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Saturday, 31 December 2011

In With The New

I don't really make New Year's resolutions anymore, at least not of the 'I will lose weight/give up chocolate/stop drinking so much coffee variety. Like most people I would slip up three or four days into January, feel like I had failed and give up completely. Until the next year when I'd go through the whole silly process all over again.

These days I take a slightly different approach. I write out a list of about 13 things that I would like to achieve during the year. There is no urgency about this list, if I start something and it doesn't work first time, that's OK. I've got all year to get it right.

Did I do everything on last year's list? No.
Does it matter? No, not a bit. My list isn't carved in stone. Its a rough guide, and there aren't any penalties for not finishing it all. In fact I'll have another look at it around mid-summer and adjust it if I need to. Sometimes our priorities change.

So, what's on my list for 2012? Well, its not complete yet, but here's what I've got so far.

LEARN TO DRIVE- This is a biggie. Its been on my 'to do' list since I was 17. Nerves got the better of me back then when I took my test, and then I ended up married to a man who didn't want me to have any kind of Independence so my lessons stopped. The Mad Druid added me to his car insurance and encouraged me to drive whenever I could, but then we moved to London and anyone who has lived in that great city will know that its often quicker to walk than drive. I got out of the habit, and passing my test simply wasn't at the top of my list of priorities. But now we live in Cornwall and being able to drive would be a huge advantage, especially as the mad druid is waiting for an operation on his shoulder. There is no way I'm going to be able to afford to take my test before then but it has made me realise how important it is. 

SOCIALISE MORE- yes really. Hermit Witch wants to be less hermit like! I never used to be quite so insular and although there were good reasons for becoming that way, it is now more out of habit than anything else. We have been living in Cornwall for over two years now yet I still only know my immediate neighbours, and although I will enjoy sitting in the garden with them for a drink in the summer, none are what I could describe as friends. The thing that made me this way no longer gives me nightmares, I am no longer scared of people (I got a job in London which forced me to deal with that- you can't be a tour guide and hide!!) but I became so used to not opening up and connecting with people I have forgotten how. This is the year that changes and you have my full permission to give me a cyber kick up the arse if it looks like I'm not doing it!

FINISH MY NANO NOVEL- I loved every minute of participating in NaNoWriMo in 2011. I love writing. This year I'm going to do much more of it.

BECOME MORE SELF-SUFFICIENT- Not in a keeping chickens kind of way (unless I can find a way of squeezing then into my handkerchief sized garden) but just making the most of my talents. Having accepted there are very few jobs going around here its time to look at other options. I want to be able to take the pressure off my Mad Druid a bit. So whether its growing my own veg and brewing my own beer, making my writing pay, selling pictures or doing tarot readings , I have the resources available to provide food or a small income. I just have to put those ideas into practise.

GET OUT AND ABOUT MORE- I need more fresh air, more exorcise. I am lucky enough to live in a stunning part of the country and yet I have actually explored very little of it. There is a limit to how far the Mad Druid can walk, especially if it's cold and damp, and I always feel rotten leaving him behind while I go out so I don't go as far as I'd like. I know he understands though, and hey, if we plan it right I can get him to meet me at my destination with a picnic. Sorted :)

So as we journey into 2012 may your path be an interesting one, shared with those you love as you walk its twists and turns, its ups and downs, scramble through the brambles and thorn thickets, meet fellow travellers and enjoy its breathtaking views. This time next year it will all be memories, enjoy making them.

Blessings to you all.


Friday, 30 December 2011

Out With The Old

Normally by this time I am itching to start the new year, I'll have well and truly had my fill of the winter festivities and be looking forward to wiping the slate clean and starting afresh. This year, however, everything feels different. For some reason I feel as though the whirlwind of activity that is Yule/Christmas never really got going. I was busy enough, certainly. We visited family and did the 'santa run', heading nearly 300 miles to distribute presents to our nearest and dearest. I cooked up a frenzy in the kitchen with fresh sausage rolls or mince pies almost constantly in the oven. I brought in green boughs and decorated them with bright baubles and twinkling lights, I raised a glass or two (and then some) to the season, but I never really felt 'festive'. I am not alone in this, I have heard many of my family admitting to just not having felt 'Christmassy' this year, strangely, even the children.

