February

February seems to have come and gone with the blink of an eye – so different to January, which always seems the longest month of the year after all the festivities.

We celebrated Rose’s birthday at the beginning of the month and had a lovely trip to London to visit her and David and go out for lunch. We ususally drive to her flat in London, which makes it easier for me with my breathing problems and definitely makes it easier when the weather is cold as my breathing suffers more in the cold. It had actually been snowing the day before and was perishing cold.

A few weeks ago we visited the gardens at Benington Lordship, they open them every year, as they have a fabulous display of snowdrops. It’s always something I look forward to, as the days start to become a little longer. The weather had begun to change. It felt quite mild and the sun was out. The snowdrops didn’t disappoint and looked so beautiful. It’s always very uplifting to see them and feels like the start of the gardening and flowering season, with the whole year still ahead of us, days becoming lighter and longer and the sense that everything is starting to come to life again in the garden.

We went away to Nottingham soon after for a lovely family wedding, Rob’s niece’s. It was a beautiful wedding and the weather became surprisingly even warmer. We’d hired a cottage for us all and had a fabulous time.

Now we’ve reached the end of the month nearly and the weather has become even warmer, reaching up to 20 degrees in some places. Rob has actually mowed the lawn for the first time ever in February and the crocuses and daffodils are out in full bloom in the garden. Like many, I’ve been digging a few more summery things out of my wardrobe, but those big coats, jumpers and scarves and gloves are still out.

Last year’s February can be remembered for the bitter cold and the ‘Beast from the East’ storm and this year’s is going to be remembered for record temperatures and glorious sunshine. We started February with a little snow and we’ve ended with a beautiful early spring.

Wrest Park in Winter

January and February can be harder months for getting out and about. The weather can put us off, as it’s often very bleak and cold and days are shorter. It can be surprising how beautiful and different places can look at varying times of year. I like to revisit places throughout the year to see them in a different light and different way as the months and seasons change.

Wrest Park is a place we go to often, it’s an easy place for me to manage walking now I get quite breathless, as it’s fairly flat with good pathways. It’s very wheelchair and pushchair friendly, a great place to take our dog Ted and very child friendly when we bring little Freddie with us. There’s a great play area and a cafe where you can sit out. I like to sit outside, even in the depths of winter and bask in those snippets of sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. It can be very uplifting and I feel it’s important for my wellbeing both mentally and physically.

We have visited a few times this winter and it was a glorious sunny day when we went a few days ago. It looked such a contrast to summer, with frost lacing the ground and layers of ice over the water. There was an early morning mist, but the sun was breaking through, burning it away, which looked quite spectacular.

The birds were enjoying a good singsong as we walked through the woods and there were three beautiful cygnets ducking and dipping for food through the ice. A red kite kept on circling above us. And those first signs of spring – snowdrops about to open, trees in bud, daffodil shoots – all that promise of what’s ahead of us.

Winter time can be so underestimated, as there’s still so many beautiful things to see.

Autumn’s End

We’ve been so lucky to enjoy such a beautiful autumn this year and during November, I’ve been enjoying and savouring those last sunny days of autumn. There’s been so many glorious displays of colourful leaves both on the trees and on the ground.

The park looks different each day, as more and more leaves have fallen. Some fall gently like confetti on those still and sunny days and some have been blown away harshly on wilder, wet days. The trees are becoming more bare as we slide nearer to winter and the colder, darker months.

The landscape looks so different as the freshly fallen leaves cover the ground, there’s something special about walking in them, kicking them up in the air as you go. The flora in the woodlands has changed colours, now in its last flurry of golden browns and golds before much of it dies back and goes dormant for winter.

The low sunlight filters through the woodlands, illuminating those last snippets of russets, reds and golds. There are few leaves on the trees now as autumn clings on and we’re about to leave November.

Fields are still green, but the growing grass is slowing and the grass is wet and damp with mist and dew. The weather has turned colder and wetter this last few weeks, the skies grey and dull with mist and drizzle. The temperature has dropped and we’ve even had a few frosts. I prefer the cold frosts and a bright crisp day to the fogs and greyness of this late November. If it’s going to be winter very soon with the nights drawing in, hopefully we’ll have more bright, crispy cold days than those days when it doesn’t seem to come properly light somehow.

