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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Monday 2 January 2017

The Deep of Winter

The deep of winter is pulling me inside, making me want to spend my days in the comfort of central heating and cups of tea (though seldom drunk hot!). We were all floored at the beginning of December by a really nasty bug, which for poor Baby VP (now very much ToddlerVP!) became croup. A single dose of steroids later and she was back on the road to health but I know it made me feel rough and it was scary to see her unwell.

December is gone, as is 2016, in such a blur. We were still wrapping gifts at 11pm on Christmas Eve, as Baby VP slept upstairs. Christmas was lovely, though done at a different pace. There was the opening of gifts; the rapid breakfast-out-of-the-way to do so I could get the kitchen cleared for Operation Turkey. It was lovely, for the most part calm and following our new cadence as a family. Mum came over and played with Baby VP, I cooked, Mr VP hovered between helping and playing as needed. We ate Christmas lunch very early indeed and I was so glad that we had a dishwasher to do the job that was usually relegated to whoever didn’t cook lunch (usually Mr VP!).

I’ve written about it before, but I really do love this in-between time. A time when things sort of close down and go a bit quiet. We have a huge to-do list; an A4 page of things we really need to get done before Mr VP goes back to work. Unfortunately as the end of Mr VP’s holiday time off approaches is here, we are still staring-down a big check-list of things we haven’t done. But that is life! 2017 is here and is so bright and sparkly and full of promise and of things we must do, want to do and will do. Some things we won’t manage, of course, but isn’t it about the adventure rather than the destination? Most important of all is remembering to spend time together, enjoying every moment together as a family. I don’t usually do resolutions as such, but this year my goals are to write in my paper diary more, blog a bit more often and spend every moment being present in the moment. Hopefully three things that are doable! As for the list of to-dos… they can wait a little longer.

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! :)

Tuesday 31 December 2013

The Old Year: Learning.

I was trying to think of a word that would sum 2013 up in a nutshell, but I was struggling to find any word with enough gravity to explain the adventures, lessons, pain and angst that this year has held. In the end, I came up with learning. It was a year of firsts: my first hospital stay, first surgery, first ambulance ride and first time I’ve been seriously ill.  This year has taught me so much about myself, about my ability to draw on hidden reserves of strength in times of crisis, about bravery and how simply unpredictable life can be. It has also been a year full of little journeys, new experiences, old friends and decision-making.

Whilst this year didn’t start out brilliantly, after the dire Christmas/New Year of 2012-13 and all that went with it, it had some really good points. I loved visiting Wales in May, meeting up with a dear friend in October, going to numerous concerts at the end of the year and spending our special anniversary in York. The only really bad bit of the year was becoming so suddenly and so seriously ill. Though for reasons of anonymity I won’t go into details, what I can say, now that I look back on it from a few months’ distance, is that I had a very blithe attitude to something that was at times very serious. I was so unaware of the gravity of the situation that I even laughed-off the surgeons’ concerns, until I got to the point where no amount of narcotic-painkillers, not even when given every hour, could stop the pain. Thankfully surgery cured it and I got a lot of fab care before and during my surgery as we had it done through our health insurance. Unfortunately, my impressions of the local NHS hospital that I spent a week in has left me with grave concerns over the NHS’s capabilities under this particular government (a post for another time, I think).  It all seems like a very distant dream now (which was probably the narcotics! Did you know they said it was more painful than giving birth?), but one that has left me with a resounding promise to live more in the ‘now’, because heaven knows what the future will bring at the (shockingly abrupt) drop of a hat.

In 2013 I took a staggering 8,560 photos (as of today), compared to 2012’s 5,928. My cameras, though definitely not small, have accompanied me faithfully wherever I go and I can say that I have taken some of my favourite ever photos this year. This too was the year I dabbled with more advanced 35mm developing, played with 35mm slide film and begun to use the occasional roll of 8mm movie film to great effect and will continue to wear my analogue-film colours proudly. All in all, it’s been a pretty great year for photography. As a way to remember 2013 photographically, I have gone through month by month and picked my favourite photos for a year-end review of sorts. It was such a trip down memory lane, with some moments seeming a very long time ago and others seeming as if they happened just yesterday. Should you wish to go through the archives, you can click on the month’s photos to go to that month’s posts.