I shall take down my decorations on New Years Day as I always do. I have never liked the tradition most people here in the UK adhere to of leaving them up until 12th Night. As much as I adore their sparkly loveliness through the darkest of nights, I want to start the new year clean and fresh without any clutter from the old year hanging about.

And 2011 is definitely a year I want rid of. It wasn't just Yule which failed to 'get going', the whole year has felt that way.

It wasn't really a bad year. There were ups and downs like any other.
It was a year when we welcomed three new grandchildren, two born to my eldest son and one born to my eldest step-daughter. All beautiful, healthy and an absolute joy.
It was a year dogged by health problems, both for myself and my mad druid, some of which are still unresolved.
It was a year on a financial roller coaster, wild highs and sudden lows, to keep us forever off balance.
It was a year with beautiful moments, like watching Ravens fly over the Cheesewring or walking through mystical woodlands only tentatively connected to this realm.
It was a year of the mundane, the daily drudge and energy sapping, mind numbing routine.
It was a year of learning, of looking within.
And yet it seems like a 'nothing' year, an empty year, a year of treading water, a year of waiting.

Waiting for what, I do not know but there has been a definite sense of marking time. There has been a sense of stasis about this year. Progress has been minimal, if there has been any at all. But I have the feeling it was meant to be so.

The reasons have yet to be revealed, but there is change afoot. That I know.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Granny's Cookbook

I am very fortunate that I have the kind of family that is ever so slightly odd. I was raised amongst people for whom 'strange and unusual' was not only the norm but something to be aspired to. Don't get me wrong, they won't be carted off in straight jackets anytime soon, but they are for the most part people who don't quite fit. People who have always said 'be different, stand out from the crowd'.

When during my teenage years my friends and I got into Goth, my best friend was worried about what my mum would think if she turned up on my doorstep 'all gothed up.' My mum's answer to this was to open the door to Lynn one day all garbed in black, her hair crimped and backcombed and wearing enough black eyeliner to sink a battleship. Go mum!

When I saw or heard things which most people thought weren't there, no one in my family so much as raised an eyelid. My dad's psychic abilities scared the living daylights out of him (I later found) but not once, not ever, did he say anything to frighten or discourage me. 

Everything I've done, every phase I went through, every life decision I have made, every crazy thing I've thought of, has been taken in their stride.

So when I said 'Mum, I'm feasting with the dead this Christmas,' she didn't skip a beat and responded by digging out the photo albums and ringing around the extended family and producing a recipe book my Nana had kept which hadn't seen the light of day for many a year. How cool is that? No horrified looks, no whispered jibes behind my back, no questions, no family conferences, just 'ok, what do you need?' I love my family.

So now I'm working my way through the pages of a book, lovingly written, altered, and grease stained over its many years of use. It begins with handwriting that is obviously young, and inexperienced. The hand grows steady and sure as the pages turn before becoming increasingly shaky towards the end. At first everything is handwritten, later there are cuttings from magazines which are accompanied by my great-grandma's comments... 'swap half the swedes for carrots,' 'works better with chicken stock,' 'what a waste of wine!' and my personal favourite, 'looks great but tastes bleedin' awful.'

The recipes are seasonal, written for the most part before home freezers were common place. Some seem quite distasteful to my modern mind. (I'm sorry Nana but I just can't bring myself to eat tripe). Some are obviously from the early days of her marriage when she lived in a farming community, others from the war years and abound with powdered eggs and mock cream. Most, infuriatingly, don't include quantities which makes recreating them a little tricky. I puzzled over this for a few days, what kind of recipe book doesn't include the quantities? But now I think I know. Some of them may have been so familiar to her they were merely prompts, not detailed recipes to follow; but mostly I think it was because she had to make do with whatever she had got available. The quantities for getting it 'right' were not as important as putting a sustaining meal on the table.

And that is something I have definitely inherited from her, as did my mother and grandmother before me. If there is one thing I'm good at it is rustling up a meal from next to nothing.

