This day marks a whole year that we have lived back in Northumberland and without a doubt, it has been the most amazing, overwhelming, stressful and surprising year of our lives. Between the house renovations (argh!), moving 250 miles north, moving family members almost as far, falling back in love with the county and (Mr VP) rediscovering a work-life balance it has been a whirlwind. I cannot believe it has been a whole year, but here we are. Now the weather is better again, and we have lighter evenings, we have been definitely enjoying and making the most of every single evening in this wonderful county. Of course, an evening as magical as this wouldn’t be complete without a bit of music.
Thursday 30 April 2015
Wednesday 22 April 2015
Now that daylight saving time is upon us once more, Mr VP and I have been getting out almost every evening to make the most of the extra light (and the occasional warmth!). We sometimes visit parks and countryside but mostly we opt for the beach; that ever-changing landscape that we have come to adore. We will walk a few miles, up and down, stopping to breathe and take photos along the way.
Visiting the beach with regularity, you become aware of the small things: the day that the sand martins arrive, the first eider ducks of the season on that particular beach and the movement of rocks and changing shape of the beach. Speaking of birds, there is something magical about those that inhabit the coastline of Northumberland. Many are merely visitors to our shores, having travelled thousands of miles to summer here, like the sand martins; whilst others are natives, seen only occasionally in the colder months and much more often in summer. We’re really lucky in that we have quite a few interesting (and rare) seabirds visit our shores. If you visit any of the islands (like we did last year) then you can see the more exotic birds like roseate terns and puffins, but I quite like the less showy birds that we get around here.
Opting to stop at a new-to-us beach, we came across lots of wonderful birds. I was blown away when we saw, for the first time on land (i.e. not on a boat!), a glimpse of a pair of fulmars on a nest. Did you know that they are relatives of albatrosses? They look quite like them and have much kinder, sweeter faces and beaks than seagulls. We saw a heron out on a rock in the sea – for what reason is unknown as herons only fish in still water and these waves were anything but. We found a squeak of oystercatchers (my collective noun for them as they do sound like squeaky toys!), a clockwork of grey plovers, a search of turnstones and a wade of purple sandpipers. Not forgetting the one lone little chiffchaff on the rocks and one pied wagtail. It was quite an evening to be out!
Monday 20 April 2015
Whilst we have visited this beach a good many times since we moved up here, even this year, it is not always a hermit crab beach when we do visit. You see, you have to wait for the tide to be at its lowest, when the stretches of sand are at their longest and the rockpools are not only visible but reachable. Only then, when the winkles leave their tracks on the sand and the shallow water entices the oystercatchers, turnstones and the sandpipers to forage, can you find the hermit crabs.
I must admit, hermit crabs do make me laugh. Pick one up and within a moment it will bear its (very small) nippers at you, fairly displeased at having been taken out of its watery bed and peered-at. If you see a group of hermits (on this beach there are thousands) and you find a really nice, large winkle or other spiral shell and place it next to them, you will see instant interest and a battle will begin, with each hermit crab getting out of its shell to try on the new one whilst still defending its previous ‘home’ just in case. They will battle, snip and climb over one another for the chance to find their perfect home. Best of all, to see this miniature soap opera playing out, all you have to do is pause to look for it.
If you’re not so interested in the crabs, then maybe you prefer to look up and enjoy the sunset skies on the beach, with mackerel skies criss-crossing each other to create the most wonderful spectacle. Seeing these skies reminds me of last summer and how glorious it was to spend the evenings on the beach, often one of only very few people there. I’m looking forward to this summer a lot!
Wednesday 31 December 2014
You’ll have to excuse me while I panic at the thought of 2014 being over – I was just getting into the swing of things, and last I heard, it was September! Time it is a-flying. It has been such a lovely, if challenging year. It started by joining a gym and taking up swimming again, which I really enjoyed. I took a lot of power-walks along the rivers of Cambridgeshire, we had an amazing weekend in Southwold at the beginning of March, and then we were thrust into the rush of packing up and moving in March/April. Before we knew what was happening we had found a delightful rental house, moved, Mr VP had changed jobs and we were ‘back’ into our new and exciting life in Northumberland. We arrived just as the last of the blossoms in Cambridgeshire were fading and the first of the cherry and hawthorn blossoms were beginning to flower up here – we had the longest, most luxurious spring in my memory.
