Planning Room Changes

I want to give my house an injection of personality I said last year and this has become one of my goals for 2017. And I want to do it without spending a lot of money- for me this means some up-cycling, hand making, and somehow taking account of the function of each room and maintaining some simplicity at the same time – I don’t want to clutter back up, having worked so hard to de-clutter over the last few years.

Personality without clutter.

Apart from a small post Christmas purge of things on shelves and  hidey holes that we no longer need, pretty much I have pared the house down to it’s heart, it’s core.

I looked around with a critical eye this weekend and overall I like where I’ve got to – I realise that not everything that is lying around my house is clutter to be dumped – some of it is genuine stuff that doesn’t have a proper home  – and that means storage.

I don’t just want a corner full of plastic tubs  where I can bung stuff – I want things to reside stylishly. When I looked at the house, I saw it was ‘lived in’ and ‘messy’ in places and I can live with that – but I realised it would be a whole lot less messy if everyday items had an accessible home – storage that allows us to retrieve items easily.

I also can’t allow myself to run away with jobs ad hoc – I have to have a focused approach to what is going to be done, that means running contrary to my usual approach of just jumping in feet first – no, this time I need a plan.

So my plan entails doing one room at a time – starting with my daughters bedroom first, we started this weekend re arranging her furniture in a way that suited her best, rather than just living with it as it all went in to the room when we first arrived – she likes these new changes.

And we have started listing up what we intend to do in the room – hers is the only room in the house practically that doesn’t need decorating; she’s inherited it from her brother who has now left home and he had decorated it just before he left – so we have a blank canvas to work on.

But before we start her bedroom in earnest, the issue of storage for all the homeless items around the house has to be addressed.

  1. My craft projects. Honestly, every single room, bar the bathroom had a basket or bag of something that I was half way through. Promise number 1 then, I will not start any new projects until all the ones presently on the go are completed.  And the crafting materials need to be housed – I have already decided that I will organise my materials – balls of wool (dozens of them); raw fleeces (at least 3); paints, dyes, felting tools, sewing tools – and I have already made space in my utility room. This has made a huge difference to the house generally and I am very pleased with this
  2. Post/leaflets/paperwork – this is always dumped on the island worktop in the kitchen – it’s a large area that gets littered with everything that has no home and I want this addressed. The worse culprit for this is my hubby –  despite claiming to be tidy, he will be reluctant to use any storage if it isn’t an easy to use solution so this is going to have my attention first because I think this may require some capital expenditure.
  3. Electrical leads, charges, cables, defunct gadgets – I could do with this being looked at properly, to decide what can legitimately go and what can stay, this isn’t my area of expertise and largely not my stuff, so for now just to move it all away, I have made a draw available to for it all, so it isn’t left loitering around various rooms  – this is a akin to hiding the problem I know, but for now at least it is tidy. I will have to get the men in the family to find time to deal with it properly. It has amazed me how much of this kind of stuff we have, and the difference having a place to store it all makes.
  4. Not a storage issue, but a money issue –  I only have a set amount of disposable income available per month, and this month a good proportion of it is going to be eaten up paying a pest controller. I have tried to deter Mr Mole moving in to our garden myself – using an array of efforts gleaned from friends, neighbours and google – but to no avail, he has  run completely amok all over the lawn, which has practically been destroyed, it looks such a mess and worse the dogs keep trailing mud in to the kitchen, since the grass has been replaced with mounds of soil there is  precious little I can do to stop this happening and it’s started to get us all down. ~Sadly, because I don’t like the alternative really, the mole has got to go. I’m miffed too because I would prefer not to be spending money on this kind of thing, but we have really drawn a blank with him and the damage is now pretty substantial.

On the whole I feel I am bucking my usual trend of being a disorganised thinker when it comes to the house, and I am very pleased with where we are going.


