That Was January

January obviously signifies the start of a brand new year with new beginnings and new year resolutions. As January emerges we are still in depths of mid winter – the mornings are dark and the afternoons seem to be cut short as the sun goes down early. Sometimes it’s so cold, dull and dismal that it doesn’t seem to come daylight at all and things can feel a little flat after the buzz and twinkling lights of Christmas.

Now we’ve reached the end of January and after months of bare trees and the bleak colours of winter, there’s something quite magical about spotting those first signs of spring. Although we can’t usually see it at the start of January, January isn’t only the start of the new year, but the start of a nature’s new year too.

Look amongst those black, grey and brown winter palettes and you will spy the first snowdrops emerging – bright white droplets suddenly livening up the landscape. There are daffodil and bluebell shoots pushing through and colourful crocuses, hellebores and aconites emerging. Brilliant yellow stars grace the winter Jasmine as it springs to life again. Spring plants fill the shops: it’s lovely to have daffodils, hyacinths and cyclamen indoors while we wait for spring to fully appear outside.

By the end of January, it’s still winter, but spring feels around the corner now and that fills me with hope and promise. A whole year of nature before me and a whole year of plans and hopes to fulfil.

This January has been a good one for me. Healthwise, I’ve recovered really well from all those bugs and infections I seemed to pick up throughout last autumn. Since the new year started, I’ve become better and better. I’ve managed to build up my exercise capacity through doing yoga, pulmonary rehabilitation exercises and walking and I’m still working on steadily increasing how much activity I can manage each week. I’ve managed to get my lungs working better again and they’re back to the baseline I’d reached back last summer and functioning at nearly 50% again now. I’m now hoping this good spell will continue on and that I can improve my lungs even more.

Better health has meant I’ve been able to get out and about a lot more and catch up with friends and family. I’ve been enjoying walks in the park with Ted and visiting new and old places and taking up my photography and writing again. I’ve felt that life has returned to some normality this January and it’s lovely to be back in the real world once more. Most of these things are simple and ordinary, but feel so special when you’ve been out of action for a while and unable to do them.

Most of all, I’ve had so much precious time with my grandson Freddie. We’d had to keep avoiding each other because of infections, but we’ve both been clear of bugs during January, so Freddie has been able to visit and have sleepovers with us. Best of all, it was Freddie’s first birthday last week, so we had lots of birthday celebrations and it felt one of those very special family milestones, which ended January on a big high. Encouraged by this, I’m looking forward to all the rest of the year ahead of us and watching Freddie taking his first steps next and becoming a toddler.

I’ve also said goodbye to my old mini car this month. I’d had her for over eleven years, but she’d become unreliable and had broken down quite a lot last year. With both the car keep breaking down and my health being so poor last year, I’d stopped driving altogether. This month, I decided to swap my old mini for a new similar model.  Now I’m feeling much better and have a reliable car again, I’ve started driving once more.

This January, I’ve begun to regain my independence back, which feels fantastic after relying on others so much when I’ve been poorly. I’m looking forward to enjoying my car even more as the days grow lighter and warmer.

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Out with the old, time for a new car

January was also a great month for Rob too. Rob has been directing a play at our local theatre, The Barn in Welwyn Garden City. The play, ’84 Charing Cross Road’ has   just finished running this last weekend and was a big success with good reviews and on several nights tickets sold out. The play is a true story and Rob and the cast and crew had a huge surprise on Saturday afternoon when the real life daughter of  Frank, one of the main characters, turned up unexpectedly to watch the show.

Frank’s daughter, Sheila, came back stage to meet everyone and I was privileged to be there. She showed us pictures of her family and father and gave us lots of background information about her father and also about the bookshop, its staff and Helene, the other main character. So all in all, it was a great end to the show after months of hard work by all the cast and crew. A lovely finish to the month for both Rob and myself.

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The cast with Sheila, Frank’s daughter, in the centre

And that was January. I’m now looking forward to more good health and good times for February…

How was your January?

January Days

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The days have been so grey and miserable during January so far, not very uplifting after all the glitz and fun of the festive season, but we have had an odd day where the sunshine did try and put in an appearance.

