Butterflies

If I had to give a name to this week I think it would be Semana de las Mariposas – Butterfly Week. They have been everywhere, in carpets and in clouds, every shape, size, colour and pattern imaginable, from velvety regal peacocks to tiny dusty blues the shade of speedwell. None of them are easy to photograph, though, as they just don’t stop flitting around (and I’m still trying to get the hang of our new camera, which doesn’t help). I love the spotty black and white ones that flutter slowly like flying hankies – if I can just persuade one to land and spread its wings, maybe I stand a better chance of identifying it.

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Insects are such an important part of the ecosystem, we do as much as we can to attract them to the garden by providing food, shelter and places to breed.

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I’ve had mixed success with those ‘bee and butterfly’ seed mixes over the years, often preferring to buy or collect single types and mix my own; borage, phacelia, calendula, Californian poppies, poached egg plant, field poppies, cornflowers and mustard make a great basic mix for starters and can be relied upon to self-set for many years. Economical and efficient as well as beautiful!

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Of course, some of the visitors arrive hell-bent on destruction but that’s gardening for you – we expect to lose some of our crops to our co-inhabitants, that’s just how it goes. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, though, and on a purely selfish note pollination is what we’re after. I love flowers in the vegetable garden and have never understood separating the two; after all, if an insect comes in to visit sweet peas then the chances are it will visit the green peas, too.

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Where pollinators feed, crops will follow.

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Tiny cucumber

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Borlotti bean flowers .  . .

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. . . then the beans!

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Beautiful striped Italian courgette

Nature at its most remarkable in tiny six-legged forms. How simple but how truly wonderful. 🙂

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A cabbage, a collie and a conquered kilometre

In the coming weeks I need to run miles . . . and miles . . . and miles.

PICT0048It’s hard to run any great distance from home because of the hills and hairpins but there is a great stretch of road out of the village which lends itself to repeats; Roger uses it a lot for speed training, sprinting up and jogging back down several times. It’s almost straight (very rare round here) and exactly one kilometre long but the tricky thing is that it is a steady climb which is steeper than it looks and try as I might, I just haven’t been able to run it all in one go without a recovery walk. Until this week that is, when I finally cracked the Hill From Hell and felt so pleased that at last I must be making some kind of progress. All I need to be able to do is run backwards and forwards ten times and the half marathon is in the bag. Ha ha! 🙂

I have gained a problem though, in the shape of my new little friend, Roy. He is a five month-old border collie pup with a huge zest for life and a fatal attraction to the neon orange laces on my running shoes.

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If I run into the village and turn round by the bar, I have to run past his house twice and he invariably dognaps me, winds himself between my feet and attaches himself to my laces. He is adorable so I have to forgive him and usually his lovely lady owner is around to extract him from my feet and allow me to carry on. Today, however, there was no sign of her and I was worried about him being out on the road – even though it is very quiet – plus he had me in a puppy jawlock which made moving impossible. Nothing for it but to hop-wriggle-shuffle to the front door, Roy firmly in tow, and ring the bell for help. After a quick chat and giggle, the young pup was removed and I was ready to tackle that hill again when I was asked to stop and wait and then presented with the most beautiful cabbage to take home. What a lovely, generous gesture. Our neighbours are all such kind people, we are very blessed.

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However . . . picture my situation for a moment, dear reader. There I was, halfway through an eight kilometre (five mile) run during which I was attempting to make it up that wretched Hill From Hell not once but twice when suddenly I found myself to be the proud new owner of an enormous cabbage. (It really is enormous, too, weighing in at 2.3kg, or 5lb in old money – I kid you not, I have seen smaller babies.) What is a person to do? I certainly wasn’t going to refuse it, that would have been churlish and anyway, I love cabbage and our summer ‘Greyhound’ (how appropriate is that name to this story?!) aren’t quite ready to eat yet. I could have simply walked home from the village taking the shortest route which would probably have been the most sensible plan but I didn’t want to cut my run short (blimey, what is happening to me?) and anyway, I wasn’t sure my coach would consider a heavy cabbage enough of an excuse not to be racking up the miles. In fact, part of me is slightly suspicious that maybe he has had a word in the village and this is just the first of several challenges to come; if Antonio asks me to carry one of his sheep, I shall know something is afoot. Anyway, back to the cabbage and there was only one thing for it: I tucked it under my arm like a giant rugby ball and trotted off up the H F H, trying not to make any forward passes as I went.

