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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Saturday 11 March 2017

Amongst the trees and the birds in winter

Weekends are so short these days. They fly by in the blink of an eye, so, so quickly. What’s different? We’re busy with little Baby VP who is definitely not a baby any more! But weekends… they disappear. So we try to make sure that we go out and do Interesting Things together as a family.

So a couple of weekends ago we donned warm coats, Baby VP wore her thick all-in-one bunny coat, and we headed out for a decent countryside walk. I must admit that since having a baby, our walks are not as long as they used to be, and certainly shorter now that we don’t use a pram any more. But we make sure that we stop to enjoy all that nature has to offer and now that spring is so tantalisingly close.

We find that getting out early is best as we not only avoid the crowds but we make the most of the pre-nap energy. I also think that getting out and about early is best to see wildlife and we were lucky, seeing a treecreeper, lots of blue tits, coal tits, great tits and chaffinches as well as a pheasant, robin and moorhen. It was the first time that Baby VP had been into a bird hide for quite a while, and this time it was magical because she was so open to seeing the birds. We made sure we pointed each one out.  We’re not ‘twitchers’ by any means, but there is a lot I appreciate about seeing birds come and go and spotting new ones I haven’t seen before. They really are beautiful things, birds.

I think about the things I want to pass on to Baby VP, the things she’ll remember forever, and one of the greatest things I can think of is a love of the outdoors. An abiding love and deep appreciation for the wonder and beauty of nature; the awe-inspiring brilliance of the world’s living body. I think of how much information there is to teach; how much I am learning alongside her and I feel so humbled by it all. The weight of this duty is immense. What a wonderful job to have.

By the time we were finished walking and bird-watching we were ready for a sit down and a coffee, complete with a toasted teacake shared between us three.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Autumn, wearing her finest colours

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…

Wednesday 31 December 2014

The Old Year: 2014 in Review

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! :)

Thursday 21 August 2014

Pine Trees Forever

Last weekend, Mr VP and I went back to a place that has always been very important to us.  I used to walk the dog there every day, in driving rain and snow; in autumn gales and spring gusts.  It was a place I knew so well that I could describe the plants there, the trees, the paths.  Despite our four year absence, it was largely the same but somehow felt different; not because it is different, but because maybe I am.  I think I appreciate so much more than I used to.  We stopped for a moment in the heart of the woods to watch three or four speckled wood butterflies dance round a patch of brambles.  I feel very lucky to have seen a family of wrens before they noticed us and flew off.  Even more amazing was that we came face-to-face with a big doe deer, a roe deer I think, before she leapt and sprang her way off deeper into the pine woods.  What an amazing place.

Friday 15 August 2014

Days Like This

I heard this song on random shuffle and knew that the song found me exactly when I needed it; exactly when I was meant to listen to it and heed its words. They just leapt out at me, then and there. And walking along the beach, I was humming it and every word of it was true.  “Days like this, have you ever seen a sky such a clear blue?”

Sunday 20 July 2014

Singing the Praises of Acupuncture

I decided to begin going to an acupuncturist when we moved up here.  Or rather, I had decided I’d do it in Cambridge and then we decided to move!  You see, medically speaking, I am not only a conundrum wrapped in an enigma that is coddled in a riddle, but I am simply too complicated for doctors to sort out.  It’s not a good place to be, I’ll admit, knowing that doctors are playing whack-a-mole with a list of ever-increasing symptoms but not getting to the root cause of any of them.  One doctor, a supposedly learned fellow, actually scratched his head in puzzlement at me and suggested the only thing he could think of, which was akin to using a hammer Mjolnir to crack a walnut (and he was the best the NHS had to offer!).  Some doctors suggested my genetic, physical complaint was merely a ‘lifestyle issue’ and one GP didn’t even know what it was.  Given this lacksadaisical and somewhat random approach (one GP was great) that most GPs and consultants had, I decided to eschew doctors and began to do research into slightly more crunchy-granola territory, though obviously still keeping to things that have clinical trials and published research to back them up (not like, say, homeopathy).  Acupuncture seemed to have a lot of positive scientific and anecdotal reviews and since booking myself in to see my acupuncturist I haven’t looked back.

I did a lot of research (I used the BAcC website) before settling on someone I thought had the qualifications and the drive to make change happen.  I must admit, while I was aware that acupuncture gets rave reviews from people who’ve had it done, at the back of my mind I was immensely sceptical about the treatment’s efficacy.  I told my acupuncturist that I was there because this was the Last Chance Saloon and that the medical establishment, such as it is, had all but washed its hands of me unless I wanted to be well and truly Mjolnir’d.  We went through my complete medical history, including odd questions that I would ordinarily have thought would make no real sense to anyone, I had my pulses taken and my tongue inspected and then began treatment.  My acupuncturist is actually, it turns out, very good.  Within 24 hours of being (painlessly) needled, I notice huge effects on a whole gaggle of problems that had been weighing me down for years.

