Proud Aunty Moments

My nephew has mental health issues.  He won’t mind me saying this as he’s very open about it and will talk about it to anyone who’ll listen.   

After a particularly bad day at work a couple of years ago, someone suggested to him that he tried bird watching as a way to relieve stress.  He took to it like a duck to water (no pun intended) and, combined with his love of photography, is building up quite a following on Instagram and Twitter.  He’s also been invited to write a couple of pieces for birding magazines.  

The thing he’s most proud of, though, is setting up a group called Bird Therapy which promotes the benefits of bird watching on mental health.  In April, he spoke about Bird Therapy at an event in Cambridge called ‘Earth Optimism Day’.  He spoke for an hour and a half and, at the end, a gentleman in the audience asked to be introduced to my nephew as he had been so impressed and wanted to discuss the issue further.  My nephew agreed to the introduction (as I said, he’ll speak to anyone about it who’ll listen) and found himself shaking hands with Sir David Attenborough!  Radio 4 was also at the event recording some segments for use in a program they were putting together.   The producer had listened to my nephew’s presentation and asked if he would like to contribute to their ‘Tweet of the Day” series – a two minute piece each day where a bird watcher, famous or otherwise, talks about a particular bird they’ve encountered and a short clip of birdsong is played.  My nephew recorded three pieces; one has already been featured and a second one is to be played later this month.The family is just so proud of him.

Things That Made Me Happy Today (1)

Waking up at a decent time without the need for an alarm call.  I was awake just before 6.00am and would, quite happily, have gone back to sleep for an hour but I hadn’t reckoned on the cuckoo clock.  I’d always wanted a cuckoo clock so my husband bought one some years ago as a birthday or Christmas gift.  It’s lived in a couple of places around the house but is now, for some reason, on the landing, just outside my bedroom door.  Although it’s battery powered, the cuckoo is light activated.  It means that it doesn’t go off through the dark hours of night but, come summer, as the mornings become lighter, it starts cuckooing at 6.00am.  That put paid to any thoughts I had about an extra hour’s sleep.

Reading in bed before getting up.  Ok, so it’s rubbish reading material but it’s just right for early morning or late night reading when I can’t be bothered to concentrate on anything more meaningful.  I started reading this magazine, or comic, as we’ve come to call it, 18 months ago.  I had, over the new year, had a couple of falls due to fainting so, when my husband went out to do the shopping one morning, he decided it would be unsafe to leave me alone in the house and I went with him.  I couldn’t manage to go round the shops with him so I waited in the car, having first complained that I’d forgotten to take a book with me.  This prompted him to buy me this comic.  Unfortunately the issue he bought had the first instalment of a 6 week serial in it so I had to buy the next 5 issues to find out what happened.  Halfway through this serial another serial started so I then had to continue buying it to find out what happened in the new serial.  And so it went on.  I’ve ended up with a subscription which renews every three months or so and I can’t be bothered to cancel it.

Getting my new glasses.  I’ve been under the care of the eye clinic at our local hospital for the last two years as my optician  wants to be sure that the cancer hasn’t spread to the backs of my eyes.  The consultant has advised me not to have my eyes tested while I’m still his patient, just in case there are any changes to my eyes.  I keep expecting to be discharged as the consultant is sure that my eyes are fine.  He hasn’t discharged me so I’ve had no choice but to ignore the advice as my glasses were becoming increasingly unsuitable.  The optician has told me that my prescription has ‘gone up by two steps’ (whatever that means) and I’ve got new specs.  What a difference!  I can finally see properly again.  Which a bonus, obviously. 

Being complimented on my appearance.  Well, not my appearance as such but my choice of clothing.  Today I’ve been wearing a new, red linen skirt and red/cream striped sailor top from my favourite online clothes shop, Seasalt of Cornwall.  I was also wearing a pair of matching red flip-flops.  Two strangers independently told me how nice I looked which, considering I don’t consider myself pretty, or even vaguely attractive was very flattering.

