Pembrokeshire promise

This week we took the teens whose summer plans had crumbled back to the scene of many of their childhood holidays. A last-minute booking of a comfortable cottage adjoining farmland in Lamphey, Pembrokeshire led to a few sunny days of coastal walks, beach cricket, reading, picnics, clifftop  ice creams, garden boules, sunset chip suppers, beer and a late-night box set of Foyle’s War.

More of a mini-break than the promised holiday but it did us all a lot of good to be together by the sea. Not that we’ve been short of time together since the end of March. It might be the only beach time we get this summer. I’m glad we made the most of it.

We’re planning a Winter version at the end of the year.

The perfect Christmas gift.

I haven’t really done any Christmas shopping.

There. I’ve said it.

In any other year the prospect of having no working oven, no ideas for presents and a pot cupboard which is only half full of home-made goodies would have caused me some stress but not this year.

At the start of November my mother-in-law, who had been holding her own in the final stages of dementia for some time went into decline and passed away. My father-in-law who had been caring for her took a tumble when visiting her in hospital and broke his leg.  What followed was a few weeks of craziness – during which time the oven packed up and four different replacements couldn’t be fitted because of a redesign which didn’t accommodate the gas pipe, my daughter sat her mock GCSEs, my son worked on his university application, my husband spent most of the time away from home supporting his parents and I marked GCSE mock exams and wrote reports – dozens and dozens of them.

Now the storm rages no more, there’s time to reflect, take stock and appreciate what’s important about Christmas. My mother-in-law’s death has unlocked the door to happy memories of when she was healthy, which I found hard to bring to mind in the last few years during the worst parts of her illness. My father-in-law needs kindness, companionship and a new sense of purpose. Above all he needs our time.

I’ve always been a fan of homemade goodies or experiences rather than ‘stuff’ as gifts but the real gift of Christmas is time.

Time.

Take some for yourself and give some to those you love this Christmas. It’s the perfect Christmas gift.

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.

A week is a long time in gardening……

Bath Abbey from the Roman BathsLast week we played host to the apprentices’ grandparents and so our visits to the plot were mostly limited to early morning and late evening harvesting and watering. The week passed in a haze of trips out and picnics. And whilst we visited the tourist spots in Wiltshire and Somerset, enjoyed endless picnics and  devoured mountains of ice cream, the weeds grew undisturbed.

The canal at BradfordIt’s good to have a bit of a break – even in National Allotments Week. Not that we have been idle. Oh  no sir! A week further on and  we are the proud possessors of some rather upmarket weed suppressant membrane which we intend to put to good use when relocating some of our raised beds in the Autumn. The plum jam is made and in the pantry; the tomatoes are harvested and ripening on the windowsill (having narrowlyescaped blight) and ………………

Home to roostAnd we are now the proud owners of a fabulous hen palace courtesy of Pat ‘the chicken ark man’ . It was a truly momentous occasion manoevred into place in the gloaming. Thanks Mike and Kevin (who abandoned his pizza masterpiece to lift the heavy end!) Our long awaited chooks are now only a few days away. YIPPEE! Expect lots of pics of hens pecking around, although the apprentices are planning reading to them and setting up an assault course in case they get bored.

 

apprentice at workBack to work today (after a picnic lunch with friends and a game of rounders.) At least in one section of the plot we are weed free – for a few days at least.

Mayday delights

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I love Bank Holiday weekends and particularly this one, marking as it does the start of Summer. As a child I remember the May fair and my mother making up a basket of flowers for a neighbour who was housebound. This year it’s been my turn, although the baskets were of herbs not flowers. I was up early on Saturday to pot up a selection of herbs, some for a charity plant sale. I decided on a ‘Scarborough Fair’ selection of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme of varying kinds as the event had a musical theme. 

We  worked sporadically on the allotment  stopping for the boys to play in football matches, visiting Hartley Farm Shop to name their new cockeral, hens and rabbits and admire the beginnings of their herb garden and later to go to a Beltane party complete with impromptu fire ceremony (when an ancient chair gave way and the weather turned chilly.) The apprentices have half filled their beds with sunflowers, strawberries, spinach, sprouts, cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli.

a-country-gate-near-bath1

We rewarded ourselves with a day out on Monday, despite bracing winds and the odd shower and trekked around Dyrham Park near Bath, stopping halfway round for a picnic near this gate. Later on, having visited the house (fabulous kitchen with a vaulted ceiling and large skylight) we emerged into the formal gardens.view-of-dyrham-by-sarah_mayday091

Sarah was delighted to spot several varieties of tulip that she had planted at home looking magnificent in the long borders and ducks on the lake. We’ll go back in the Summer to compare their newly planted veg patch with ours.

 

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Then it was home for hot chocolate and cake in front of another Beltane fire. Yes, it really was that cold. It’s set me up nicely for the work of the week ahead. Maybe next year I’ll try a fire walk.

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