Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Normal service resumes

.......well almost!
The last few days have been about catching up with normal chores. The wonderful weather has enabled me to do loads of washing, I'm almost there with getting the house cleaned and I've finished off a few bits of paperwork and admin that had been hanging around.

I've picked and frozen two kilos of loganberries already (plenty more on the bushes) and am already looking forward to making my favourite jam with them. The taste of loganberry jam is better than any other - well in my opinion anyway! I have a good number of quinces too so I'll make jam out of those too. This can be used as jam or as membrillo which the Spanish serve with manchego cheese as part of tapas - yummy!

Yesterday, I drew up a plan of action for getting the house all spick and span. There always seem to be little jobs outstanding and I definitely find I work better with a plan. Me being me, I have to do a colour plan and stick it on the wall. They reckon that you are more likely to stick to a plan if you have written it down - something about 'ownership', like a contract with yourself.
It feels good to regain a sense of normality and to have some headspace to allow me to get on top of things at home again.

Friday, 26 June 2015

A lovely send off

Thank you so much once again for those of you who thought of me and sent your best wishes. I have had overwhelming support! It's also been an absolute pleasure to catch glimpses of Mum's past from her old school friends writing to me.
Yesterday went very well. I was so pleased that the service celebrated Mum's colourful and interesting life rather than focussing on mourning her passing. Some tears were shed, but we also laughed a lot whilst remembering her quirks and occasionally outrageous behaviour. My brother spoke extremely well about our memories of her and my son did a lovely reading.
The weather on Thursday was glorious (as my mother would have described it!) and her garden looked gorgeous when we arrived in the morning. I was able to create a lovely bunch of flowers for the coffin from a wide range of cottage flowers in the garden. Mum always preferred her own flowers to bought bunches!

It was a lovely send off and I think she would have liked it :)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


I apologise in advance if this is a bit heavy :) I'm feeling kind of thoughtful presently ......

We attended my youngest daughter's confirmation yesterday evening, presided over by the Bishop of Guildford. It was a lovely service, despite being about an hour longer than I thought it would be (at a full two hours long) and only being able to sing one of the hymns. One I recognised and was relieved, then the organist proceeded to play a tune that I didn't recognise and which didn't even seem to go with the words! It wasn't just me, I could sense the whole congregation wondering what was happening. It's lovely that she has decided she wanted to take this step. This is her 'thing' and not led by us. We are not church goers, although I was brought up going to church every Sunday.
I think now though I am more spiritual than religious in the traditional sense. I feel that we are supported and watched over by something other worldly, but I'm not sure that is the Christian God. The Bishop's sermon was based on a story from the book of Job, when Jesus was in the back of a fishing boat asleep during a storm. The fishermen feared for their lives and woke Jesus to help bale out the boat. He woke up and spoke to the wind and the waves saying "Peace! Be Still!" And the storm receded. There is something in that story that resonated with me and that is that if you have faith and you are able to still your fears and trust in something greater, then things will often turn out ok.
I read Frugal in Suffolk this morning where the post was about trusting the 'Flow'. It seems that many of us choose to lead our lives as kindly and as simply as possible and place our trust in the right thing happening. I choose to live my life based on a strong set of morals, whether you class them as christian or not is down to you, and I find support and comfort not just in those around me, but also in the sense that I am a small cog in the greater mechanism of life, needed, crucial even, but not stand alone.
Feel free to totally disagree - it's just my feeling :)

Monday, 22 June 2015

Baby steps

The reality is beginning to hit home! My Mum is never coming back. I'll never be able to share what I'm cooking for dinner, or what I've planted in the garden. I won't need to advise her on how to handle situations (she seemed to lose her ability to read social situations in the last few years!) and I won't have over an hour conversations on the phone of an evening. Of course, I used to moan about spending sixty minutes plus on the phone dishing out advice, especially as my old job was almost entirely based on advising teenagers on how best to handle difficult situations and how to make amends if you hadn't handled it well!! But of course, once you don't have it anymore, you start to miss it. 
I know that I knew this was coming - I had even wished for it so she didn't have to suffer anymore and yet it's still a shock. The REALITY that she really has gone forever isn't as easy to deal with. I had grieved already for the loss of 'old-style' Mum because the dementia had destroyed most of that, but it patently hadn't prepared me for this :( 
I'm really struggling to find the motivation to do anything and yet I can't stand sitting around doing nothing. I have managed at least one job/task every day, but they are building up. Today I'm aiming to try to achieve. I may not manage it, but the intention is there!
The funeral is arranged for Thursday. I suspect that will be a crux point but also hopefully a turning point from numbness to starting the long process of coming to terms with having no history anymore. In many respects, my life will be less stressful without Mum in it, but blimey does she leave a BIG hole! 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Beauty in my backyard - part 2