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Did I manage to run all the way again, despite my handicap? Well actually, yes I did, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that now of course, the locals don’t just see me as the eccentric Englishwoman on the hill who talks to her cabbages but who now takes them for a run as well.  🙂

Summertime smile

Strictly speaking, I know that it is still spring in the northern hemisphere but we have certainly been enjoying what feels like summer here this week.

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Wandering around the garden, there is colour and scent at every turn.

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Lavender grown from seed last year.

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The whole patch is teeming with wildlife, it feels like we are completely immersed in nature. How magical to watch a deer and her fawn grazing in the meadow above the house as we ate our dinner outside; how incredible for Roger to pause on his morning run and watch an Iberian wolf lope across the field in front of him!

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The rate at which plants are growing is phenomenal.

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The ‘Costata Romenesco’ courgettes seem to think they are rhubarb . . . or maybe gunnera?

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Time to find the cucumbers something to climb up, I think.

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Dwarf beans just six days after planting.

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Remember that muddy little root of comfrey I was given in January?

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That’s all new growth on the storm-damaged lemon tree – what a comeback!

It’s so good to indulge in sweet summer flavours on our plate.

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Here come the beans!

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The garlic has been harvested and is now drying in the sun.

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Good to see those courgette plants aren’t all leaf.

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Preparing dinner under the sunbrella: broad beans and peas to be lightly steamed, tossed in olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs and served cold as a delicious salad dish.

There is the promise of plenty more tasty delights to come.

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‘Divaa’ potatoes

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‘Bona’ beetroot

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‘Sungold’ tomatoes

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No shortage of walnuts so we are pickling some this year.

We have made a start on Phase 2 of the house renovation . . .

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. . . but there has still been time to squeeze in some decent walks.

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Wandering through chestnut woods on a 7-mile / 11 km circular walk from home.

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Starting to climb the mountain: the view back to our village through a break in the trees.

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We passed this reservoir used exclusively for fighting forest fires. This is where the helicopters we have been watching come to fill their water ‘bombs.’

We have lived here for just over a year now and we love our new home as much as ever. It is such a gorgeous spot, so peaceful and beautiful. Perfect for living the outdoor life we enjoy so much . . . and summer has barely begun! 🙂

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Running stuff

Well, here it is: my official CHAS t-shirt and I am so proud to be wearing it! Isn’t it lovely?

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I won’t be running in it on race day as I have a lighter, more fitted top I like to wear but I shall be wearing it over the top until the race starts and also wearing it pretty much everywhere I can between now and then (I won’t be running in crocs, either!). I have a pack of CHAS balloons, too, for the event so I shall be looking for a willing volunteer or two to create as much fun and chaos with those as they can!

Of course, my lovely new shirt is all about publicity for the charity I’m supporting but its arrival has got me thinking a bit about running accessories in general. I am not going to criticise people who love to buy all the gear as I believe anything that encourages exercise and healthy living is a good thing – each to their own. However, I am not a ‘stuff’ person and that applies to running gear as much as anything else. I’ve run in the same basic kit for five years, replacing only socks and shoes as they wear out. I carry a tissue and tiny pot of lip balm in my pocket and wear suncream if the weather demands. That’s it. I don’t have a hydration pack and only carry a water bottle if the weather is hot; I prefer to hydrate well before and after a run. Ditto fuel – no belt of gel packs for me, just a good breakfast of stewed fruit, oats, mixed seeds and Greek yogurt. I’ve never worn earphones (we don’t have one of those music thingummies anyway), I’d rather listen to the sound of the birds – and hear traffic when I run on the road. I do let this song play round and round my head at times when I’m struggling though, the rhythm seems to match my running pace and the words remind me to be brave (I also quite enjoy the irony of  the ‘we won’t run’ line!) King and Lionheart

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My dog-eared old running kit!

I don’t have a Garmin or similar device to tell me all about myself, either: I know many runners swear by them and I wouldn’t dream of dismissing them out of hand when I haven’t even tried one, but really they don’t appeal. For a start, I don’t normally wear a watch so I don’t like the idea of  having something strapped to my wrist while I run. I don’t care about time: my runs take me as long as they take. I am a slow plodder and that’s the way it is. Anyhow, it’s hard to make sense of timings here as most runs involve a lot of hill climbing. I don’t need GPS to help me find myself as I usually know where I am and have a good idea of how to get home. I love maps so I’m happy to use one to work out distance and elevation. As for heart rate, steps, calories, pace, daily goals . . . oh, whatever.