At least as we reach the end of November, and if there are grey, dull days, there’s the the glitz and sparkle of Christmas beckoning. It’s like a bright warming light in front of us. I already have my Christmas preparations underway. I usually start early having ended up in hospital seven of the last eight Decembers, I feel pressure to be organised ‘just in case’. I’m aiming very hard for a hospital free December this year and having just had a reasonable clinic, I’ve no plans to be back at hospital before January.

I’m established on preventative oral antibiotics and nebulised antibiotics to try and stave away the chronic pneumonia that keeps rearing in my lungs if I pick up an infection and to help with respiratory infections. So far, so good and I’m keeping busy with Christmas preparations and enjoying life while the going is good again. I’m also trying hard to avoid the winter bugs going around.

As we reach the last week in November, our family have already started our traditional run up to Christmas. We enjoyed our Papworth transplant group’s Christmas party on Saturday – the Christmas jumpers were out in force. On Sunday we went on the Santa Express at the Nene Valley Railway with all the family and little Freddie. It won’t be long before we’ll be bringing down the Xmas decorations from the loft and choosing the Christmas tree.

After a stunning autumn and great November, with Christmas looming there’s so much to look forward to as we head into December and winter.

Here’s to November

We start November and I feel that cringe deep inside about those long, cold winter months ahead and those shorter days and longer nights. I also have that fear of more bugs and hospital, which seem to have become a bit of a winter tradition in my life as much as Christmas is. As we move nearer to winter time, I find myself needing some motivation and inspiration to conjure up of all those good things about these darker months.

On the health front, I’ve had my flu jab and I’m on preventative measures to help my lungs over winter. I’m at clinic for checks every few weeks. I’m trying to keep fit, rest, eat well and avoid the bugs where I can. I know I’m as prepared and ready as can be, so it’s just a case of one step at a time and taking each day as it comes and fingers crossed to stay in good health.

As for the rest, the start of November has been such a pleasant surprise. It has been very cold compared to the milder temperatures we’ve had recently, but some of the days have been so glorious and sunny that we’ve wrapped up warm and been out and about in the countryside. We’ve been enjoying all what remains of the stunning autumn scenery – those golden trees and leaves against brilliant blue skies and fluffy, high clouds.

It’s scenes like this that have reminded me that the winter months can be just as much fun as those of summer and have me thinking of all the positive things to look forward to.

It’s lovely to dig out those warm winter coats and woollies, those snuggly scarves, hats and gloves in anticipation of cold, crisp walks with our dog, Ted. Those walks on a Sunday while a roast is cooking in the oven. The warm house and delicious smells when you return.

If you don’t want to cook, a country pub with a roaring log fire is hard to beat. I remember walking into a pub high up in the hills on our way back from Christmas shopping in Bowness last year. We were the first to arrive at lunch time and were given a huge welcome and told to sit by the fire – it was a perishing cold day. They piled more logs on the stove for us and we warmed ourselves while we waited for a delicious hot lunch.

Then there’s preparing hearty winter dishes for dinner, cosy dinners by candlelight and cosy nights by the fire with the curtains all drawn. The dog by my feet – or more often than not snuggled up beside me. Soft cosy clothes, socks and slippers. A cold and dark night is a great excuse to wrap up under a blanket in favourite chair and read or indulge in watching a box set or two. Of course, scented candles are a complete ‘must’ and that’s after a long pampering soak in a hot bath.

Then there are the glorious sunrises and sunsets to enjoy – the sunrises are late enough to catch a glimpse of when you wake up on a winter morning and the sun sets nice and early and well before bed time. Then the excitement of waking up to fogs, mists, heavy frost or snow – not so exciting if you have to go to work or travel – but beautiful if you can watch from inside and go about your day without the hazards to worry about.

Then there’s the glamour and glitz of ‘Strictly’ – now a recognised winter staple – the sparkly costumes, the fabulous dancing as we move through Halloween, Bonfire Night and towards Christmas.

