September’s Eve 🍂

Just a quick update tonight as August tumbles into September, with so many thoughts whirling in my head as we settle in to a gently shifting change in season once again.

Our world the last few weeks has been filled with a back-to-school air – or off to school for the very first time really, as our biggest girl has started school nursery, and we have found ourselves in the primary school playground every day for drop offs and pick ups, finding our feet in a whole new world. She is settling in so well to nursery life despite what a big leap it seems to have been for her from her couple of mornings at playgroup last year, and it’s wonderful to hear all the new stories every day.

It’s been a time of transition for all of us in a smaller way, maybe most of all for our littlest who is adjusting to mornings without her sister around. We’ve picked back up with our usual toddler groups, music classes and song and rhyme sessions, only this time I just have her in tow, and she’s found that a bit different, her natural confidence taking a little longer to come out without her usual shadow to walk in. But it’s been really really lovely watching her too adapt to a new stage, growing in independence and changing all the time.

For my part, I’m enjoying this new era as much as the ones before it, especially with the freedom that’s returned more over the summer, and making the most of the time I have both with one and with two. Today after the nursery drop off, on a wander with tiny down to a lovely free sing-along session in a museum in town, we discovered a little library we had no idea was there. It was so nice to be able to choose a book to take home for the kids and we have some of theirs and mine we need to donate so it’ll be a lovely place to do it on our next walk.

After our little class, as we walked back up the hill, we came across a gated entrance that captured her attention, and I’d forgotten how enjoyable it was to be able to just take the path because she fancied it and do the exploring. Before we knew it we’d wound down into the glen with the squirrels and birds and it was a lovely impulse to be able to follow.

And we only had to wait until this afternoon for the pace to be shifted once again with both girls back home together (we’re building up the nursery hours slowly over the year so still have lots of times all of us). It was lovely just to settle at home, read our new book all together, do some quiet activities and enjoy the old routine.

Spent some time in the garden too in the newly-fresh air, a slight nip to it today after so long of hot days – with the kittens out too for one of their first wee plays while we watched them explore (just over 4 months now and a pair of energy-filled leggy tearaways at the moment, full of fun and doing well ☺️).

There’s so much else been going on I will write more on later – the pony doing well as we come to the to the end of the summer and making a start on getting him prepared for winter, starting to feel more settled into my new job at the weekends and the training along with it too keeping me busy of an evening, my husband taking his first tentative steps back to office life some days (though still with the home office as the default for foreseeable future which we’re so thankful for for time all together).

One of the things we’ve been most glad of in the last few weeks in the midst of everything else is that we have had some wonderful chances to catch up with friends and family. At the weekend we had the loveliest family garden gathering under twinkling lights, breathing in the smell of woodsmoke and the togetherness we’ve missed so much. It can feel sometimes to an extent like we’re still living tentatively in a hangover from all the disruption to life last year, and so it was so liberating to have such an old-school family day and night and remember how much we love to assemble. 🥰 I’m looking forward so much now to a season ahead of wrapping up for chiminea nights and cosy gatherings. ❤️

Hope you are all well, and wish you a really lovely start to September.. 🍁

September Reading Diary 📚🍁☕️❤️

Autumn is upon us once more and that definitely calls for lots of cosy evenings and cosy books – I’ve really enjoyed reading this month, starting with three mysteries in a row all read so quickly at the beginning of the month and then slowing down with two longer books covering the passing of time.

📖 Insidious Intent ~ Val McDermid 📖 As September began and I started looking forward as much as ever to the autumn and winter months of cosy evenings reading, I found myself wanting to sink into a dark and unwinding crime story – and who better to turn to but Val McDermid. I had loved watching her talking as much as ever in the Edinburgh Book Festival online and so pulled Insidious Intent from the bookshelf that I had picked up a couple of years ago but never got to reading. This was my first Carol Jordan and Tony Hill book, and both characters intrigued me. This book was so compelling, I read it more quickly than I’ve read anything for a long time, always wanting just one more chapter and one more and loving the pacy chase of the hunt as Carol, Paula, Tony and the team closed in. This book definitely had me remembering why I love crime fiction so much, and was a perfect first read of autumn.

📖 Three Things About Elsie ~ Joanna Cannon 📖 When our book club chose Three Things About Elsie for our August book, to chat about (still online) at the beginning of September, I was so looking forward to discussing it as it’s one of my very favourite books, but at first decided not to re-read as I’d read it just a couple of years ago and I felt like I still remembered it all so well. When I picked it up on the day though I was just completely drawn back in and ended up reading it all again, loving it as much as ever. Joanna Cannon’s writing is so perceptive and so very relatable. Florence is a character it’s impossible not to fall in love with, so many others so wonderful too, and the lives and stories at Cherry Tree completely absorbing. This is just such a special book, with such important things to say about how we view older people in society, and full of so much warmth, intrigue and hope.

