A bookish Sunday… such a lovely morning having coffee and a long-overdue catch-up with lovely friends at the Book Nook in Stirling. It was lovely to be back in a town I lived and worked in for so long and love so much and was such a wonderful discovery – the most beautiful second hand and new books for every age and the cosiest atmosphere. We brought home a new book everyone in the family, and I settled with mine on a quiet Sunday afternoon, a second hand but beautiful copy of Tarka the Otter – which I’m sure I’ve never read before – in the lovely Puffin Modern Classics series that I had so many books in growing up, and still have most of on my shelf… 💚 Happy Sunday all x
The last month or so has been a good one for pets little and large, and an exciting one for us all as a family.
Little Sandy hamster has been doing well, despite being an elderly wee gent these days he’s actually full of fun – spinning his 12” wheel with great enthusiasm of an evening and enjoying a wee quiet cuddle out with us – and less often with the kids too, who are full of ideas for games to create for him.
Charmer, for his part, has been very much enjoying the beginnings of summer. So far, the infamous Scottish midge has not caused him too much trouble, although he’s now donned in his summer outfit of fly rug (never to be seen this bright and white again!) and a waft of citronella.
He’s mostly just enjoying life in the field and, much less frequently, the stable – he’s hit his summer attitude of looking at me when I arrive as if to say “I have everything I need out here, I don’t know why you’re here…” He is completely happy at this time of year just to eat grass, sunbathe, and take solace under a tree for some shade or rest from the flies. It’s really lovely to see, much as I do make myself unpopular by occasionally dragging him in for a break and a fuss!
We have only very occasionally had a ridden wander since I first started a couple of months ago – in fact last weekend was just our third – but it was a very special one as we got back out in company, with my friend and her lovely horse, our old hacking buddies! The horses were delighted to be nose to nose again and Charmer enjoyed our wander more than ever for the company and the chance to eat grass together. 🧡
When he comes back in from getting out a wee explore – especially ridden rather than just in-hand – he seems to feel just so pleased with himself – the look in his eyes back in the stable is lovely, full of adrenaline and expectation and purpose – even though all we’ve done is have an amble! It’s really lovely to see.
But the biggest animal news around our house is neither of our gentlemen, who are both just pottering away, but our plans to bring home a couple of new additions, two little black kittens who are just three weeks old at the moment, growing with their litter mates and their lovely mum on a farm nearby us, and, all going well, due to be ready to come home with us towards the end of June.
We have always wanted to adopt a cat when we felt it was a good time family-wise, and the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind since we started discussing that we felt we’d now reached that time. Originally we had been thinking an older cat who would be comfortable with the children and with the set-up we have here, but through a chain of events we came across these little kittens who seem to be very well-suited to the life we can offer here, and, surprising ourselves even more, ended up deciding on two so they can settle in together and be company for each other as they grow. We are so enjoying photos and updates on the litter as they change and grow, still tiny little souls; and here we are doing what we can to get ready ahead of their arrival – it’s been a flurry of cat beds and scratching posts being put together, making drafts for runs and enclosures in the garden for when they’re a little bigger, registering with the vet, getting insurance in place and I’m hooked on re-reading all Tom Cox’s books about life with his cats as well as all the reference books and articles I can find, trying to get up to speed on everything we’ll need to know! Trying (quite unsuccessfully) not to get too excited just yet until it all becomes a reality – Being right in at the kitten stage is new to me, I’ve normally rehomed animals later in life in the past and I know plenty could go wrong, it’s still 5-6 weeks until they’ll be weaned, vet-checked and ready to come to us, but despite myself I am so excited about it all and just can’t wait to have them here.
In the meantime, the ridiculously handsome cat two doors up has begun to adopt us as his third family, already making himself comfy next door and expanding his rule along the street! We’ve been spending so much time out in the garden with a bit of nice weather and it’s been lovely having him pop to see us and seeing how well the kids do with interacting with him and giving him his space, I think he must be making it his project to give us some practice ahead of our first foray into cat ownership!
It’s a really exciting time, and at the moment I am just so enjoying preparing for our feline companions, doing lots of reading, and spending time with a summer-happy horse and a contentedly pootling hamster.
