Lockdown times at the farm

Just a little good morning from our corner of the world… hope you are all well despite the times we’re living in, and are finding ways to navigate through these next few weeks.

Here, we’ve been back to a life at home, trying to keep the little ones busy and happy, stay as connected to family and friends as we possibly can, and find a routine within what looks to be our new normal again for some time to come. One of the constants in life in lockdown and always is looking after my boy, and I’m very grateful that, just as last time, we have still been allowed access to the farm to look after the horses, just with separated slots to keep us distanced – and so Charmer’s schedule brings a steadying routine to this new time. At 10am and 5pm I find myself there with him, an anchor in this strange January as he has been at so many other times in the decades we’ve had together.

Our morning slot being 10am this time means I’ve had to take the girls with me which has actually ended up being wonderful – a safe, fresh-air way to get them out and bring the routine to their days that playgroup and baby classes normally do, and they’ve loved helping as much as Charmer has enjoyed having his little fans on hand.

And for me too, my dark evenings settling him in to the stable for the night, giving him a brush and sometimes reading a little in the quietness beside him, or weekend mornings like today, catching up on the barn chores and enjoying a wander just me and him; are valued even more than ever amidst all the uncertainty.

Charmer continues to be doing really well just now and amazing everyone with his enthusiasm for life and how well he is moving. I would actually be amazed at how well he was doing if this was summertime but for this to be the coldest winter we’ve had in a couple of years, coming in from nights out at -7 and weathering damp days and changing temperatures; I really can’t believe how much he is thriving. Something in amongst his medication, supplements and shoes is working more than I ever dreamed possible and I am over the moon to see him restored to such health.

I took him a walk on his rope this morning down the hill he used to really struggle with, his feet hitting the ground steadily and certainly, and let him have some grass at the bottom while I drank my coffee, read a few pages of the horsey book I’m reading, and watched some of the younger horses in the field opposite Charmer’s showing off some spectacular boisterous play.

Landing up back at the gate, time was up once again – as it is quickly now – for the farm window in the day, but I was very grateful both for it and for the strides forward C has taken in enjoying life and living it to the full.

Really hope you are all staying safe, taking care and feeling ok, as we all count down to spring and better days. X

January Reading ❤️

Decided to try to use this little space to keep up with my reading among the other bits and pieces I scribble – I’ve enjoyed writing book reviews on here in the past and always love reflecting on those stories I love best, but thought it would be good to keep track of my reading month by month as the year goes on.

The first of my books this year was a beautiful present for Christmas from my lovely sister that I couldn’t wait to read, opening its pages for the first time on Christmas night in the peaceful lull that settled when the busyness of a boisterous extended-family day was over and the little one was tucked in bed; and going on to read slowly, chapter by chapter, over the next few weeks.

Last Christmas – curated and introduced by Greg Wise & Emma Thompson

Sometimes a book is so special, a collection-type like this especially (I remember being exactly the same with Tom Hanks’ beautiful short story collection Uncommon Type), that I keep putting off reading it until I’ve got the time to really enjoy it, never wanting to miss a word, and ending up taking forever to finish but loving it nonetheless. Made up of over 50 different pieces on the subject of a Christmas from such a wide variety of contributors – including many from those who’ve spent time as refugees – and written in aid of Crisis and The Refugee Council; it is a unique and poignant gathering of essays and memoirs, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. It provides a valued insight into the memories and values of many well-loved figures – Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Caitlin Moran, Graham Norton, Victoria Coren Mitchell included (the latter moving me to tears in the last lines of her piece and, as it happened, of the book); balanced with some sometimes harrowing, raw and always moving documentations of Christmases in the Calais jungle, in war-torn countries, or in more peaceful ones – safe at last but heart-achingly far from home. This is a book that cuts to the very heart of Christmas, my favourite time of the year, and provides so much food for thought on the simplicity of what really matters during a festival that can be so huge and so anything-but-simple for many of us. I really loved reading it and know I will return to it next year as the season approaches again.

The Good, The Bad and The Furry – Tom Cox

Re-reads will definitely feature heavily in my reading lists and always have. Despite all the wonderful books there are in the world still to discover, I just can’t seem to help myself picking up old favourites over and over again and comfort reading those “old friends” books is one of my favourite ways to unwind. For years now I’ve enjoyed Tom Cox’s gentle humour and observations about many aspects of life in his varied books and blogs, but it’s his “cat books” I’ve loved most, particularly this one and the next, Close Encounters of the Furred Kind. Warm, fond memoirs on life with his cats, he captures perfectly for me what it is to love the pets we share our lives with, the vital role they play in our homes and the deep bond we form with them. This was the book I found myself picking back up from the shelf to head away for the night on Hogmanay, and so it was the one I was enjoying reading as we saw in the new year, making the most of the slow pace of life in the holidays and the comfort of favourite characters and stories.