Just so you don't think its all about the flowers, I've included some edibles this time :)

The peony is wonderful this year

Sea thrift at the front of the border

loganberries - I LOVE loganberries!

Rose Zephérime Druhin - a very old rose but such a delicate colour

Purple mangetout flower

Hedwig likes having her photo taken! 

My Mum gave us this rose for our 20th Wedding Anniversary. 

Pears - Conference I think? 

Apples (I've forgotten their name!) 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Beauty in my backyard - part 1

There's so much going on in my head at the moment that I don't feel able to write a coherent blog post, so I thought I'd show you what makes me remember how wonderful my world is pictorially. All the photos were taken in my back garden this morning. I seem to have a lot of pink out there at the moment, but the yellows and oranges are coming. I think I might need to plant some frothy blue/mauve or white flowers to counteract the pinkness. I am thinking Russian Sage? Anyway, I hope you enjoy part one of the beauty I get to see every day when I step out of my black door.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Basic mathematics

One plus one equals?

.....  Four, which in turn equals?

A yummy breakfast of two double yokers!!

I was very touched by the very kind words and empathy shown to me yesterday. It really restores your faith in human nature and how amazing a community can be. I'm sorry I didn't reply to them all individually but believe me, they were all read and each little drop of kindness from you all, served to refill my tank! I will take comfort from the small things x 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Sad news

Sadly my blog post today is to say that my mother passed away yesterday. In the end it was peaceful and she wasn't alone which is a great comfort. She has suffered so many blows to her health over the last few years that I think she will have been very ready for some peace and quiet.
Thank you so much to all of you who have popped by and left such kind messages of support. They have meant a great deal to me. X

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Gooseberry crumble cake

You may remember I brought lots of frozen fruit and veg home from Mum's deepfreeze. I have memories of having to pick the gooseberries - an unpleasant and painful job and then being told to top and tail them too, which I hated. I don't even particularly like gooseberries,
There are multiple bags of gooseberries in there and I will probably make jam from most of them, but I remember eating this crumble cake in Germany at 4pm ' Kaffe und Kuchen'time. It was delicious - moist and not too sweet.

I'm able to use normal flour as my eldest is on holiday in Croatia this week, but I imagine this kind of cake would work equally well with GF flour.

90g caster sugar
90g soft brown sugar
180g butter
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
80g ground almonds
150g plain flour

300g gooseberries (I used frozen and defrosted)

80g butter
100g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar

Turn the oven to 180 c and prepare a loose bottom cake tin. I used a 9 inch round tin.
Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, add the eggs gradually with the vanilla.
Beat until well combined. Fold in the ground almonds and flour. Spread the mixture across the bottom of the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Scatter over the gooseberries evenly. Rub the butter into the flour until crumbly, then add the sugar. You can add a few drops of water at this age so that some of the crumbs clump together. Then sprinkle this evenly over the gooseberries. Cook in the centre of the oven for about 50 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
Lovely served warm with cream or custard.

This can also be made with apricots and almond essence or Apple chunks and cinnamon.

I've had a very productive day, getting the whole house cleaned, including a deep clean of another bedroom. Four loads of washing done and dried on the line, ironing basket emptied and a cake made. I will be happy to relax in front of the television this evening. :)

Monday, 8 June 2015

Changes ahead.

I'm feeling a little sad today. Mum is still with us but is fading fast and we are near the end now. I've spent a lot of time today reflecting on how my life is about to change over the next few months. Daughter number two will be leaving for America at the end of July; daughter number one will be moving to Derby in August to begin her graduate medicine degree and my mother will no longer be with us very shortly. With two children away from home, the house is going to be much quieter and we will be back to 'man to man marking'!
It's been almost a full academic year since I stopped working at school - where on earth has that school year gone?
I think we have another year here and then I hope to move house and area and start our new life path.
Change can be good, but also a little unsettling until you acclimatise.

