Category: Life in England

A Whiff of Summer

Could it be true?  Could summer really be near?

The clocks moved forward last Saturday and it definitely felt like we are not that far from everyone’s most favourite season – summer.  Well obviously, coming from a tropical country, it is my favourite, although I do love the golden colours in autumn too.

I love summer here in England, especially when the weather cooperates.  I love the long summer days especially, sitting out in the garden at 9 pm and it is still light.  We like to sit around in the fire-pit waiting for the dark, the barbecue long gone and drinks have been passed around and little T ready for bed, but refusing to go.  What’s not to love?

Obviously it isn’t summer yet but Spring has definitely sprung. We found something in the small outbuilding we have, down in the garden.  It was a hammock we bought on sale last year.  I think we got in the end-of-season sale in our favourite garden centre.  I remember thinking we must be mad to purchase it, especially since it was the beginning of winter, but I’m so glad we did.

T was delighted when we called her over.  And being a kid, she insisted that we used it right away.  After searching for a piece of rope and two trees that would be strong enough to hold the hammock, we set it up.

And as soon as it was up, little T plunked herself down with a book while her dad mowed the lawn and Doc was busy chewing on a stick and I went on with my chores.  I looked back as I walked back to the house to do my chores, and right that very moment, that instant, it felt like we’ve fast forwarded to summer.  Funny how a hammock can magically transport you into time.

Sadly, as I type this and look out the window, a different scene unfolds before me.  It’s rather a dreary one actually.  T has been wearing her summer dresses to school two days in a row now, even though yesterday, it was hardly sunny.  But as I helped her get ready today, I suggested maybe it would be best if she went back to wearing her grey skirt and tights instead.  She agreed and said “It’s like winter again, isn’t it mum?”  I sighed and said yes.  Her father grumpily added “Yes, that was it.  We’ve now gone back to winter!”

I’m in need of something more magical than a hammock, one so strong it will somehow bring the sunshine back and will it to stay.  Know of any?  Do share.

Finding the Beauty in Ordinary Days

It definitely felt like spring has sprung over the weekend which lasted till Monday.  Never mind if it’s looking grey again today.  But a few days ago, our little family had a lovely time as we worked in the sunshine, trying to reclaim our garden back from the remnants of winter.

T and I started with raking the leaves which should’ve been raked ages ago, but it was always too wet and cold to do it.  But over the weekend it was bliss.  We were all in our element, including Doc and Boots who loved basking in the sun and running on tree branches.  Hopefully she didn’t find any bird’s nests!

For some time now, the husband has been talking about wanting to put wooden borders with shingles for our pots of plants to rest on.  But like I’ve mentioned, the weather hasn’t been really conducive to do anything outside, he finally had his chance!

He started this on a Saturday, by Sunday he had all the wooden boards up, but found out that the shingles he bought wasn’t enough.  We managed to buy more yesterday and it’s all up:

I think he did a grand job!  We’re excited to buy more bedding plants, since the ones in our pots need replanting and even new ones.  There’s still obviously much to do in the garden.  I need to repaint our garden furnitures and hopefully we’ll manage to put up some swings and tick off some of our plans which we made last year when we first moved into the house.  It does take time, doesn’t it?

But over the weekend, it was one of those lovely ordinary days where I savoured each and every single second, bit by bit.  There’s beauty in ordinary days like these.

Relishing the ordinary, the way the sunshine poured through the window making beautiful patterns against our curtains.  The sound of Boots’ bell coming from the trees, hopefully loud enough to warn any birds that a predator is coming.  Little T sitting on the concrete steps eating her little picnic exclaiming “This is the best lunch ever” which consisted of a jam sandwich, apple slices and her a pear flavoured drink.

The way the husband frowned as he hammered a piece of wood into the ground missing his foot just inches away.  Even the sound of Doc’s faint barking which meant he was somewhere in the 500-acre farm land that surrounds our house.

And then later on, the sound of T practicing her cello and my husband and I both smiling, so proud of her, that what our little girl is playing is beginning to sound like good music.  These are the moment I want to freeze forever.

Reality sets in again, and it’s a Wednesday, our house at the moment is surrounded in mist.  Ah well…

A Visit to Wrest Park

It’s been a while since we’ve used our English Heritage membership, but when we visited my in-laws over the half-term break, we finally had the chance to use it.

Wrest Park is a lovely Grade II listed country home in Silsoe Bedfordshire.  The facade actually reminded me a bit of Napoleon’s ostentatious Château de Compiègne in France which we visited a couple of years ago, although of course, not as grand and garish, the gardens though is equally beautiful.

