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.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Mottled Umber

Whilst going around the garden and doing a little inspection, which is the height of my gardening abilities these days, I came across this little fella on our Prunus incisa ‘Kojo No-Mai’ tree.  After much time spent searching for him online, it turns out that he is a mottled umber moth caterpillar (Erannis defoliaria – the ‘defoliaria’ is a wee bit alarming!) and is, like quite a few moth caterpillars, much brighter and more splendid than the moth he’ll become!  I think he really suits the tree he’s sitting on, though, as he matches colours perfectly with it.  One interesting fact about this moth is that whilst the males have wings, the females don’t!  I had no idea that wingless moths even existed, but apparently they do.  I’m sure there’s a gender-biased evolutionary thing going on there (hmm…!).  It really is true that you learn something every day!

Thursday 7 May 2015

Newcastle Cathedral

Do you know, in all the years we’ve lived up here, we hadn’t ever been into Newcastle Cathedral until last bank holiday Monday.  It seems silly, as it is so easily reached from the town centre, but for some reason I had managed to miss it all these years.  I’m quite sorry that it took us all of ten years to actually make a pilgrimage inside, as it is a lovely if externally-unimposing building.

Like most things in Newcastle, the Cathedral is heavily tied to the region’s industrial past.  Indeed, most of the cathedral’s footprint was extended from its humble parish church status to the cathedral form you see today in the C18th and C19th, when the growing upper classes required church authority be centred in Newcastle rather than Durham.

Thus, most of the cathedral is very typical Victorian; with heavily ornamented carved screens and reredos and lots of stained glass.  Unfortunately, in the process of adding on and ‘improving’, the Victorians didn’t do much in the way of conservation of the church’s historic ornamentation, so a lot of character was lost in the process.  The Victorians have a lot to answer for – as does Oliver Cromwell (but that’s for a whole other time!)  Thankfully, the Victorians did like their churches and cathedrals heated, and did a stellar job of installing radiators to keep the place warm in winter!

Whilst not as light as Wells and definitely not on the same scale as the great Gothic cathedrals of  Lincoln or Peterborough, Newcastle has a certain charm about it.  Indeed, it is barely larger than a large parish church, even with the Victorian add-ons, but I think that is something that runs in its favour as it feels far less imposing than visiting Lincoln cathedral.

The stained glass is almost entirely Victorian, with the exception of one tiny circular piece of Medieval stained glass taken from what was the All Hallow’s church before it was demolished in the C18th (why?!) to build the more ‘modern’ church(!) that can be seen today.  Whilst I’m a big fan of preservation and conservation of the original, I am partial to a bit of Victorian stained glass, so I will go with it.

Not all of it is Victorian, however, there are a few pieces of more modern stained glass too.

My favourite window(s) in the church are in a side chapel and are dedicated to Northumbria’s two saints: Oswald and Cuthbert.  Above is the window dedicated to St Cuthbert, filled with local wildlife.

And sitting at St Cuthbert’s feet is an eider duck – or Cuddy duck as they’re known in these parts – as he was the first person to protect the birds from all harm.

Whilst this one is dedicated to St Oswald, with much more exotic creatures (like a Mandarin duck!).  The stained glass itself isn’t old, made in 1933, but I do love the windows a lot as they hold a lot of meaning for this region.

The altar is splendid but typically Victorian.  I mean, it couldn’t be more ornamented if it tried and they ended up blocking the beautiful window at the far end.

In an attempt to make the place more grandiose for the wealthy industrialists, the wood carver was sent to Exeter cathedral to make copies of some of the misericords (though we don’t think he copied the very lewd carvings he would have seen there!).  We did meet and get talking to one of the volunteers, who took us on a sort of impromptu tour of the cathedral, pointing out all of these things that we might otherwise have missed.  We were very lucky, as there was hardly a soul there and we got to ask a lot of questions and find out a lot about the cathedral’s history.

This is the Thornton Brass and the picture does not do it justice – it is huge.  In fact, it is the largest brass in the UK and is quite something to behold.  It would originally have been the top of the family’s tomb, but was moved and mounted behind the altar.  It is a Flemish brass, probably pre-1440 and pays homage to Roger, his wife and their seven sons and seven daughters.  If you look hard enough, you might also see the family dog hiding!

The best bit about stained-glass windows?  The wonderful patterns they make on the floors when the sun is shining.

The oldest part of the original church has been made into a separate chapel for quiet contemplation.  It is hidden a bit from the main part of the church and has been used as a charnel house, too (when the church decided to disinter the bones of all those who had been buried within the church – and later cathedral’s – walls).  It is much cooler than the rest of the cathedral and has a proper church ‘smell’ about it; my kind of place!

Stained glass was added at the edge of the vaulted ceiling and commemorates the region’s heritage.  All in all, we had a great time visiting it and I will definitely be visiting again when I can.  I would recommend finding a volunteer to ask questions and also buying a copy of the guidebook to get some added info (we never buy guidebooks, but did buy theirs as we were interested enough to do so!).

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Rosa Xanthina in Bloom

A definite sign that spring is here and summer is coming! What better sight to behold :)

Friday 6 March 2015

(Almost) The End of Winter

It has been a funny old week.  I fell down (our very steep Edwardian) stairs on Monday morning and ended up in hospital because of a cracked coccyx.  I can tell you that it is the one place where you don’t really want to show the doctor what you’ve hurt!  I had a week of appointments and things I had to get done and before I knew what had happened, it was Thursday and I was stressing myself out about things I still had to do, so instead of bottling it all up, I seized my opportunity and went for a long old walk by myself.  As ever, it was the salve I needed to get me out of a fug and as it was so windy, it quite literally blew the cobwebs away too.  I cannot wait for the temperatures to rise a bit more, so that I can spend more of my days outside.  I have missed it a lot.

On the walk, with the blue skies and puffy white clouds, the mild weather after so many days of cold reminded me that spring is well and truly on its way.  Any day that stays above 10ºC is a bonus at the beginning of March in Northumberland.  Buds were bursting on the wild honeysuckle and on the tips of tree branches; it was all looking suddenly very brown but yet very hopeful at the same time.  Ramsons were bursting out of the soil and I know that in a month or so’s time, this whole woods will reek of wild garlic. How exciting!  Yep, my friends, Spring is definitely here.

Friday 27 February 2015

This and That

Our native (and most beautiful) duck, the Eider duck, at home in these shores.  Spring flowers on the wood burning stove when it’s not in use.  Valentine’s Day roses from Mr VP.  Ringed plovers who share a home with the Eiders and the cormorants, the herons and the grey seals.  The black coal sand on the beach, light and easily swept away.  And a bit of Genesis as this song (and most the Genesis back-catalogue) has been on our playlist quite a bit recently.

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! :)

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