However, I have finally finished the 'scarf'! It's more of a collar scarf as you can see, but it's cosy. I finished it off with an old leather button from my Mum and Dad's button tin. I'm thinking I might try larger needles next time and aim towards a knitted throw .......

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Walks from the front door

I've said it before, but we are very lucky where we live. It's suburbia and there is a huge amount of traffic and the almost constant hum of the M25 in the background BUT we do have some amazing walks from our front door.
We tried a new one today which was particularly lovely along the Wey River and Wey Navigation.
We saw ducklings, goslings and cygnets; stopped for brunch along the way and generally had a very pleasant walk stretching about 6 miles, door to door. All in all a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

The Wey Navigation

Looking back into Weybridge

The first set of goslings 

Cygnets - from a safe distance 

Coxes Lock - once a mill, now luxury flats! 

Friday, 5 June 2015


Don't suppose anyone watched this programme on Channel 4 last night? I found it absolutely fascinating and totally heartwarming! How wonderful that the staff in the home went to such lengths to help the residents retain their memories.
I found their ethos of going into the worlds of the dementia sufferers rather than trying to bring the dementia sufferers into our world to be totally in line with the way in which I have treated my Mum.
In the early days, just after the stroke, Mum would ask me what I'd done with the dogs - we had both had Retrievers and instead of saying they were being looked after somewhere, I bluntly told her that they had all died. She looked utterly crestfallen and I felt awful. She talked about Dad too and asked how she could get hold of him. As he'd been dead 10 years by this point, I had little choice but to tell her the truth, but again it hurt me almost as much as her to do so.
Now, as the dementia has progressed, I am able to immerse myself totally in her world and whilst I'd don't actually lie to her, if she asked me about Dad now, I would say something soothing rather than insisting she know the truth.
Often the fondest memories we have are of our childhood or earlier years. Why not nurture those memories then for people who have lost all of their 'present' to the disease? The residents in Poppy Lodge looked so happy singing along to the old songs and dancing to 1940s Vera Lynn tunes.
The home looked to be very stimulating with lots of old photographs on the walls relating to the residents' former lives, 1940s costumes and lots of activities.
Dementia sufferers often struggle with their night and day. To help with this, the night staff come to work in their pyjamas to help reinforce the visual clue that it's nightime.
Far from being another depressing look at the alarming increase in dementia sufferers and the often dismal levels of care they receive, this was a glimpse into how care could be and, in my view, should be.
I know the hardest part here is for those people left behind as they fade out of the sufferer's life and are replaced by older pre existing memories. I have been very lucky that my Mum has always known who I am, but I know that if that were not the case, I would rather join her in her past to catch glimpses of happiness in her reminiscing than try to keep her in the present for my sake.
For my Mum, her very poor physical health has now overtaken her diminishing mental health, but for the residents of Poppy Lodge, I was very encouraged to see that there is a more positive way to support dementia sufferers. Well worth a watch if you didn't catch it last night.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

I love being in my garden!

I spent yesterday morning pottering in the garden and thought I'd share some photos with you. I snapped them quickly with my phone which was of course in the pocket of my gardeners pinny!!

The new raised bed made from planks destined for the tip as a neighbour is moving house. I've planted a pumpkin and sown some lettuce. In the pots, lemon balm and mint. 

The raised beds containing herbs, onions, shallots, potatoes, broad beans, celery, celeriac, beetroot, sprouts and sugar snap peas. I fashioned myself a hose hook today from an old wire for hanger - it will keep the spray gun clean. I have laid some old terracotta pot shards to trap the slugs.

Another raised bed containing pattypan squash, butternut squash and yellow courgettes. Around the corner are three more green courgette plants. 

In the flower bed, a wigwam of runner beans, some pea sticks supporting purple mangetout and four outdoor cucumber plants at the back. This patch gets the most sunshine.

Two large blue pots with blueberries and some troughs with lettuce, pea shoots and rocket.

The two stunning clematis growing through the Japanese Quince. I'm not sure which ones they are, but they are wonderful colours.  

A white clematis growing up through the lilac in the chicken run.The flowers are the size of dinner plates! 

A rose sprawling along the fence in amongst the loganberries and raspberries. 

