Back in the saddle again 💙

This morning dawned a bright and sunny one, the rain and wind that were headed our way not arriving until a little later than expected. With the weather in my favour – and timings for my littlest daughter’s waking and feeding working out well too – today became the day my boy & I made our riding return, nine and a half months after our last venture. ❤️

So many of my friends with horses have been enjoying getting back to it this week too after a couple of months off, with the British Horse Society lockdown guidance here having shifted slightly; and our yard owners have provided a hacking route on the farm which gives us a wonderful opportunity to safely get back to exploring with our horses a little again. Today though, Charmer & I didn’t get even that far – it was just an amble around the yard, but a wonderful one.

Charmer did really really well, taking it all in his stride as ever. He was quite keen and interested and didn’t even pin the old ears back when he saw the tack appear, quite something for him! It was the first time he’d been ridden in years without front shoes – having had them removed at the end of last summer – and he did pull to the grass a fair bit to walk on the softer ground, but seemed to do ok; and we can either go back to shoes again if need be or see how he goes – most of our little wanders likely to be grass tracks and fields anyway for the time being.

I really didn’t allow myself to hope when I had already been debating retirement for him last summer and found out I was expecting my daughter, that at the end of this time I would be back on him again; – and it felt absolutely incredible today just to sink into the familiar seat and feel him move off, the same as always.

We’ll be taking life at a slow pace for sure, and likely not venturing too far; but it was wonderful to be back viewing the world through those floppy fluffy ears once more, and most of all to see him enjoying it too. ❤️

Wishing you all a lovely weekend, take care and stay safe x

A Highland Adventure with my girl ❤️

I came across this post in my drafts, where it had been since it was written back in February, not having got round to posting it immediately and then with all the last few months’ events it having become pretty much obsolete. Decided today though to give it a post, on a day I’m struggling with so so missing spending time with wider family and so looking forward to reaching a point again before too long when all these simple things are the norm again. It’s lovely to remember how special little jaunts, time with each other, and all the places and memories we hold close with our family and friends truly are – I appreciate them now more than ever and can’t wait to return to them again.

A couple of weeks back, when Monday dawned again and it was back to weekday business as usual for me and the little one, we decided to break with the usual routine, skip our morning class, pack a picnic and head north to Highland Perthshire for an impromptu day out. We planned to visit my uncle for his birthday, who lives in the beautiful rural village of Kirkmichael, and make a swoop of the countryside while we did. The area is one we really love to visit – between family summer holidays the last two years in Aberfeldy (and a couple of weekends there just us two in the more distant past too!), annual autumn trips to Pitlochry to the Enchanted Forest with our friends, visits to family and camper van trips back in our exploring and touring days – always loving the winding road north and the walls of trees either side – ; it’s definitely a favourite place of ours as a family to head to, and it was lovely to point the car in that direction and set off.

River walk, Kirkmichael

As I drove, Radio Scotland my soundtrack for the day, topical debate in the morning moving into some chilled home-grown music as we journeyed north, the little one slept; and I enjoyed the quiet and the drive as the sun shone.

Our first stop was in Pitlochry, forever a favourite of mine, and I could feel myself sinking into the familiarity and charm of it as I crawled along the Main Street – the second-hand railway station bookshop to my left where we’d whiled away an afternoon in the summer and taken home a book each for all three of us… the craft shop to my right where we browsed, chatted and laughed every year with our friends on our weekend away together… the Christmas shop at the end of the road where my new decoration for the year was usually bought in the first chill of October.

Adventures in Pitlochry over the years

I drove out to Faskally Wood to stop, and just as we pulled in the wee one woke up – just in perfect time for a ramble in the woods. I’ve loved seeing Faskally in both summer and winter in daylight now, but the way we know it best is in the height of its “enchantment”, every year at Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Enchanted Forest.

Sparkling Bridge, Enchanted Forest 2013

We spent a lovely hour wandering in the trees and had our picnic there before heading out over the hills on the beautiful passing-places-dotted route between Pitlochry and Kirkmichael.

There wasn’t another car on the road and every now and then I had to pause just to breathe in the view a little more while the wee one watched the sheep, hills and occasional old ruin pass us by.

We had a lovely visit with my uncle – coffee, cake, celebrations and a wander by the beautiful River, enjoying every minute; and continued our loop down towards Bridge of Cally, stopping off to admire the two repurposed “library” phone boxes we discovered along the way.

