Weekly Smile: 26 July 2021

My biggest reasons to smile this last week or so include:-

My husband has recently turned 60, so we had a lovely little family celebration with colourful balloons and banners and traditional birthday party finger food – sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps and other savoury nibbles, followed by chocolate cake with six candles (one for each decade). What fun!

My son came to visit for an extended long weekend that included being here for the birthday celebrations – due to ongoing Covid restrictions across the country this is the first time we’ve managed to meet up this year, and it was so wonderful to see him again. Hopefully it won’t be so long before our next reunion ❀

The new bed we’d ordered was delivered last week, and oh, it’s sooo… comfortable to sleep on. Although I don’t always sleep too well so it’s probably just as accurate to say it’s sooo… comfortable to lie awake on in the middle of the night! πŸ™‚

Weekly Smile

Winging It

Over this last year or so my blog seems to have more posts about my garden than anything else, but then I suppose my blog tends to follow my life and over this last year or so my life has been necessarily home-oriented (due to lengthy, ongoing Covid restrictions), and so by extension garden-oriented. My garden has given me a sense of purpose.

The thing is, I’ve lived in this house and with this garden for less than two years and my previous personal gardening knowledge is by no means extensive – the basics are not beyond me, I know to cut the grass and pull the weeds and dead-head the roses – but other than that I’m finding myself winging it a lot of the time.

Some plants in the garden I recognised easily, so I could look up online how best to look after them. Others I’ve only learned the names of through word of mouth, often having posted images here on my blog. And a few unidentified specimens still remain a mystery to this day, so sometimes I’m left with no option but to act on instinct.

I’ve now experienced two autumns, two winters, two springs, and this is currently my second summer here. For my first full year I took a wait-and-see approach to whatever appeared from the soil, to have a kind of base-line picture of the garden as was. And over this second year I’ve started to make changes – some big, some small.

As well as gardening by Google I’ve also taken to watching regular gardening programmes on TV to help with information and inspiration in equal measure, both of which together have given me the confidence not just to stick cautiously with what’s already there but to have a real go at creating the garden I want out of the garden I have.

I’m learning the difference between evergreen, deciduous and herbaceous plants. Between annuals, biennials, and perennials. Between sun-loving, shade-loving, or bit-of-both-in-between plants. Between spring-flowering, summer-flowering and autumn-flowering plants and how to balance them all out cumulatively within the same flower beds.

There’s a lot to it, creating a balanced structure in a garden all year round, and I’ve made a good start to finding my feet with it all. I’m trying to keep as much as I can of what’s already there, re-jigging and re-siting plants to suit my own taste, reducing those aggressive bullies who have tried to take over their patch and clearing the way for others with more delicate sensibilities to have their moment of glory.

I’m still winging it a bit, but as I gain more knowledge through experience there’s a little less flying by the seat of my pants these days. I’m trusting my instinct a lot more, and trusting in the garden to tell me what it needs, as long as I follow the signs. One way or another it seems that as we get to know each other better my garden and I are settling down together just fine πŸ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Wing

Nourishing and Flourishing

So many of my blog posts over this last year and a half have included images of or references to my garden, and I worry that I might be boring everyone with my growing personal passion for my outdoor space.

But to be fair, in an effort to survive emotionally on our pandemic-ridden planet my garden has necessarily become a huge part of helping me feel grounded in reality as the seasons progress. My daily world has effectively shrunk to the size of our property boundary, and I must admit that now I’ve got used to it, I find that’s perfectly OK with me.

Since 23rd March 2020 as a country we’ve either been in full stay-at-home lock-down mode or alternatively in varying degrees of Government-imposed restrictions (greatly reduced for now but still not fully lifted), and with the continuing rise in numbers of the Delta variant here in the UK, it may be some time yet before any return to any real semblance of ‘normality’ as we knew it.

Like millions of others I’ve had no option but to learn to live under whatever set of necessary restrictions are currently imposed on us, although thankfully it seems that some of us have been blessed with the wonderful circumstance of finding ourselves being nurtured by nature right on our doorsteps, in the privacy of our own gardens.

