A few new songs I’ve found in the last couple of months:
Wednesday 7 December 2016
Thursday 24 November 2016
If you’ve watched a BBC nature documentary recently (with perhaps the exception of the Attenborough documentaries), you’ll probably have heard some of James Reynolds’ work in the background. It is how I first found him, after asking Mr VP to use an app to work out what the song was that was playing as some mayflies danced just above the surface of a river. He is a young but gifted piano composer whose pieces are often used by the BBC (and probably others). You’ll enjoy it if you have a penchant for minor keys, twinkly piano pieces or film scores (or all three, like me!).
Saturday 19 November 2016
I think you can tell from the photos above and below, we found autumn in all of her splendour. Despite the temperature – 3ºC; it was Baltic as they say around these parts – we wrapped BabyVP (and ourselves) up well in many, many layers and ventured out for a walk. Most of the trees are bare, but not the beeches.
We walked and took photos here and there of leaves on the floor, chattering all the time to BabyVP about the birds flitting around us; from blackbirds and blue tits to the robins that suddenly appear in such large numbers around now. We came around a corner and were struck silent by this one, lone beech tree.
It was photographic perfection; all black-line branches and yellow-orange-brown leaves. So different to the pines, oaks, horse chestnuts and yews around it. Not that the oaks and chestnuts don’t have beautiful leaves – they do – but unlike all of the beech’s deciduous neighbours whose leaves were long gone, this tree was still clothed in the most wonderful golden coat.
I wonder what BabyVP made of all of this; she must have wondered what on earth her mother was getting so excited about. I hope to pass this pure adoration of nature on to her; and I see it in the way she points out birds and trees.
I have had a reason to go out with camera in hand. This last week I have been taking part in an online photography course that was free. It’s only 4 weeks, only takes 3 hours a week of taking part in ‘webinars’. I have really enjoyed reconnecting with my camera and its myriad of functions.
We all had a good time, cold hands and rosy cheeks and all.
This week’s lesson was on aperture priority. This is all stuff I knew already but I am learning tips as we go, too. Aperture priority is what gives you amazing bokeh as well as certain lenses (usually the older analogue ones); it controls focus in the same way that scrunching your eyes up allows you to focus a bit better on certain things.
Photography courses aside, when the sun was shining and the birds were singing and BabyVP was cuddled up in her many layers, it really was the perfect day to be outside. The sun, when it did shine, was almost warm enough to make you forget the icy chill. Almost.
Gosh we were glad to get back into the warmth of the cafe and have a bite to eat. Then home, with a very sleepy BabyVP in the back of the car, who nodded off to sleep shortly after we set off. Those colours though! Those colours…
Tuesday 15 November 2016
The jays that otherwise-invisibly inhabit the woods behind the house have been more active in the last few weeks. I sometimes see a magpie-shaped bird flying out of the trees, with a pinky, buff-coloured chest and know it is not a magpie or a wood pigeon but one of their majestic blue-flecked cousins. Often heard but seldom seen, except now. Coming out of the house the other day, with a well-coated toddler in one arm and a changing bag in the other, I looked down to see an acorn. Quite odd, given that most of the trees around us are ash or Scot’s pine. I knew who’d left this precious little arboreal offering. It reminded me of reading that jays are responsible for planting more oak trees than squirrels. A couple of days later, I saw one flying right over our house. I knew a jay had dropped it, just for us.
Another day I was driving in the tail-end of the afternoon and already it was starting to get dark; to soon, too early. I was driving to run some errands, baby and husband esconced in the warmth of the house, playing on the floor. I drove a while and noticed that in the valley nearby, the fog was starting to form. It was as yet confined, the sides of the hill keeping it contained. Thick, grey wisps moving slowly, hanging low in the air.
A little further in my errands, I came around a corner and the view was lovely; very wintry, very familiar, very hygge (a new word in our collective lexicon for something I’ve been trying to do for as long as I can remember). A row of old Victorian terrace houses in silhouette, with chimneys peeping out, some of them smoking, the ladders of smoke climbing heavenward. Behind them the sky, almost dark, held the remnants of the day’s sun; lemon-yellow with a teeny bit of blue, edged with grey clouds. The church in the distance with its castellated tower watched regally from its promontory, back-lit by the same lemon sky.
