Saturday, November 28, 2015

The year rolls round

…and before we know it Advent is here again. I know it’s a sign of advancing age to comment on the fact, but I truly don’t know where this year has gone.  And what a year it has been.

As I write this on a dark November evening, with the wind battering the rain against the window by my desk, I am again filled with gratitude for my safe and cosy house and deeply aware that many are not so fortunate. 

I think of the thousands of refugees seeking shelter and sanctuary from the ravages of war and with foreboding of the many more who may be driven from their homes as the conflict in the Middle East intensifies. I remember with deep sadness the many lives lost or damaged in cruel attacks.

We are living through dark and difficult times and yet, as a Christian, I cannot help having hope as Advent begins. This wonderful season of anticipation, of promises made and fulfilled, of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, reassures me that there will always be light in the darkness and that the darkness will not overcome it. This message of hope and encouragement is wonderfully summed up in one of my favourite arias from Handel’s Messiah, to me the very spirit of Advent.

Image via Google

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A sense of déjà vu

One of the many advantages of writing a blog is the way it acts as a useful record of what has been happening in the life of a non-diary-keeper like me. Go back to this time last year and I am reminded that after a very busy October we had visits from my dear mother-in-law and DD and her family, with lots of board games and music practice, conversation and laughter. I’m also reminded that DD brought with her, and generously shared with me, a cold which gave me a persistent cough which lasted until the middle of November.

Now if you want to know what has been happening to me since my last post, you only need to go back and reread my first paragraph. Granted the busyness this October wasn’t due to moving house but to helping out every week in the parish plus a few other activities, but the rest is almost word-for word the same as last year, right down to the cold and cough.

The big difference from last autumn is that we’ve almost reached the middle of November and are still in Wales. Just like last year, we had been planning to head north as soon as our visitors had returned home. However when the time came we had no choice but to reassess the situation. On the one hand there was me, feeling distinctly under the weather with my bad cold, on the other was DH with an urgent and unavoidable series of dental appointments if he wants to be able to eat his Christmas dinner in comfort.

Very reluctantly we came to the conclusion we had to cancel this autumn’s visit, which is why we have been enjoying our first November in the new house instead. Not that the weather has been cooperating with us. After a wonderfully calm, mild and colourful October, November is now doing its best to add to our electricity bills with leaden skies that necessitate keeping the lights on all day and copious rain to ensure that the area doesn’t run short of water this winter.

Looking on the bright side, I’ve stopped coughing and can again blow hard enough to practise my sadly-neglected clarinet and I’ve finished not only my great-nephew’s sweater, but also yet another pair of socks for myself. I have all the ingredients for this year’s batch of mincemeat and, best of all, my recent mammogram came back clear. It will be a quiet winter here in Wales, but I’m looking forward to it.

The sweater finished at last

And the boy himself wearing it

Grandson#1 doing organ practice in a nearby village church

The view from my study on a calm, misty day in October

The last rose of summer safe on the kitchen windowsill

Friday, October 02, 2015

A moving anniversary

Oops! I really did mean to squeeze in a post before the end of September, but somehow it just didn’t happen.  The three weeks since our return to Wales seem to have flown by, with days full first of unpacking and sorting out, then of gardening, appointments and meetings, sermon-writing and service planning. In the evenings I’ve been busy knitting a sweater for my new great-nephew to the accompaniment of some favourite TV programmes.  I really don’t miss TV at all when we’re away, but it is definitely fun to catch up once we’re back home in Wales.

Talking of home, it was a shock to realise at the beginning of the week that it is already a year since we moved down from the hills into the valley. This time last year we were gradually transferring our furniture and other possessions from the old house to the new and struggling at times to work out how to fit everything in. I find it reassuring to realise that the overwhelming  sense of newness and strangeness I was so conscious of last October has long since worn off.  Now when I talk or think of home, this is the house I mean.

It has been a year of discoveries – gradually getting to know our kind and friendly neighbours and enjoying the little treasures of a new (and flat!) garden and the pleasure of being within walking distance of the village. The county council is even in the process of constructing a proper footpath from our road junction to the edge of the village centre which will save me having to leap onto the grass verge out of the way of oncoming vehicles. I can’t wait for it to be finished! It has also been lovely to discover how hospitable a house this is, able to absorb visitors comfortably and enjoyably, with three different visits on the calendar for this month alone.

Is there room for a little footpath?