📖 The Sign of Four ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 📖 After Insidious Intent and Three Things About Elsie I loved returning to a very favourite detective in Sherlock Holmes. I had never read The Sign of Four before and loved sinking back into Holmes and Watson’s world and especially meeting and getting to know Mary Morstan in this book for the very first time.

📖 The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies’ Book Club ~ Sophie Green 📖 I so enjoyed reading this lovely book at a slow and easy pace over a couple of weeks – mostly in evenings with a sleeping baby curled up on me or short bursts in the mornings with a toddler sneaked in to bed too! This was one of the books I had picked up on my first trip back to the library, and was a warm and comforting read. Set in Australia’s Northern Territory in the late 1970s/early 80s, and painted with a sweeping sense of place and atmosphere; it tells the story of a growing friendship between several women coming together to form a book club. The descriptions of the relentless rain of the wet season, the horses out on the hills and the weathering of so many storms to get to each other, all made this a perfect autumn/winter read and a perfect lockdown one too. I really loved the engaging characters, the flashes of other books throughout in the ladies’ book club choices and the strength of the women’s enduring friendships through the years. ❤️

📖 Philomena (previously The Lost Child of Philomena Lee) ~ Martin Sixsmith 📖 In the last few days I’ve been completely gripped by the incredible and heart-wrenching story of Philomena Lee and of her son, born to her in a mother-and-baby home for unmarried mothers in 1952 and taken away after three years of life in the Catholic convent under the care of the nuns and his mother. Anthony Lee would go on to be adopted by an American family and become Michael Hess, and most of this book, despite the new film tie-in title focusing on Philomena, is devoted to the story of Michael’s life.

I found this totally unputdownable and was completely captivated by such a remarkable story, following the twists and turns of Michael’s successful career reaching the heights of the White House alongside the ever-present pull back to his roots. I did come across some writing by people close to the story on finishing the book that was very critical of Martin Sixsmith’s reimagining of events, so I think this definitely has to be viewed as fictionalised retelling rather than non-fiction, but I found it both a totally compelling portrayal of a struggle for identity and a snapshot of life in America too during the decades covered, with all the social and political shifts taking place over the years.

I had been leant this book by my nana and discovered once again, as I have so many times throughout this year, in these times when restrictions find us further from each other than we’d like to be, the lovely closer sense of togetherness reading and sharing books can bring.

This has been a great reading month and I’ve really enjoyed the beginnings of the darker months with lots on the to-read list as they continue to settle in. X

Pottering about with the pony

This weekend brought with it September’s beautiful mix of the last days of summer and the first of autumn, newly yellowing leaves on the trees and the odd one floating down already.

Bringing Charmer in on Saturday morning, after catching up on some mucking out and barn tidying, I decided to take him for a little bit of time in the sand school.

At the moment he’s not meant to do any forced exercise of any kind, and I feel a little hesitant even leading him as he’s often reticent and worried about where he’s placing his feet, but I thought in there with his headcollar off he could decide himself exactly what he felt comfortable with. We’ve used the space for games and join-up and ambles before, and when I took his ropes off and started just having a wander around myself, I found I had a very happy follower. ❤️

It was really, really lovely. I’ve missed even just walking in hand with him and know he has too, and it was so lovely just to move around together and to know he was only doing what he felt up to. He found plenty to explore and investigate, and when I got him in to his stable afterwards he was exhilarated and happy-looking just for having seen something ever so slightly different!

It was a lovely morning, and so enjoyed finding new ways to have adventures with my boy. ❤️

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X

Autumn Term & New Beginnings 🍂

The summer holidays have drawn to a close here, and – this year for the first time in five months instead of in six or seven weeks – the schools have started back. This time last year that meant me and my biggest girl we were slipping seamlessly back into all our usual toddler groups again after just a few weeks of sunshine and holidays. This year, it’s all very different in every way. For us especially of course, as we have not one but two little ones, a soon-to-be 3 year old in just a few months and a 5 month old growing and changing so fast and so determinedly I can hardly keep up with her! But for everyone the world is a completely different place, meaning that in fact none of those things that made up my weeks at home with my oldest are around at the moment, and no one is quite sure when they’ll be starting back.