The Gentle Discipline Book – Sarah Ockwell-Smith

I wasn’t sure whether to include this in my monthly round-up, being more of a reference book than anything else, but it’s one I really enjoyed reading and good to have a record of alongside the rest. The idea of a book about discipline sounds on paper a very dry one at best and a difficult read, but this was a book I was looking forward to getting into as our little girl hit the age of two and entered a whole new phase of her childhood and therefore us of our parenting journey too. I really enjoy all Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s writing, her perspective on child development and her focus on “gentle parenting”; and this book, like her others I’ve read, is thoughtfully and accessibly written and a common-sense approach to the psychology of a young child and the strengthening of the bond between parent and child. Far from focusing on any kind of authoritarianism, this is a refreshing and empowering study of discipline in the sense of teaching and guiding, and is a handbook that feels as though it arms any parent with a deeper understanding of just what their children are going through at the various stages of their growing-up and how best to help them through all its ups and downs.

Old Baggage – Lissa Evans

The main novel I read in January was Old Baggage, our book for the month at my book club – a lovely one in our local library designed for parents, where we gather of an afternoon to chat about our most recent book over a drink and cake while the little ones play. Over the last year and a half I’ve found being a member has been a much-appreciated anchor to the world of books and has kept me reading during some times I could’ve otherwise let months slip by without finishing a single one. One of the things I really enjoy about the concept of a book club is reading the types of books I wouldn’t normally and being opened up to different genres. Very occasionally, however, it leads me to exactly the type of book I love most, and Old Baggage was an example of that rare gift – I knew even as I began that I was holding a future favourite in my hands.

We are first introduced to Mattie Simpkin as she strides across the Heath in what very quickly establishes itself as her usual no-nonsense way, keeping everyone she comes across right as she goes. Her appeal is evident from the very first sentences of the book, a character I knew I would find myself smiling at throughout. Reminiscent of Three Things About Elsie‘s Florence and Elizabeth is Missing‘s Maud, two other all-time favourites of mine, she has a quality – a wisdom, a sense of humour and a strength of character – that I loved from the off.

It is 1928, and Mattie lives with her friend Florrie in the “Mousehole”, a house named for its role as a base during the Cat and Mouse Act some fifteen years before – both are former Suffragettes, now in their late fifties, and both for their own reasons feel a stirring still to be fighting, and making their voices heard where needed.

I read this almost in its entirety without being aware that it was in fact a prequel, and that the inimitable Mattie had featured already in Lissa Evans’ previous novel Crooked Heart, set even further down the line looking back from elderly years – by then struggling with the onset of dementia – at the days gone by. I definitely plan to get hold of a copy and can’t wait to add it to the reading list very soon, but as a book in its own right, Old Baggage was a wonderful read, and I loved its vibrant characters and unfolding tale of perseverance, strength and hope for a better future.

Happy Friday and Happy Valentines’ Day all, have a lovely weekend. X

Hygge Love ❤

Last January I discovered (to my joy!) for the first time that there was a word, hygge, which summed up just perfectly everything I love most about this cosy wrapped-up time of year. A year on, and hygge has continued to sweep across from its native Denmark to take our countries by storm, revolutionising how we approach wintertime – especially the post-Christmas part of winter. It offers a softer and more rounded alternative to the out-running, diet-beginning resolve of the new year; in the form of a more achievable balance between good health – with fresh air and long, rambling walks – and indulgent nights in – with a little bit of chocolate, a mug of something warming and some cosy time devoted to enjoying good company and home comforts.

I have recently been reading the very beautiful Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, given to me by my sister as a lovely present at the beginning of the winter, and it has been such a special book to dip in and out of every day.

“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life – or just be comfortable in each other’s company – or simply just be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea… Hygge may be the closest we come to happiness when we arrive home after a long day’s work on a cold, rainy day in January… this is where most of our lives will play out. Hygge is about making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday.”

This weekend, with snow lying on the ground and frost glinting from every branch of the trees outside the window, felt more hyggeligt than ever. My husband has been working away this week and as both of us are for a couple of days each next week too, we were all the more grateful for a lull in the busy-ness, some time together and the chance to enjoy winter’s cosiness.

The boys have been happy to have us both home too. It has been lovely to spend time with them, and Ty especially has been enjoying the extra company  around the house all day. His little face is always there, waiting to see what’s happening next, and he’s been our shadow this weekend as we’ve gone about our days and evenings, enjoying the companionship.

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The last couple of days have been very much a blend of wrapping up to wrangle with the biting weather and spending time enjoying the warmth of the indoors. Yesterday I spent the afternoon riding along crisp paths with friends, chatting and patting our fluffy-necked ponies as we did, carefully avoiding still-icy patches on the tracks here and there – the sun setting at 3pm without a true thaw ever quite reaching us. We’ve been for long walks along the bracing but beautiful waterfront, and have been as a matter of routine pulling on hats and gloves before each leaving of the house.

This morning on a venture to my mum and dad’s, spent some easy time chatting and watching the world outside the window with our hands wrapped round coffee mugs, the dogs sleeping peacefully – my old girl Ginny by my feet, the cat stretched along the full length of the settee just under the kitchen heater, making the most of the warmth.

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Back home, we have spent our evenings in, under blankets with our favourite box sets playing and a real warmth filling our little house that can only truly come into its own on these very coldest of days.

