Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Thursday 10 April 2014

Lincoln Cathedral

I have been largely absent for what seems like an age. There is a lot going on at Chez VP that I can’t quite go into on here just yet.  All will be revealed in due time, of course, but as yet everything’s up in the air and our days have been so extremely busy trying to get everything done.  I can feel the odd grey hair (more!) beginning to poke its way through as the stress leaves its mark and by bedtime, which is now quite early, I fall into bed and into a wakeful, dream-filled sleep.  Such is life at the moment as we are in the midst of transition and upheaval.

In the midst of the upheaval, we went away for the week, Mr VP and I.  A very good friend was up to visit us and so we all headed to Lincoln (where we had the pleasure of staying with my Mum) for a week and we had a really good time.  I quite enjoy playing the role of host, showing someone a new place and exploring well-known places as a tourist.  I must admit, I hadn’t seen the inside of Lincoln Cathedral as a tourist since maybe 2001 – a long time indeed!  I think we were mostly put off by the fact that Lincoln charges a compulsory (£6) entrance fee, whereas other cathedrals (Peterborough, Wells etc) make money from photography passes and donations (as well as shops and tea rooms); a much fairer system to me.  But as we had a visitor, it made sense to visit Lincoln’s crowning jewel.

The thing that struck me was just how dark it is in there.  Admittedly, we went on a very foggy day (that was definitely fog and not the lung-lining smog that would come later) but the cathedral was so dark and that was, in part I think, due to the astounding amount of blue glass.  It cast a kind of eerie, cold glow about the place that wasn’t wholly pleasant.  Almost all of the stained glass is Victorian, when blue glass was suddenly easier to make on a large scale, and this is reflected in its wide usage.  I do very much like elaborate stone carving and the full array of English Gothic styling throughout, but it felt fairly cold as a place.  We had a really nice potter around Steep Hill (steep by name, steep by nature!) before descending it for hot chocolate (my friend), Assam tea (me) and an interesting (forgotten) tea (Mr VP) in one of the lovely tea houses on the hill.  All in all, a very lovely day out.

Friday 28 March 2014

Music: Agnes Obel – Tokka

Is there anything more beautiful for a Friday afternoon?

Vignettes of January and February

Alone in the woods.  January.  Mild winds.  Muddy underfoot.

Perseverence in the face of great challenges.

One foot after another, until you reach your destination.  Whatever that end may be.

Unexpected colour in an otherwise very grey day.

Another day, another place.  Silhouettes and blue sky.

Sunset along the waterways.

Bright days and brown burrs.  Cold and blue and glorious.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Spring Fling!

With Spring’s official beginning last week and her mistral winds, have come all manner of interesting things.  Cobwebs have been blown away, ruts are being left, lemon cakes and a desire to get out and do things are coming to the fore.  It’s all glorious and so very welcome.  So much is going on here at Chez VP that I can’t begin to tell you all of it in one post.  But just as the ice plant and the willow and the daffodils are opening themselves up to the possibilities and work that lies ahead, so too am I.  I am very much awake to all of the beauty out there to be seen, like the budding and blossoming miniature cherry tree (Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai‘) and the droplets of water on the leaves of the ice plant.  So much to do.

Monday 24 March 2014

Swans on The River

I recently developed a few films I’d had hanging around for ages.  I had all but forgotten what was on them, but was rewarded with lots of different moments from earlier in the year: swans on the river, a woodland walk, family.  It has been a bit of a whirlwind time, here at Chez VP, and sometimes not in a good way.  But life continues on, however good or bad you may be feeling, however much you feel tossed-around by the world.  When the world has been less than kind, sometimes I sit by the river and watch the comings and goings of the birds.  The Canada geese honking overhead, the low-flying ducks and hissing and canoodling of the swans.  Or I sit at my kitchen window and watch our pair of crows, the crows that I have come to know and love so much in the last three years, going about their nest renovations.  And I feel better, because it could always be much worse and I have faith in the idea that Fate does everything for a purpose.  So I plug in my iPod and stick on Elbow’s new LP The Taking Off and The Landing of Everything and the world seems a little more put to rights, a little more calm and happy.  I make a cup of tea.  And I continue onwards.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Happiness is Found in Blue Skies and Frothy Blossom

It really is.  Given today’s greyness, it is hard to believe that the skies were that blue on Sunday.  So blue that everything stood out against a perfect cerulean background.  I would love to have our own blossom festival in the UK, like the proper celebrations that the Japanese have.  For some reason, I have been more aware this year of just how many cherry trees there are.  Cambridge is full of cherries; the countryside, whilst not full of cherry blossom is full of the closest uncultivated form: the blackthorn.  And soon, May will bring the May (or hawthorn) blossom.  Until now, though, I am quite happy to gaze langurously on the boughs of blackthorn blossom.

