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 25 March 2017

The may is unfolding in the hedgerows

The hedgerow at the bottom of our garden has in the last week unfurled its beautiful green leaves. Suddenly, almost overnight, the branches are clothed in a thick velvet fabric of such density and verdancy, just as they were those twelve (!) years ago that we bought the house. I look back at those years and that person I was then; I daresay I wouldn’t recognise her at all, in her naivete and youthful exuberance. I daresay she wouldn’t recognise me, either, though I know she’d love the life I’m trying to create for our family.

Spring is the happiest time of year. I used to like winter a lot, but now for me no other season is as wonderful or magical as spring. As lovely as autumn is, it is tinged with a sorrow at losing the lovely days of spring and summer and succumbing to the indoors for a few months. Spring on the other hand beckons you out, holds your hand, wafts sweet scents of newly cut grass and may blossom on the breeze. It has the season’s first strawberries and birds nest-building and long, long, long overdue sun.

Today was one of those dreamy spring days. It was warm, a whopping 14C and almost entirely windless. We had a late-for-us start followed by me making pancakes for everyone, with extra blueberries for Baby VP whose idea of the perfect meal is a blueberry (or twenty).

Mr VP has started the long, arduous task of DIY – painting the dining room and the bathroom amongst other things – so while he got on with that, I took Baby VP out and we went to the beach for a walk. It was so busy there that we actually struggled to find parking – something that hardly ever happens at this particular beach, so you could tell the weather was exceptionally nice. The ice-cream van had a line ten deep for oysters and 99s and Zaps. We walked and she and I and talked about the things we could see; why the water looked so blue and about the people, the birds and the sand.

Spring is a hopeful season. I love it and can’t wait to get out for some more walks and get to see some more places.

Sunday 21 June 2015


Love is a funny thing indeed; it makes us do things we wouldn’t do, pushes us, nurtures us and gives us a place of refuge when we can’t see the good in ourselves.  It’s a pretty wonderful thing and something that can be so easily overlooked, however hard we edeavour not to.  I am extremely grateful for the love Mr VP shows on a daily basis and the care and dedication with which he nurtures our family.  In the last year, our lives have taken some very surprising and wonderful turns and I am so glad that he is a part of them and here with me to share these epic changes that neither of us could have foreseen.  I’m also hugely grateful for my best friend and soulmate at times when life pushes us to our limits and tests us to the nth degree.

Monday 6 April 2015

Easter Sunday: Morning, Noon and Night

I hope that you all had a lovely Easter!  We had a quiet one, but have loved the four-day weekend that it entails.  On Easter Sunday itself, despite the weather predictions being dire, we awoke to the most lovely cloudless, sunny spring day.  We opted to go for an early walk as we were awake pretty early anyway and we were almost entirely alone for our walk.  We saw ducks on the lake, exotic varieties and mallards, as well as cormorants and a duck I’ve yet to identify which had a long ‘mane’ of feathers on its head.  We saw pussy willow catkins blossoming, coltsfoot opening their pretty faces to the sun and we revelled in the blackthorn and hawthorn blossoms.  The sun was really, really warm and by the time we got back to the car it was 14ºC!

We came home and I got to work making a Sunday lunch for ourselves and Mum – I made a roast chicken with all the trimmings, and a large lemon meringue pie for dessert.  All of it was absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself (even though I had real issues with the pastry this time, despite blind baking?!  I suspect it was an oven temperature thing).

By the time we’d rested from our large lunch, the temperature was 19ºC (!) and still glorious, so we hopped into the car and went to the beach for a walk to make the most of the day (and to walk off some of the calories!).  It was fairly busy on the beach but the cool air and the soft sand was just what we needed.  Once we had got back, I took my camera into the garden and enjoyed capturing the huge mass of blossoms on our ornamental cherry tree (Prunus incisa. ‘Kojo No-Mai’).  I went through the VP archives and noticed that we planted that tree 9 years ago in August and it has gone from about 30cm in height to now being about 1.7 metres tall!  I didn’t realise it would grow to be such a lovely tree-like shrub.  It is absolutely beautiful and has rekindled my desire to get back into the garden and get it into shape after four years of relative neglect.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

If I Have Seen Further it is by Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

One of the things on this year’s to-do list was walk the rang of hills known as Simonside.  We last did this in July 2009, when the wind and rain was pelting us from all directions and we managed just over a quarter of the distance.  On Sunday, the wind was calmer, the weather bright but slightly overcast and the temperature a blissful 17ºC, so I deemed it to be The Day that we would climb (some of) Simonside’s peaks.