Winding our way through Coupar Angus and back down into Perth, we stopped off for a final leg stretch, snack and blast of fresh air to keep the toddler awake for the home straight! Walking across the bridges with Perth’s darkening skyline our backdrop, it was beautiful to take in the city to end our day, before heading for the last leg home.

It was a lovely way to spend a day, and we are so very lucky to live in such a beautiful country, and have all this not too far from our own little home.

Wishing you all a lovely week. ❤️

Hope everyone is staying safe and keeping well, enjoying all the simple things we can close to home just now and looking forward to getting back to the rest when we can! X

Happy 24th birthday to my boy… ❤️

Can’t quite believe how quickly the years seem to be rolling by these days – somehow it’s been a full two decades since I first met a skinny, skittish 4-year-old Fell pony, and I find myself now walking side by side with my distinguished grey-muzzled old man, celebrating his 24th birthday.

I can never quite believe how very blessed I’ve been to have had Charmer the length of time I have – when he first became mine I could barely believe it and since then as life has journeyed on I’ve been so very thankful to have him by my side.

His birthday was actually a couple of weeks back (very bad at finding the time to write here in the last few weeks with home life a little whirlwind! ❤️) but enjoyed a wee extra cuddle and treat on my morning visit and looking at some memories over the years too – this is the first photo I have of us together, back in summer 2000, and this one on his birthday this year…

July 2000 & April 2020

Plus a few more of the celebrations over the years too that popped up in my memories..

We have just had news this morning that we can begin to ride again as lockdown measures begin to ease very gently here in Scotland; and once again I’m so conscious of how lucky I am. I gave up riding temporarily during my pregnancies with both my daughters, and both times I was very aware that I could easily not get back to riding a 22-year-old and then 24-year-old arthritic boy. Last summer Charmer was struggling with his legs and was really all-but retired and I felt the year off would be likely to be a natural watershed. This year, however, he has done so so well on his daily anti-inflammatories and is currently as sound – and as enthusiastic about life – as he’s been in years, especially since his operation in February. It’s just a joy to see and I can barely believe it but I can see no reason at all why we can’t get back to our usual ambles again for the time being, while he continues to be doing so well. Back in 2011 I thought retirement was upon us, and in 2014 I almost lost him altogether, so to be here in 2020, with my same old boy, now a best buddy to my little girl as well as me and soon to meet my second daughter is truly wonderful, and I’m very grateful.

A belated happy birthday my partner in crime for all these years. ❤️ This is him just the other day fully embracing lockdown life – it’s not so bad with a sea view!

April Books

After spending much of March reading more than ever, April was a much more conservative month for books – normal life having been eclipsed by the arrival of our new little daughter at the beginning of the month (and down-time as a result in short supply!), but I really enjoyed the books I did read this month.

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

A beautiful re-read of a classic I hadn’t read since childhood, I really loved rediscovering The Secret Garden this month. I read parts of it sometimes when I could from a cloth-bound Puffin-in-bloom copy I had acquired a few years ago, just for the sheer beauty of it; but mostly from the e-book, swiping one-handed either at my phone or my Kindle in the wee small hours on night feeds and watches with the littlest one. It was perfect both as a magical story to keep me awake and also lent itself beautifully to some whispered sections read aloud as little eyes slowly closed, something I know I’ll always remember when I look back on the same chapters again in the future.

I had forgotten so much of The Secret Garden and loved discovering as though for the first time its charm and humour, and getting to know first Mary, then Martha and Dickon, then Colin, each of them full of spark, character and determination. The descriptions of the garden, the ever-present robin and the moor are poetic and beautiful, and the tangled story unraveling throughout of resilience and perseverance – and the burning quest simply to live – is captivating and warming. Really loved the chance to become lost in this mesmerising and all-encompassing world, to settle to the Yorkshire dialect, the grey of the moors and the colours bursting in the garden – a wonderful and inspiring classic. ❤️

Bloody Scotland – published by Historic Environment Scotland

Bloody Scotland, born out of the annual Scottish crime fiction festival, brings together twelve of Scotland’s most prominent crime fiction authors in an anthology of stories all focused on different well-known places in Scotland – from an utterly rural historic site in Orkney, through castles and ruins around the country to the busy tourist throng of modern-day Edinburgh Castle. There were some stories in this collection I definitely liked more than others but there’s something very special overall about reading places so well-known. My very own Forth Bridge, having provided the towering backdrop to my home for all of my life, was drawn so impressively in Doug Johnstone’s Painting the Forth Bridge, and Val McDermid’s Ancient and Modern, set on the North West Coast – in the old stomping ground of our childhood family holidays – so effortlessly captivated all those rugged landscapes, passing places and winding roads I remember so well. I could just read Val McDermid’s writing all day and enjoyed her story as much as I expected. Chris Brookmyre’s trademark style and humour did not disappoint either in The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle, and Stuart MacBride and Sara Sheridan were both new to me but I really enjoyed the stories set in Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and Kinneil House respectively.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling in the past, and to hear Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Quentin Jardine and others come together to celebrate and reflect on the inimitable genre of tartan noir and the unique crime writing scene in our country.