A different day, this time grey and wet, with the first really cold chill on the breeze. Driving down into a little valley with a river at the bottom – it sounds like we live somewhere hilly, but we don’t, just a few river valleys – we pass under a canopy of trees. High enough so that the branches just skirt tall double-decker buses and thick enough so that it’s quite dark at the bottom. As it was windy, the trees were blowing and it looked for all the world like we were driving into a snowstorm, except these were yellow and brown ash leaves fluttering down before us. I called to Baby VP in the back of the car and told her to look at the leaves falling. I watched BabyVP in the mirror looking around her with a smile, before going back to the song we were singing.
I found a new classical piece, or rather, new to me thanks to ClassicFM. The piece is Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch. The ending, the last two minutes, is something quite magical.
Today we went for a walk around our local town. After a coffee with granny and sorting a few necessities, we all headed off for a walk in the park. Most of the trees are now bare, the leaves thick and yellow-green, red and brown at our feet. Soon to become soggy and slippery. We stopped by the swings so that Baby VP could get her fill of laughter and we could revel for a moment in her joy. A robin came to sit on a nearby hedge, watching us intently. He flitted from branch to branch, eager to see if we would drop something or reveal a tasty grub in the leaflitter. As we moved around the park, he followed too; his bright red chest and quiet, subdued tweets mingling with the human giggles and goosanders and ducks nearby. A cormorant swooped through the trees above. I’m always surprised to see a cormorant so close to trees and town, but he has become a bit of a regular face. No rough seas or isolated lakes for him! Sensible bird.
It never fails to surprise me that so quickly the nights can get so long and the days so short. You’d think that by now, in my 31st year, I would have learnt the seasonal changes, but each year I am stumped at how quickly November becomes dark, December darker, and January icy-cold and grey and dark. And equally, how February starts to bring the first hints at the longer days to come. How quickly it all comes and goes; how quickly now, with a baby, life is flying and time is not an endless stretch any more, but sand that slips away before I can catch it. Breathe and appreciate every single moment.
Friday 11 November 2016
It has been a while (the longest blogging hiatus in my 11 years of blogging!) but I am not really sorry for my absence. Even though I said I’d be back in March, I found that as my world had shifted so completely when I had Baby VP, I felt I needed to rearrange my life and priorities and spend time just enjoying the first year of her life. We’ve had all the ups and downs you expect but I just felt the need to take a step back, cancel all of the extraneous stuff and enjoy the time we have together, because this time will only come once. Not just in Baby VP’s life but in our life. And this last year has been the most emotional, tiring but also wonderful, amazing and rewarding year of our lives. It is amazing, that I suddenly have a one year old who is independent; wanting to do her own things and discover the world around her in her own way. I am in awe of her every single day.
They say a baby changes your life and I laugh to think of it now, because that’s like saying that childbirth is a bit painful or jumping out of a plane is a little daunting: it’s the world’s biggest understatement ever. It took me until Baby VP turned one to realise that I have to start taking care of myself again (not least because a mummy who looks like she’s been dragged backwards through a hedge just isn’t de rigeur). I ventured out to get my hair cut the day before Baby VP turned one and went for a brilliant sleek bob with a new hairdresser. My hairdresser said he’d never seen such a transformation. I agreed. In the maelstrom of having a baby I think I forgot that I probably need to sort myself out at times, too. Lest I end up walking out of the house looking like a family of starlings has taken up residence in my hair. I want to feel a bit more together and I am now to the point where I do (though not every day and certainly not all the time!).
We even went on holiday, to lovely Scotland, where I feel equally at home with my even-more-northern kinsmen. It was wonderful.
So I would like to take a pause here and apologise to everyone for not replying to emails/texts etc. It’s not you, it really was me! But I’m trying to carve out a little time to get back into blogging (and photography – my poor camera had barely been used in the last few months!). Emails will be responded to (definitely yours Marie) and I will make more of an effort. I hate being a ‘bad friend’ and so I will pull up my socks!
