A Cornucopia of Colour

This time last year we didn’t even have a garden. We were still living in a first floor one bedroom flat in London with no outside space at all, wondering if we would ever get moved back to Inverness as we hoped. And now here we are the proud owners of a beautiful 1930s bunglow with a mature garden front and back, wondering how we ever got so lucky.

My new long-term life plan is to metamorphose into an old lady who potters about in the garden. Gardens need to be nurtured regularly, and that proactive love and attention inevitably takes time and effort but my aim in the next ten years or so before I retire is to create a garden that remains visually abundant yet is reasonably labour efficient to maintain.

It’s proving to be quite a steep learning curve. A combination of trial and error decisions conducted in a barrage of baby steps and a substantial application of patience. But I’m determined to get there in the end, because I’m finding a garden to be – as long as you apply a consistent level of care and commitment – the gift that keeps on giving, a cornucopia of colour from one end of the spectrum to the other.

These images were all taken in my garden yesterday – almost a full rainbow’s worth in one fell swoop, as long as you apply a little artistic licence with respect to the accuracy of colour banding 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Baby

Flower of the Day

Cranky

I feel cranky and grumpy as hell

But what ails me I just cannot tell

Heavy chest, feeling rough

Yet no fever or cough

And a perfectly good sense of smell

I’m so tired of feeling this way

Short of breath on and off through the day

Tightness tugs as I breathe

Getting old, I believe

Childhood asthma returned? Who can say…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Cranky

Half-Baked Idea

With respect to purchasing ready-made food items that turn out to be disappointingly unpleasant to the palette, exactly what kind of half-baked idea is a ‘soft-bake’ cookie?

Supermarkets here in the UK regularly bake different flavoured cookies in-store and bag them up in fours or whatever to sell fresh, but whereas they used to be properly cooked through, crisp and crunchy on the outside and only just slightly chewy in the middle, nowadays what they call ‘soft-bake’ always seems to be the preferred option.

And I truly don’t understand where that idea came from because soft-baked, in my book, simply means half-baked, and the resulting pale, insipid, limp sad excuse for cookies taste decidedly underdone. All too often these pallorific cookie weaklings can’t even support their own weight when held up, sagging most unbecomingly through lack of structural support.

And while I’m in rant-mode since when did cookie dough become a flavour to crave, semi-raw and solid indigestible chunks – yuk! Selling cookie dough flavoured anything as a finished product is about as appetising as selling raw cake batter as a tasty snack. Nice enough when licked off a spoon in small quantities at home, but not when swallowed in bulk as a staple food source.

So anyway, on the rare occasions I buy any supermarket in-store bakery cookies these days, I always find I basically have to finish baking them off in a nice hot oven for at least five minutes or so until they become a structurally sound golden brown and able to hold their own, and only after cooling again on a wire rack do they become in the least bit edible… Grrr… 🙂

Monday Peeve

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Apropos

Expectation and Disappointment

I’ve definitely been feeling decidedly pensive over the last few days…

I hadn’t realised how much I’d been looking forward to Scotland moving to Phase 2 of easing lockdown restrictions from yesterday, with the expectation that the original roadmap plan set out weeks ago would be followed. But although we have indeed moved on to a Phase 2 of sorts, the initial tentative plans have now had to be altered and it feels like nothing offered has helped ease my particular situation, or at least enough to make any practical difference to where we were before, and I’m so disappointed.

I listened with mounting hope to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making her update statement live on television on Thursday, but as the new reality of her words slowly sank in, instead of celebrating as I’d expected, I sat and cried. I do understand exactly why things are as they are – outdoor transmission of Covid 19 is low, but indoor transmission is still problematic so for most of us, indoor gatherings of any size are out – but still, it hurts.

I’d hoped at least to have a fixed date for returning to work – but sadly, the store I work in is enclosed within a shopping mall, so no re-opening for us yet. And although I’d really hoped for a move towards being able to meet family members indoors, that’s still not happening yet either. Outdoor garden visitors are now allowed to come in to use the loo as long as they touch nothing else, and we can meet up outdoors with more than one household a day but groups can still number no more than eight, social distancing is still required as before, and overall travelling distance is still restricted.