This year has also been a great year for music. Not only have I got to meet my musical soulmates (Ed Harcourt, Kathryn Williams, Sean Rowe and Martha Tilston!) but I’ve discovered a lot of great songs. I’ve created a list of a my favourites that have been played on loop in 2013:

Vampire Weekend – Walcott
Switchfoot – Always
The Weepies – Be My Thrill
Mackintosh Braun – The Same
Opus Orange – Nothing But Time
Sara Jackson-Holman – Come by Fire
Delta Spirit – Yamaha
Juliette Commagère – Hearts
Woodkid – Shadows
Laura Veirs – Spring Song (sadly no song on YouTube)
Sleeping at Last – (I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles
Isbells – Elation
Sean Rowe – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Ed Harcourt – The Cusp & The Wane (well, the whole Back Into the Woods LP actually!)
Lou Doillon – Devil or Angel
River Whyless – Stone
Tunng – Bloodlines
Yann Tiersen – 7:PM
Martha Tilston – Stags Bellow
Ásgeir – Lupin Intrigue
The Naked and Famous – Grow Old (no link to a video, but a very good song nonetheless!)

We went for a walk this afternoon, to shake off the warmth and stupor of food and central heating.  It turns out that we went just at the right time to not only capture the sunset but to come across a beautiful little wood mouse, quiet happy to gather food as we watched her skitter about around our feet.  It was an amazing sight and one that left us both very contented and happy as we continued our walk (which was just over 3 miles), just chatting about our hopes for 2014 and what challenges and surprises 2013 has brought us.

The skies and the sunset as we walked were absolutely stunning and it was possibly the best way to celebrate the end of the year. We don’t really go in for parties or drinking, but we do love being out in the countryside and so this was just perfect.

I don’t usually make New Years resolutions, because I’m of that sort of mindset that says if you need to make a change in your life, why put off until New Year what you can do today? But this year, I find myself wanting to make some promises to myself and to Mr VP. I find myself wanting to be absolved of 2013, cleansed of it, so I can start anew, as a new person. So, what can I try to change? I’ve been thinking a lot about areas of my life that are lacking and that I can do something about. I would really like to focus on extending myself in the coming year and so I’ve come up with this list of 5 resolutions.

  1. Increase my exercise levels.  I do quite a bit of exercise, but I’m very interested in increasing this and changing it to include something new.  Yoga perhaps?
  2. Make time for evenings/days out with Mr VP, preferably more than once a month.  We’ve been making a concerted effort to give ourselves some ‘us’ time and we’ve both benefitted from it, so I’d like to continue this.
  3. Do one new thing each month.  It might be visiting a new place, or trying something new, who knows?
  4. Say ‘yes’ to more.  This is all to do with being a little bit more positive in 2014 and not instantly dismissing opportunities.  I’m all about living in the ‘now’ and opening myself up to opportunities as they arise.
  5. Make a concerted effort to improve my photography by learning through books and by doing.

With any luck, I’ll be able to check in at the end of 2014 and say that I’ve accomplished all of these and more – fingers crossed!

So, with the gentle hums of Auld Lang Syne on the air, I will leave 2013 and embrace 2014 and all it has to bring.  I hope that 2014 brings you many interesting moments, lots of fun and good health to you and yours. xx

Monday 31 December 2012

The Old Year in Pictures

2012 in pictures.

Saturday 31 December 2011

The Old Year – 2011

The sun is shining, or at least it was a moment ago, then a great big grey cloud, full of rain, covered the sky.  This is perhaps a metaphor for 2011.  It was glorious for so much of the time, but had some notable grey patches.  Yet I can’t ever dislike the year that has seen me attain so many good things.  With grey clouds come silver linings.  Or at least that is what current opinion holds to be true, and I for one attempt to live by that maxim.

If I thought that 2010 had changed my life almost totally (and it did!), I would certainly not have believed where I am, what I am doing now or how I had reached this point.  I got my paper qualifications at last in July (officially on paper in August!) and managed to get into one of the finest universities in the country.  I am studying a subject which has a >20:1 applicant-to-place ratio.  I am living somewhere that I only ever dreamt of living.  It all seems a bit of a bubble now.

I don’t know how to explain what it’s like, other than at times I have to pinch myself to remind me that it is real.  It is both wonderful and immensely difficult all at once and I find myself in a kind of love-hate relationship with university life at times, but I remember the end goal and I look forward to the opportunities it will bring.  However, to be surrounded by people who love learning – that is what makes universities so special.