This is a demanding walk and it isn’t even technically that steep as hills go (certainly not a patch on the Cheviots or the other hills and mountains that the British Isles has to offer), but the views from the top make the aching limbs and pounding heart worth it, because when you reach the first peak, then the second, nothing could be greater in the world.

Simonside is a ridge of hills, and there are different ways to approach the peaks.  We set off up the steep and fairly rocky side, which is the way we know best; from there, we ascend until we reach a peak and then descend a little, before ascending a peak double the height again.  This continues until you’re absolutely knackered until you’ve reached the top. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, not because of the height, but because of the distance (it’s a long walk as well as a steep one), and knowing that our knees would have to make it down again – over very rocky and unstable terrain.  Hill-sheep we are not!  This is a fairly low part of the path, which starts out stepped and then deteriorates the further up you go.

This is the view from not-very-far up the hill and it is already stunning.  Those hills you can see in the distance are the Cheviots; Northumberland’s version of mountains, though they escape that formal moniker by a small way.  To me, they’re mountains and they’re beautiful.  I hope to one day climb each summit.  Simonside is a good place to start, I think!

Near the beginning of the walk, we encountered some of the hill’s inhabitants, who eyed us warily.

Most of the heather had gone over due to the exceptionally warm and dry weather we have been having.  But here and there amongst the browning flowers, there would be bright splashes of pink and fuschia.

The last time we visited, I took my exceptionally-heavy and very temperamental 35mm film camera out with me.  I took almost all of the photos on film, taking a photo almost identical to this.  It became one of my favourite photos ever.

Simonside is supposed to derive its name from the Norse and Teutonic sagas, from Sigemund of Beowulf fame, which is perhaps why I like it so much.  I spent a good deal of time studying Early and Middle English literature and these early tales held me captivated.  The whole area around Simonside is ancient, as ancient as it gets, with markings made by pre-historic peoples, some of the earliest in fact.  I think of their huts, the indentations from which can still be seen in the hills, and I wonder how bleak it must have been with no light and little warmth.

This is what the path was like for the most part: broken stones and heather.  It certainly made for a challenging ascent (and descent for that matter!)

Can you see the view getting better and better?

We reached the top of the first ridge and felt elated.  This was as far as we got last time, and we did it much faster this time.  Last time, we perched on these very rocks and ate a picnic in the windiest conditions; almost losing our coffee and sandwiches as we did so.  This time it wasn’t quite as windy, but it still blew the cobwebs away.


The hills are full of wildlife, too.  On our walk we saw many, many red grouse (click the link and listen to the sound they make – it made us laugh every time!), butterflies, fox moth caterpillars and lots of very fit sheep!  Isn’t he a handsome (if highly comical) fellow?

We finally reached the summit of the middle peak at around lunchtime and decided that we would have a rest, soak in the view and then turn back.  What a view, eh?  The whole of Northumberland was laid out for us, in the distance to one side the coast; in the other, the Cheviots and Scotland.

I love this rugged landscape.  Each time I visit, I forget how wonderful it is.  I will make sure that I visit as often as I can.

At the second peak, there are four pine trees.  They aren’t very old or tall, but they are there and because there aren’t any other trees, they stand out like ghostly evergreen sentinels, watching over everything.

I think this is a fox moth caterpillar.  There were lots of them and they seemed to really like the heather.

This is one of the rocks at the second summit.  The rocks here are ancient – some of the oldest in the UK – and are full of life.  At the main summit there are also caves and I spent some of the walk wondering what the landscape must have looked like then, when those caves were used, and who used them.

The last photo I took, almost back at the car park.  Joyous that I had managed the walk and relieved that I was back at the car and could sit down, as the descent turned my legs to jelly!  What a day.

*The title is a much-beloved quote from Isaac Newton.

Monday 4 August 2014

Lights Out

At 10pm, we turned our lights off and lit a candle to remember the last hour of peace before WWI began in 1914.  It was a solemn moment of remembrance for those who gave up their lives.  It made me think how quickly things can escalate and lead to so many lost lives.

Monday 23 June 2014

Days of Puffins and Seals

As it was our anniversary this weekend, Mr VP took Friday off work and we booked ourselves onto a Puffin cruise to Coquet Island that leaves Amble harbour. We had to get up pretty early to get ourselves ready and to the harbour on time for our boat.  Luckily we were early and got chatting to a couple of other people who’d turned up for the boat trip too.  That is our little boat, which went at its own speed, gently ambling along and getting rocked by the waves every now and then.