Hope you are all having a lovely week. X
I’ve written many blog posts on the subject of home and family over the years, since I first started writing so long ago about life in our little corner of the world. Back then, home was a tiny one-bedroomed cottage, just the two of us and our beloved pets making up our family unit in the house. Now, we’re in our second home, which we’ve been in for the past four years, and our family has grown and changed so much in that time, with our two girls transforming our lives beyond recognition as they’ve arrived with us and grown into a pre-schooler and a toddler who fill our world with noise and chaos and love and just so much joy.
The animal members of our family have continued to be so important to us too, all of us doting on Charmer in his older years as much as ever, loving having a house pet in the form of our dapper little Sandy hamster, and actually (which I’m looking forward to writing more about in a separate post!) the most exciting time ahead of us now, which we are all counting down to every day – as we are planning, all going well, to be bringing home our first family cats, two kittens, at the end of June. 💞
All of the twists and turns of life since we first moved in together as a couple just over ten whole years ago have taken place as we’ve based ourselves here at home, first our first little cottage and then this slightly (!) larger one! But all of them, always, until this last year, have taken place linked with so many other homes around us, and with a wider family that we’ve always been so connected with.
Between the fact that we used to live just half a dozen cottages away from my mum and dad’s – a slipper-clad walk with the family dogs at our heels to let ourselves in the back door; the fact that we gathered as a wide family, a dozen of us or more, for weekly dinners all huddled round the table, both when we lived close by each other and still once circumstances had scattered us half-hour drives away; and the fact that our door was always open, and that we’d often just hear a shout of hello as family arrived and came in – we have always been very, very blessed that as well as our wonderful little unit here we’ve had a wider unit just as wonderful too.
I could never in a million years have imagined we’d go a year without sitting round a table all together – and don’t want to dwell on any of the negatives now – but simply to write a small and very thankful post that today, at last, we reached such a hugely important day here, as we were officially safely able, once again, to return to each other’s homes – and to hug each other again.
In this past year, as a family, we’ve found ways to be there for each other and, from video games nights to garden gatherings and wrapped-up walks in every weather Scotland could throw at us, we’ve managed to keep our tightly-knitted network in place – and I still feel that the twists and turns of life have been weathered hand in hand with our families, even if it’s had to be only metaphorically.
Still, nothing compares to actually being able to sink into the sofas in those other homes that were always as much our own as the ones we’ve been limited to over all these months; actually being able to reach out our arms and be there for each other in the way we really want to; actually being able to sit together, in the most natural way, and enjoy the closeness of family life.
I know we have to move forward tentatively, and not lose all caution yet – I know there are those even in Scotland that have unexpectedly not been able to take this step just yet, when they were so close, who I feel for so much – but we are getting there, so slowly and so surely, and, as I sat in my grandparents’ house today again at long last, I couldn’t have been more grateful for our family – for the homes we’ve always shared together, and for the hope of a future where we can do that more and more until we’re back to our normal; until at last a packed and noisy dinner table is where we draw our strength from and share our stories and laugh until our sides hurt again.
I bought this sign back in our old house five years ago or so – it’s simple, but I loved it. It’s truer now than ever for our home family with the children here with us and as we’ve all grown together; but it’s true too for our wider family and friends too – what I love most about my home is who is I share it with, and now I can finally share it once again with the people close to me, family and friends, who I love so much.
Hope wherever you are you are managing to take some steps forward too, and are having a good start to the week. X
Last month we had Charmer turning 25 years old, and this week coming our wee Sandy hamster turns 26 months…. making both of them actually very similar in age when calculated in “human years”… two distinguished gentlemen in their 70s!
While he enjoys spending most of his days cosy in his beloved little hamster pocket, we coaxed him out for a bit of a play with the wee ones and made him a little obstacle course he thoroughly enjoyed.