It’s not the end of the world, I know, but it really shocked me to be so overwhelmed with disappointment at the minimal changes possible for me – I hadn’t realised I was holding on so tight. I know it’s excellent news for single people and single parents with young children to be able to create an extended household with no social distancing required, but I’m not in that situation. I know it’s excellent news for all shops opening directly onto a street to be able to open again at the end of this month, but I’m not in that situation either.

So in the meantime I’m left alone with my brooding thoughts much of the time while my husband is at work, and I just have to get on with it all as it is… I watch as new infection numbers rise across the world where many places have re-opened too soon, and on the whole I feel relieved that here in Scotland we’re playing a cautious waiting game, but still… I’m tired of everything feeling so stuck and stagnant, and I just want it all to be over so we can feel safe again, meet up again, be together again with hugs and laughter…

One day we’ll get there, and if all this self-sacrifice and social restriction means I can get through this pandemic without losing any family members to Covid 19, it’ll all be well worth it in the end. But until that time, what we can’t cure, we must endure… Sigh! 😦

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Pensive

Meh-nopause

Let me start by saying – my blog, my experience, my opinion, so I understand that other mature women will probably have very different ideas on the topic. In fact I know I might feel very differently about menopause myself in a year or so, once I get more used to it – but right now this is how I feel about it all.

Right now I’m finding that menopause feels meh. And when I say ‘menopause’ I don’t mean that whole extreme peri-menopause period which felt a bit like puberty in reverse – all dramatic hormonal upheaval and irregular bleeding and mood swings and hot flushes and night sweats forever and a day. I mean the what comes after that, the ‘pause’ bit.

Without a doubt peri-menopause was difficult enough to deal with in that I found the long-term erratic disruption of my natural, familiar bodily rhythms both physically and emotionally draining. Because for me, forty-odd years of monthly menstrual cycles only ever interrupted by three straightforward pregnancies didn’t go at all gently into that good night, but most definitely raged and then raged some more against the eventual dying of the light!

It was certainly a tough time, which coincided with several other tough times in life, and emotional upheaval was the name of the game for a good few years until my now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t hormone levels finally gave up the ghost for good, and at the end of last summer we marked the end of that extended period of life turmoil by selling up and moving to where we live now. So now here we are, happily living in the house we intend to make our forever home, able to settle down properly at last.

And then only a few months later coronavirus came, and now here we are in lockdown… And lockdown feels meh too. So for now, for me, the combination of getting to grips with the realities of menopause and the too-much-time-on-my-own-to-think closed-in-ness of lockdown means life feels altogether a bit too meh for my liking right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love that we live here, and I love that all the practical upheaval of difficult stuff is over at last.

I love that I don’t have a diary punctuated periodically by coded symbols indicating bouts of bodily bleeding. I love the money I save in not regularly having to buy sanitary products any more. I love no longer having unsightly hormonal skin breakouts every month. And I really love that I don’t feel like a screaming banshee on steroids anymore, or end up dissolving into floods of tears every five minutes or so for no reason at all, just because my huffy hormones are in a strop.

So no more up-and-down-in-mood menstrual cycles for me, and no more all-over-the-place peri-menopausal symptoms either. Instead I’m simply left with the interminable flatness of menopause, made all the more noticable right now by the interminable flatness of life in lockdown where every day for me feels like groundhog day. I spent so long wishing for a peaceful life, inside and out, and it feels like now I have it, I don’t actually know what to do with it.

I know I’ll get used to it eventually, the flatness, and no doubt in time I’ll find it liberating to be free of the stormy upheavals of hormonal fluctation. I’m sure I’ll come to love the internal peace that such a flat calm brings to the previously undulating turbulance caused by the natural ebb and flow of female life. But right now, for me menopause feels meh, and there’s nothing I can do to make it feel better but wait until it does… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Mature

An Ordinary Life

All I want is a quiet, ordinary, unassuming life, full of simple, peaceful pleasures. I’ve been out in the garden for much of the day today; washing drying on the line, weeding getting done, darting little birds following me around at a distance, curious to see what else I might have dug up along with everything else.