Magical Reads…

I’m a bit of a mystical – magical book lover when it comes down to it. I know this can take a variety of different ‘angles’, there’s lots of slightly different genres – I tend to prefer the ‘fey’. Wizards and spell crafting, evil doers and a whole posse of Elven, Fairy and Brownie folk to light the way.

Does that sound a whole lot Tolkien-esque? I imagine it does, but it is interesting that I was introduced much later to JRR than you might assume and that my imagination had been fired a long long while before I knew the joys of the Shire.

I broke my fantasy reading teeth at about 10 yrs old, on the work of Alan Garner – truly a master of the craft and I stubbornly hold he was a far better, more gripping story teller than JRR even though it became obvious as I grew up, that Mr Garner had undoubtedly been strongly influenced himself by Tolkein.

I remember being annoyed that Gandalf appeared to me to be a work around of Cadellin Silverbrow, and the horror at realising that Gandalf had arrived first!!!! In fact there are many who felt that Garner more than doffed his cap toward the old master, some went so far as to say he downright cloned aspects. However true that may or may not be, I don’t care to have the argument – I loved ‘the Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and the rest of the series, whereas I had only a milky sorta liking for the Fellowship journey – it was for me, as a youngster, overly long and dark and I have never revisited it in later adulthood. I did however love the films.

I read the Garner stories over and over again- Elidor, the Weirdstone with it’s wands and high magic (and it’s sequel the Moon of Gomrath – a tale of old dark magic), the Owl Service ( you make her flowers but she want’s to be owls) and even Redshift and then preceded to read them to my younger sister and we both gobbled them up. But despite trying, neither of us have ever been able to impart the joy of Garner to our own children – and it is worth saying also, that  none of our kids would touch Tolkein with a barge pole -????

I figured that the love of all things magic had just passed them by – but they were saved from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and it’s ilk by something quite extraordinary. Harry Potter.

My eldest son, who is now 26, was at that age when Harry was hardly known at all, and was reading them before the books became a leviathan franchise – and he waited impatiently for each new book to be released. By the time he had read them all, my sister’s eldest, now 18, followed in his footsteps and quickly became a Potter buff too and latterly my sister also defected from Garner to Rowling – having read all the Potter books to two offspring and read them herself, twice over- she firmly established them as the magical book series par excellence. I was having none of it. I was a purist and a stubborn one at that – I wasn’t interested in this boy upstart.

It wasn’t at all difficult to encourage my eldest son to read. JK Rowling was pretty much  pushing on an open door where he was concerned. But my youngest son, now 13, he was a much tougher nut to crack because he hated reading and was particularly bored by fiction.

Only this last academic year was he brought, by his English teacher, kicking and screaming to the Potter book club – only, miraculously he read the first 3 in quick succession and has had the 4th bought as a Christmas present.  Holy Impossibility Batman surely? But no. He’s really liked them. Not loved them he says, but very definitely liked them.

So, given the fact that the plaster cast on my hand this Christmas pretty much put paid to anything more interesting, I took it upon myself to read Harry Potter. Not all of it – just the first book. And it was ok. I was pleased there was more detail and roundness to it than was in the film even though I was impressed to see that the film was pretty true to it overall. I didn’t love it. I don’t think I can be bothered to read any more of it and it felt to me like toy town magic – I wasn’t scared of ‘you know who’ and I didn’t believe in Harry and co, nor felt their angst and danger but more importantly, Albus Dumbledore did not carry the wand with gravitas like Gandalf or Cadellin – in fact he seemed a bit puny.

Another aspect that I wasn’t expecting was that I assumed as the children ran through the none existent platform at King Cross, they were transported to a parallel universe, only I now realise that Wizardy pure bloods live hand to jowl next to muggles and I was slightly put out by the notion that there was no special magical world. Now the exact same thing is true in the Weirdstone – but unlike Muggle-land, Alderley Edge imparted magic, legend and folklore in a way that Stoke Poges just can’t match.

