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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Friday 29 August 2014

The End of Summer

We went to visit Goltho Gardens whilst we were visiting Mum last weekend and I’m so glad that we did.  The garden had changed such a lot from the cool, pale green and blossom-filled garden we had visited in April.  Those blossoms on the apple trees in April had been transformed into big apples, each a different colour, just like their blossom.  The hens next to the potager were still squawking and clucking, just as before, but the potager itself was full of a variety of lovely vegetables not seen in April.  Huge cabbages and runner beans lay burdened under the weight of their produce. And grapes!  Not something we often come across growing so freely, this vine was heavy with developing grapes, all hues of purple and waxy-blue.  It was quite a sight to see.

In other places, there was change too.  The nut walk was no longer a name on a sign; the hazel trees were full of unripe filberts (hazelnuts) and there was evidence of the creatures that come out at night to feast on the fallen ones.  The flower beds were no longer full of pink tulips and pale fritillaries but full of bright peuce echinaceas, yellow dhalias and orange daisies.  Butterflies were everywhere and quite open in their flutterings, which afforded us a lovely view.  Under the cherry trees and pines, where snowdrops had been a few months previously, there was an eruption of pink and white cyclamen, which had spread like an ornate carpet, over a large patch of the garden’s boundary.  Turning the corner and being met by a wall of pale pinka nd white in such number is striking yet absolutely lovely.

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?”

Wednesday 6 August 2014

August Moments

August is a little bit of a funny month, in-between the hopeful summery bits where we enjoy the long days and warm evenings and the secretly hoping for autumn, when the cold comes again and you wake to the smell of leaf-litter and chill on the morning air.  Of course, we’re still making the most of summer while we have it, and visiting places that we know will not be the same when the mercury is hovering around 0ºC and there’s a Nor-Easter howling through.  But with the knitting needles coming out, the end-of-summer sales everywhere and the proximity to a certain festive month (Christmas cakes are made next month – eep!), it’s starting to feel slightly less summery.  In the kitchen, meals are a bit ad-hoc, as it is still too warm to want to do much, but we still eat well, with lots of summer veggies, pulses, legumes and eggs.  I was so happy to see a double yolked egg!  It was my first since we had our own hens.

Last weekend, Mr VP and I visited the much-loved (and sung-about) Leazes Park.  Grand old Victorian parks are some of my favourite city spaces and when they overlook the Georgian and Victorian grandeur of the buildings around (Mansard roofs = love), they are even more special.  We hovered around the lake and watched an angler with his fishing line so engrossed in his angler’s trance that he didn’t notice three, bold as brass rats running into his bait bags and stealing food.  We saw swans and herons and geese swimming around the island.

At the beach, this is the time to see the birds, some of which have finished breeding and are in the waiting period before they fly off to visit distant climes.  The Arctic terns we have seen around have already begun to feed themselves in preparation for the next summer they will see when they leave our shores and make the tremendous 10,400 mile journey to enjoy the (relatively) summery weather in the Antarctic.  To think of making that trip with planes and boats and cars seems almost impossible for me as a human being, but to them it is just part of life and it is absolutely remarkable.

Monday 4 August 2014

The Last Days of July

Whilst I’m still trying to wrap my head around the loss of July (where did it go?!), I thought I’d post some photos from an evening walk that we took on one of the last days of July.  It was really warm and sunny, so we weren’t the only ones out and about, but it was quiet enough to enjoy the birds singing and the sound of geese honking.  One of the first things we came across on the walk was this crow, obviously just-out-of-the-nest, with its fluffy feathers and its big chubby toes.  He/she didn’t mind us being there and actually was quite interested when I stopped for a moment and began snapping away.  Those corvid eyes know a lot more than they let on.

We’re now officially into seed-head season, with lots of the plants beginning to dry their seed-heads in the heat of August.  It is still one of my all-time favourite sights, these tall grasses in the sunlight.

On the way round, we came across a thicket of wild grasses and thistles, which were covered in damsel flies.  This fellow sat very still and let me take a lot of photos, until he darted off at lightning speed to another plant.

Whilst we do have our fair share of deciduous trees around, we also have a lot of pines.  They make great nests, food sources, wind-breaks and habitats for wildlife.

A swan came up to us and was quite vocal in his dislike at us not having any bread!