It seems that everything has opened early this year, too.  Yesterday, we had what could only be described as an April shower.  It seems that we’re about a month early, not that I’m complaining – it has been so nice to leave behind the cold and be able to enjoy spring’s arrival.

There were oodles of little violets, whose scent was quite something.  I remember getting very excited about finding a patch in our garden in Northumberland, only to find out that they were dog violets and had no scent!  They were still very pretty, though.

I have seen more butterflies this soring than I remember seeing in ages.  We had a lot last summer, but not usually this many in spring.  On our walk, we must have come across over forty of these Brimstones, swirling and dancing about.  Brimstones are quite distinctive both by colour (sulphur yellow, hence the name) and their leaf-like shape.  At this time of year, they are desperate to find sources of nectar.  Thankfully, they’re in luck, as there are lots of flowers out.  I shudder to remember this time last year, when snow, and not blossom, was blowing on the wind.

The hawthorns are properly opening now.  This is the best time to eat their leaves, too.  The leaves are called bread and cheese, because they were eaten by farm workers instead of cheese in a sandwich.  They taste quite nice, a little tangy and fresh-tasting.

You can see the budding ends of the copper beaches.  I would imagine that in about three weeks’ time, you wouldn’t be able to see much of the sky at all.

Spring is all about breaking free and reaching for the sky, isn’t it?

One of my favourite bumble bees (I mean, everyone has one, right?!), a lovely gal called Bombus lapidarius, or the red-bottomed bumblebee.  She was sleepily (and loudly) buzzing around the daffodils, seeking out some much-needed food.  She then flew herself off to sun on a leaf.  It really is a fascinating thing, the life of bees.

We turned an unassuming corner and were met by this absolutely amazing wall of blackthorn.

Some of it had gone over already, whilst some was just coming out.

This is a hoverfly, but the blossom was absolutely thronging with honeybees, flies and butterflies too.

Some weren’t eating as much as using it as a very good sunning spot.  Speaking of the sun, it was really warm.  I wore a fairly light ensemble, but could definitely feel the sun on my back.

Very happy times indeed.

Oddly enough, it was all peacocks, brimstones and commas.  We didn’t see any red admirals or chalkhill blues at all.  Perhaps it was too early for them.

A little further on, we got to the open fields that I love so much.  That rounded swell of land, usually so full of crops was raked and planted, but no life was poking through.

We came across a quick patch of daffs in the middle of the forest floor.  Talk about photogenic!

I loved that Sunday walk together, arm in arm, stopping every now and then to take a photo of something.  We laughed and chatted and sat down on a bench and discussed hopes and dreams.  If only this deep sense of calm and peace would last longer into the inevitable hustle and bustle of our daily lives!  At least I still have the photos.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

I Feel it All

Today is a going to be a good day.  I don’t have the chance to say that often, indeed, I don’t feel it often, but I know in my core that today is going to be a good day.  I know this even though I have only had four hours of sleep and am sat writing this in my pajamas in a kind of bleary-eyed, pre-caffeine kind of state.  I know it because the sun is shining, the clock is ticking in the corner and I have had a really lovely weekend.  Whilst it probably won’t last, for now I am in a glorious state of calm, contented enjoyment.  Look past the bedraggled just-out-of-bed appearance and you will see the sort of expression you can find on a cat which is lounging in a sunbeam.  Right now I’m going through the photos that I took at the weekend, when we went for a long and meandering stroll through the countryside and came across so many wonderful things.  Signs of hope and good things to come.  Glorious sunshine.  Indeed, perhaps this amazing mood is all a result of the most splendid weather we have had for the last few days.  Bright sunshine and warmth have appeared after all of December and January’s gloom.  Spring is very much here.  Long days and Easter and summer lie ahead in a tangle of heat-haze and ice-cream.  But for now, I am content – and gleefully happy – to enjoy the frothy blackthorn blossom, the sweet spring scent on the air and the first rumblings of the big bumble bees as they buzz on past.

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