Usually Sandy’s out of his cage time takes place when the littlest among us are safely asleep and he can enjoy a pootle away from all the excitement that arises in his no1 fans whenever he appears for a drink of water, nods in our direction and slinks back to bed; but he cheerfully rose to the occasion of a play out with us all in his usual super way before cosying back down. ❤️
Hope you are all having a lovely week. X
📖 The Thursday Murder Club ~ Richard Osman 📖 Catching up on some reads from earlier in the year, having fallen by the wayside with both reading and book blogging for a bit! Back in February / March I’d got completely stuck with reading with lots else going on and the only book I finished in a couple of months was this, Richard Osman’s warm, funny, poignant and gripping Thursday Murder Club. This is simply a brilliant book, with characters so engaging that I was just sooo pleased to hear the sequel is due out this September, and am looking forward to returning to the world of Cooper’s Chase retirement village already. A compelling mystery written with touches of humour and understanding, some fast-paced twists and turns and throughout a much-needed light shone on the complexities of ageing; I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was a book club read for us, our last of the full lockdown ones we chose ourselves while the library was completely shut, and I juggled our distanced catch-up on it with a farrier appointment for the fluffy boy who is so often my reading companion. ❤️ I’ve gifted, leant and recommended this already which definitely speaks for itself, and am looking forward to the next instalment very much.
📖 The Librarian ~ Salley Vickers 📖 Set in the 1950s in small-town England, this was a gently-paced and nostalgic novel with a steadying sense of place and lots of quiet charm. Following Sylvia, a young librarian, relocating to take her first major job in charge of the local children’s library, it has lots of lovely references to books throughout – particularly children’s books – which made for wonderful reading. As Sylvia settled to her new role and all that providing books for the children of the town brought with it, I really enjoyed some of the stories unfolding for both the librarian and the children. There were romances woven throughout too which I felt less invested in but I really enjoyed this as a story about stories and their undeniable impact.. it has left me with Tom’s Midnight Garden at the very top of my re-read list! This was our book group book for April’s meeting and I’d been so off reading I would never have finished this if it hadn’t been that – the first chosen by our own librarian again with the smallest of first connections with our library opened back up post-lockdown which I was so grateful for… and pressing on with this book about the power of books got me back out of my reading rut and enjoying at my usual pace again since. 💚
📖 Never Greener ~ Ruth Jones 📖 I had wanted to read this since it came out and had been planning to buy it new whenever I could justify it when I stumbled across this copy a while back in a charity shop on a lovely day out with a friend. I am a huge fan of Gavin and Stacey and have marvelled over and over at the writing of it and in particular just the perfect way relationships, homes, interactions, places are all drawn with such a relatable realism that can be painful or hilarious but that always rings so true. Having loved Ruth Jones’ writing in a different context, I was so keen to read her first novel; and I could definitely see in this book as expected more of that same ability to just capture people as they are in such a skilled way. The characters in this book are all flawed and complicated: The story of an affair and its impact on the lives around it, it’s not normally the kind of book I would jump to read, but there was something just so compulsively readable about it. In some ways it wasn’t exactly what I expected, and at times it was a struggle to find the characters likeable, but the story was so engaging and I found myself racing through it. I read that this was actually written as a screenplay decades before and eventually re-worked into a novel, and that Ruth Jones herself considers her second novel, Us Three, to be her first, being the first she’d actually written fully in that format, so I think I’d be really intrigued to get hold of that and read it too.
📖 The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale ~ Ben Miller 📖 This was a lovely Christmas present I got this year, and until I was given it I had no idea Ben Miller had written any novels. In fact he’s written three so far, one for each of his three children with the main characters named after them. After reading The Librarian, which was such a celebration of children’s books, I was in the mood for one for my next read (or even more in the mood than usual as they are so often my very favourites..) so I pulled this from the shelf. I really enjoyed this re-telling of well-known fairytales, and touching story of sibling relationships too. One of the things I love most about reading such a “young” book these days is being able to share it with the little ones – pages read aloud to a sleepless toddler, chatting about the illustrations (beautifully done by Daniela Jaglenka) with a curious pre-schooler – it’s such a lovely way to share reading. I really enjoyed this classically fantastical and heart-warming story.