My challenge is to run 13.1 miles or 21 kilometres and quite honestly all the technology and trendy gear in the world is not going to help me. What I need to start with is a good training plan. Having found several possibilities, I  felt myself sliding into a slightly catatonic state at all the terminology: easy, tempo, interval, fartlek, threshold, recovery, progression, cross-training . . . help!  I am so blessed to live with an incredibly talented runner who thankfully has a very pragmatic view of race training and – even more importantly – of me.

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My long-suffering coach (and husband!)

He quickly discarded most of the programmes I’d found, choosing this one from Bupa as being the most appropriate because it focuses on distance, rather than strength and running styles . Half Marathon Training Programmes The point is I am not after a good time (actually, I’m not even after a mediocre time), I just need to know that I can go the distance and as Roger says, if you want to run miles then the best way to do that is to run miles!

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So, this is it. My official 12-week training starts on 19th June with a 30-minute ‘easy’ run. Okay, I think I can manage that. As for the next eleven weeks and six days, we’ll see. What I do know is that I am hugely lucky to have such a great personal coach and support team behind me; in the end it will be love, determination and grit – not kit – that gets me round that lake! 🙂

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A bower bird for Baby

With lots of bits and bobs left over from my rainbow baby blanket projects, I started scouting around for something else I could make as a gift for the Little One. Even though I’ve used a fair bit of yarn, those beautiful balls have lost nothing of their charm!

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I quite fancied doing something along the lines of a hanging mobile and set about hunting for just the right thing. There are some truly lovely patterns out there and – it must be said – some rather bizarre ones, too, but ferreting about once again in Attic 24 I found Lucy’s bower bird and it was love at first sight.  Bower bird pattern Apart from anything else, this would give me quite a challenge in the world of following crochet patterns and would be my first attempt at a 3-d creation. Perfect . . . except for one almighty, calamitous, frustrating-beyond-words disaster: our camera gave up the ghost and refused point blank to take a single picture. Nooooooooo! 😦 So, instead of showing the whole process, all I can do is add a few photos of the finished article. However, looking on the bright side (and I am an eternal optimist), it does mean I might have to make another . . .

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My first task was to tip out all the leftover yarn and start playing about with colours once again. I liked the ‘rainbow’ bower idea, but once the colours were in front of me I backed away from it: time for a slight change in tack, I thought. I felt the greens and blues coming together in a harmonious combination – with gold thrown in as an accent – perfect as a foil for the bright little bird I envisaged perching on it.

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Red and orange are the favourite colours of Ben and William’s (Baby’s big brothers) respectively and somehow they seemed the right choice for the bird (along with a bright yellow beak, of course). The embroidery colours were something I felt would evolve once the bird bits were made and in the same way, apart from the hanging sun, I didn’t give any thought at that point to further embellishments.

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The beauty of a project like this is that it provides such a brilliant starting point; if someone asked me to design a crocheted bird I wouldn’t have a clue where to start, so thank goodness for all the creative talent out there! I am quite good at making my own changes though, and I could see a couple of possibilities here straight away. The original pattern uses an embroidery flexihoop as the bower base and safety bead eyes for the bird. Now I didn’t have either and I really didn’t want to have to start tracking them down, partly because I was too impatient to get started but also my minimalist ‘make do and mend’ head was suggesting alternatives. I like the little beady eyes but decided there would be nothing wrong with French knots in a black embroidery thread I just happened to have in my sewing box. An alternative to the flexihoop was a tad trickier; they are a great idea and I can see the sense in using them but . . . there had to be something I could use instead. Poking about in the room under the house I hit on a length of cable which seemed a possibility: it was flexible enough to bend in smooth curves but weighty enough to support the woolly things. Joining the ends was an issue but I saw no reason why they couldn’t cross over at the top (nothing says the bower must be a closed circle, after all) and I could fashion a hanging device to cover the join if need be.