I may have forced myself to read a bit more of the series, just to say I’d done it – if I hadn’t been side tracked by the prospect of another journey with the most majilicus of wizards, Matlock the Hare.

I may have let this trilogy pass me by completely had it not been for the most wonderful artwork that accompanies the series by Jacqui Lovesey. Having seen her work and the website of Matlock – I realise that illustrations do not have to be banished to the children’s section alone; her work is so evocative, I wonder why more authors don’t consider it.

I’ve only just started part 1 of the trilogy and I do hope it holds up to my expectation. I follow Jacqui on instagram and I was so taken with the way the story and pictures call to you – I was even prepared to excuse the fact that the wizard is a hare.

It is different, even the liberal smattering of new vocabulary makes it at once curiously addictive and off putting all at the same time. I’m prepared to be won over, transported and enchanted – every evening before bed!

Let the wand waving commence……



12th Night

Well here’s a thing.

6th January is a little considered date in our calendar really. As far as the Christian West is concerned, it marks Epiphany – the day the 3 wise men visited the Christ child and it also marks his baptism. I was baptised on Epiphany.

Epiphany begins the festival season in Catholicism ending with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras and in Eastern Europe and Russia, it’s actually Christmas Eve.

January 6th in early medieval times signified the end of the yuletide celebrations and was often when everyone got back to the serious business of work and surviving the harsh winter months to come.

Which brings me to 12th night.

There has always been for me a vagueness about this night – and for someone who is everso slightly superstitious, vagueness isn’t helpful.

Firstly, as a child I believed the 12 days of Christmas was part of the run up up to Christmas day, like an advent calendar – instead of the feast days between Christmas day and January 6th that it truly is. The interesting point here is the emphasis on ‘days’.

The significance of 12th night to the majority of us is taking the Christmas tree’s down and packing away the baubles –  because for the superstitious amongst us, to not do so brings in a year of bad luck – and who needs that?

Up to this year, I always took the tree down on January 6th. To fail to take it down meant the only solution for those wary of their luck running out so early in the year -was to keep the tree and decorations up until – now some sources say Imbolc (Feb 2nd) and others say Shrove Tuesday. How should you navigate your way though that ambiguity – bad luck would haunt you for sure!!!

So there was no missing that January 6th deadline.

January 6th is derived from Christmas Day starting as day 0.

However, I read something very plausible over Christmastime. The point was how very many great historical festivals stressed the importance of the evening before the festival – Hallow’een (the eve before All Hallows Day) and of course Christmas Eve itself. Indeed I mentioned above Imbolc on Feb 2nd – but the celebration actually begins at sundown Feb 1st and ends sundown Feb 2nd.

Our ancestors seemed keen to note separately the day of an event and the evenings- you have to count days and nights as separate entities; that means although Christmas Day is itself day 0, the night of Christmas Day is night number 1. So if you count the nights only – 12th Night is January 5th.

I was flabbergasted – I had been vehemently opposed to the idea that 12th night was anything other than Jan 6th.

This year the tree was down and packed after sundown Jan 5th.

I’m now sitting back to watch the bad luck to zip on by.

Glad that’s sorted.



Victorian Living

I have a bit of a weird house. It’s a T shape.

The upward stroke of the T as in ‘I’ pre dates the cross bar of the T by about 100 yrs.

We live in the centre of a village and if you stand back and look carefully, despite all the add-ons – like  conservatories, extensions, annexes, porches etc – you can see that the middle of the village was once made up of a number of  small cottages, stacked sideways along the road like dominoes – these original cottages would have been short roofed and tiny.

My house carries the name of a previous owner, a Victorian gentleman who must have made a tidy sum for himself because it was he who tacked on to the side of his  cottage a gothic frontage, with pillared porch, a balcony, and fireplaces you could stand in to get to ‘Diagon Alley’. It is an ostentatious folly. He did it, village folklore would have us believe, as a way of flipping the bird to the local landowner at the time who owned most of the village. This was a man who clearly had a gargantuan score to settle, and he crowned this gem by carving his initials with great artistry in to the gate posts at the roadside to remind the world just who it all belonged to.