I'm sorting out a few of my favourites for our belated Holy Supper on New Year's Eve, I can't afford to buy all the ingredients I'd like but so long as I've done my best and come up with something tasty and hearty I don't think Nana will mind if I was completely faithful to her recipes or not. I will have captured the essence of her cooking and I know she will appreciate that.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Holy Supper...part one

You know how, despite your best laid plans, everything goes pear shaped sometimes? Well, that's my Yule. Not necessarily in a bad way, nothing catastrophic or unpleasant has happened, its just that nothing has turned out the way I intended.

Our excursion to the deep, dark, dismal pit that is Leicestershire (no offence intended to anyone who lives there, but I was born there, and spent the first thirty-two years of my life there- I've earned the right to insult it) took longer than expected as I've previously said. The journey home was punctuated by a trip to Glastonbury that, in hindsight, was time consuming and fruitless (every so often we feel the pull towards it, time having dimmed our memories, yet I always come away disillusioned and disappointed). The urge to spend the night of the 21st/22nd somewhere special was still there and unfulfilled by Glastonbury so we did a slight detour on to Dartmoor to visit my tree (a very old beech tree I have developed quite an affinity with). I never fail to come away without some special message or gift and this time was no exception but more on that another time.

After all of this we arrived home utterly exhausted with no hope of a Sviata Vechera celebration for the solstice. I was barely capable of making a cheese sandwich, I hadn't a hope of cooking a full blown meal.

So... we rescheduled. Christmas Day it would be. That made sense in this strange little mind of mine. It's a day I find particularly dull once the presents have been opened, so Holy Supper would liven it up no end, it was a day which would mean something to our ancestors (lets face it, most of us have to go a bloody long way back before we find someone in our blood line who would have celebrated  winter solstice) and it was a day I'd be spending much of in the kitchen anyway. It was a win win situation. Or so I thought.

I hadn't bargained on my thyroid interfering. Its my own fault, forgetting to pack my medication when we went away possibly amounts to one of the more stupid things I've done in the last year. It's quite scary to see how dependant I've become on my levothyroxine and I really don't like that...but it keeps me functioning as near to normal as its possible for me to be so I have to be grateful for that. But a week without it really took its toll, and by Christmas Day I was in that achey, zombie state which indicates my thyroid starved body and mind are on go slow.

I did manage to cook a nice meal; a lovely roast lamb dinner ( my mad druid hates turkey, and Christmas eve shopping means you take whatever is left so no duck for us this year). I hadn't managed to set up my ancestor altar, at least not the way I wanted it (I'm still waiting for a few old photo's my mum hasn't managed to dig out yet) and although we enjoyed a few drinks, neither of us were up to full blown partying.

It was then the mad druid made a suggestion, and from there everything fell into place. The right date for our Holy Supper had been staring us in the face all along. New Year's Eve is not only his late mother's birthday but also the anniversary of my grandmother's death. It is a date significant to both our families, gives me time to collect those extra photos, try out some of the recipes in my Great-Grandma's recipe book (on loan from my mum), and force feed my thyroid with adequate medication. So, rescheduled yet again, New Year's Eve is the new date for our Holy Supper.

But what of Christmas Day? It would have been a shame to let all that cooking go to waste.

And so we set an extra place as planned and filled the room with candles in memory of the forgotten dead, all those souls who have no one to remember them. I don't think our own dead will mind waiting, in fact I know they are looking forward to seeing in 2012 with us, and a little bit of peace on earth and good will to all men- even those who are no longer with us- goes an awful long way.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Welcoming New Life and The Crone

Its been a bit quiet on here as I indulged in the annual festive trip to see family. As usual nothing went to plan. The early December trip north was repeatedly postponed as I waited for the arrival of my granddaughter. Our time in the midlands would be limited and I certainly didn't want to come home without meeting her. In the end we gave up and travelled anyway, and right on cue she arrived just in time for me to collect Mummy, Daddy and Baby from the hospital when she was just four hours old.