Having a Cornetto after my tea.  My weekend treat is a Cornetto after tea on Friday and after lunch on Sunday. 

Spending time with Marbles.  It’s been a couple of days since I last saw him so it was nice to get him indoors for some quality purring time with him.

It’s surprising, when we put our minds to it, just how much we have in life to be thankful for.

Catching Up

The WordPress app has finally decided to stop crashing every time I open it and I can, at last, post something.  I was going to post the drafts I’ve made each day but it’s now been a week since I last posted I decided not to bother.  Just one short catch-up post will do.

So, Saturday.   I ticked off another item on my things to-do list by going to the Leo Sayer concert in Huddersfield Town Hall.  Neither of us had been to Huddersfield before and we got hopelessly lost.  The sat-nav was worse than useless and the road signs in the town were rubbish so we just kept driving round and round hoping for the best.  We knew we were getting closer to the venue from the mileage indicator on the sat-nav, but then the numbers started going back up so we knew we were heading away.  We became quite expert in rapid illegal u-turns and creeping the wrong way down one way streets just to get ourselves back on the right road.  Eventually we found a bay of disabled spaces so decided to park there even though it might mean a bit of a walk, then I realised I’d left my Blue Badge at home.  We had to move on.  A few more illegal manoeuvres later brought us to an almost deserted Pay and Display carpark which we thought would do except we couldn’t find the pay point.  An enquiry made to a young woman who had just parked her car got the answer “No pay today.  Machine, he broke.”  Bonus- a free car park.  Double bonus – it was right next door to the Town Hall!  We had unintentionally found where we were looking for, it was free, and couldn’t have been closer than if we’d parked on the Hall’s doorstep.  I never look forward to an evening out because of this sort of thing but, once arrived, I usually enjoy whatever the event is.  And this was no different.  The show was excellent, the band did a fine job and Mr Sayer played all his old hits, plus some album stuff which I wasn’t familiar with.

On Sunday, to Scunthorpe hospital for my regular 4 monthly scan.  That was pretty uneventful.

Monday and Tuesday, nothing to report although our eldest son came for his tea on Tuesday.

Wednesday, our youngest son got a new car.  He came round late in the evening to show it off.  It’s very posh.

Thursday, Election Day and I went for an eye test.  My eyesight has changed so much over the last 3 months that my current glasses are no longer adequate so a new prescription has been issued and I pick my new glasses up next week.

On Friday we woke up to find that the Tories had won the election, sort of, but can only form a minority government, relying on support from the DUP.  Expert opinion is that this is not a good idea and wont last.  The good news is that UKIP were wiped out and they no longer have any MPs.  The leader Paul Nuttall has stepped down which leads to the bad news – Nigel Farage has said that he has no choice but to return to British politics.  

I haven’t seen much of Marbles all week.  The bad weather has confined him to his house and he’s been reluctant to even cross the patio to come indoors.   My husband sees him every day when he goes out to feed him and, on Friday morning, after I’d gone to work, this was his chosen perch (Marbles, that us, not my husband).

The Generosity of Strangers

On Thursday evening (or was it Friday morning), we noticed a small tray of seedlings perched on our back wall.  Further investigation revealed them to be tomato plants.

As you can see from the photo, there is a bungalow over the wall sitting side-on to us with the front garden behind the tall wall.  We know that the occupant has a vegetable plot in his back garden so it’s unlikely he was planting tomatoes in the front and, even if he was, why would he have put the tray of plants in a place which was awkward for him to reach?  Could he have left them there for us?

When I got home from work on Friday I found that the answer to this last question was ‘yes’.  I have never met the man over the back wall, never spoken to him and wouldn’t recognise him if I did see him.  However, at some point on Friday my husband was in our garden and this man, we think his name is Barry, called to him to tell him that the plants were his surplus and he thought we might like them.  Wasn’t that kind?  Six free tomato plants from someone we didn’t know.

Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful but I don’t really want them, or need them.  I sowed some tomato seeds in January which have just sprouted.

I grew tomatoes in my greenhouse last year and the fruits which fell to the ground have self-seeded.

I’ve got more tomato plants than I know what to do with.  A couple of the women I work with enjoy gardening and would like to be self-sufficient but small gardens and a lack of allotments makes it difficult.  I’ll take my own surplus into work and see if anyone is interested.

I’ve decided that Marbles is a socialist cat.  A leaflet from the Tory party was delivered today.  Marbles promptly sat on it with his bottom positioned directly over the local candidate’s face.  Wise cat – I think I’ll put him on the electoral roll.IMG_3119


A Better Offer

Marbles sat with me for half an hour today, doing that thing that cats do so well – reading my newspaper through his bottom.  Why does he always choose the time I’ve set aside for newspaper perusal to sit on my lap?   But then he heard noises from the kitchen which quite often means that food is on the way.  He got a better offer and that was it – he was off.  He hasn’t seemed well since his trip to the vet on Tuesday.  We thought it was because of the heat but it’s been wet and cooler today and he seems no better.  I’ll keep an eye on him over the weekend and hope he perks up.

First Day of Summer

I decided yesterday that the first day of the Summer is today, 1st June. 

I got up early to listen to my nephew, a keen bird watcher who writes about the therapeutic benefits of bird watching on mental health, present ‘Tweet of the Day’ on Radio 4.  It was only a two minute segment in which we heard some bird song from the Skylark and Joe talking about a walk he took during which he encountered six of the birds.  He spoke beautifully and we could really hear the passion he has for his bird watching.  A Proud Auntie Moment indeed.As I was up so early, I took a few quiet moments to just gaze out of the window and observe the early morning light and sky.  We live in a fairly rural area so it’s always very peaceful at that time of day.My plans for June have started well.  I had my own quiet early morning celebration of the start of Summer, I’ve started reading a good book, and I’ve done a couple more rounds of one of my blankets.No sign of Marbles today; he’s been about and has eaten his food but I haven’t seen him. I don’t like days when I don’t see him.

I shouldn’t complain but the heat today has been quite oppressive.  It has left me feeling very tired.  It’ll be an early night for me tonight.

Things To Do In June

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, or mid-year resolutions. I don’t even have long term goals. I do, however, set out at the beginning of each month a short list of things to achieve that month. Here are my things to do in June. 
Celebrate the start of Summer. There is some debate at the start of every season whether the season starts on the first day of the relevant month, i.e. March, June, September and December, or at the equinox or solstice. I’m opting for 1st June as the start of Summer. I have good reason for being up early on Thursday (my nephew is delivering a short segment on Radio 4 at 05.58 on the song of the Skylark) so I will use my early rising as an opportunity to enjoy the sunrise over the rooftops and fields I can see from my bedroom window

Go to a concert. This is a bit of a cheat as we’ve had the concert tickets since the end of January and the concert just happens to be in June. We’re going to see Leo Sayer perform in Huddersfield town hall. I wouldn’t call my husband a fan of Leo Sayer but he does enjoy his music and as the tickets went on sale in time for his 60th birthday my sons decided to get them as a birthday treat. Although, thinking about it, I ordered the tickets and the boys have never paid me for them

Finish two crochet WIPs. Specifically the two near identical blankets I intend to give as Christmas presents

Have my hair cut. This might seem a surprising thing to find on the list as most people have their hair cut on a regular basis. Not me, though. When I was told in December 2015 that my cancer had come out of hiding and was spreading, I knew that the chemotherapy would cause me to lose my hair. Again. So I last had my hair cut in October/November 2015 and it has taken until now to grow back enough to now need cutting

Read a good book. I generally read psychological thrillers or crime novels. While these are a step up from the ‘chic-lit’ I was reading when my treatment left me too tired to concentrate, they couldn’t be described as classical or ‘modern classical’ literature. Currently on my bedside table (or Kindle) I have On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I’ve already read On Chesil Beach (which I can remember only vaguely) and Brooklyn (which I can remember even more vaguely) but I’ve never read ATLWCS. I think I’ll start with On Chesil Beach

Cat Wrestling

Marbles had to go the the vet this morning for his annual vaccinations.  My eldest son took him so that I and my husband didn’t have to take time off work.  However, he did ask me to wait before going to work so that I could help him get Marbles into the cat carrier.  