So indelibly is this house associated with him and him alone, the rest of us who have owned it since all feel like we are maintaining it on his behalf.

The original old cottage has been refurbished time and again over the years to a point where it is quite featureless and whatever it’s 18th century beginnings, it looks pretty plastered and 20th century  now.

The Victorian frontage however remains in tact, completely unchanged since c.1900

Original fire places, tiling, architraving, doors,handles, stain glass leaded sash windows, stair casing, picture and dado rails…. hang on did someone just say stain glass leaded sash windows?

Well yes they did – beautiful, gorgeous colour, spectacular size – and draughty as the crypt.

We fell in love with this house – it’s sweeping majesty, it’s quirky set up, it’s authenticity, it’s freezing cold.

Every room with it’s towering ceilings is like heating Kings Cross Station with a fan heater. Tonight temperatures are set to drop to below freezing, this morning we were caught out well and truly as  we unexpectedly ran out of heating oil and the next delivery will be in 2 days time. Tomorrow morning there will be something akin to snow on the inside of those lovely old windows!

And we look like the Cratchit family.

We’re stooped over under layers wool,  with fingerless gloves, long johns and a hot water bottle each.

Since I have my arm in plaster, I can’t jump in and out a shower stall like ‘jack be nimble’ – I’m for the bath in the morning, if ever anyone wanted to walk in Victoriana shoes, surely nothing could be more evocative than an early morning bath, with no heating and a glorious sash window for comfort!!!

Project Bee Keeping

I’m a novice beekeeper even though I have had a lose association with bees since about 2004/5

I took a beekeeping course with my local  BBK Association and passed with flying colours and was hooked, I loved it; and at that time we had a small ‘smallholding’ so no problem siting a hive of my own – the question was finding one – with bees.

Luck was on my side it seemed – my tutor, who had been a quest lecturer and was leaving the area was down sizing his apiary and offered me 2 hives at a bargain knock down price, so the deal was done. We collected the hives at the end of the season and situated them in a lovely spot to over winter and I was left to kick my heels waiting for the new season to start the following year.

My hives flourished, they were in a great spot and had the most attentive keeper of bees, but I wasn’t a bee keeper, and I didn’t flourish- alone now with no ready support around me for my first season – I thought I was being silly thinking my hives were a vicious bunch, who actually frightened me and were nothing like the placid creatures I had studied in the Association apiary. I started to dread going near them, and worse was inspecting them, never had I faced such aggression en masse

I happened as very good luck would have it,  to come across quite by chance, a senior chap from the National Bee Centre who said he would come over and check out my set up and see if I truly had the ‘bees from hell’ as I claimed. 5 minutes into his visit and the buggers were dive bombing him like it was Pearl Harbour and he agreed, one of my hives at least was a complete menace – so we discussed options, and he decided to locate and kill the queen from my problem hive and begin a process of queen rearing from the other, slightly more placid hive.

This was pretty full on for me in my first season, and it was an unmitigated failure – although I could see their attempts to raise the queen, she  never actually materialised and as the summer marched on I ended up watching the slow extinction of the entire hive.

Nevertheless, I still had one hive and I decided I would make the most of it; I cleaned out the extinct hive in the hope of  using it again , growing my single hive to a point where I could divide it, in the fullness of time as my experience grew.

I had managed to go through a profitable first season with that 2nd hive – it produced a good yield of honey and I even made mead with the less quality honey dregs from the bottom of my hired extractor. Seeing my honey crop looking and tasting so beautiful I was fired up for the next season and hoped for a happier year.

Sadly, this didn’t come to pass – my field abutted that of a dairy farmer, whose herd one frosty morning broke through the fencing separating us and smashed my hive to bits.

One full season under my belt and it had been ignominious to say the least. And then we moved house.