I was first made a Grandma back in January with the arrival of my Grandson, so I'm a Granny twice over in the space of a year!!! There is nothing like a little pink bundle of joy to make one feel old. It doesn't seen five minutes since I was the one bringing life into the world and now I'm a bystander as my children do the same. Its a strange feeling. And one I haven't quite got used to yet. This is going to be an interesting journey.

I have always seen myself as a mother, even before I had children of my own, and yet I never looked beyond that. Now I am seeing the continuation of my line and as new life grows the urge to look back grows stronger. Now, more than ever, I am aware of the thread that links me to all my kin who have gone before. I feel their blood surge through my veins, I hear their wisdom whispering across the years as I embrace this new chapter of my life.

All hail, my little ones.
All hail, my Grandmothers.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

That's A Big Ol' Can Of Worms Ms. Dirty's Opened

You may remember I said I would be participating in Sviata Vechera for the Solstice after Ms. Dirty threw down the Holy Supper gauntlet. In order to do this and make merry with the beloved dead in a style that would be appreciated I needed to hunt out some suitable recipes that my family past would enjoy. Simple? You'd think so wouldn't you? A quick trawl through a few old recipe books and off to the kitchen to cook myself into a stupor. The only problem with that was that when I really sat down and thought about it I realised I actually knew very little about my roots. It would make things a whole lot easier if I knew who my family actually were.

So now I have family tree fever for which there is no known cure. It doesn't matter how many generations back I go (five so far on my Mum's side) it is never enough. This has the makings of a life long obsession, especially as the historian in me isn't satisfied with names, dates and places. I want (NEED) to put meat on the bones. How did they live, love, make merry and die? What were the skeletons in their cupboards. We all have a few of those, don't we? Our ancestors were no different. Its been a frustrating, intriguing and wonderful journey so far and I've only just scratched the surface.

Fortunately my Dad's reluctance to talk about his family doesn't seem to have extended to the rest of my relations. My mum has been a big help and I have great-uncles and distant cousins who have been invaluable. I just wish we had all been having this conversation when more of them were alive.

I have a branch of the family that come from the Norfolk/Suffolk area when I had always believed they had lived in my home town in the midlands for generations. As it turns out my Grandad was the first to move there.
I never knew one of my Great Grandfather's died in Iraq in WWI and is buried in the War cemetery in Basra!
The grandmother I had always been told came from St Bee's didn't. I'm currently trying to find out if she ever lived there at all as she certainly wasn't born there. I was worried for a while that my family history was in fact, family myth. But it seems the approximate area was right, but she was born farther up the coast. And the unusual middle name my uncle had which really didn't fit with the Ian's and Peter's and David's dotted throughout the rest of the family and has confused everyone for years, turns out to have been my great-grandmother's maiden name.
There is definitely an Irish connection, but not where I expected, and it's looking increasingly likely there may be some Scottish ancestry too.

Its all good stuff but its really thrown a spanner in the works regarding Holy Supper. My head's spinning and I'm not sure where to start. Either I'm going to have to concentrate on just one branch, or there are going to be an awful lot of courses in this meal...

...looks like I'll be spending an awful lot of time in my kitchen.

Friday, 2 December 2011

It's Going To Be A Very Busy Solstice

Ms Graveyard Dirt has issued an invitation I can't refuse, to celebrate with my ancestors for Sviata Vechera (don't ask me how you pronounce that, but it means holy supper). This is not something I've ever done before but the idea is so simple and so bloody obvious that I'm smacking myself around the head for not thinking of it myself.

We all hurl ourselves head long at Yule, drinking, feasting and celebrating with our families. It's only one small step further (or backwards if you take it literally) to include our ancestors in those celebrations, and to be honest, quite churlish not to. Many of us work with our ancestors all year round anyway, and even those who don't will give them an outing for Samhain, so it seems even more bizarre that I had never thought to specifically include them in the Yuletide festivities.

So now I need to get my finger out and do my research because as Ms Dirty says 'you don't want to come off as a dickface' by serving up something that's completely alien. When its my turn to join the ancestral ranks I certainly hope future generations of my family will be serving up the things I actually like. I mean, would you want to go to a party where there's no cake? Of course you wouldn't!

