning meditation is a simple, easy ritual that can have tons of benefits. Taking time to focus entirely on the present is easy enough in the holidays but once term is underway it becomes more difficult but more necessary. Establishing a routine is vital. I brew a pot of coffee and carry it up to my classroom with my favourite mug to begin. I’m lucky in that my room looks out on the science department garden and greenhouse but I keep my focus on the jam jar of fresh seasonal flowers that always sits on my desk. I like the changing of the seasons reflected in my flower choices. Most are home-grown. It’s no surprise that I was a regular contributor to the nature table when I was a school pupil. Then, whilst seated in my chair it’s all about controlling my breathing and gently letting all the thoughts that flood my mind float away as and when they appear.

It takes about three weeks of determined effort to establish a routine and then it becomes second nature. I highly recommend it for both teachers and students whose minds are constantly at work. Of course it takes time to train your mind to be in the present. Silence can be a scary place for teenagers, but great things can happen in the silence.

 

 

 

Bonfires and clutter clearing


Emily Dickinson reflected that the passing from one year into another is a time to reflect on “how many things we have omitted to do which might have cheered a human heart, or whispered hope in the ear of the sorrowful…” My Twitter feed is buzzing with resolutions of spending more time with family and friends, slowing down, rekindling hobbies and volunteering. 

I am determined to tackle the build up of clutter. This will cheer ‌my heart. January is a good time for a bonfire. Yesterday’s prunings from the garden and some old paperwork made a good blaze on a chilly late afternoon. There’s something relaxing about watching woodsmoke curl upwards with a cup of coffee in your hands. There will be other bonfires this month as we prune the fruit trees, the wisteria and the roses whilst they’re still dormant.

Getting the teenagers to sort through their wardrobes and fill a bag for the charity shop will also gladden my heart – as will clearing my backlog of filing, sorting through the seed tin, making a list and ordering seeds to sow in a few weeks time. There are a myriad studies about the benefits of clearing clutter – whether you’re into feng shui or just crave a dust-free clear work surface, having a clear out gives you an opportunity to sort, organise and simplify your life, space to be creative and productive and a feeling of well-being. 

Happy New Year.

Taking stock

It’s the end of a year. Time to reflect, say goodbye, make plans and move on for some.  For others it’s an opportunity to party.

I crave fresh air and to be with those I love.

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Later I light the fire and lose myself in the flickering flames and read a beautiful book about the curative power of nature. It takes me an hour.

Whatever 2019 brings I wish you joy and for myself, I’m hoping for more days like these.

Slowly easing towards the end of the year

Holy Trinity Church,Bradford on Avon taken by Simon Howell

Some Christmas traditions change; some remain.  But there will always be a craving to get outside, seek the light and to curl up later with some heat in Midwinter. This year there has been no trifle and no mince pie making, no holly and no huge get together with friends on Boxing Day. There has been a magnificent Christmas dinner, Monopoly and Cluedo, log fires, cake, crackers, homemade chutney and cheese and new books to enjoy.

Today we took ourselves off to Stourhead for a midwinter tramp around. Later I planted a new hellebore underneath the laburnum in the front garden at dusk, then scuttled back indoors for some heat in the form of cumin,paprika and chillies stirred through mashed sweet potatoes and steamed buttered kale for an easy supper.

 

Fireside Tales

December 22nd – fireside tales

There’s nothing better than cosying up on the sofa with your special ones. Our hunt to find a Carol concert we could all make never bore fruit this year and so this Saturday night was spent beside our own hearth eating chocolates, drinking wine and watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

When the children were young we watched Fireman Sam and Postman Pat’s Magical Christmas, progressed on to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and one memorable year The Box of Delights in installments on the radio. I so miss those days of sharing stories every night at bedtime with my children and a pre-Christmas evening all together sharing a good story is precious time well-spent. We still get together fairly regularly even though our children are now young adults, usually to watch box sets of detective series. But George Bailey’s story gets an outing every year at Christmas.

If you do little else together as your children grow up share stories with them, have conversations and get together over food and drink. Life is busy but these moments count.

Making Time for Friends

 

December 18th – friends are not just for Christmas

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without any meet-ups with friends and I have one organised for every day this week seeing mamas with whom I used to spend a lot of time on rugby touchlines or on flower patch activities and now see all too infrequently. Potted bulbs or chutney will be handed over, news will be shared, tears of joy and sadness will be given free rein and cake or mince pies will be consumed.

Sweet and simple pleasures of the season. Time to live in the moment and just be. Highly recommended.

Hunter’s Moon

Hunter's Moon 2018 spiritual meaning: Full moon

The year is turning.