I brought the hive remnants with me and stored them in in our car port while we unpacked and settled into our house – only an eagle eyed neighbour came to see me shortly after to say there were an alarming amount of wasps coming in and out my carport. On investigation, sure enough a nest of bloody wasps had set up home where once my bees had  lived – not one to hang about, they were hot foot to the environmental officer  to have the  nest quite rightly poisoned off – the wasps were dead sure enough but my hive parts were now an infected mess.

More importantly however, I learned loud and clear that my neighbour’s made it their business –  in the tiniest detail -to know exactly went off in the village- and in doing so made it pretty clear that to their mind there wasn’t much difference between wasps and bees and it would be hoped I wasn’t about to try setting the thing up in the village.

Neighbours are a funny thing, keeping the peace, living amicably and realising that village life isn’t always as  pleasant as one might imagine – I suspected then, and I know now – neighbours were something to hold at arms length.

Too many years have gone by – and with each year has been a promise that one day I would start up again – and every year I have let it slide by.

The beekeeping year starts earlier than people might imagine, and it isn’t too soon now to begin putting plans in place if I am going to make it happen this year. Of course I have no bees, so this year, this first year would be quite stunted in terms of out put, but you have to start somewhere.

But my first thought, even before I considered hive re-building and bee sourcing was the actual siting of the hive – a place they would be safe, accessible but hidden from interested but not necessarily benign parties………

to be continued

Goal Setting 2017

I’m glad 2016 is gone; pretty much I’m no fan of the big New Year hoo ha – an arbitrary date line drawn in the sand and we all have resolutions to be a better person . But in fairness I can’t deny it does  give  an opportunity to draw that line and say ‘enough already’; and did me and my husband ever need the opportunity? – On a material, business level this was our annus horribilis to top a run of 3 annuses!!

It’s not finished yet – we have some way to go, but we both feel (without going in to any of the boring and v lengthy detail) that the first half of this year will see it end. For good or bad, and both expect it to be tumultuous.

Both of us agree that strategies to handling stress only work permantly if you are the cause of it; if the stress is from external agencies   – then the best thing you can do is have mechanisms in place to deflect it, like a fragile force field created by a novice wizard.

Up to recently I didn’t have any force field in place whatsoever and consequently feel completely battered, the car accident just before Christmas just seemed to be another  blow in a series of body blows that I seemed to have taken; and so it wasn’t just whim that had me contemplating the changes I wanted to make to my 2017 – the little things I wanted to establish in my life, that would become my personal guide stones through the belt of rocks that life may feel like pelting my way.

Honestly, my goals are small but they are for me – like little daisies in a thorny overgrown scrub patch.

  1. I’ve already mentioned my first – yoga and meditation practice daily. Through out January in the first instance, but I hope this becomes routine.
  2. As soon as my arm is out of it’s cast – fingers crossed (no pun intended) running will recommence – the sole thing that made 2016 bearable was that I found fitness and loved it.
  3. Bees – I have scrubbed out my old hive (unused for 8 years – unforgiveable) and I intend to replace broken/missing pieces; find a place for it to be set up and then find some bees. More on this later.
  4. Grow my little Etsy shop. I set up the shop late on last year and it needs stocking. I love crafting, and this more than anything salves my soul – creating. So I decided to combine my love of doing with a need to fund the plethora of activities I like doing (including the bee keeping which can be costly)
  5. Nourish my soul – this is a w-i-p and there will be much more detail on this point in the weeks to come. But the core reason behind this is I know my life has become barren and soulless – too much energy is taken up with the material world – to my personal detriment.
  6.  Nurture the place we live – make our home and garden loved.

I think ideally I want my home to be a sanctuary from an unkind world – a place we can escape to, instead of it just being as extension of business – an arrid place where we just exist. Because that is how I have been thinking of it.

These are my goals

This is where my blog here will be taking me – charting the progress, the change – and hopefully in so doing, start to restore my soul.

Happy New Year xx