Since it was half-term break, we took little T’s cousin K with us so they could spend more time together.

The girls were not as impressed with the staircase as they were with the painting on the ceiling.

The sitting room, although they really should’ve called this the cherubim room, since you could find them in every corner.  I’m not a big fan of these chubby little angels, so I zoned out when the guide started pointing them out to the girls.  Surprisingly, T turned out to be disinterested in them too.

I found the Victorian conservatory really interesting though, too bad it wasn’t open to the public.

During World War II, Wrest Park was used as a convalescent home for injured soldiers.  I can imagine this was one of the rooms used for their patients.  Can you imagine recuperating in a room with such big windows and lovely views from outside?

The girls of course were itching to go outside.  It was a lovely day and almost felt like Spring has come and so we decided that the day was too beautiful to spend it indoors.

The grounds did not disappoint …

So much to see and do.

After walking for at least an hour, we decided it was time for some lunch at the cafe via the orangery.

The girls went wild inside the empty orangery, running around and shrieking like loonies …

I laughed when I saw these two statues on the facade of building.  They look like they were actually holding their heads as if they have a headache.  I don’t blame them, the girls shrill voices must have done that to them.

It was fun though.

Do visit Wrest Park if you’re in the area.

It’s so worth it.

Spring: Is it here yet?

I don’t know about other people, but winter, especially after the Christmas madness, I tend to fold-in and turn introspective (Although I’m sure if my husband gets to read this he’ll say “but you’re always introspective Dean!)

Can you blame me?  Coming from a tropical country where it’s warm and sunny everyday, of course, we do get the grey clouds too, especially when it rains, but it never lasts unlike here in England.

The the changing of seasons, while it is beautiful, always has an affect on me.  I try to ride it and just go with the flow, mindful that the greyness and drabness isn’t permanent, that it’s only temporary.  You would think that after almost a decade of living here, I’d be an expert now.  I think though, I’m getting better, my skin is thicker.

And it isn’t really that bad really, while January is awful, here in Cornwall, even though it’s only the first day of February, I can see evidence of spring coming already.  The bulbs are slowly coming up and the days are getting longer.  We no longer drive T to her gymnastics class at 5pm in the dark.

The bright days are coming and the thought of it makes me feel giddy!  The flowers will bloom soon.  The trees will get their leaves in abundance back.  All the colours, different hues will spring everywhere.  What’s not to like?  Are you excited too?

A Country Kid’s Post: Winter on The Beach

This is actually a late-post.  Like most people who live by the coast on Boxing day, we found ourselves blowing cobwebs at our go-to-beach, Widemouth Bay which is a mere ten-minute drive from where we live.

And of course, it being a holiday, there were a lot of people on the beach although they aren’t shown in the photos.  T also took her Baby Alive doll on the beach with her, a present she asked from Father Christmas.

Are you familiar with Baby Alive dolls?  They are a bit freaky.  I ought to write about them on a different post and you’ll know why.

T gives Holly, her doll, a piggyback ride all the way back to the car.

Yes, it was time to go home.

Have you visited the beach lately?

A Country Kid’s Post: Searching for that Special Christmas Tree

For the past five years or so, we’ve been going to one particular Christmas tree farm that’s a bit of a drive away from where we live.  When T wasn’t in school yet, it was easy to go to, since we had all the time in the world to drive to it.  But it’s not so easy now that she’s in school, so when close friends of ours (whom we always go with when picking out a tree) suggested that we go to one that’s within easy drive to us, we readily said yes of course, although admittedly a small part of me was a bit saddened that we weren’t going to our usual place.  When you’re pressed for time, you don’t have much choice do you?

Last Thursday, after picking-up T and her friend from school, two families went to a Christmas tree farm in search of that special Christmas tree.

 It was getting dark, so we had very little time to choose.  In the end though, we chose a slimmer and tall tree.  I wanted something more fuller, but we were losing light, so we had to decide fast.

While this Christmas tree farm was conveniently closer to where we lived, it wasn’t as big as the other one and they also didn’t label their trees.  It was easier to find the kind of Christmas tree you wanted in the old one, where they purposely planted the same kind whether you wanted a Blue Spruce, or a Nordman Fir.  They also had information about each tree up in signs.  As the Cornish would say “a proper job!”.

We couldn’t wait of course and started decorating as soon as we got in.

And here it is, standing tall in our conservatory.  I’m not that pleased with the shape of this tree, I think our most perfect shaped Christmas tree was the one we had last year.