The challenges have been personal, I think.  I am a very long way away from my mother, which is a constant worry for me.  I not only miss her, I miss being able to jump in a car to get to her.  Similarly, I am now a very long way away from Mr. VP, whose support now comes from a phone line and via Skype.  This is a source of everlasting guilt and worry on my part.  I am tremendously thankful for the support which both people, who in essence comprise my family in its entirety, have given to me.  I will eternally be thankful.

I try to guess what 2012 will hold.  What exams in my third term will be like.  What the summer sun will feel like on my skin.  Whether the sun will rise tomorrow and whether there is a point to life outside what we see (of all the things I have read, Louis Althusser’s work possibly scared me the most – after him, Derrida seemed like a walk in the park).  I try to see Stockholm in the sun, long days at the beach reading, revising, talking to friends (whose enduring kindness made a difficult term bearable).  I hope 2012 is a good, happy year for all.

So I keep thinking – literally.  2012 will be a year for questions, for challenging ideas and for writing.  I have another term to go, in which the workload will be better.  I have a lot to do, I have so much to do sometimes, that I don’t know where to begin.  Not university work always, but my own self-imposed work; things that I feel I must do, that I am driven to do and that, most importantly, I would love to do.

2012 will be a doing-year, I think.  I can only ask that it is gentle to my family and that it protects those whom I hold dear, as well as all the others out there who will need help this coming year.

So, tonight. We don’t tend to go out, in fact for the last few years we have been in bed as the bells have tolled over London town, listening to Radio 4 bring in the New Year with the crack of fireworks and the prim-voiced Radio4 announcer wishing us all a happy New Year from them.  Tonight we might try to stay up, to open the windows and breathe the air of the New Year, though if you’re like me, our New Year happened 3 days before Christmas at the Solstice.  The sun will be rising earlier each day, heralding the beginning of another cycle of life.

Le bon jours approchent (in my broken French). The good days are coming.

Happy New Year.

Friday 31 December 2010

The Old Year: 2010

2010 has been a really strange year. Following my logic that every seven years my life changes in weird, wonderful and often unexpected ways 2010 has been bang-on trend. Seven and a bit years ago, back in August 2003, life handed me Mr. VP, a car and the beginning of a wild ride that would see me heading into a life of independence and wonder – all within 3 days of each other.

Just like 2003 being such a momentous year 2010 has been no less wonderous. I worked hard from January until May on my own in Northumberland looking after cats, house and home whilst Mr. VP slogged away in Cambridge. I really enjoyed that time alone – it was the first time I’d ever been alone and it gave me a sense of strength I didn’t think I had before. I worked, partied, had a laugh with friends and I survived aloneness.

This year I began writing with purpose. I haven’t written for many years and whilst a book has been bubbling in my mind for a (very) long time, the need to write hadn’t been there. When it appeared, it was joyous. The need to write is ever-present now, however the ability to write this very technical and demanding book is not yet there. I have to be able to do such a book justice and with time this will be possible. For now it is chaptered, waiting for the knowledge to be imparted. However this year saw the formation of ideas, the possibility that I could write and the realisation of something that has always been staring me in the face: I can write, I love to write, I want to write and I will always write.

Then came the move down south. It was strange leaving such a nice (large) house for one that is rented, small and impersonal. It’s hard to go from history and memories to very little. I’ve tried to be pragmatic, I’ve tried to make it a home, but I have a feeling that things are going backwards. I’ve yet to fully process this idea. I got married early, had a house and chickens and the Domestic Dream without having had the usual things that go “beforehand”. I have always felt like I was doing things in reverse and I can’t work out whether we’re going in reverse or just taking a circuitous route to the future. I met Mr. VP at 17, had a mortgage at 19, married at 20 and now at (almost) 25, we have a whole “new” life that is smaller, less homely and wholly different. More like one would expect a young couple to have. It’s not bad, it’s different.

2010 saw my first festival! It was a fantastic experience and one I’m desperate to revisit next year.

The move this summer gave me the ability to do nothing – no work, to just be “me”. It was a strange and disambiguated experience; staring as I was, into an edifice of nothingness spanning the dog days of summer. It was precious time. I listened to a lot of music, talked to Mr. VP a lot and navel-gazed. It was this navel-gazing that made me question where I was heading. I could simply get a job and continue on as I ever had, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. It wasn’t giving me purpose and wasn’t fulfilling my need to do a greater good. It was a phonecall to the college one day, out of the blue, some time in late July that gave me the first seeds of possibility. The rest, as they say, is history. This experience of “mature” education, impending university and living in a small rented place has been an eye-opener and one that has served me well. I am filled with ideas and hope for a brighter future, one full of promise and academia. A future I didn’t think was possible a year ago.