📖 Why Not Me? ~ Mindy Kaling 📖 Another one I’d been looking forward to reading for a long time, after loving Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? a few years ago as well as the essays from Nothing Like I Imagined when they were published last year. Despite the wait, this second book definitely didn’t disappoint – so very relatable even in the midst of all the Hollywood stories and so funny I lost count of the amount of times I laughed out loud. I’ve always liked Mindy’s writing and admired her so much and I loved giggling my way through this uplifting book.
📖 The Summer Riders ~ Patricia Leitch 📖 Had a lovely venture back into my much-loved world of pony books a couple of weeks ago, to the fictional Finmory in the Scottish Highlands with Jinny and her Arab mare Shantih. I was always aware of the Shantih books growing up but I think I’ve only read an extract from one once before when I was younger, and had totally forgotten that they were set in Scotland; so just picking this up – a double-book volume I’d found along with a bundle of Jill books in a second-hand shop a long time back and never read – I really enjoyed discovering Jinny’s world for pretty much the first time. A flawed and relatable heroine with a fiery and challenging but rewarding equine counterpart, I liked Jinny for her determination, her dedication to Shantih and her desire to grow and change in her relationships; and I really enjoyed this story about friendships, family life and riding adventures in the summer heat of this beautiful stretch of Scotland’s coast. I just love reading pony books of a sunny day, at the farm or in the garden, and I read this through the beginnings of some properly warm weather here – and look forward to a summer of more!
📖 Northanger Abbey ~ Jane Austen 📖 I started re-reading Northanger Abbey earlier in the year, but had ended up pausing it for a bit and got back to it just this week, picking up where I left off, and absolutely loving it as it picked up pace. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility over and over again and love Jane Austen’s writing so much, but this is one of the novels I remembered less well, only having read it once in my uni days – where one wonderful semester an Austen module came up and I got to read these warm, smart and romantic novels for the whole term. I loved the humour in this book – despite rooting for Catherine Morland all the way, and enjoying the enthusiasm with which she met every twist and turn of her unfolding time in Bath and at the Abbey, I couldn’t help but smile along at Austen’s affectionate laughter at her expense throughout the story as well as her intelligent satire of the gothic genre in the mysterious halls of Northanger Abbey. The coming of age tale of this imaginative and endearing heroine, set to the backdrop of places that captured my imagination as much as Catherine’s, made Northanger Abbey just such an enjoyable book.
After a couple of months of not reading much at all, except the wonderful Thursday Murder Club, I really enjoyed reading such a variety in April, children’s and adults’, fiction and non, old and new; and am so glad to be back in a rhythm and already so enjoying my first couple of May books. Hope you are all having a really lovely weekend. xx
It’s the last night of the Easter holidays, and it’s been a really lovely couple of weeks here in our little corner of the world. Weather wise it couldn’t have been more mixed, with whipping winds, days of glorious sunshine broken up by a string of unexpected April snow showers – a December-worthy blizzard swirling down outside as I type – , and in the middle – just when we needed it most – some wonderful warm and springy weather.
Right in the middle of the holidays fell Easter itself and for us it was an extra special weekend as our littlest girl turned 1 on Good Friday. We had a wonderful few days of celebrating her with visits from family over a few days for such memorable gentle but joyful garden visits that were so special. Born a week into full lockdown last year, we celebrated her 1st birthday on the very day that lockdown began easing this time around with the “Stay at home” advice being lifted in her honour! Next year hopefully a more normal world with family all able to gather together, but we were so very blessed to spend time with everyone individually and even more so to have some gorgeous sunshine to do it in.
We’ve really made the most of a lovely couple of weeks’ break. Our first “school year” is just about to enter its last term, with our biggest little having been at playgroup nearly a year now, the loveliest start to learning and playing for her before she heads to school nursery in August. After a delayed start to last term and a whirlwind of settling back into normality over a few weeks, she seemed to really enjoy the holidays, and we’ve filled them mostly with park trips, mornings at the farm with the pony and catching up with family and friends where we can, and have really enjoyed the change of pace and the quality time.