It’s definitely Christmas in our house!  Is it in yours?

A Country Kid’s Post: Beachcombing on an Autumn Day

It was a beautiful late autumn day, not wanting to waste it, our little family decided to head for the beach in Polzeath after little T’s ballet a few Saturdays ago.

When we arrived, there were people getting ready to go in the water in their wet suits, there were dog-walkers around, and people, who were like us, not wanting to waste the lovely day indoors. Here, let me share some photos with you:

It was a lovely day of walking on the beach and just breathing in the cold autumn air.  T and the Historian had fun doing a bit of beach combing and exploring the few caves dotted around the cliffs of Polzeath.  We ended the visit with ice-cream – as it should always be.

A breath of fresh air on the beach, with lovely weather, ending it with ice-cream, what more can we ask?  Bring it on winter, we’re ready for you!

Have you visited the beach lately?

Here’s a little shortie of what the day was like…

A Country Kid’s Post: Planting for Spring

I know it’s barely Winter and here I am talking about Spring.  But you see, it’s all about focusing on small joys, and doing things that makes me/our little family happy, and planting for Spring makes us happy bunnies!

Last Sunday was a quiet day of doing chores, homework and planting for us here at Small Hill Cottage.  My husband bought some bulbs for planting and he and little T had fun doing it in the garden.  They planted crocuses, irises, daffodils and trilliums.

I reminded him though that when our garden is in full bloom, it is dotted with loads of daffodils, snow-drops and other lovely spring flowers.  “Yes”, he replied.  “But not where I want them to be”.  Off he went, planting them down in the garden, where he wanted them to be.

Silly flowers indeed, not sprouting from where he wants them to grow.

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As for little T, my little gardener, she was blessedly content with planting the bulbs in her chosen pot.  There, she said, as she pushed the last bulb in the soil and asked me to help her cover it with compost.

We were all out in the garden, enjoying the fresh air in spite the dull weather.  Well, except for the cat who opted to stay in, sleeping by the fire.  Doc was busy running around and barking at imaginary shadows.  T and the historian with their bulbs, and I, as always, was busy raking the leaves.

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Safe in our little bubble of country living.  The world and all its absurdities can all happen without us and we’re fine with that.

What about you?

Have you done any spring planting too?

All About Halloween

The first time I carved a pumpkin with T, I did it the “right” way.  Not that there’s a wrong way of doing it.  What I meant was, I actually googled and downloaded a template for the faces.  I don’t bother anymore.  I just ask T to draw on the pumpkin and then I try to carve a face from her drawing.

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When she’s done.  I chop the top off so she could get all the gooey stuff out.

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When she was younger, this part of the activity used to bore her.  She’d stick her hands in, get a few gooey bits out and declare herself done.  This year though, she persevered till she got everything out.

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When she was done.  I asked her to go and watch television while I did the carving.  Sharp knives and little ons make me nervous.  I called her back in the kitchen when all faces were done and she was pleased with our work.  We called the Historian down and dubbed the pumpkins little versions of us.

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As soon as it got darker, she switched on her pumpkin lanterns and skull fairy lights and asked that we light the tea-candles inside the carved pumpkin family.

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Not bad looking eh? 😉

As mentioned in a previous post, she dressed as La Muerte from the Book of Life in her Halloween disco.  She’s invited to a birthday/halloween party tonight and tomorrow and is planning to wear the same costume.  This girl has a maddening social life!

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Here’s hoping our face-pain stash will last.
Have a lovely weekend folks!
The Reading Residence

A Country Kid’s Post: Autumn Fun in the Garden

Our garden is carpeted in leaves.  We had absolutely lovely sunshine weather a few days ago, the kind that’s best spent outside, so T and I decided to hunt for a rake and do a little bit of tidying up in our lawn.

We couldn’t find one, what my husband found instead was his nan’s old small garden pea-rake.  “Yep, that will do!” I said to him as I grabbed it and handed it to little T who seemed really excited about it.  I promised that she could jump up and down in leafy piles after.

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Hard at work with her great-grandmother’s small pea-rake.

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And once she had a good pile of raked-leaves, she decided that it was a great burial ground for her baby.

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 I warned her though that children’s services would take the her baby away if they found out. That stopped her. She took Ella away from the pile and started raking again, till she had a good amount of leaves to jump in.

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Don’t you just love watching them have fun in even the simplest ways?

I do.

PS

My husband is right.  We do need a leaf-vac.