The view from the harbour looking up the mouth of the River Coquet is particularly pretty, with Warkworth Castle in the middle-distance and the brightly-coloured fishing boats in the foreground.  We haven’t ever been around Warkworth Castle, so it is definitely on our to-visit list for a little later in the year!

Without even leaving the harbour, we could see a lot of wildlife.  This is a Cormorant, resting on what’s left of a little causeway.  Occasionally, the Cormorants would dive off, eat, and settle back onto the pier again.

As soon as we were out of the harbour and into open sea (and I had found a mechanism for keeping my breakfast in its place), we began to see a lot of birds and one bird in particular that I’d never seen in the sea before: Puffins!  They have a very rapid flight pattern and when taking off, you can see their poor weight-to-wing ratio, which explains why they have to flap so fast to stay airborne!

Did I mention that there were a lot of them?  Thousands, in fact (18,000 at the last major count in 2002).  All chirping, flaping, diving and swimming around us as we approached Coquet Island.

Coquet Island is owned by the Duke of Northumberland and, in 1841, when the then-Duke was told that the island had to have a lighthouse put on it, he said something along the lines of “Well, if I have to have one, it must look as castle-like and as imposing as possible” and so this fortified building was erected and still stands to this day.   Like all lighthouses, it is now remotely monitored and activated.  The island is under the care of the RSPB, who maintain a constant presence in shifts, to avoid people coming ashore to steal the eggs of the very rare Roseate tern.

Whilst there were apparently Roseate terns on the island (our guide pointed them out, as they have very helpfully numbered all of the nest boxes), they looked to the untrained eye, very much like every other tern on the island (except Sandwich terns, as they look unique).  I was less interested in the terns; my eyes were trained solely on the puffins and those mammals in the water that followed the boat…

I have long loved seals and any time I see them, I fall a little more in love with them.  All the time we were on the boat, seals would come up to us and have a look to see if we were likely to have food with us.

I think I was probably the only person on the boat whose sea-legs had deserted her for the duration of the trip, and as such, found it a little more difficult to use view-finders and binoculars and avoid losing my breakfast.  Trying to hang onto the boat, which would rock at alarming angles as some big swills came in, and take good photos does not a good combination make, yet I am still really glad that I managed to get some cracking shots – and also be as close to the birds and seals as I was.  Next time, dear readers, I will be armed with an empty stomach and a box of Kwells.

It looks very quiet and serene in photos, but I can tell you that the noise from the seabirds, particularly the terns and fulmars, was immense.  As soon as we were within half a mile of the shore, the noise started and began to intensify until you were met with a wall of squawking and screeching.  Luckily, we avoided being splatted from above!

Puffins are really, really extraordinary creatures.  Just look at them!  They’re all beak and exotic eye-markings.

Puffins were here, there and everywhere.

And still our visitor followed us round.

One of the last at-sea photos was of this puffin with his beak full of sand-eels.  I was so pleased to have stayed upright, kept my breakfast down, seen such glorious wildlife and taken a lots of great photos.

As we re-entered the harbour, and I was itching to get onto dry land before I heaved, we saw this seal come right up to the boat. I fell in love with his browny-red eyes and whiskers and could almost reach out to touch him.  Definitely worth the nausea!  Mr VP, by the way, who has a stomach that is clearly better than mine when it comes to boats, would periodically look at me and chuckle at my green-ness.  I’d still do it again, just to see the wildlife!  Funnily enough, the next day when Mr VP and I were looking around a charity bookshop, he picked up a copy of Seal Morning by Rowena Farre, a book that semi-autobiographically discusses a woman moving to remote Sutherland, rescuing a seal (named Lora) and bringing her up.  I sat reading it aloud to Mr VP that evening and we both fell about laughing at her exploits, however far-fetched.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Summer Solstice

A very happy day spent with my beloved on our anniversary.  Tea and Fairtrade chocolate brownies.  Celebrating the longest day at the pick-your-own farm.  Oodles of sunshine and blue skies.  Puffy white-grey clouds on the horizon.  A slight cooling breeze.  The scent of dog roses on the wind.  The sound of town-bustle replaced by the thudding rustle of straw-deep feet.  Happy thoughts and gladness from top to toe.  I hope that your summer solstice was as gentle, peaceful and full of good things as ours.

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