And what fun that was.  We started by trying to get him in head and front paws first.   That was relatively easy but would his back legs go in?  No.  They were braced against the carpet and there was no way they were going in that carrier.  So, we decided to reverse him in.  The back legs went in, just, but the tail remained obstinately waving at us from outside the box.  Surely if we got his rear end further into the box the tail would follow?  Again, no.  The front legs were braced this time, immovable and rigid.  Have you ever tried to fold a cat in half?  Well, don’t.  Cats don’t bend.  This was where brute force had to come into play.  A gentle shove, a plaintiff meow, and he was in.  He wasn’t amused and he was cowering at the very back of the carrier but at least he was in.  At this point my son suggested, rather wisely, that he would let the vet put Marbles back in the carrier at the end of the visit.

The trip to the vet was uneventful and, wouldn’t you know it?  Once the vet had finished, Marbles just crept quietly back into the carrier, ready for the journey home.  

I haven’t seen him since.  He obviously hasn’t forgiven me for this morning’s indignities.  

Works in Progress 

I don’t understand why crocheters have Works in Progress (WIPs). Yarn isn’t cheap. Even cheap yarn isn’t cheap. So why invest time and money in a project, get part way through it and then abandon it when something better comes along.But now I find myself guilty of doing the very same thing. I have four, potentially five, WIPs. All I can say in my defence is that I do, at least, have plans, even a timetable, to finish them all.

The first, potential, WIP is a series of seasonal wreaths. I say that this is a potential WIP as the entire project is for five wreaths, one for each season and one Christmas wreath. The seasonal wreaths are finished and could be displayed as they are except that I had always planned to embellish them with felt flowers or birds and the Christmas wreath is yet to be started

Next, I have two almost identical blankets. These are so close to being finished but, as I intend them to be Christmas presents, I feel that there is no rush to finish them. I imagine getting to the end of November and then panicking because I won’t have time to complete them

Finally, two Tunisian blankets. I started the purple one first knowing how big I intended to make it without realising just what a mammoth task it would be. The original plan was to make it 10 x 10 squares but my thinking now is to scale it back to 6 x 10 squares. That means I’m halfway through it, not including the border. The green one is made from Caron cakes Blueberry and Kiwi yarn. I bought the yarn because so many crocheters were enthusing about it so I decided to give it a go. I bought two cakes with no real plans, found myself making another blanket and will now have to buy another three cakes to finish it offI don’t think I’ll be seeing much of Marbles today. It is tipping down with rain here (well, it is a Bank Holiday) so he is yet again staying in his shed. He can’t even be persuaded to scamper across the garden to get into the house. Wise cat.

Keeping Cool

Marbles has been a sensible cat today.  He’s either stayed in his shed or in the conservatory, staying cool.  He’s got plenty of water but is off his food because of the heat.
I’ve been wandering around the garden, looking at stuff and regretting not being more active out there earlier in the year.  Last year my sister acquired an interest in gardening and a bit of healthy competition developed between us.  Our mum bought us a plant each.  We both managed to keep them alive over winter; this is hers now

and this is mine

A bit of TLC for this beautiful plant earlier in the year and I, too, could have had it flowering by now.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that, no matter how suitable they are for gardening, Crocs are the sweatiest, ugliest shoes ever to be invented

It’s been too hot to crochet today.  If I had done any I wwork I’ll have either continued with this blanket 

or this bag

It started life as a Mochila style bag but I got so tied up, literally, with the colour changes within a row that I gave up after less than one row and converted it to a striped bag.