October Half Term is my favourite holiday.

It’s a chance to put the garden to bed for the winter, hold the odd bonfire, get the chimney swept and restock the woodpile, make chutney, mincemeat, Christmas cake, put away the summer dresses, get out the cosy sweaters from the attic and buy a new pair of boots.

It’s a chance to take stock and  to embrace the change that the colder weather and darker nights brings.

This year, more than ever I am relishing the time spent as a family for we are hurtling towards that time when the eldest of our three children strikes out on his own. This time next year, with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck he’ll be at university. How time slips through your fingers when you are a parent.

I’m determined to savour every moment. Looking up at tonight’s beautiful Hunter’s Moon – coffee mug in hand – it is extraordinary to reflect on how quickly the eighteen years have passed since I took my seven-week-old son outside to show him the Hunter’s Moon.

Time to say goodbye

I can’t remember when I took on my allotment. I know I applied for one when we first moved to Bradford on Avon and I waited nearly three years on the ‘list’ so it must have been ten years ago, judging by these photos of the children with their allotment beds. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After months of clearing brambles, weeds and even mounds of rubbish which had been buried and covered with old carpet I started to grow potatoes to break up the soil and planted some raspberry canes, strawberries, gooseberries, currants and rhubarb. Gradually I laid some wood chip paths, built a double compost bin from recycled wood and installed some raised beds. I collected dozens of green wine bottles which I used to edge the long cut flower bed and planted herbs and foliage plants to add to cut flower bouquets but I never really tamed it.  It was always on the edge of getting out of control as I fought back the encroaching brambles, the council hedge which was rarely trimmed as resources were cut and the huge diseased horse chestnut trees and hedge on the edge of the neighbouring municipal golf course, which never were.

I have spent hundreds of hours on the allotment with the children when they were small and working alone as they got older and gardening became less interesting for them. They even coined the phrase ‘allotment time’ to describe my propensity for nipping over there for half an hour and coming back four hours later. Best of all I have fed my family with homegrown produce and grown hundreds of my favourite flowers for cutting.

In truth I have a difficult relationship with my allotment. I loathe the inaccessibility when it’s time to mulch with compost or manure, the lack of water – no standpipe and regulations preventing putting up a shed from which I could harvest rainwater, the visiting badger who is determined to dig up bulbs as soon as they are planted and knows exactly when the sweetcorn is ripe enough to eat and the occasional thieves who pop in and help themselves to whatever they fancy. I’m not too keen on the person who regularly allows their dog to defecate in front of the gate and doesn’t pick it up. But I love the space to grow, to be alone with my thoughts only two minutes’ walk from home and the memories of the children growing up playing archaeologists and then learning to grow things over ten years.And the herbs grow better on the allotment than in the garden.

I have nurtured this little piece of Bradford on Avon for a long time but everything has its season and returning to the classroom has given me even less time to spend on growing. I need a space i can pop out to for ten minutes before leaving for work or whilst the supper is cooking and , in all honesty, it won’t be long before the children fly the nest and I want to make the most of the years we have left. I’ve put in two potager beds in the garden now that it no longer serves as a football pitch and so the time is right to let the allotment go.

Over the last few months I’ll admit that I have struggled with this. I thought about looking for a partner to share the allotment but that didn’t seem quite right and now that I’ve made the decision to give it up I am at peace. I remain true to my precept of always leaving a place better than I found it. I hope the next keeper of plot 2b has as much joy as I have over there. I’m even a little excited to see how it develops in someone else’s hands.

Summertime …and the living is easy.

Sunset at Cobo Bay

It’s been another busy year. Hence the radio silence on the blog over the last few months. Unexpectedly full-time at school and seemingly part-time at home as the children have reached important milestones. The eldest started his A levels and the long-haul of applying for a medical degree and passed his driving test; the middlest completed his GCSEs and grew about a foot in the space of a couple of months and the youngest has become a poised and independent young woman overnight. The start of the school holidays saw my long-planned production of ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’ at the Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon and then a couple of weeks of attempting to tame the garden and allotment followed alongside some of the home jobs which are neglected during term time. Time spent with all three children at home, out and about, exploring and connecting is truly slipping through my fingers. and I never intended or wanted that to happen,

And so it has been a delight to spend a family week away in Guernsey relaxing on the beach, exploring the island’s Occupation history, playing tennis, walking the coastal paths, cycling around the island and watching episodes of Foyle’s War together in the evening. Precious moments when you are the mother of teenage children. Making memories for the times when they have flown the nest.

Quiet but beautiful beaches – one of the best things about Guernsey
Les Piques Country Cottages St Saviour – the perfect base for us

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