I have to admit I know very little about my own family tree. I can trace my Mum's side back about four or five generations or so and most of those were born within about ten miles of where I was so a bit of good home cooking like my grandma taught me should go down fine with them. My Dad's side is a bit trickier as I know very little at all. He's always been quite tight lipped about his family. So far as I know his mother came from Cumbria (probably why I have such a pull to the place myself) so I have a starting point and I have a suspicion I may be able to trace the line back to Ireland from there but I've not got much to go on. It should be an interesting journey through the recipe books.

And of course we live in Cornwall, a land with rich traditions, so I'm looking forward to finding something which will honour the original inhabitants of this land.

If that wasn't enough to be going on with Pixie Campbell is holding The Mother of All Releasing Ceremonies on the 22nd Dec (yes, the Solstice is on the 22nd this year). With all the crap I seem to have been carrying around with me I feel compelled to join in.

I don't want to give anything less than my full attention to either so I'm doing it over two days. The 21st is always a cause for celebration here, no matter what day the Solstice officially falls on, as it is a rather special anniversary for the Mad Druid and I. So as we'll be celebrating that day anyway I'm picking that for our Holy Supper. Its very appropriate, all things considered, to be whooping it up with our ancestors that day.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

All NaNoed Out

It's December 1st and NaNoWriMo is over for 2011. Did I make it to 50,000 words? The short answer to that would be 'No' but as I have discovered, there is so much more to National Novel Writing Month than hitting that 50k target.

I managed 40,000. 40,007 to be precise and that is one hell of an achievement. I am actually very proud of what I have done. I would have liked to make it to 50k, of course I would, but I didn't embark on this journey solely to write a set number of words. I did it to instill a bit of writing discipline in my otherwise lazy brain. I did it to connect with other writers. But most of all I did it to have fun. I succeeded on all three of those, especially the last one. I have had the time of my life.

That is not to say there haven't been times when I've been screaming at my laptop, or tearing my hair out with frustration, or wanting to give up due to utter exhaustion, but then I've had a chat with some of my fellow wrimo's and it has all been OK again. The support I have received from not only my own family, but from complete strangers who shared a common goal, has been astounding. It has been a truly wonderful experience.

And as an added bonus I think I've actually written something worth reading. It still needs work (like reaching The End, that would be good) and it has gone off in directions I never expected but I really feel its working. Always before with my writing I have carefully planned before I began. This was the first time I've ever embarked on something of this magnitude without a clear structure, hell, without even much of an outline. I gave my character's their independence and they have dragged me along on a journey of discovery, and wow, what a journey!

My main character, Molly, is an independent little witch who has put me in my place a few times. She is currently demanding I allow her to have her own blog (and I might just let her run with that one) but we shall see. First I have to finish my story.

So NaNoWriMo may be over for 2011 but the work has just begun. I'm taking a couple of days break from it, I'm all NoNoed out right now, but then I shall pick up the threads again and let Molly weave her magic.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Yuletide Epiphany


Over the last few years my love of the festive season has faded somewhat. Somewhere along the line the fun and anticipation was replaced by stress and headaches. I'm not sure when it changed, maybe it was once my children were no longer living with me, or maybe during the hectic few years when my husband and I were always working through the holidays, or maybe it was when financial pressures made the whole damn thing a nightmare.

I always did my best, I'd shop and cook and decorate with the best of them but the shine and sparkle had gone. I felt I was dragging myself, kicking and screaming, through all the festivities. Last year we didn't manage to get to see our families, I couldn't afford to buy for half the people I wanted to and we were both ill from Christmas Eve through to New Year.

This year was shaping up to be more of the same.

But not now. I woke up a few mornings ago and thought WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?

I can't wave a magic wand and improve our finances overnight. I can't turn back the clock and create more time to do everything. I can't wipe out my husband's unhappy childhood memories of Christmas. What I can do is change my attitude towards it all and make our Yule the bloody best it can be.

SO,

I've reinstated a tradition my sister in law and I developed when the children were tiny and we were broke. I've set a £3 maximum limit on yuletide spending per person. Yes, you read that right. THREE WHOLE POUNDS.