Christmas – it’s probably the biggest most excitable thing looming as we step into November. November is the time I usually finish off buying all the presents and start the wrapping in readiness for December. I love a Winter Market or a Christmas Market. We’ve even managed to visit one already last week at Holker Hall and it was such a perfect sunny day – beautiful stalls with an assortment of wonderful goodies, warming pit fires, a live jazz band and delicious hot food and drinks.

I love the build up to Christmas – the anticipation, the preparations and then the actual festivities and day itself. Christmas shopping, Christmas carols, Christmas concerts and Christmas parties.

Well, I think I’ve found enough lovely things to think of for now to inspire and enjoy myself until January at least! What do you enjoy about the winter months?

Happy November everyone!

October Sunshine

October is nearly over – where did it go? It’s been such a glorious and beautiful month with plenty of warm mellow sunshine this year. The clocks have gone back soon and we enjoyed the benefit of an extra hour in bed. I always like it when we gain an extra hour, not so much when it’s the other way and we lose one though.

During this month I’ve still been recovering from a virus and pneumonia and so the beautiful weather has been a real boost. Being ill again has knocked my lung function down once more, so it’s been a case of keeping up the physio by exercising my lungs as much as I can. Hopefully some of my lung function will return and I’m hoping it will be back to the 48% or so I’d managed to get it to during the summer. Breathlessness is a thing I’ve now had to reluctantly accept back in life, as my lungs have deteriorated during the last few years. When my lungs work at around 50% though, I find I can manage and still get out and about for short walks and I’ve counted my blessings knowing from my past experiences and those of friends that things could be much worse.

The lovely sunshine has meant we’ve been able to get out and about with the help of my trusty old wheelchair to take the pressure off my lungs while they recover. I’m trying hard to build up my lung capacity again by walking as much as I can, but I’m still very breathless, so it’s literally one step at a time and the wheelchair in the meantime enables us to be out for longer and explore that much further when it’s a glorious day. I do intend for it to be only a temporary measure though. The weather has been very uplifting and great motivation while I tackle this blip.

I do love this time of year and autumn – Rob laughs at me and says, ‘But you love every time of year!’

I love trying to catch and hang on to those last snippets of summer. This year we keep saying, ‘This must be the last warm sunny day’. Each week, we keep on saying it, as the weather keeps on teasing us with higher than normal temperatures and warm sunshine.

At the same time as hanging on to summer, I’ll be excited about all that October and autumn have to bring.

I love the colours of October – the browns, golds, yellows, oranges, russets and reds and the way the flowers keep on flowering and flowering, pushing against time, as though they’re challenging nature before the first frosts appear. There’s been so much colour in the garden this October and so many gardens we’ve visited recently have looked stunning with banks of colourful dahlias, michaelmas daisies and remaining summer plants like roses, verbenas and salvias, which stubbornly refuse to stop blooming even though winter looms. The late flowers brighten up the garden and can light up the day.

Best of all I love the trees and leaves in October. I love how the colours change and how beautiful they look in the autumn sunshine when the sun is lower in the sky and has a deeper, golden hue. I love it when there’s a gentle breeze and the leaves trickle down slowly and then there’s carpets of leaves to wade through and kick beneath your feet.

I enjoy cooking more in autumn – October always seems to kickstart my cooking after the salad days and heat of summer – making hearty warming dishes and cooking up the apples from the garden – there’s a sense of preparing for winter and the colder days.

Of course, October always ends with half term holidays and Halloween. I like to join in the fun of it – Rob will carve out a pumpkin or two and I’ll make the obligatory pumpkin soup in the slow cooker. It’s a fun time for children and families and I love the see the wonderful colouful pumpkin and squash displays when we’re out and about. I like to have sweets in the house in readiness for the trick o’ treaters.

That’s my October. 🎃🎃🎃

September

It’s difficult to have a favourite month, as every month of the year has something special to offer. There’s always something unique to anticipate as each month looms on the horizon: from the festive month of December and all the hectic preparations for Christmas, to the peace, tranquility and perhaps even snow of January; from the anticipation of lighter evenings and warmer days during those spring months and the sunshine, heat and holidays of the summer.