In many ways ours is just an ordinary garden, nothing spectacular but oh, how I really enjoy spending time outside in my own private space. There’s just something about being at one with fresh air and green grass and flora and fauna that feeds my soul, lifts my mood as if by magic. I’m definitely an outdoor girl at heart.

Earlier on I was sitting on the conservatory doorstep having a well-earned tea-break, thinking that seriously, this is definitely the kind of lifestyle I could get used to. And then I realised that this is actually my life now. Even once lockdown is over, this is still my garden, and I can still spend as much time in it as I want 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Ordinary

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Believe erroneously that being ‘I the President’ matters more than serving ‘We the people’

Behave like an obnoxious dictator in a supposed democracy

Openly admire the alleged ‘strength’ of potential world enemies and scoff contemptuously at the apparent ‘weakness’ of previously proven global allies

Defy diplomacy and insult international institutions with myopic mockery

Insist on your clearly skewed version of events and postulate ‘alternative facts’ even when multiple media evidence and expertise available across the world shows you to be delusional in the extreme

Dismissively denounce and discredit anyone who disagrees with your ‘trumped up’ versions of reality as fake or phony

Behave like a racist, sexist bigot and be ignorantly proud of your incendiary racist, sexist bigoted behaviour

Take a lifetime of loser-ish narcissistic need to new levels of arrogant audacity

Use bullying, puffed-up posturing and pathetic Alpha-male swaggering to try to cover your laughably obvious-to-the-rest-of-us inferiority complex

Suggest seriously stupid stuff and think you are a very smart, very stable genius

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Alienate

Not Around the World in Eighty Days

Today is our 80th day of lockdown here in Scotland. For the last two weeks we’ve thankfully had a slight easing of restrictions in that we’re allowed to meet another household out of doors only while maintaining social distancing, but as far as any semblance of ‘back to normal’ goes we’re still a long way off.

And to be honest, as much as I rail against being told I must still stay at home, I can’t imagine choosing to travel anywhere much right now. I muse to myself that eighty days is double quarantine, forty days times two, and I hear myself singing quietly in my head ‘Eighty days around the world, de-da-de-da-de-daaah…’

The original story of Phileas Fogg attempting to travel ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ was written by Jules Verne in the early 1870s, but I’ve got the theme tune in my head from a cartoon series my kids loved to watch back in the 1980s loosely based on the same story. In the cartoon the main characters are all animals, led by lion Willy Fog.

Anyway, the point is, I realised that I’ve not been further than about a mile’s radius from home in any direction for at least the past 80 days. I go out for walks locally, I walk alternately to three different supermarkets all close to home when necessary, and only once in that time I’ve ventured as far as across the bridge into town, to visit the chemist.

Like for so many others, my world for now has become my house and my garden. We don’t have a car, and the thought of getting onto a bus, a train, or a plane unnecessarily most definitely feels like a risk too far. I imagine that even after lockdown is lifted and I can go back to work (also locally) that one mile radius is going to remain for a while.

I’ve learned to feel safe in my own home, protected from outside harm, and the thought of travelling around the world just for fun no longer sounds such fun after all. It sounds reckless, almost – selfishly indulgent in the cautious mood of this current pandemic. After all our modern-day ease of travel is how the virus has spread so far around the world.

I wonder how much life will change after this – will we all go back to winging around the world on a whim without a backward glance, or will some of our current caution remain? Will this become a watershed moment in history, leading to an international paradigm shift in everyone’s psyche? Who knows, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Risk

Cherry Coloured Twist

Sometimes my brain comes up with the strangest memories when prompted by just one word, however different the context. Fandango’s One Word prompt today is ‘twist’ and straight away a voice in my head muttered ‘cherry coloured twist’ and there I am, back in early childhood being read Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ by my mum.

We read all of Beatrix Potter’s little hardback books over and over again – I think they’re probably still there somewhere at my mum and dad’s house, actually – but my two favourites were always ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ and ‘The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies’. I think I liked the illustrations as much as the stories, they were so beautifully done.