This tea rose looked so gorgeous with the water droplets on it. It smells of Parma violets. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Ebb and flow

Human beings are fickle creatures aren't they? Well, at least, I certainly am!
The whole premise of my blog is how much happier I am now that I am leading a simpler, quieter life and yet reading back through some posts yesterday, I see that I have called my life 'humdrum'!!
How shortsighted can I be? Honestly, some folk are never satisfied!

Sunrise last week from my Mum's sunporch. Shame I can't add that to the house particulars!

Let me say now, that I am VERY happy with the gentle ebb and flow of my simple life. Every day, I have important and meaningful work to do - no it's not creating world peace, saving the planet or indeed open heart surgery. My kind of work is important to me and to my family, but, by living the way I have chosen, I am having a more positive impact on the environment and I am helping to create four beautiful adults to send out into the world. My work involves nurturing my family, caring for my home and focussing on  slowing down and really appreciating life.

Many an hour has been spent with dogs and children playing on Broadsands beach near Brixham. Mind you, all I could think about this time was what excellent compost the seaweed would make, but Mr D didn't seem so keen to bring a bag back on the 3hour journey!! 

I don't get it right all of the time and I obviously don't always remember to be grateful, but I am very fortunate to have been able to adopt this new way of life and I am happy with the gentle ebb and flow of my days.

On the job list this glorious day? ......
Pruning the Japanese Quince to reveal the two clematis growing up through it in all their glory
Planting - cucumbers, a new mint plant and French beans
Sweeping paths and the deck
Hoovering inside
Steam cleaning some carpets and rugs upstairs  (the cat has been sick!)
Some admin/paperwork

...but before I start? Eggs on toast!

Thank you Ginger for the double yoker x 

Monday, 1 June 2015


What a very odd and disjointed few weeks it has been! Mum is much the same, so I've come back home now as there isn't much more I can do at the moment. Her house is on the market so that will chug along in the capable hands of the local estate agent. Part of me hopes it will sell quickly, but another (more sentimental) part of me will find it enormously difficult to let go. It was so odd to see photos of the house on the Internet especially the one of my old bedroom! Still, I really don't want the responsibility of it next winter, as bombing up and down the A303 is tiring.

Meanwhile my own house and garden had slowly slipped away from me. It's all well and good people saying "the house work will wait", but actually a) it doesn't and b) I can't bear it when it's a mess!
I had brought a couple of chairs back from Mum's - a leather recliner for Mr D and an ercol rocking chair for me. Unfortunately, I had nowhere to put them so they stayed in the car for about 10 days - which in turn meant the conservatory had two car seats in it and I couldn't buy the compost I needed because the boot was full of chairs!! Eventually, I managed to rearrange my bedroom for the rocking chair and rearrange and declutter the lounge for the leather chair. Mr D took over 100 items to the charity shop!

I'm using the rocking chair as my knitting chair. You can probably make out that the 'scarf' is getting longer! 

I am ashamed to say that when I moved the furniture in the lounge, I had to get my paintbrush out because I hadn't bothered moving the bookcase when I originally painted the chimney breast!!
There are now more places to park your bottom in this house than is strictly necessary, but .........

Mr D would no doubt find it very comfortable if it wasn't always occupied by a teenager or a cat! 

Today I have focused on the garden which badly needed weeding. I was weeding the vegetable patch next to the chicken coop. It was the most fun I have ever had weeding! I had five little ladies to chat to and they were massively interested in what I was doing. The neighbours must have thought I'd lost the plot when I kept laughing, but the sight of five fluffy bottoms chasing after the worms I was throwing in to the run was so funny!
I just need to do a bit more pruning, some more planting and construct another raised bed for my pumpkin plants and I'm back in control of the garden!

On a completely separate note, we organised a financial advisor to come to the house last Friday. It was free with my husband's Union. I wanted her to talk about pensions because I seem to have trouble understanding them. No longer are they a mystery to me! She was excellent and we now have a timeline demonstrating exactly how much (dependent on governments and inflation etc!) we will each get and when (I have three separate pension pots and Mr D has two). She offered us very sound advice and left me very positive and clear about what we needed to do next to achieve our dream. At no point did she try to force any products on us either. Ninety minutes of very useful advice!

I'm hoping to have a quieter patch for a while and am aiming to gradually complete my outstanding jobs from the very long list because I know full well that there are some VERY busy times ahead!