One thing that has had the go-ahead is early learning and childcare, so our local playgroup has opened and it’s here our big girl has found herself two mornings a week – going off somewhere on her own for the very first time. She has taken to playgroup so well, and settled in wonderfully to playing with the other kids, coming home full of stories about the day.

Paintings hang along our fireplace every day, sent home in stacks that reveal how enthusiastically she’s taken to every new activity, and I’ve adjusted to the new little routine of drop-offs and pick-ups – finding the optimum parking spot, scooting the little one into her carrier, holding the biggest’s hand and walking along the street to the flower-filled grounds of the village hall – normally multi-purpose, but at the moment home only to the playgroup, while all its other uses wait to resume, lending a reassuring permanence to all the children’s play corners.

The beginning of playgroup also means the beginning of time at home just me and the littlest, which has been really lovely – and focusing on that wonderful new opportunity has helped me get through the waves of sadness that came along with the joy of watching her sister take her first steps away from us, even just a few hours a week.

First adventures out just ourselves, Littlest exploring the world

This is around the age my oldest was when I started slowly getting out to baby groups for the first time, after a few months of enjoying the time at home and on little pram walks around our village. I know I would have got to that quicker this time around, for so many reasons – not least that my littlest little is so very curious about the world around her and game for any adventure out into the world! These last few weeks, we’ve begun the 2020 versions of lots of new experiences, with Jo Jingles online classes streaming on the TV in place of an in-person music class and play dates with friends’ wee ones in place of local baby groups.

The Baby Club on BBC with the lovely Giovanna Fletcher, one of my tiny’s very favourite ways to enjoy music which she loves so much!

Despite the difference from normal, it’s been absolutely lovely exploring so many new things together. The supermarket is a weekly adventure, we’ve had her very first trip to the library this week (with a very wide-eyed response!) and also her first time in a cafe, and my first for six months – Little loved the sights and sounds and I couldn’t believe how totally amazing it was to have a beautiful hot coffee and amazing cake out and about once again!

Lovely sign in our library

As lovely as it is to tentatively step into some of the places we haven’t been in so long, I’m still spending most of my week with the girls at home or outdoors, and as we have unfortunately seen a bit of an upturn again in Covid-19 cases in the last few days and weeks, and a tightening of lockdown restrictions once more as a result, I know we’ll be continuing to wrap up as winter creeps in and stay outside as much as we can. It’s disheartening of course to see things take a step backwards, but as we enter my very favourite time of year, there are lots of positives to be found in the way we’re approaching the world this year, and already we are enjoying some beautiful autumn colours on all our rambles.

Lovely fairy “village” in one of our favourite woods

I always love the feeling at the start of the autumn term of a fresh starts and new beginnings; and this year it’s been a time of change for us all – my husband is changing jobs just now as well as the girls starting new chapters in their little lives, and even the pony starting one too with his retirement beginning earlier this month. I don’t return to work myself until the spring, and I am absolutely loving having so much time with the family stretching ahead and enjoying maternity leave; – but I have started a little new venture of my own too doing a little bit of study at nights when the wee ones are asleep, for an online course on dementia – and its impact on individuals and on society as whole – I’ve just begun, which has been so very interesting so far. I really love learning and focusing on something new, this is something I’m so passionate about and everything we’re covering will be so very helpful when I do go back to work. Really enjoying scribbling and watching lectures and meeting (or trying to meet!) deadlines again.

While this year has been as different as it could possibly be from any before it, it’s lovely to feel the reassuring normality of the back-to-school season settling in and the September sunshine and first cascade of leaves arriving once more.

Have a lovely weekend all. 🍂🍁 x

The Ember Days 🍁🌅🍂

“By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, with Summer’s best of weather and Autumn’s best of cheer.” – from Helen Hunt Jackson’s September

Every year when this beautiful time of year comes round once more I remember and discover even more how much I love it. The whisper in the air of winter-time, the cosying in of darkness at the end of the days and the freshness of a season of transformation creep in with the golden glow of the early autumn months; and I can never quite express just how glad I am to see them.

In the last weeks, I’ve had some lovely opportunities to enjoy the beginnings and endings of the changing days, bringing the pony in at nights a bit more. In summertime this year my farm trips were often in the light of 8-9pm, sun up late and doing field checks and fly sprays knowing the horses’ day would linger on into the evening long after I left. Now, I’m arriving at that time at dusk and leading Charmer into the bright lights of the barn once more, often leaving him there overnight with a dinner and hay and coming back in the morning to put him back out.