The last six months have been a whirlwind of activity – mostly academic. Essays which by now you’re all intimately acquainted with and assignments have been my life and my mainstay. I have little time to myself any more, but all of this work is bearing fruit. I got my first university offer the other day. It is strange, and has been a strange, strange ride.
Stockholm was just… amazing. We both felt some kind of bond there that we hadn’t ever felt anywhere else apart from the south-west of England. It was a different feeling but it is the kind of place we both want to visit again, often.

Christmas this year was wonderful despite illness on all fronts. The reason I hadn’t blogged until now was that despite my rounds of antibiotics and steroids, I began coughing blood on Tuesday night and by Wednesday had a very high temperature. We got an appointment as an emergency patient (my second since arriving in Lincoln) and honestly by that point I wasn’t bothered about getting better so much as just getting something to render me unconscious. It turns out the bug was serious and first-stage antibiotic resistant, something that had never happened to me before, but nonetheless was worrying. The doctor said I “looked dire”, to which I looked hopefully at her, thinking she might take pity and give me something wonderous. I got some new, second-stage vanilla-scented antibiotics which seem to be the real deal, and double-dose steroids (8 tablets a day plus 2 antibiotics, no less!). Needless to say, I am feeling much better but so drained that even simple things tire me out. I am also coughing like a nervous Chihuahua – not an enticing look, I am aware.

This year I learnt the most valuable lesson of all – do not waste time, because you cannot get it back. It took me this long to learn it, for this lesson to really sink in, but now it has I vow to live my life in a more proactive manner.

It would be impossible to discuss a year in the VintagePretty calendar without discussing the music behind it, songs which have soothed me, held my hands through the rough and made me happy. This year the songs have come from some unusual quarters, namely of late a large selection of classical music, a genre which up until now has been reasonably conservative in my likes and dislikes. I thought it’d be a good place to list some of my favourite musical loves of 2010. For perpetuity. Motoboy, my Swedish musical love, kept me aurally amused for much of the summer. Aqualung, Vaughan Williams, Royksopp, Kings of Convenience, Greg Laswell, Hugo Alfvén, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, Bo Kaspers Orkester, Peter Bjorn And John, Lo-Fi-Fnk, Patrick Watson, Josh Ritter, Mumford & Sons, Silverpennies, Jose Vanders, The October Game, David Gibb, Laura Marling, Kate Havnevik, Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Metric, Ours, John Mayer, Chris Bathgate, Bombay Bicycle Club, Kristofer Åström, Joshua James, William Fitzsimmons, Angus & Julia Stone, Anna von Hausswolff and many, many more.

I am including three tracks which made 2010 great. I wish I had the space and the ability to list all of them here, but sadly I do not. Moto Boy was my big, *huge* crush of 2010 and will live on with me into many years.

The Heart Is A Rebel by motoboy

Nite Time Is My Time by motoboy

Faller Falling – I Remember Evening by EardrumsPop

I can’t say 2010 has been bad, it simply hasn’t – nothing quite compares to 2008 in those stakes, and I am hesitant to name anything “awful” because life can throw so many unexpected things into the mix. It has been a year of metamorphosis; of learning about myself. Finding my feet in a foreign place. Of change. These changes are set to become numerous and more demanding as the new year progresses, such is the nature of life and time. 2010 has been a wake-up call and a time for me to think about where I was heading and where to aim my sights. It has been a difficult but ultimately good year.

I have to thank Mum for all of her uncompromising love and devotion which she shows to us on a daily basis. Her kindness and tenacity know no bounds. And Mr. VP who is a treasure, the likes of which a girl doesn’t come across twice. I might’ve taken this knowledge for granted in the past, but sometimes it just takes a while to sink in. His perpetual support, his wonderful skills as chief provider, his love and thoughtfulness are all much appreciated by Mrs. VP. Did you know the solstice on 21st December was our 4 ½- year anniversary? How time does fly.

I think that is my 2010 in a nutshell, as it were. I am now off not to see in the New Year with champagne and caviar, but in bed, with two purring cats and Mr. VP. From our house to yours, all at VintagePretty wish you a very wonderful, happy and healthy New Year!