September has always felt special to me though. I suppose it starts back from school days and the start of the school and academic year being September. September always feels like the time for a fresh start, new learning and new beginnings even more so than January when we’re supposed to reflect on the past year and think about new resolutions for the year ahead.

September was the month when Rob and I chose to get married and the month when I received my life saving transplant, so it’s a month that culminates in celebrations for our family. If I could have chosen which month to have received my transplant, it would have been September. For me, it truly is a month of new beginnings; a month to celebrate life and all it has to offer.

I always look forward to the weather in September, it’s usually cooler after the heat of summer, but still mild enough to be out and about enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. We’re usually lucky during this month as we often have plenty of sunshine and it’s calmer and quieter after the busyness of the school holidays.

We’ve just passed the Autumn Equinox, where the astrological year is marked by the sun crossing the earth’s equator from north to south. This marks the beginning of Autumn, nights drawing in and cooler weather. The meterological year marks the beginning of September as the start of autumn. Whichever way the start of autumn is defined, September is definitely the month where summer somehow manages to gradually ease into autumn. The garden defines this: we still have plenty of summer flowers – annuals still happily flowering along until the first frosts hit, but then many flowers have turned to fruits and berries, ripe for picking and preparing for winter.

For me, September is the month that leads us to crispy autumn walks, cosy warm evenings by the fire, enjoying the last of the warmer weather and then digging out those warmer winter jumpers and clothes. The beginning of a whole new season to embrace.

That Was August…

The days of August have flown so quickly. I think it’s because we’ve been so busy just enjoying life and the exceptional weather.

During the first few weeks we were away in the Lake District and then we had a week in south west Scotland. We experienced a wide range of weather from thirty degrees heat, to rain and stormy winds and then very pleasant sunny and cooler weather, which I enjoy most as I can breathe better and be more active.

We really tried to ‘pack it in’ and live those long summer days to the fullest, getting out and about from morning til dusk and visiting interesting places and catching up with family and friends.

Back home again for the rest of August, the weather continued to be good and we’ve also had a few welcome downpours after the last few hot and dry months. After turning yellow and dying back, the grass is bright green once again and the plants in the garden have sprung back to life. Many of the plants are enjoying a second flush of flowers.

Since we’ve been home, we’ve carried on enjoying the lovely summer days, catching up with friends, having days out. I’ve also managed to cram in lots of medical things, various scans and tests that have been pending that have all proved very positive and a full MOT at Transplant Clinic, which was a good one. So, all is as good as it can be on the health front.

For the first time in two years, I’d been allowed to go for three whole months without a clinic visit and I wasn’t fully convinced I’d stay the course, but I managed it and have to say that I’m feeling the best I have felt in a long time. Staying free from infection for a few months has definitely helped me get back on my feet properly at last. Summer has felt great because of this, as well as the beautiful weather we’ve had.  I’ve been pinching myself at times that I’ve actually got back to some normality and fitness after too many ups and downs with infections and hospital.

I’m optimistic now that this might continue. I’ve another three months off Transplant Clinic, although I’ve been referred back to UCLH now for the stomach fundoplication, as I’m fit and well again. This may throw a spanner in the works, but at least I’m in good enough health to go ahead with it and it needs to be done while I’m feeling fit. I’m already super-organised and have booked my flu jab, just trying to stay a step ahead of the game of battling infections.

One of the loveliest things we’ve been enjoying, has been spending time with family and in particular our little grandson Freddie. It’s been a sheer joy looking after him and taking him out and about on sunny days and just to enjoy watching him play out in the garden.

I treasure these special times with him. They are particularly poignant, as I enjoy every minute with him knowing it’s only thanks to my donor and their family that these moments have been made possible. A few years  ago, I wouldn’t have dared to dream of grandchildren.

Now we’re in September, it always was my favourite month, but with the anniversary of my transplant looming it will always be special and be held dear in my heart. It’s an emotional month for me and my family and we’re making lots of plans and looking forward to it.