When we first came up with the idea nearly twenty years ago it was a £1.50 limit but I'm allowing for inflation! The children were small and happy with colouring books and such like from their auntie, and us adults had fun hunting out the weirdest, wackiest gifts we could find for the least amount of money. Gift opening was a real hoot, and it soon spread throughout the family. Christmas day would guarantee a string of hilarious phone calls 'What did so and so get you? Have you worked out what it is yet?' Over the years, as our financial situations improved, we stopped doing it. Well now its back.

I've called everyone and told them what I'm doing, after all I don't want anyone to be offended if they've spent a lot when I haven't. Everyone is fine about it, they are all tightening their belts too, and most are really keen to join in. We are all making exceptions for our own children, and maybe grandchildren who are old enough to be excited, but otherwise it is a £3 MAXIMUM spend. And I really do mean that's the maximum. The cheaper the better. 50p? Brilliant. You get extra points for that (yes, we keep score. It all adds to the fun).

O.K so it takes a bit more time as it involves really thinking about the gifts or making them by hand but isn't that so much better than running into Boots on your lunch break and grabbing a load of their 3 for 2 offers? Of course it is. I'm taking the 'its the thought that counts' concept to the extreme. You've heard of extreme sports? Well nothing beats EXTREME FESTIVE SHOPPING, not for the faint hearted. Forget White Christmas... welcome to my white knuckle Yule.

Try it, its fun. And best of all I'm looking forward to Yule with a childlike anticipation I haven't felt in years.



Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Strange Seasons

The sun has shone all day in a bright blue sky.
I still have flowers blooming in my garden.
My neighbour's pear tree is covered in fresh, green leaves.
And butterflies graced my afternoon walk...

...Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it November?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Day After- a post mortem

I hope everyone had a very happy Samhain. Mine didn't turn out exactly as planned but was lovely all the same. We had planned a walk across Dartmoor to Wistman's Wood. This is something we've attempted on several occasions and have been thwarted every time. Either we set out too late and lose the daylight, or the mists come down so we can't see where we are going or...well there's always something. So when my husband woke this morning still feeling ill we decided to take the hint and postpone the trip until later in the week. Instead I spent the day curled up watching grey clouds scud across the sky and reading Sage Woman which I was lucky enough to win a copy of in a draw over at Witch Blog a while ago, and which with perfect timing dropped through my letter box yesterday morning.


The rains put paid to my ritual plans for last night. I prefer working outdoors and don't usually let the weather put me off but I do find it a little difficult to keep candles lit in the rain and as candles featured rather strongly in my plans I had to have a re-think. What should have been a garden ablaze with candle light, each one representing a loved one, or ancestor; my Garden of the Dead, became my Kitchen of the Dead instead! I now have much respect for generations past who had no choice but to cook by candle light. With so many candles burning in my kitchen I couldn't bring myself to turn on the electric light but my eyes were definitely complaining by the time I dished up.
 
 
We didn't get any trick or treaters sadly, most children here are encouraged to only go to the doors of people they know. Although when I took a walk up to the shop to buy some cider to mull there were plenty of happy children in fantastic costumes. I met a very sweet little witch, about three years old, who kept tripping over her besom and a merry band of demons, devils and goblins.

I rather like that aspect of Halloween. I like the dressing up, the silly stuff. I was reading Aine's post over at The Deepest Well and it got me thinking. My husband would disagree, (you'll find his rant here), he thinks that going along with all the commercialism associated with Halloween waters down the sacred aspects of Samhain.  I can see his point but I think celebrating Halloween is important for children. Treated properly and with care (and I guess that's the real issue here) it can introduce an awareness of death and help them to face their fears. I'd like to see Samhain treated with more respect, of course I would, but at the expense of fun? I'm not sure I would. Children today have few of the freedoms I had as a child, their self-expression seems to be stifled at every turn. Halloween is one of the few times of the years when children can really be children (albeit under a watchful parental eye) and it would be a shame to see that curtailed.