I love this January-March season partly for the winds of change in the air – the increasing light in our days with every one that passes, the snowdrops brightly lining verges with flashes of hope, and the buds on the trees ready to bloom again; but in a large part too for its retaining of just enough darkness to mean that we can still burn candles, light the fire, eat warming meals and wrap up with books and TV at night. ❤

Hope you have all had a really lovely and hyggeligt weekend too, and have a wonderful week. X

 

Stepping into the new… and the freshly fallen snow ❄️

In the last few days, we have taken our first steps into this whole new year before us, returning to work, school and day-to-day routines after the suspension of business as usual the end of December always brings.

Over the last week I have enjoyed the settling back into the normal – the dark evenings at home with dinner cooking and the rats clamouring at the cage door to join in; the mornings curled with them on the settee, drinking the first coffee of the day and watching light ebb into the world outside; the peace and solitude of the barn after work, horses ushered in early; the warmth of meeting with friends for catch-ups at the end of the day, fingers wrapped gratefully round hot chocolates in glass mugs; the brand new notebook open on my desk at work; and the easy reading of book after book in wrapped-up lunchbreaks.

Today, in our little corner of the world, we are not only metaphorically stepping into a new and untouched world stretching ahead, but physically too, surrounded as we are in a bright white blanket of snow.

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I love living somewhere where the weather is unpredictable and changeable, where rain bounces off the ground, wind rattles at the barn roof, the sun rises crimson, when the mood takes it, and clouds cast shadows across our days. There’s possibly no weather I love more, however, than the slow tumble of snow to the ground in a peaceful swirl, and the hush that seems to arrive with it, suspending everything else as it falls.

One of the things I love most about snow is the way it changes everything, adds a brightness that otherwise doesn’t exist – you don’t even have to open the curtains in the morning to know that snow has fallen, the light of the room is so completely different, unique to these few days when everything around us is changed by nature.

This morning, slowly and carefully stepping Charmer out for his day in the field, we only had the first hint of it – icy ground, frozen water buckets, a light dusting on the tracks and a white in the sky.

By now, we are surrounded, and have spent the morning watching the flakes fall from the office window.

As I write for the first time in 2017, and first time in a good few weeks, I do have a new (and appropriately snowy) face to introduce to this little blog.

On Christmas Eve we welcomed home a new member of our little animal family, Marley, a gorgeous pink-eyed champagne dumbo rat. We were not expecting to add to our brood, but circumstances had changed for the lovely girl we adopted Reuben and Perry from back in November and she needed to rehome Marley too, who had previously lived with our boys, and asked if we would take him on.

It wasn’t something we could possibly have said no to, and as it happened he was the easiest new acquisition we’ve ever had by a long shot, clearly remembering R & P well and happily curling up with them within ten minutes, no re-introducing required! With us too, he’s been a gem, he’s a total softie and absolutely loves a cuddle.


There’s been a lot going on in our little world of late, but all of the pets, Charmer and the little ones, have been so lovely to have, and all have been doing fine.

Our old man Ty is continuing to live alone for the moment, not managing to settle down with any of the others, but enjoying his time out with us, and his limited contact with the others in their neighbouring cage.

Reuben, Perry and Marley are very settled in their new group and forming an increasingly playful rabble on their adventures round the living room at night.

As we step onto the new path ahead of us, I am looking forward to time with all the pets, enjoying both the crisp snap of winter and the first hints of spring, and writing and reading here.

Hope you are all having a good week. X

Saturday in the winter sun

This morning dawned bright and sunny for January, in dazzling contrast to the snow we woke to last weekend, beautiful in an entirely different way, and the lingering mists and rains that have dominated most of the month so far.

My day started early, with an 8am field stop to bring Charmer in for a farrier visit, standing quietly in the sleepy yard to the clanging of metal and the sounds of seagulls over the water, on a morning that only got more beautiful as the sun rose.



This afternoon, we joined friends for a little hack along our usual tracks, an hour of easy chatter and the clop of hooves on the winding road. Taking riding a day at a time with Charmer just now as he definitely seems to be adjusting to some changes in his eyesight now and is starting to be less keen to go to certain places. Really glad though to see him still enjoying our weekend walks and looking forward to working to find the best ways to let him keep doing that.

Back home now, after a hot chocolate in the barn while the boy enjoyed his dinner, chatting away and absent-mindedly stroking the friendliest of farm cats, and just enjoying some time just ourselves and with the pets.

Had lots of lovely times with the rats – and with Ty particularly in the last few cosy winter nights, who has always been a lovely boy, just a bit less keen on interacting with us when free-ranging than Win and Harvey – but has just recently really been much more engaging with us as well as his furry comrades, which is so nice to see.


Rosie too has been very active in the last little while – at nearly 2 years old now and with cataracts over both eyes we keep thinking she will slow down, but quite the contrary, she continues to be as devoted as always to her routines, her food gathering, bed building, tunnelling and exercise on her wheel as always. She is so peaceful just to watch – there seems so much wisdom in how a hamster goes about its little life, happily organising and arranging everything.

As Saturday draws now to a close, I am happily tired after a full and busy day, glad to be cosy and very grateful for a quiet evening with our mischief. Happy weekend all! ❤️