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The only thing I wondered was whether this piece of cable was vital to Roger’s life (him not being here to ask at the time), but seeing as it was in a pile of ‘stuff’ left by the previous owner and not filed tidily in his Man Shed Big Box of Electrical Essentials, I decided to purloin it. Once covered in yarn, who’d ever know? 🙂

Hooking the striped strip of fabric to cover the cable was easy and it came together very quickly, although faffing about with all the ends from the colour changes when sewing up was a bit of a nightmare.

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I loved every minute of making the bird, though: it’s a very clever pattern and there was something lighthearted and carefree about adding the embroidery stitches.

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I had thought to have the bird sitting face-on, front and centre, but after a lot of playing I decided I preferred it draped along the bottom of its bower. I loved the idea of a hanging sun right from the word go but fancied making a hanging heart, too (well, once you’re on a roll why not go with it?). Not for the bower this one, but I have found a great use for it.

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I really wanted to use all of the 18 colours that went into the Granny Flower Garden blanket – yes I know, bit of an explosion in a paint factory, but babies love bright colours! So, flowers scattered up the bower’s side were the obvious choice; loosely speaking, Michaelmas daisies (as they will be flowering round about Baby’s arrival) and geraniums which are flowering here for the Bower Bird’s creation!

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The butterfly was a touch of whimsy, another clever pattern with a helpful video tutorial.  Crochet butterfly

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Cue  a very happy hour of fiddling about with composition and construction and there it was done. A bit of a crazy thing, I’m sure, but I can’t begin to say how much fun I had along the way . . . and yes, if I can get away with filching another length of cable, I think there might just be a second little bird in the pipeline. 🙂

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Home alone

Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone. Paul Tillich

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I’ve just had what are probably the oddest three weeks of my life; odd, because I have spent them completely alone. With several pressing business matters to be dealt with in France and the UK, an extended trip away was unavoidable but after much discussion, we decided it was more sensible for me to stay at home and look after the garden. I know to some people that might seem a little sad but we are definitely not of the ‘we can’t possibly leave our beautiful garden in case we miss something’ ilk. The reason is far more practical than that: in a nutshell – food.

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Being self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables for most of the year is central to our lifestyle, not so much a hobby as a way of life. We are working so hard here to create and maintain a healthy and productive patch that the idea of leaving it to the mercy of weather, weeds, beasties and boar was pretty unthinkable: how devastating it would be to come back and find the last twelve months of toil and the next twelve months of food down the pan. So, I’ve been home alone.

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I chose the quotation at the top of the page because it underlines an important distinction between loneliness and solitude. It goes without saying that I have missed Roger terribly and I was soooooooo excited to have him back again yesterday (and he brought a new camera with him!).  I haven’t been lonely though, just alone, and there is a significant difference. After all, you can feel lonely in a crowded room; solitude, on the other hand, is time spent alone and although many people dread a lack of company, it can be a very enriching experience.

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So, what have I been up to? Well, in the most part I have been gardening as that’s the main reason I stayed put. Within two days it became clear that it was without doubt the right decision. Rain, sunshine, heat and high humidity: wow, did everything revel in that lot! I have never seen plants grow so fast in my life, and that -needless to say- includes the weeds. Hoeing and handweeding have been daily chores, especially on the newer patches of cultivated ground; keeping the oxalis and docks down around the young leeks has been particularly tricky and time-consuming.

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I’ve also been planting: all the squashes have gone in along with some leafing celery, more courgettes, more aubergines, more beans (these the prized Asturian fabas, muchas gracias to Jairo for the plants), basil, hyssop and lettuce. Some flowers, too, including lavender, asters, dahlias and cleome, all grown from seed.

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Tying in and cutting back have also kept me pretty busy. The sweet peas started to flower then just rocketed upwards and outwards and I have had to use miles of twine to keep them under some sort of control. Having worried about a possible shortage of tomato plants, when I counted them I found we actually have 25! They are all going strong, the ‘Sungold’ are flowering and there has been plenty of pinching out and tying in to be done.

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No hope of controlling the kiwi, though: my oh my, what a thug that plant is. It is flowering and full of bees, no doubt there will be another bumper crop of fruit but . . . it is no exaggeration to measure its daily growth in metres. It has been threatening to engulf two pear trees, a fig tree, the washing line and the barn and I have been taking the loppers to it daily, like some desperate medieval knight tackling a persistent dragon.