These larch cones were one of my favourite sights on the walk.  They remind me of when we first moved up to Northumberland (in the middle of winter), when we were renting an old farm house that was freezing cold no matter how much the heating was on.  To keep warm, I began to make fires in the inglenook fireplace and I would gather fallen larch and pine cones to start the fire before adding the anthracite rounds that would actually kick out the heat.  Whilst it did warm the house quite admirably, it also let off the most amazing smell of warm pine resin.  It always makes me smile to see them because it reminds me of that first (and at times both dire and lovely) house we lived in together.

Remember I mentioned honking geese?  Here they are!  Lovely, friendly Canada geese, paddling along on the water.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Three Months

It doesn’t seem possible that three whole months have elapsed since we moved here, but lo and behold, it is true.  Walking along an eerily quiet sea shore tonight, where it was so mill-pond still that there wasn’t even the sound of waves lapping, I thought about how different life has become since we moved and felt a swell of gratefulness.  This is home.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Down to the river we will run

Last Friday, Mr VP took some time off work and we packed a picnic and headed for a day spent together in a place that we both love very, very much.  Allen Banks and Staward Gorge is a place that we haven’t visited since a very snowy February 2009, though little has changed in the five years we’ve been absent.  Except the weather – that was very different to our last visit!  This time we were sweltering and sweating in the heat of the midday sun rather than shivering in the cold.  The last time we came here, it was so cold that parts of the river were frozen over.  It seems hard to believe it possible when visiting on a day like this.

Allen Banks is teeming with wildlife and wilflowers.  The birds were singing; cheeky robins darting just ahead of us, leading us on, and wagtails whisking up and down the river.  The slightly fuzzy picture of the bird on a rock is a dipper and this is the only place I’ve ever seen them.  I also saw my first grey wagtail here.  We saw (but I was absolutely unable to capture on camera) the bank voles, of which there were hundreds, running around the trees and banks of the river.  We could mostly hear them and then would catch one running past us at such a speed that even with the best reflexes in the world, I don’t think I could’ve kept up with them.  I’m also fairly sure that if one was to stay still enough here, you would become covered in moss, as almost all the trees, logs, walls, fences and semi-permanent structures are covered in a thick, green coat.  Wildflowers grow in abundance and orchids, horsetails, nettles, bracken, ramsons and brambles cover every inch of space that isn’t full already of trees, both living and dead.

We picnicked on the bend in the river, where there is a little section of dry riverbed in summer that you can get down onto.  We had sandwiches and cake and coffee, though I didn’t feel much like eating because of the heat.  I walked across flat river-stones into the middle of the river and watched the fish swimming, the baby salmon and trout (we think).  I saw one, much bigger, fish swoop out of the deep and into the shallows to pluck off one of the unlucky fry, before returning to the depths.  This is why all of the young hide in the shallows, in less than an inch of water, so as to avoid the same fate.  It is a magical place, this river and these banks, imbued with peace and plenty.  It is one of those places that you continue to think about long after you have gone home and returned to your daily life.  I can’t wait to go back on an autumn morning, crisp with cool, damp air, wearing wellies and a coat rather than plimsoles and a light top.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Clockwork Birds

Do you know that it had been almost a month since Mr VP and I had visited a beach.  That is far too long for either of us and we were both getting a little antsy.  As the weather has been so hot and humid recently, I knew that the only place we’d get real relief was at the beach.  It seems obvious, but it felt like both of us were recharging something that we hadn’t known was missing, just by being there.  After a little while, we noticed a small flock of these little clockwork-legged birds running in and out of the tide.  I thought they were plovers from a distance, as I’ve seen quite a few of those around before, but when I went to the bird identifier they look far more like sanderlings (in their breeding plumage) to me, though technically sanderlings only visit in the winter (?).  Who knows.  They were very sweet though and eventually I got close enough to take some really nice photos.  We found this enormous clam shell while walking on the beach, too.  It was almost big enough to be a soap dish and judging by the number of rings on its shell, it must’ve been pretty old, too!  However, the best bit of the whole walk had to be the emptiness of the beach at sunset.  The sky was on fire; salty sea air was forming rolls of foggy-fret and best of all, it was cool and glorious to feel the sand between our toes after the heat and mugginess of the day.

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