So for now I spend much if my time in my garden in a mutually beneficial relationship based on nourishing and flourishing, and I am content. Happily it looks like my garden is quite content with the arrangement, too πŸ™‚

Guests

I forgot what it’s like to host guests

Clean the house so it looks at its best

Tidy up random stuff

Make it look good enough

Hide the worst of our everyday mess

I’d got used to our lock-down delays

Quiet living and insular days

Covid curses no more

Cast bad spells on my door

Feels so strange to return to old ways

So we welcome old friends with a smile

And remark that it’s been quite a while

With great caution we start

With new joy in our heart

To embrace this post-Covid lifestyle

Weekly Prompt: Visitors

Up and Down

I’ve been feeling really up and down again this past week.

After my second dose of the Covid vaccine a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to find that after a good five months my sense of taste had pretty much fully returned and my excessive breathlessness was much better – two of my main Long Covid symptoms – so that was a definite ‘up’ moment, a real high for a few days. But I soon discovered that even though I’m breathing better I’m still finding ongoing fatigue a problem, I still seem to get a lot of headaches and my leftover cough isn’t improving either so that’s been a bit of a ‘down’ realisation.

So overall I’ve been feeling a lot better than I have done all year, but still not really fully back to normal.

And now I seem to have caught a cold so my sense of smell and taste is once more drastically reduced and my chest is starting to feel really tight and wheezy again, so I’m feeling really miserable and anxious. Part of me feels it’s definitely just a cold and it will all pass soon enough, but part of me is worried it’s maybe another big dip on the seemingly never-ending Long Covid roller-coaster ride – I’ve not felt well enough for long enough to be sure my symptoms are really gone for good or just teasing me, waiting for me to relax before pouncing on me again.

I must admit it gets me down, the not knowing. The how-long-is-a-piece-of-string-ness of it all. Nearly six months ago I caught Covid, luckily I wasn’t ever that sick and so thankfully I didn’t die. But somehow it’s still there in the background, niggling away, bothering me. I try to stay as positive as I can and push myself to do a bit more every day but it’s really knocked my confidence to not be able to trust myself energy-wise. I still get far too tired far too quickly and that makes me feel old before my time.

So as I said I’ve been feeling a bit up and down this week… 😦

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Up/ Down

Weekly Prompt: Garden

Two years ago we didn’t even have a garden, we were living in a one-bedroom first floor flat in London with no outside space at all.

And now here we are in a three bedroom bungalow in Inverness with garden front and back, and find ourselves slap bang in the middle of a pretty steep green-fingered learning curve. There are multiple really old rose bushes in the front garden just coming into bloom now, so I’m learning (generally by trial and error) how best to look after them and everything else plant-wise we inherited when we bought the house.

I’ve always loved spending time in nature and absolutely love having a garden, both in the passive and active sense, and our intention long-term is to grow some fruit and vegetables as well as flowers and shrubs so that our outdoor space can be practical as well as pretty. I’ve already added several herbs – lavender and thyme and rosemary and lemon balm – and intend to add a lot more scented plants as I go along.

Over this last year and a half since the Covid pandemic changed everything I’ve really appreciated having ready access to so much outdoor space, and my garden has become my little sanctuary in more precious ways than I could ever have imagined. I regularly cut the grass and pull the weeds and prune and dead-head and generally look after everything as best I can, only to find to my delight that as I nurture my garden it nurtures me in return.

British horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) said that ‘The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies’ and that’s exactly what I’m experiencing here – my plan for the future is I’m definitely going to become an old lady who potters in the garden, and I’m happy to report it’s a healthy habit I’m already starting to build now ❀

Weekly Prompt: Garden

Conspicuous By Its Absence…

I had Covid in January, thankfully just a mild infection (as in not hospitalised) but I certainly felt pretty crappy for a good couple of weeks – and OMG for months afterwards the ongoing tiredness and breathlessness and residual cough just would not go away.