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There’s been an ever-increasing amount of harvesting to be done, too. I love this time of year: hungry gap well and truly over and suddenly much of dinner can be picked from the garden. Peas, broad beans, onion, rainbow chard and fresh herbs in an omelette of village eggs with homemade bread and a leafy salad – perfect!

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In truth, I’ve had a very happy time of it pottering about outside in all weathers, literally watching the garden grow. It has been said that solitude sharpens your senses of observation and I can believe that; I am prone to losing myself in nature at the best of times but somehow my awareness seems to have been greater over the last weeks. I have revelled in the sweet scent of roses at the door, spicy eucalyptus after rain and earthy tomato leaves; grazed on alpine strawberries and pods of peas, sun-warmed and delicious; smiled at the sound of blue tit chicks in the nestbox, bumble bees in the comfrey and swifts screaming high above the valley. I’ve watched ladybirds on the broad beans, blackbirds feasting on the raspberries, pied wagtail fledglings – all beak and grey fluff- taking their first flight, butterflies on the marigolds and lizards zipping about the new stone walls.

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It hasn’t all been gardening, of course. My days have seemed very long but I have managed to fill the non-gardening moments without any problems: reading, writing, studying Spanish, running and walking, knitting, crocheting, cooking and listening to music (a new and different playlist every night – that has been fun!). I’ve picked up my guitar and practised some new skills for the first time in years and caught up on some long overdue correspondence. I’ve worked hard and relaxed well, eaten like a horse and slept like a log. The most amazing thing is this: I haven’t been anywhere, because I haven’t needed to. I’ve walked and run from home, chatting to neighbours on the way, but the car hasn’t moved since Roger left and I’ve been no further than my legs can carry me. Everything I have needed has been here. What a wonderful thing that is.

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So back to the quotation. I’m not sure that I would go as far as describing solitude as ‘glorious’ but it is certainly an enriching and life-enhancing experience. I’ve learned many things about myself and life in general but I have been left with one overwhelming certainty: the simple life we lead in this incredibly beautiful spot is more than special. It is precious, to be treasured and cherished in every moment . . . and I’m very, very happy to have someone back to share it with! 🙂

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Keep on running . . .

Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon countdown:   112  days to go!

“Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”
— Unknown

In sixteen weeks’ time I predict I shall be collapsed in a big heap somewhere, legs like jelly, body exhausted and  – as my pet running expert warns me – craving sugar like crazy. It still seems a long way off and my official training programme doesn’t start until mid-June but now feels like a good time to have another look at those lovely photos of Lewis and remind myself exactly why I’m training for a half marathon in September.

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My first job is to say a huge THANK YOU to Norma, Gordon, Megan and Kate for starting the ball running with their generous donations. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 I know September 10th is a long way off and I appreciate that many people find the idea of making a donation before the event a bit strange or even downright wrong, but I can’t begin to describe what an incredible boost it gives to my training and attitude. The fact that people are already putting their faith in me to carry this through is what keeps me out there, plodding along, because there is no way I am going to let them down.

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When I first started running five years ago on medical advice, I followed the beginners’ programme from Zenhabits Beginners’ running guide because it was gentle and non-competitive and suited me well. I loved the programme but hated the running. Unlike Roger, I am not a natural runner: I’m not very good at it, I’m very slow and I don’t enjoy it – never have, possibly never will. Walking, I love. I would quite happily walk miles and miles every day but as soon as my brain sends the message to my feet to move in a forward direction at a faster pace, something inside me goes into instant stubborn mule mode. What me? Run? Are you joking or what?

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So why do it? First and foremost, as my GP had predicted, it fixed me. That, coupled with the long list of health benefits running can bring, even to – no, especially to – a woman of my age (if you’re interested, there’s a great list to ponder in this article Health benefits of running), suggests it’s a Good Thing to do. I’m happy to take responsibility for my health and do all that I can to stay as fit and active – physically and mentally – for as long as possible, even if it means doing something I don’t like. This half marathon challenge is helping me a lot with the psychological side of things. I wouldn’t say that I’m starting to enjoy it, but now that I’m in a routine of running every other day without fail, I find that I’m lacing up my trainers more with resignation than resistance. It’s a step – literally – in the right direction.