Summer was a holiday for both of us, and just what we needed after a stressful move. We visited Coquet Island and saw puffins and seals, we spent our wedding anniversary picking strawberries, we walked for many miles along our favourite beaches old and new, and we made the most of every spare moment we could. At the beginning of September, we began the mammoth task of house renovation. This turned out to be not only extremely stressful and difficult, but also very educational and I know a lot more about things I didn’t even know existed (like building regulations and how best to choose decent workmen). After three months, we moved in to an almost-finished house and that’s where we are now. We’re still mostly living out of boxes as we’re still waiting for the floor to be laid, but with the lights on, candles lit and the fire going, it is very homely indeed.
If 2014 was about movement, then 2015 will, I hope, be about growth. Moving house twice in seven months is unbelievably stressful and having to pack-up one house and oversee works in the other is tear-your-hair-out worthy, so I would like to settle down in 2015, yet still grow and develop. At some point I plan to return to my studies, either this year or next, and I would like to increase the time I spend doing good and useful things. It sounds obtuse, but it means me taking on more challenges and making more committments to myself and the life I would like to create.
I always have a bit of a panic at the end of the year, as I worry about the future and what is to come. I suppose it’s the not-knowingness that New Year represents that worries me the most, but each year I keep trying to let that worry go a bit more and spend a little bit more living as in-the-moment as I can. I have had such a glorious year in 2014 that I am eager to see how 2015 will pan out and how we’ll grow and change to meet the year.
So that’s it for 2014. Here we sit watching Guardians of the Galaxy (Mr VP’s pick), having nibbled at some of the buffet food I’ve made (the homemade sausage rolls and olive palmiers have gone down a treat!) and toasting ourselves in front of a warm fire. We might not be awake come midnight, but we’ll usually be woken long enough to welcome the new year by the fireworks going off around and about!
To all the lovely blog readers who stop by, I would like to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2015 for you and yours. Thanks for reading and see you in 2015! :)
Tuesday 23 September 2014
I am so glad that we went out yesterday evening for a walk and chose Northumberlandia. We didn’t go for a long walk, as it was already quite late by the time we got there, but we did stay for most of the sunset and it was magnificent. It was definitely a change on the cold, grey skies of today!
Monday 25 August 2014
We were walking on the beach the other evening and the weather was bright and breezy, without a hint of rain anywhere. After about 15 minutes, the sky began to darken at one side of us and an enormous rolled bank of cloud came over and began to rain, though thankfully not on us. We managed to play this game of avoidance for about half an hour, until it caught up with us and we got soaked. Whilst both of us were wearing coats, we weren’t wearing waterproofs, so we got soaked to the skin. We were too far from the car to get back to it and there was no shelter, so we decided to enjoy our impromptu high-pressure shower. The enormous rainbow that we saw climb up from the far distance to reach us definitely made up for the soaking. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the rainbow’s end (it was just in front of us!) – this must definitely have been one of the most beautiful rainbows I’ve ever seen. It was so bright and strong that it could reflect in the wet sand. Heaven.
Wednesday 6 August 2014
August is a little bit of a funny month, in-between the hopeful summery bits where we enjoy the long days and warm evenings and the secretly hoping for autumn, when the cold comes again and you wake to the smell of leaf-litter and chill on the morning air. Of course, we’re still making the most of summer while we have it, and visiting places that we know will not be the same when the mercury is hovering around 0ºC and there’s a Nor-Easter howling through. But with the knitting needles coming out, the end-of-summer sales everywhere and the proximity to a certain festive month (Christmas cakes are made next month – eep!), it’s starting to feel slightly less summery. In the kitchen, meals are a bit ad-hoc, as it is still too warm to want to do much, but we still eat well, with lots of summer veggies, pulses, legumes and eggs. I was so happy to see a double yolked egg! It was my first since we had our own hens.
Last weekend, Mr VP and I visited the much-loved (and sung-about) Leazes Park. Grand old Victorian parks are some of my favourite city spaces and when they overlook the Georgian and Victorian grandeur of the buildings around (Mansard roofs = love), they are even more special. We hovered around the lake and watched an angler with his fishing line so engrossed in his angler’s trance that he didn’t notice three, bold as brass rats running into his bait bags and stealing food. We saw swans and herons and geese swimming around the island.
At the beach, this is the time to see the birds, some of which have finished breeding and are in the waiting period before they fly off to visit distant climes. The Arctic terns we have seen around have already begun to feed themselves in preparation for the next summer they will see when they leave our shores and make the tremendous 10,400 mile journey to enjoy the (relatively) summery weather in the Antarctic. To think of making that trip with planes and boats and cars seems almost impossible for me as a human being, but to them it is just part of life and it is absolutely remarkable.