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Last Wednesday afternoon, the day brightened up after a very misty and wet start, so trying to make the most of it while it lasted, we ventured to one of our local parks, Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage. I had my camera in tow, which felt very uplifting, as it seems such a long time since I’ve been out and about enjoying my photography.

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We enjoyed spotting all the wildlife – the gulls, ducks, geese, swans, coots and moorhens and more.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves in the milder sunshine too. As we wandered around the lake, there was a threatening black cloud over in the distance, but the breeze was holding it off and it felt a much warmer day with a little sun shining down on us at long last.  Almost a pale promise of spring beckoning.

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I love all the redwoods down by the lake and at this time of year they stand out at their best and especially with the golden afternoon light flooding down on them.

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All was really pleasant and we headed around the lake towards the cafe. It felt warm enough to sit out and have a cuppa outside, as we were all wrapped up in warm coats and the usual hats, scarves and gloves for this time of year. We had Ted our dog with us and baby Freddie was sleeping soundly in his pram, so we needed to be outdoors. I enjoy sitting outside and looking at the views in the fresh air anyway, even in january.

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Unfortunately the wind started to blow in a new direction and the usual January big dark clouds seemed to lower down on us. Suddenly it felt very cold again and rain was in the air, so we skipped the afternoon tea and carried on our walk, managing to get home and dry before the heavy downpour began.

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It was lovely to see and feel the sun though, and enjoy a pleasant January walk. At home, I’d left a joint of pork slowly cooking ready for dinner. Nothing like hearty warming food on these cold winter days and the aromas of it cooking when you walk   back into the house from the cold and grey. Hot pulled pork, served on warm buttered ciabatta  bread with slow cooked winter veggies – delicious…

Childhood Memories

 

 

Have you ever wanted to revisit those memories of your childhood?

I’ve been visiting Cumbria the whole of my life, Rob and I spend a lot of our spare time there. We’ve visited so many places in the vicinity both touristy ones and those that are more out on the beaten track – the places to go are endless and there’s always somewhere new where we haven’t ever explored.

On a recent visit, I kept on thinking about a beach my family used to visit when I was a young girl. We’d had a few caravan holidays there – one had been during a glorious summer – you know one of those we often remember when we think of summer holidays in our younger days. We’d spent hours playing on that beach and paddling and splashing around in the sea.

We’d stayed again the following year – that time it rained and didn’t ever stop, so much so that in the end my parents packed all the bags up and we came home early.

The stay during the glorious summer is the one I recall. I decided to go in search of this lovely sandy beach at Sandscale Haws just for old times sake. I was totally delighted to find that it belongs to the National Trust and is designated as an outstanding dune habitat, which supports a wealth of wildlife including Natterjack Toads, rare plants and a wealth of bird life.

The beautiful sandy beach has far reaching views across the Lake District and overlooks the stunning Duddon Estuary – we often explore around this estuary and the River Duddon, an area of the Western Lakes that is relatively quiet and unspoilt.

It was a pleasure to rediscover it all over again.

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Continuing on the nostalgic theme, I had an overwhelming urge to have a drive through the Blackpool Illuminations – again it was something we always did as a family when I was young and again with my own children when they were little.

When we arrived at Blackpool, I couldn’t quite understand why it was so quiet.  I was remembering heaving traffic jams on the seafront, but on this visit we were the only car driving down by the promenade and there were hundreds of parking spaces.

It was as though we were experiencing our very own personal Illuminations display. We found out later that the light display had finished over a week ago and that they had put the Illuminations back on just for that evening because Strictly Come Dancing was being held in the Blackpool Tower. We had just got lucky!

It was lovely to take a few trips back to those memories of childhood and make more new ones.

 

 

Sunrise Over Dallham

It’s nearing the end of autumn as we head towards December. Although we’ve had some rainy and dull days here and there, I think it’s been a truly glorious autumn. We had a very dry spring, followed by quite a wet summer, which helped the thirsty trees play catch up. With that has followed some stunning tree displays, which have continued on through October and into November.

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There’s been some glorious sunrises too, and Rob and I were recently in Cumbria and took the opportunity to watch the sun come up over the Dallham Estate on a very cold and frosty morning.

 

A simple pleasure, but a priceless one. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the breathtaking sight of a brand new day dawning. It gives the sense of empowerment to start afresh and put yesterday’s stresses and worries away and into the past.