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Second, I believe that a major shake up from time to time is also a Good Thing. (Richard Templar’s book, The Rules To Break, is a great source of inspiration on this.) It is so easy to settle into the same old ways of being and doing and losing that wonderful sense of awe and excitement about new things that children naturally exhibit but somehow we seem to lose along the way. I am very blessed to be fifty and a granny but neither of those things should stop me from seeking out new experiences, adventures and challenges. Okay, it’s hard – very hard – but it’s also thrilling and stimulating and energising and slightly terrifying and possibly a bit crazy, but it’s living and feeling alive. I love that. How exciting to think that maybe, just maybe, I can do this. After all, I never believed I could run 5K until I did the Shrewsbury Race For Life in 2013, but I did it. No plans for a tutu this time (believe me, it was not a comfortable thing to run in!) but the determination and anticipation (and very nervous smile) haven’t changed.

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Then, of course, there is Lewis and my desire to do something positive and uplifting in his memory: this is the most poignant but important motivation of all. When we heard of Lewis’s diagnosis, one of the overwhelming feelings I had was that of sheer helplessness. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, we could do to stop the march of that cruel disease and his untimely death. I suppose like many people I was guilty of taking lots of things in my life for granted, not least the three healthy, bouncy, spirited children I lived with. I had supported Hope House children’s hospice in Shropshire for many years without ever once stopping to think about what really went on there. Let’s face it, until something like this touches your life, it always happens to someone else, to a faceless, nameless ‘them’. I’m wiser now.

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We have attended two funerals of friends’ children and they were the saddest of occasions, against the natural order of things. So tragic, so wrong. No-one asks for their child to be terminally ill. No parent comes pre-programmed and prepared to cope with the immense physical, emotional, practical and financial demands of caring for and losing their precious child. They are just ordinary people trying to lead normal family lives. Lewis was a very, very special boy but he was also very ordinary wee chap who kicked footballs, watched ‘Barney’ and had a rabbit called Bambam. That is why the work of children’s hospices like Rachel House Rachel House Hospice is so vital because the staff understand these things and know exactly how to offer real and valuable help, care and support.

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I am hoping to raise £500 in sponsorship for Rachel House. In terms of their running costs, I know that is a tiny drop in the ocean . . . but then what is an ocean if not many, many tiny drops? I want to give something back in memory of Lewis, something that will go a little way to helping families like Gordon, Norma and Megan in their time of need. Sixteen weeks and it will all be over. Who knows, in that time I might even come to like running – in which case Lewis will have succeeded where all else has so far failed! 🙂

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My JustGiving page

Coasting along

I enjoyed making the rainbow ripple baby blanket so much that even before it was finished, I was planning another and I had just the project in mind.

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New blanket in waiting. Yippee!

Once our new roof has been done in June we will be able to finish decorating the sitting end of the kitchen, install the new stove and generally make a lovely cosy corner. It will mean finally being able to reinstate our old blue sofa. Now this is a very tatty thing, mouse-nibbled (literally) and worn but it is so squidgy and homely and downright comfy that there is no question of replacing it.

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Our old blue sofa in a former life.

I’ve decided to make a blanket to use as a double-purpose throw: first, to jazz the old thing up a bit and second, to snuggle under on cold winter nights. Roger has pointed out that with all the insulation going into the roof and the new beast of a stove kicking out heat, there will be no such thing as a cold night in the house ever again. Well, just in case, then . . ? How can I resist the siren call of my wool basket?

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Ooooooo, those colours!

I’ve mentioned the Attic 24 blog several times and I make no apology for that: I love it, it is so colourful and inspiring, and I think the idea of selling project packs through Wool Warehouse is brilliant. (Incidentally, I am not being paid to say this!)  It’s taken me a while to decide which one to go for because there are so many of Lucy’s designs that appeal to me. The Moorland blanket is beautiful, reminding me of the heather-clad hills of South Shropshire.

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Mitchell’s Fold stone circle

The Cottage blanket is so pretty, inspired by my favourite garden flowers.

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Our Shropshire garden in 2015

My roots might be in Shropshire, but on reflection what I really wanted was something that sings of Asturias and the happy, happy life we now lead in this beautiful part of northern Spain: the Coast blanket was the obvious candidate for the job. Attic24 Coast Blanket

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I know I’ve said it before but our proximity to the coast never fails to surprise me: it is five miles (eight kilometres) as the crow flies but there is no hint of it up here in the airy green mountains. Only when we venture out does that beautiful shimmering sea appear.