Those early mornings are a time I treasure and love returning to – the quiet of the world at that hour and the promise of a new day just beginning. I love to grab my coffee flask and jacket and step out in the still of morning to find out what the weather brings – on dry days using the time at the farm to head out for a quick wander on my boy’s back (so loving being well back into the swing of riding again) and on rainy mornings sipping my coffee and turning the pages of my book, listening to the contented sound of breakfast disappearing from the bucket.

This week I’ve found myself heading along there even when Charmer’s been out and self-sufficient, enjoying his grazing, just to watch the sun come up and take a bit of time at the farm to start the day – as my little infant alarm clock gets me up anyway ❤️, and as it’s lovely to have the chance to watch sunrises again in the light of day, cuddle close my furry boy and marvel at that winter coat making its way in already. 💛

Hope you have all had a lovely week and have a lovely weekend. Xx

September days on the farm 

September has come and gone in our little corner of the world in what seems like just a flash – of sunshine, showers and usually a rainbow lingering nearby to bridge the gap between the two. We’ve been very lucky to be able to enjoy some lovely weather this month, and I’ve been so grateful for some lovely time at the farm with the pony, making the most of the cool breeze and glowing light.

 


Charmer has done very well so far with his nine-month hiatus from work (in fact I think he might generally prefer this new slower pace of life to the alternative!!), but after six months of no riding – and especially now that we’re coming into the time of year when we typically spend our weekends careering through stubble fields together – he has been seeming a little restless with just the field and a jaunt into the stable and back to keep him occupied.

As a result, been doing my best to keep his brain busy and engaged, and a bit of fitness about him too, so in the last couple of weeks particularly we’ve enjoyed as many wanders as possible out together for an explore.

 

Heading somewhere interesting and engaging, especially somewhere new, even if it’s not too far a walk; is enough to put a spring in his step, and it’s lovely to see him on his toes, ears forward, thinking about everything he comes across. It’s those times of being out and about with the sights and sounds of the countryside around us that give us our adventures, and I’ve been keen to keep them up at this loveliest time of the year even though they can’t quite include the usual flat-out gallops for now!

 

 

Sometimes though, it’s not adventure but simply a bit of a fuss from his old mum he’s after, just a reminder that he’s still my number one boy – and that’s something I’m glad to be able to provide easily anytime, without working up the energy for a long walk!

A chill out together in the school, field or stable; a long brush to get rid of the mud on a darkening night; or just an amble the long way round to the field under the floodlights – all the little moments that make up our days keep him ticking over happily as the seasons change.

 

Hope you are all having  lovely weekend. X

Sunday with my boy… 🐴❤️

This weekend was a beautiful one, on the cusp between summer and autumn with a warmth still in the air but enough of a breeze that the flies and midges have eased up a little at least for my little pony, and his coat has begun to fluff up slightly – a little over all, but excessively, as always, on his furrball ears, slowly morphing back into my winter bear.. ❤

We had a lovely day at the farm on Sunday, meeting friends for coffee at the yard before heading out a wandering hack around the fields and hills nearby. Charm was well keen for the adventure today – these days his enthusiasm for work comes and goes, and some days he is decidedly less certain than others about the winding roads ahead, but on Sunday his feet were clattering ahead of his friend’s from the word go, ears forward and valiantly serving in the role of Lead Horse, chest puffed out and special attention given to the greeting of toddlers, dogs and admiring walkers as he passed them along the bridleway down from our farm – always popular at weekends with people enjoying the fresh air in so many different ways.

We were able to combine C’s two favourite routes in one – the ducking-and-diving meander down through the woodland track he likes best (plenty of opportunity to snatch at low-hanging branches on the way for a quick leaf or twelve to keep him going), the ponies deftly avoiding the thicker of the branches and leaving us riders to crouch flat along their necks to do the same; and the open stubble field on the way home – at this time of year lined on one side with the straw bales that will make the boys’ beds all winter all and on the other a strip left for the battering canters the horses jog towards, itching for us just to let them go and race each other to the top. I’ll never tire of that feeling, the rush of the rhymthic canter up, and the toss of Charm’s head as he slows back down snorting with the exhiliaration as I lean forward to pat his neck.

I love every moment of spending time with him and every aspect of life at the stables, but an autumn ride under falling leaves and billowing up a hill on a September afternoon is a feeling that can’t be topped.

Back at the yard, it was dinner time, and after a quick cool down, back to the field once more, grateful once more for the change in the air and slightly more comfortable turnout. The fly rug is forgotten at last, and it’ll be a month or two at least before we’re back into the cosy winter ones – for now just a swish of the tail and the start of the winter coat will do on both fronts, and it is lovely to just stand out in the field with my boy, enjoying the still of this season. ❤

Hope everyone is having a really lovely week. x