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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Tuesday 1 March 2016

Good Things

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 tooMad 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.

Monday 27 April 2015

Newcastle’s Splendid Bridges

In yesterday’s glorious sunshine, we opted to visit the Quayside market in Newcastle.  Not having been to it before, we were excited about what we might find.  As it turns out, we ended up getting off the bus a stop later than anticipated (our fault) and ended up on the Gateshead side of the Tyne.  I’m actually really glad that we did have this slight detour as I was able to get some splendid views of Newcastle from the swing bridge (the red and white one) before we walked over.  On the Newcastle side we were instantly met with a cacophany of market stalls and screeching birds.  Did you know that Newcastle is home to the farthest inland colony of kittiwakes? The birds have taken residence on the struts of the famous Tyne Bridge and seem to be expanding as they now occupy the stone corbels on the Guildhall too.  As lovely as they are, their mess is less so and I pity whoever has to come along after they’ve fledged!

The market, held every sunday, is a new-things market mostly which sells gifty and foody things in abundance.  We wandered around enjoying the atmosphere and noting down ideas for future birthday and Christmas ideas.  We stopped for some churros (shared between Mr VP and myself!) and ate them overlooking the banks of the Tyne, just a short walk from the Sage Gateshead, the Baltic and the Millennium .  Quite a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning!

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Days of Spring

Have you felt that first, heady rush of spring yet?  I keep getting odd whiffs of it in the air and I’m instantly excited by the lengthening days and the warmth that the sun now possesses, not to mention the sight of blossom and imminent-blooms just waiting to unfurl.  It reminds me of this time last year, when we were in the midst of packing up our tiny Cambridge life and waiting ourselves to unfurl into the wide open spaces of Northumberland.

I certainly have enjoyed getting to explore and re-learn this new landscape of ours.  I can’t believe it has been a year and we’re still exploring.  I could spend the rest of my days here and still never see all that it has to offer.

We are finding new places all the time, however, and loved finding this little walk that bordered a farm that allowed us to idly pause to admire the donkeys and the pigs.

I started seeing butterflies on the Easter weekend and have since seen quite a few more, but none were so happy to stop and sunbathe in a photogenic manner as this tortoiseshell and this comma!  Mind you, a hedgerow of hawthorn and blackthorn blossom is probably one of the nicest places to stop and pause.

Monday 5 January 2015


For some reason unbeknownst to us, we always said we’d visit Beamish last time we lived here but never got round to it.  When pondering what we could do for my birthday, as not much is usually open at this time of year, I suggested Beamish as I knew that we’d have a great time and it would be open.  I’m so glad I did – it was one of the best ways to start 2015 and the nicest way to spend a birthday!

Beamish was the first open-air museum in the UK and its goal was to present a version of everyday life in the North East.  Most of the buildings have been rescued and transplanted brick by brick to the museum from all over the North East.  Most of the buildings represent the Victorian and Edwardian era (mostly the latter), so have been decorated and filled with appropriate furniture and the staff dress accordingly.  It is a huge site and is served by a large selection of original buses and trams, with examples of original cars, vans, traction engines and trains all in use.  There is also a bank, a working bakery, a Masonic hall, a working sweet shop and original Co-Op buildings to be seen and investigated.

Each of the houses had different historical ‘occupants’, from dentists to piano teachers.  This desk is a solicitor’s, whose house was very dark.

I seem to have taken a lot of pictures of the different fireplaces they had in the museum.  Each fireplace was in the process of being lit as we arrived (we were the first people in) and we had a chat with the man whose job it was to keep the (many) home fires burning.  As the museum isn’t in a smoke-free zone, they can burn normal house coal, and the smell of it was everywhere; such a reassuring smell (though, obviously, not good for the environment etc).  According to the chap lighting the fires, they have to light them often as the jackdaws are great nest builders and thus great chimney blockers!  Each fireplace in every house was different and many had the same kind of range system that our house would once have had.  Each staff member bemoaned the amount of dust that the open fires created, but each one said that they were lovely (and warm) nonetheless.

Seeing the primative dentistry equipment of 1913, the date of the town, really brought home how scary (and unhygienic) dentistry must’ve been.

The wallpapers in each property were fascinating, though in the dark, poorly-lit hallways and parlours, the dark colours didn’t help to make the space feel bigger!  Mum also pointed out that the green paints of the era most likely contained arsenic (as did green sweets of the time!) and were fairly unsavoury to use.

This bedroom was in one of the smaller properties and though the room was small it was actually fairly cosy.  However, without double-glazing or central heating, I can imagine that the fire would get well used and it might be a bit chilly at night!

Most of the way round the museum, my mother was marvelling at the things she remembers from her childhood or still has to this day.  Amongst the memory lane items were carpet beaters, flooring, fancy glass doors and sweets.

I fell in love with this utilitarian coat and mirror console.  It’s just what we need in our house!