Goodbye 2010, it was a wild ride.  Hello 2011, welcome to the fold.

Thursday 31 December 2009

The end of an era – looking back, looking forward

You know me well enough by now to know that I am hideously nostalgic.  I spend a fair amount of time looking back, because it in some ways, easier than trying to look forward into a hazy future I don’t yet know.  Everywhere you look, on TV on the radio in magazines, they are all trying to summarise “The Noughties” and in many ways I don’t know how or where to begin.

As the clock turned midnight at the beginning of the Millennium, I seem to remember being very unhappy.  I was about to return to boarding school (which I hated with every inch of my body) and life didn’t seem to be doing what I expected of it, or wanted it to be.  Much of 2000 was spent in teenage-filled turmoil (as is a teenager’s life, you know how it is) which I wouldn’t have ever been able to admit then, but can happily reflect upon now it’s over.

2001 really changed my life for the better.  Despite some very rough times, I remember 2001 as being almost magical.  My mother and I moved to a new area and we set about creating a new life for ourselves.  More than anything I remember 2001 and 2002 being fairly inward-thinking years and fairly hedonistic ones.  Not much happened, some good, some bad.  I just followed on.

It wasn’t until 2003 that things really started to change for me.  Having “dumped” a rather ineffectual boyfriend (and got out of a pretty awful relationship) at the beginning of 2003, my mother and I went on a whirlwind holiday in Cornwall.  By complete happenstance, half-way down the M5 motorway we needed somewhere to stay overnight and we passed a sign for the town of Glastonbury.  I instantly knew that it was where I wanted to spend a night, before our proper holiday started.  We raced around trying to find accommodation and found a wonderful place to stay, and then found the Chalice Well Gardens.  I had finally found somewhere where I was accepted!  I fell completely in love with the place and still, to this day, find it to be one of the only places I consider “home”.

Upon returning home, I started my own small business and had some success.  By August of that year I had met (and rather instantly fallen in love with) Mr.VP and I started seeing life as something wonderful again.  I continued to work, Mr. VP and I had a long-distance thing going, until January of 2004 when he moved in with Mum and I.  I passed my driving test the next month and discovered four-wheeled freedom!

I worked hard for most of 2004 until Mr. VP got a job up here in the North East which is where we moved one very, very icy November day.  We moved into a really, truly beautiful house which was possibly one of the coldest, least-friendly places you could wish to live.  On paper it was ideal, acres of our own land, beautiful gardens, listed old house, huge rooms etc.  But it failed to mention the lethal electricity connections, the not-so-working boiler, the band G council tax and how bloody cold the place would be.  That winter I learnt how to tend a fire, cook really warm hearty meals and to survive without hot running water or electricity.

It was in May of 2005 that we bought and moved into the house we’ve been in ever since.  It’s a quirky property, built over a hundred years ago, with big windows and nice sturdy walls.  We fell in love with the place, making it our home almost instantly.  We had ups and downs, like everyone does, but during the time here I have grown up, grown into my own skin, and just like the house I retain many of the foibles that make me… me.

In 2006 we got married on a blustery Summer Solstice day.  I mostly remember the huge salmon that I was up all night tending, and the gazebo that blew away at 5am!  We had our honeymoon in Dorset and I suppose that was where I found true happiness in it’s purest form.  It was the happiest time of my life.  Since then I have changed jobs, changed haircuts, lost our beautiful dog, gained two tempestuous cats and have made a lot of changes to my life.  But I’m still in love.

2007 was simple and steady.  It was probably the most relaxing, least challenging year.  2008 was the year everything happened – you know what I mean, but it wasn’t just those events which changed me.  I met so many people that year who had vast, enormous impacts on my life, even though they probably don’t realise how much of an effect they had.

And then there was 2009 which started very unhappily, but which has ended on a slightly sweeter note.  Yesterday we put the house on the market.  We aren’t going to keep it “in case”, we’re not going to rent it out and have the chance that it might not be loved like we love it.  We are going to let it go and move on with our lives.  Suddenly after all this time of worry and stress, we’re starting to see the light.  I won’t be working for much longer at my current job – I have the chance to move on and start something new.

And it’s snowing, on and off.  That’s always a good sign.  It looks like it’s going to be a good, good year.

Happy New Year to all my readers.  Thanks for the emails and the comments and the support.  May you all have a very happy, healthy 2010 and beyond.

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