Anyway, that’s what’s been going on. In the last year we’ve gone from a gorgeous but immobile little baby to a full-on, mobile, giggling and talking toddler. How that happened, I have no idea. There’s a saying going round: ‘the days are long but the years are short’ and never has a truer word been spoken. And truthfully, it’s been the best year of our lives.
Tuesday 1 March 2016
I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago and somehow never pushed the ‘publish’ button; such is life these days. I don’t have much time to blog and when I do I find myself flip-flopping around about what I should say, so it ends up sitting there until I write a blog post later that I do find acceptable. Oh but there have been so many good things recently that I have been meaning to tell you about: like Baby VP’s sudden ability to sit up unaided, or the baby-led-weaning thing that is just so much fun (and also SO messy!).
So as I can’t sit down to write long-form, I’ll use bullet-points to illustrate the Good Things going on right now:
- The days getting longer again. I am extremely glad to see the back end of winter, let me tell you. Even if they do keep mentioning the s-word and ‘Arctic winds’ on the news.
- Plum blossom on the trees in town… even if it has been there since January (crazy).
- Hawthorn leaves out at the beginning of February… even crazier.
- This song, after not hearing it for ages.
- Oh and this one too. Mad Rush – I didn’t know the meaning of the concept until recently.
- And for you Iceland-lovers, the official release of this song that I mentioned ages ago.
- The bed-time routine: a golden hour of giggles and books and baths.
- Our newest gadget: a Canon Selphy CP910 printer so I can finally get going with the ProjectLife set that Mr VP got me for my birthday last year.
- Daffodils and Welsh cakes; it is St David’s Day after all.
- Watching our neighbour’s bird boxes come to life again with regular sprucing-up visits from prospective great tits.
- Seeing a cormorant in the middle of town and a whole v-shaped flying formation of curlews along the coast.
- … not to mention a robin and a heron…
- Baby VP’s first proper beachy walks. The best days ever.
Thursday 7 January 2016
I started writing a blog post in November, believe it or not, but somehow November morphed into December and we were without internet for a good chunk of December and the first bit of January too (thanks BT Openreach…). But here I am and I have every intention of getting back into the blogging groove once more. I must apologise for my cryptic absence – which some of you correctly guessed – Mr VP and I did indeed have a visit from a stork in the summer. I say stork as a euphemism for the ideal birth experience, which in no way reflects how the whole birth thing actually went down (because that was fairly traumatic in and of itself) but hey ho, we survived! Just.
Now here I am resurfacing. Gosh, it feels weird. I wonder all the time ‘what did I DO with myself before this?!’ as ‘free time’ is now an odd and confounding concept – and one that I am happy to surrender to the whims of my own tiny human. And really, motherhood? It’s pretty amazing. But it has been the sort of all-consuming task that has required every inch of my being and so blogging, and many other things, have been put onto the back burner. It hasn’t been helped by my thyroid finally – finally! Going since 2012! – giving up the ghost and meaning that I was winning prizes for falling asleep all. The. Time. Thankfully now I’m on thyroxine, and am working on increasing my dosage, I fall asleep less often and feel ever-so-slightly more with-it (a distinct improvement, let me tell you!)
Merry Christmas – I think I should get that in there, and a very Happy New Year too. Christmas was a whirlwind of unwrapped presents and twinkling lights; a bit of a weird day, with a kitchen role reversal and a fourth person to cater for and a living room that looked like ToysRUs had set up a franchise. I had made Delia’s Christmas cake some weeks earlier, and I hummed a lot of this, while we pacified and entertained a Christmas first-timer.
I was planning to give NaBloPoMo a go (hahaha) when I first started the bare-bones of this post in… November, but realised that the chance of me actually finishing were slim to nil, so I might as well dibble a toe rather than leap from the diving board. So, that’s a (tiny) fraction of what’s been going on over here. It feels so alien to sit here and hover over the ‘publish’ button that it’s taking me a while to get my head around doing it! Anyway, enough about me, how are you all doing?