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Now I am not a great fan of the beach in terms of heading there on a scorching day with crowds of other people to lie about in a bikini. This is partly because I’m fair-skinned and don’t tan too well, but mostly because I find it a very dull pastime. Like Jemima Puddle-Duck, I am a notoriously bad sitter: no sooner have I put suncream on than I’m fidgeting about, looking for something to do (and trust me, Roger is even worse). In complete contrast, I have loved every minute of the time we have spent on quiet or deserted beaches here, whether walking, running, having a picnic, studying the geology and wildlife, exploring caves, poking about in rock pools or simply just breathing in the air and enjoying the moment.

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I love the fact that this is such a wild and rugged coastline, dramatic and untamed, so Celtic in character. The sea is energetic, moody, unpredictable and intense; the rocks present a majestic and awe-inspiring architecture. Always there is a sense of movement and change, of shifts in light and time, of colours, textures, smells and sounds that leave my senses tingling.

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Every shade, every ripple, every texture of my beautiful blanket-to-be is here.

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This project is already giving me so much pleasure. It is my sea blanket – mi manta del mar – and I LOVE it! 🙂

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PS Shortly after my little photo shoot, our camera broke and has refused to take any more pictures so that’s my blogging curtailed for a while. 😦  😦  😦  Luckily, a crochet hook lacks the same sophisticated technology so I’ve  continued to hook away and my blanket now has 22 ripples of beach-inspired beauty. More up to date photos to follow . . . soon . . . I hope!

Weekend wanderers

What a lovely long weekend we’ve had with Sam and Adrienne here to stay. As always, the weather gods caught wind of their arrival and they flew in during some rather spectacular thunderstorms. Luckily, things picked up after that and we’ve been splendidly busy in a relaxed sort of way. Easy to sum up in a few simple words, I think.

Woodland.

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Waterfall.

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Geology.

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Mountains.

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Muscle.

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Our new stove is lifted off the trailer . . .

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. . . just the small matter of those 14 steps up into the kitchen next. The chaps certainly earned their beers that day!

Colours.

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Adrienne experimenting with dyeing wool.

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The finished skein will make a lovely project.

Music.

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Plenty of good food (and drink). Cheers! 🙂

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On the edge

I think the edging of a blanket is a bit like buttons on a garment: the right choice can make or break the finished effect. I played around with several ideas for the ripple blanket before deciding this definitely was the time to apply the KISS principle: simple was best. After all, the ripples are so full of colour, texture and movement that all they really needed was a frame rather than any kind of clever embellishment. I opted for turquoise yarn as it’s bright and cheery and seemed to marry well with all the other colours in my rainbows. I then worked three rounds, one of double crochet and two of single, keeping the ripple shape at top and bottom rather than straightening it out.

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Finished – and I’m delighted with it!

Free of the distraction of rippling, I turned my attention back to my patchwork flower blanket and finally finished joining all those squares together. Strictly speaking, they are supposed to lie completely flat but I pulled the slipstitches up a bit to create a slight puffed effect which I think just makes the blanket feel softer and cosier for Baby to lie on. I knew this would make the edge frilled rather than flat, but I don’t think that matters too much – I’m not trying to win any prizes.

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When it came down to the rows of treble cluster ‘grannying’ around the outside, there really was only one colour scheme in mind. Look familiar?

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I know I’m in danger of repeating myself but this yarn has sung out rainbows to me ever since it arrived. I haven’t used quite as many colours as in the ripple blanket as I didn’t think it needed an extra ten rows, but I did slip the turquoise in as it’s so bright and breezy. For the edging, I went back to Attic 24 and used Lucy’s pretty scallop  pattern Granny Blanket Edging: this was a lovely edging to work and I think it’s finished the blanket off a treat.

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So there they both are, all done and dusted – and what a lovely time of colourful gorgeousness I’ve had making them. Moses basket, pram, buggy, carseat, floor, lawn, beach . . . lots of important Baby snuggery ahead for these blankets, I hope!

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So what next? Well, the sun brolly has gone up so summer must have officially arrived and there is my basket of woolly loveliness waiting patiently in the shade for some attention.

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Time for a refreshing mug of tea . . . and a few minutes with my brand new rippling project (of which more next time). There’s no two ways about it  – I’m addicted! 🙂

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