Bloody Scotland, Stirling, Torchlight Procession

This anthology provides a welcome glimpse into the writers’ styles and their interpretations of many aspects of Scotland; and I really enjoyed sinking into the familiarity of the settings and the thrill, build-up and resolution to each of these dark and thrilling tales.

Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton

Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love was the book chosen for this month in our little book club – which I’m very glad to still have going on at the moment in an online capacity – and I have now read this and enjoyed an afternoon’s WhatsApp chat on it from all our homes in place of our usual gathering in the library.

I didn’t know of Dolly beforehand so came to her completely new in this book, but found myself warming quickly to her engaging, open and confidential tone. The cultural references throughout her teenage days, brought to life with a vibrant humour, took me back completely as we are exactly the same age and the world of MSN messenger, the music of the early noughties and the growing role of technology as our studies played out were such familiar landmarks of adolescence – and so very nostalgic to look back on. Dolly’s school days of course at a private all-girls’ school in England and her uni party scene in London as she moved on were more than a little different from mine – but despite her experiences sometimes being a world away from my own, there is a heart running through her telling that’s universal; and the all-in banding together with flatmates to weather the early twenties was something I related to so much.

Dolly’s story was full of ups and downs and searching, recalling some very out-of-control years in particular battling the pressures of life, a borderline reliance on drink and drugs, the pain of loss and the usual dogged attempts to figure out the transition into adulthood in a way that was strikingly real. Ultimately, though, this book was full of love, and I particularly loved its unreserved championing of friendships, and of their enduring value in a world sometimes focused on romantic relationships. I found this memoir easy to read, engaging and uplifting and was glad to have come across it.

Hope you are all having a good week x

May Days 🌸

Life is moving at a very swift pace as we’ve somehow made our way through April and arrived into May. Our youngest daughter has just turned 5 weeks old, and so for us these weeks have been centred around settling into life as a family of four. The first couple were undoubtedly a blur, sleep very elusive and everything a new and different whirlwind, but the last few weeks everything has hit a very steady rhythm and we’ve had time and space to settle to all our new roles and to getting to know our little girl.

Lockdown continues to be in place here and defines our days at the moment – its biggest impact on us at the moment being separation from our closest family and friends, which I really am feeling now, especially knowing how desperate they are to meet our newest addition. Very conscious however how very blessed we are just to have the health of our loved ones in this uncertain time, and how important it is to follow all advice to weather this pandemic. In the meantime trying to focus on positives, the chance to have so much focused time as our little unit here being a big one. We leave the house once a day for our walk, all together wherever we can, which serves as our exercise and fresh air and also leads us into a much-needed nap time for the oldest little one too! Other than that we’re focused at home, inside and in the garden where it’s been wonderful to have such amazing weather.

Life has returned in some ways to “normal” this week with my husband back to work after paternity leave – but as that is just at the kitchen table it’s a much gentler transition than it would have been otherwise! Finding my feet creating the day’s routines for two little ones and juggling what they both need, and been so enjoying the time with them and entering into this new chapter. Online story and rhyme sessions and at-home versions of yoga and music classes have made their return, tents and makeshift “parks” have been popping up in the garden, and we’ve had FaceTimes with my oldest’s little friends – it’s all different and unusual but we are finding our way with it all and enjoying the challenge – and the wonderful benefits too, like being able to shout my husband through yesterday to witness our baby’s first wide-mouthed smiles!

I’m so grateful to still be able to be getting along to check on the pony too, and very happy to see him looking healthy and thriving on the transition into summer. My photos in my last post of a fluffy bear of a pony in glinting winter sun seem so far away already as I arrive on May mornings at the farm with the sun already high in the sky at 7am, the smell of citronella spray in the air as I greet my short-coated fly-rug-clad boy.

These are undoubtedly very strange days and it can be an unsettling time for us all, but keeping focused here on how lucky we are to be well, have each other and have the technology to keep so well connected with family and friends while we look forward to getting together again. Hope everyone reading is safe and well, coping alright and enjoying the beautiful weather as May settles in. Take care all. Xx