I kept waiting in vain for everything to get back to normal but sadly for me the stubborn straggler symptoms of Long Covid seemed to be here to stay. Although my absent sense of smell returned relatively quickly, disappointingly my sense of taste didn’t improve much beyond the basic blunt-instrument differentiation between salty/ sweet/ spicy/ sour – sigh!

I’d read somewhere that for some people, having the Covid jab kick-started their system into a return to normal, so I had my first vaccine dose with high hopes of a similar response but although the grotty side effects certainly passed within a day or two, my Long Covid symptoms did not improve much. So I settled down to accepting (grudgingly) that health-wise I was likely to be in it for the long haul, and began to adjust my long-term thinking accordingly.

Last week I had my second vaccine dose, and this time around didn’t expect so much from it. However I was very pleased to find I had far fewer side effects this time – just a couple of days of extra tiredness, aching limbs and a thumping headache, but lots of rest and a few rounds of painkillers did the job. And to my surprise and delight now those minor irritations have passed I find I can actually breathe properly again, and day by day my sense of taste is subtly improving.

It may of course be total coincidence that things have started to return to normal for me at exactly the same time as I had my second vaccine shot – I mean it’s been five months since I first caught Covid, and ordinarily I would expect any post-viral fatigue to be naturally on the wane by this point.

All I know is that after five months of ridiculously laboured breathing after the least amount of exertion, my previous level of breathlessness is now thoroughly conspicuous by its absence and I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest. For the first time this year I feel like life might actually get back to normal after all, and oh, it feels so good! πŸ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Conspicuous

Enjoying Less

‘The secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less’

Socrates

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the course of this pandemic it’s that it is perfectly possible for me to be happy enjoying less.

Life has definitely shrunk somewhat over this past year and a bit, become smaller, more intimate and focused much closer to home, and I find I’ve got so used to it now I’m not sure I want it to be that different going forward into the future.

I’m truly enjoying spending so much time at home, especially in the garden, and there’s something timeless for me in sitting outside in nature, curled up on my garden bench in the sunshine, relaxing and reading and drinking a refreshing cup of tea… ❀

One Liner Wednesday

Rejoining the World at Large

After so many months of full lock-down life, then a partial lifting of stay-at-home restrictions to include outdoor-only stuff, to me it feels really weird to be considering going out of the house and into an indoor business premises with other people present for something more than picking up essential groceries.

Although most of our other shops have been open again since 26th April, personally I’ve been a bit slow at getting back to browsing just for fun. Over this last year caution has become the new norm for me and for now, unless I truly NEED to look for something specific, it seems I’m OK to wait a bit longer before returning to any real semblance of retail therapy…

And I do miss going for an occasional leisurely pub lunch with my husband but I’m not sure how long it will be before we try out that out again. Right now I feel that restrictions and relaxation make uneasy bedfellows, and the thought of eating on edge makes me hold back a bit. Time-limited dining in small, cordoned-off, see-through cells doesn’t really appeal to me in quite the same way as the collective camaraderie of the old days. It’s as if the whole experience by necessity truly is sanitised beyond the point of enjoyment for me.

So for now I’ll probably stick with my half-way-house approach to rejoining the world at large. Go shopping for things in indoor public places but only when I need to, and go out to pick up an occasional takeaway meal to enjoy at home with a bottle of wine from the fridge. Still support the local economy, but safely, cautiously maintaining my distance until I feel more confident that Covid is no longer such a viable threat to our future.

Whenever that may be…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘roc’

Hugs All Round

From Monday 17th May here in the Highland Region of Scotland we moved from Level 3 down to Level 2 Covid restrictions, which means lots of different things for lots of people. For me it means we are now allowed to visit in very small numbers indoors instead of being restricted to the garden, and we are allowed to hug people again!

Seriously, being allowed to hug the people I love most in the world is such a wonderful gift, my ageing parents and my adult children and my growing grandchildren… We’re normally quite a touchy-feely family so it’s been really difficult NOT to hug for months on end, always keeping our distance while only meeting up outside.

So without a shadow of a doubt that’s my Weekly Smile for this week – being able to hug my family again ❀ πŸ™‚