My tiny flowerbed in June

And in September after 3 months away

As it happens there is another anniversary early this month, one which I am even more grateful to be able to mark every year. Ten years ago, on the 4th of October 2005, I had a mastectomy after my second diagnosis of breast cancer. For a few frightening weeks after finding that second lump, I had to face the possibility that perhaps this time the prognosis wouldn’t be as good as it had been after my first diagnosis 8 years before. Thankfully my worst fears weren’t realised and I am fortunate enough to have ten full and happy years to look back on since that significant date.

Now I’d better post this and finish getting ready for an all-day meeting tomorrow and the service I’m taking on Sunday. I may be starting to wear out here and there (don’t mention the word ‘knee’ at the moment) but I’m not going to rust if I can help it.  Life is too precious to be wasted.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

On the cusp of autumn

I’m writing this in the warm, humid twilight at the end of what is forecast to be the last hot day of our summer here in Normandy. It’s over two months since we arrived and only just over a week before we return home to Wales. In all that time, for a variety of reasons which I won’t bore you with now, I’ve only managed to publish one post.

Oh, I’ve often thought about doing so, and have mentally sketched out several posts, but none have come to fruition. Today I realised that if this went on much longer I would imperceptibly become an ex-blogger and I’m really not ready for that to happen yet.  So what has been going on over the past couple of months in our French neck of the woods?

The answer is not a great deal. It’s been a very quiet summer, with no visitors staying this year. DH has been busier than usual at times, dealing with clients’ problems, while I’ve been occupying myself with the usual pleasant round of gardening and knitting and cooking, with the occasional garden club visit or village fete thrown in for good measure.

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent rather a lot of time with my feet up, nursing a sore leg, and not enough time practising my sadly-neglected clarinet. Because sitting at the computer with my leg up isn’t easy, reading has tended to be novels, rather than blogs and I’ve missed too many of your posts. Perhaps I should treat myself to that tablet after all!

Nevertheless it’s been another contented summer in our beloved small corner of Normandy. On the whole the weather has been much better than last year, often sunny and warm, particularly in July, and occasionally far too hot for us native Northerners. After the last busy year, with the house move and my broken wrist, we feel rested and ready for our return to Wales and our autumn activities. Who knows, I might even manage another post before we leave…

Morning mist

Midday haze

Evening clarity

Apple picking time

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A time of adjustment

My last post was written just 3 days before we set off on our journey to Normandy and since then a lot has happened. After spending a couple of days with my dear mother-in-law, we visited DS and his family for the weekend and finally arrived here just before midnight a couple of weeks ago.

As soon as we arrived we made the unwelcome discovery that, for the first time in 12 years of ownership, we had been visited by mice over the winter. Spiders and their webs are always here to greet us, but mice have been conspicuous by their absence until now. Thankfully they appear to have departed, having obviously decided that our settee cushions aren’t to their taste, after having sampled all but one of them.

The next discovery was that it now takes us longer than in previous years to recover from the preparations and the journey. No longer do we spring from our beds the morning after our arrival, ready to do battle with the cobwebs and unpack the van in less time than it takes to tell. We were very tired and knew it, so the cleaning and unpacking stretched over a couple of days or more before the last box and bag were emptied and the contents put away.

After that it was the turn of the garden. The third discovery was that the tree surgeon had done a wonderful job of cutting down and clearing away the three big poplars and our beloved cherry tree, leaving us only a pile of cherry logs and yet more ruts in the grass where his heavy equipment had unavoidably compressed the winter-wet ground. Cutting the grass in some parts of the garden now feels like pushing a mower over corrugated iron and DH has just invested in a mattock to help level the worst of the ruts.

On the positive side, we’ve discovered that even without our magnificent cherry tree the garden still looks attractive and my little flower border is flourishing as never before.  The garden table and chairs sit well in the lesser shade of the cherry tree on our boundary and we are discussing with the tree surgeon the purchase and planting of not one but two trees to replace the coeur de pigeon – a black cherry and an eating apple.

Another positive is the weather, which has been warm and sunny almost all the time since we arrived and indeed last week became very hot for a few days, though nothing like as sweltering as further south in France. It has been lazy weather, conducive to sitting in the shade with a book, rather than racing around the garden with a mower, and my mental processes almost went onto standby for a while, hence the lack of posts.

Today is cool and rainy, freshening up the vegetation and making me feel awake enough to string more than a couple of thoughts together. I’m starting to plan ahead again and look forward to our normal pleasant summer pattern of meeting up with friends, knitting and chatting happily at the weekly craft afternoon, and getting lots of healthy exercise in the garden. We’re even getting regular visits from last year’s kittens, now lithe and wary young cats who recognise a couple of mugs when they see them. Oh, and the jam apricots are now in the shops again…