Yes, I did take quite a few photos of fireplaces!  This one is more ornate than I believe ours was (not that I ever saw ours, but it would’ve been a house for miners and thus not fitted with very ornamented fittings), but the placement of the fire and the oven/stove set-up matches the soot marks on our own inglenook.  I must admit, if I still had one of these, I would definitely cook on it!  The great thing about Beamish is that in certain properties you visit, someone will be cooking food that you can then try.  We had a lovely cup of fruit punch and freshly-baked scones!

Some of the ornamentation was absolutely amazing – what a window!

As well as trams, buses and trains, they have horses and horse-drawn carriages.  We didn’t see any in use when we visited, but we are assured that the horses are regular ‘workers’ at the museum and pull some of these carriages on certain days.  The horses’ stables were the most immaculate I’ve ever seen and the horses treated like royalty!

This is the park in the town.  I’m a bit of a sucker for the cobbled streets, traditional fence railings and the gas lamps.  On a frosty morning, it was as pretty as a postcard.

If you venture upstairs in the post office, you will come across the printer’s.  We got chatting to the gentleman who was running the printer’s shop and he walked us through inking the rollers and the types of printing presses he had on display.  Each one works and the oldest of which is from around 1835.  This one above is an American design, and which is much sought-after in America, after the maker of them couldn’t get anyone in America to buy his machines.  Someone suggested that he try Britain and lo and behold, they took off.  The classical ornamentation on the press is impressive as is its weight: two and a half tons!

I learned a lot about typesetting.  Did you know the phrases “to mind your Ps and Qs” comes from the fact that type is placed in its frame backwards and thus the typesetter had to make sure that he didn’t muddle his Ps and his Qs?  Likewise, the phrase “to quoin a phrase” (yes, spelled quoin not coin) comes from the quoins used to tighten the type frames.  We watched as the gentleman printed out the most wonderful sheets of genuine news print from the time and told us to look out for certain (original) comical inclusions!

We also learned that there were no daily newspapers, only weeklies, in the North until after WWI and that the northerners didn’t know that the Battle of Waterloo had occurred until some four months after the event!  This is a prime example of the north/south divide and how little the north was considered in matters of politics and government at the time.

After we had spent an hour talking to the printer, it was time to head onwards to the sweet shop.  It is a traditional shop selling a large selection of traditional boiled sweets and you can still buy things by the quarter and not have them look at you gone off!  At the back of the shop, you can try the wares that they make and watch the confectioner at work rolling and pulling the molten sugar.

What an oven!  This is the Herron’s bakery oven.  In there you can buy all sorts of sweet treats from scones to cakes and biscuits.  We came away with some gingerbread and cranberry and orange cake.  Yum!

Take a tram down the line and you come to the Edwardian pit village, which though not as ‘cosmopolitain’ as the houses in the town, they had their own charm.  You can even make a fuss of the (very tiny) pit ponies, whose fur is thick and soft.

You can also fall in love with the glass in some of the doors.  I mean, isn’t it amazing?

Most of these houses had a ‘hobby’, some was having chickens, some had rabbits, some had pigeons and some grew vegetables.  This system of neighbourly barter would’ve kept the town together and well-fed.  The houses, however, we were owned by the owners of the mines and should your husband meet a sticky end, as one of the men who lived in these houses did, then the coal company would kick you out and the chances are that you’d end up living in a workhouse if you couldn’t re-marry.

One of the last stops on our visit.  Can you see the jug of fruit punch on the stove?

We had a lovely day visiting Beamish and I can’t wait to go back (their tickets are valid for 1 year of unlimited visits!) to see all the displays later on in the year.

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! :)

Monday 29 December 2014

Days of Christmas

Our Christmas veg were certainly colourful this year, courtesy of the veg box scheme.  We collected our local (organic) turkey from the same place and were amazed that true to their word, it cooked in half the time of a normal turkey (and was delicious)!  The pudding was a Delia recipe, made in haste only a couple of days before Christmas and with a few changes to the recipe – flamed in brandy, it was delicious (and we have one more still to go!).  The days that followed Christmas were far less hectic.  We took Mum’s dog out for a long walk where we worked on her recalls and met some really lovely people (dog walking does increase one’s social circle no end!) and we wrapped up for a bitterly-cold walk on the beach, where we struggled to stop the shivers as the icy wind blew.  I never really thought much to the whole twelve days of Christmas before – it seemed to be that the magic disappeared after the 25th, but as I get older, I realise that really, the magic and the peace and quiet is only just beginning.

Monday 13 October 2014

Autumn Morning

Saturday was sunny and glorious, so we found ourselves off for our weekend potter around Hexham once more.  Instead of our usual trip to a café for coffee, we decided to get ours ‘to go’ and headed off to the park for a stroll and a chance (at long last!) to get the camera out.  I have struggled to do anything creative, which I blame on the stress of the house renovation, but I know that in a couple of months it’ll all be over and all will be settled down once more.  It was nice to sit and chat on the cold park bench, whilst the dew dripped off the beech tree above us.  Coos of pigeons and darting blackbirds filled the park and the quarters were marked by the bell of Hexham Abbey, as they have for many, many years.  Best of all, I finally found autumn colours shining through in the bright red of the ivy and the yellows and browns of the sessile oaks.

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