As we get ready to return to our normal routine again from tomorrow, after a wee family film night tonight and an evening pottering around packing gym shoes and spare clothes, it’s lovely to be settling back to many of the things that bring us our anchoring stability day-to-day – and that seems to be happening all around us as at long last our world begins to open up again. This morning as I drove up to the farm for Charmer’s morning visit, I passed a small group of people just coming out of the little church at the bottom of the track looking so happy to be back to a first service after a year of disruption; and when I got to the top of the hill some of the girls and ponies were loading up for a Pony Club day, horse lorries, fleeces, travel boots and the chatter of pre-show excitement filling the yard again. It’s wonderful to see people getting back to the things that are important to them after so long, and I’m really looking forward to the start of summer term, time with both girls, continuing to settle in again at work, the easing of lockdown and all the time with family and friends that will bring, and the sunshine slowly but surely edging ahead of the winter showers in their springtime wrestle!
Hope you are all well, and have a great start to the week xxx
It’s so long since I’ve written and life has moved on so much for us in some ways. The long-awaited return to playgroup for our oldest finally arrived after a two-month Christmas break and she is all settled back to long happy days of playing and learning with her friends and thriving on all the interactions and the re-instated routine. My maternity leave came to an end after a year fully at home, and I’m in the midst of navigating my first few weeks back at work, a mix of returning to some things with a welcome familiarity and of learning the ropes all over again with lots of completely new dimensions too. Our littlest one is approaching her 1st birthday and seeming so very grown up all of a sudden, and has been enjoying a bit of time geared more around her while her sister is off at playgroup, finding her feet in lots of ways. And as for the pony, turning 25 in a few weeks, his winter coat is coming out in handfuls and he is happily seeking out spring grass as he makes it clear he’s 100% ready for the season ahead.
But, in other ways, it feels as though life has stayed still the last few weeks and months, as we have reached 3 months since we last went into lockdown with no change, the weight of restrictions on time with family and friends and all our normal day to day activities still on us. I’ve found these last few weeks some of the hardest, and have been so looking forward to the turn of the tide. This week it feels that it finally is upon us, with the some of the springiest days we could have wished for – glorious sunshine from morning until night – and an announcement from Nicola Sturgeon on the easing up of lockdown over the next few weeks, with some very positive changes ahead and one already in place that lets us enjoy walks and garden visits with some family again after such a long wait since Christmas time.
Doing my mucking out at the farm last night, I stepped out the back and had to stop and just enjoy the sound of the birds singing and the sight of the bats swooping overhead against a sky that was just losing its light at 7pm. This has been a very long winter while we’ve waited and waited to feel a change in the air; but now at long last we can – and I am so, so looking forward to the summer ahead.
Really hope you are all doing well, having a good week and enjoying some of the first signs of spring. X
Most of my reading in 2021 so far has been cosy and comforting – I’ve been heading off to the farm with pony books tucked in my jacket, slowly re-reading Jane Austen, breathing in the streets of Bath, finding my way through the week with Bridget Jones by my side for a bit of camaraderie and generally using reading as a lovely and reassuring escape from the world around us. This book was so, so not that (a book club pick I nearly didn’t join in with due to the reading mood I was in) and yet was one of the most wonderful books I’ve read in a long time.
This is the desperately sad and yet somehow – unbelievably – hope-glittered story of Nuri and Afra’s journey from their beloved Aleppo to the UK, seeking refuge from the war that had engulfed them. Beautifully compassionate and so painfully and perfectly written, this book is so important and so well done, shining an unflinching and much-needed light on the plight of the many refugees being forced to make such a dangerous and difficult journey. The beautiful descriptions of Nuri and Afra’s life in Aleppo, he a beekeeper and she a painter, their home life with their little boy Sami and their wider family, the peace and stability of their little world; are one of the things that make this book so wonderfully powerful, illuminating with painful truth how normal life was for these families before their world was turned upside down.
I read that Christy Lefteri wrote this after working with refugees herself, seeking to raise awareness and understanding of the crisis and the people trapped within it, and I think she achieves this beautifully with this book. Nuri and Afra are wonderfully engaging characters and their story together as the book unfolds is a deeply moving one. This is simply a very important book – wonderfully written, heart-breaking, challenging and ultimately uplifting against the odds.