Knowing that my acupuncturist is really open to learning new things, I did some research and found a really high-quality, randomised double-blind study done in Sweden on the use of acupuncture, which would address a good deal of my problems.  I showed my acupuncturist the protocols and we’re now giving them a go, with the hope that I’ll be able to repeat the high success rate of the Swedish study.  Already, I see huge improvements in my quality of life and, unlike the medicines that I keep getting schilled at the GP, these don’t have endless side-effects or limitations.  Am I cured?  No, but I am certainly a whole heck of a lot better than I was.  This is a process and it takes time, something that our ailing (and about-to-be-privatised, thanks to this lovely government of ours) NHS can’t or won’t admit or make concessions to remedy.

What is the problem with modern (Western) medicine?   If your medical file is beginning to resemble War and Peace, ten minutes in a GP’s surgery isn’t going to cut it and being handed a prescription for a never-ending supply of medication that never helps isn’t either.  I want answers and medical help to get well again.  Western medicine as a whole, fails to address the fact that a person is a holistic being and that illnesses take time to resolve.  It fails to recognise that one event (a traumatic injury, an illness etc) can affect the whole way that your body, a structure that has thousands of different parts all working in concert with one another, works.  Knock one thing out and you begin to notice everything around it struggling to compensate, which then gives you symptoms of something else.  The Chinese have known this for thousands of years and in hospitals there, you will receive treatment both using Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine as well.  In certain places, such as the US, ‘functional medicine’ seems to be bridging the gap between the two, by using Western doctors who also accept that symptoms of B, C, D and E can be a result of something happening to system A.

To play the devil’s advocate in the matter, even if the symptom changes that I have noticed are nothing but the result of placebo (and some of them have been so physically extreme and unexpected that I cannot imagine how I could ‘placebo’ them into being), it has worked – because things are better than when I started the appointments.  After all, if I am feeling better and my body is acting better, then isn’t that a good thing?  It might not be for you, indeed, there are things that acupuncture isn’t as adept at (don’t look at its Wiki page, as it is so very poorly written and curated), but any acupuncturist worth their salt will tell you on first meeting what they can and can’t treat.  Do give it a go, though, because if you have chronic pain or migraines or horrible PMS or IBS, this might be the thing to change all of that for you.  After all, isn’t anything worth giving a go if it makes you feel better?

Sunday 13 July 2014


Just after we moved to Northumberland the first time, back in 2004, there was a big to-do about mining in the area.  Coal has been, and to some extent still is, a big part of the North East’s economic landscape and there were companies wishing to exploit open-cast mining in the area.  So the council gave them the go-ahead to mine the area for a set amount of time on the proviso that they had to do something to pay the community back for the inconvenience, and so the idea of Northumberlandia was born.  All of the soil that was excavated to mine the coal was put to one side and is now one of the most beautiful earthworkings I’ve ever seen: a woman, the largest sculpture of a woman in the world, that people can now walk around and enjoy.

All of the landscape has been planted with a plethora of wild grasses and wildflowers, which in the heady month of June – when these photos were taken – were in full bloom.

If you look at Northumberlandia from the air, you can see that she’s a maze of pathways, tump-like breasts and long, curving thighs.  But she is beautiful and not just as a sculpture, but as a walk; a piece of art that can be physically accessed and circumnavigated.

The views from the walk are pretty good and will be stunning at all times of the year, I imagine.

At the side of her, strategically-placed lakes provide interest and a vibrant natural habitat for various creatures.

Whilst everywhere there are wildflowers, full of bees and insects.

This is June for me, full of grasses and wild blooms.

As we ascended the hills, we got a better glimpse of her emerging.  It’s true, even at the top you don’t ever see her true shape, but you can see odd parts coming together.  This is the underside of her nose and her mouth.

We couldn’t help but giggle at the signage!

I could write a blog post about every variety of grass and wildflower we saw while we were there, there were that many.  I have spent a good deal of time revelling in this wilderness because I am aware that soon winter will soon be on its way and these plump-leaved, fragile annuals will be replaced by rye grass and thistles until next year.

At the very top, this points you to something… we’re not sure what.  Look up?  I know I’d rather look at the views all around…

They are amazing!  Despite the remnants of the mining operations (remember, most of the soil was used to create Northumberlandia) the view is spectacular.  Those old hills in the distance?  They’re the Cheviots, some of the oldest hills in the country.

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