I was going to ask my husband if he had anything to add but I can't find him. Oh, there he is, out in the garden digging a hole big enough to hide in ready for Christmas. :-)

Friday, 28 October 2011

Busy Bee

So much for posting all this week about my beloved dead! I've been rushed off my feet for the last couple of days. One minute life is plodding along quite nicely, the next it all goes haywire! Not in a bad way, its actually been a very enjoyable couple of days, but there hasn't been much time to slow down and take stock.

At first I felt a little guilty about that; after all I had friends and family members all lined up to be honoured by a post of their very own. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I shouldn't feel guilty at all. In fact, I should actually be rather pleased. It means I am living my life, just as I should be. Just as they would want me to.

There is no better way of honouring those we cared about, those we loved, than by getting on with our lives. Each and every one has had an impact on my life; has altered my way of thinking, has helped me to become the person I am today. I honour them every day when I get out of bed...when I live, and love, when I laugh or cry, when I dance, when I gaze at the dawn, or the sea, or the stars.

I honour them every minute of every day.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Baking Up Memories

I can't do a series of posts about loved ones who have passed without writing about my Grandma. She was only 56 when she died, although at only twelve she seemed like an old lady to me. Now in my 40's with time speeding by, 56 doesn't seem that far away and I know when I reach 56 I won't feel like an old lady even if my grandchildren see me as one :-)

I hope, that when I finally pass (later rather than sooner I'm in no rush!) my grandchildren have memories of me as rich and happy as the ones I have of my Grandma. I used to spend the day with my grandparents during school holidays whilst my mother was at work and there was nothing I loved more than being allowed to put the sheets through the mangle for her, or standing on a stool to reach the work top and helping her bake. It was my Grandma who taught me to cook. We baked scones and biscuits and good old fashioned cakes and my brother and I would fight over who got to lick the spoon. And then to keep us quiet she'd sit us on the front step with a cup of sugar and a stick of rhubarb each. Can you imagine giving a child that much sugar these days?!!!!! But I loved it and its still a treat I enjoy today.

My grandma died far too young but there is no sadness when I remember her, because every memory, yes every single one, is good. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Forever You'll Be Eyes Of Blue

Well its day two in the 'Samhain's a-coming' memories of loved ones posts, and I simply have to talk about Craig. I've been thinking about it since yesterday, wondering if I should. He was a major part of my teenage years and his death hit me badly. It took me a long time to come to terms with his passing. Is it wise, I wondered, to stir up old feelings? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised what a huge impact he had on my life. He'd be laughing at me now, telling me I don't need to do this, don't need to honour him, that he doesn't deserve it. But I do, and he does.

I was married with a child and hadn't seen him for a couple of years when I heard of his death, or rather read about it. A tiny snippet in the local paper under the awful heading 'Body found hanging'. It was 20 years ago but I still recall the feeling when I saw it, as fresh and real as though it were only yesterday; a gut wrenching, head spinning, sickening feeling that was all consuming. I forced back the tears for days in the foolish hope it was some kind of a mistake. I was numb. For a long time.

I was fifteen when I met him, and sixteen the first time we kissed. He wasn't a boyfriend. There was no 'relationship'. More an on-going saga. We dipped in and out of each other's lives. He clicked his fingers and I'd go running. It seemed very one sided at the time but looking back, I think it worked both ways. He taught me love was bitter sweet. He taught me life isn't always fair. He taught me things I won't talk about here! He taught me to respect myself and that its O.K to say No.
I set the bar by his standards. And the only time I ignored it was when I made the biggest mistake of my life.

He had an ego the size of a double decker bus (or at least it seemed that way), but he also had a great sensitivity, and the ability to really listen. And he was gorgeous! He had rugged features and long wavy hair. And the bluest of eyes that looked right into your soul.

For a long time my memories of Craig have made me sad and I pushed them to the back of my mind. I couldn't look at photographs, or visit the old haunts. My imaginings of his lonely death overtook my memories of his life.

So here I am remembering.

And its a memory full of long, lazy days and daisy chains. Of stolen kisses. Of Jelly (we won't go into that one!). Of  peach coloured roses and Thunderbird (oh my, did we really drink that stuff?!) and Walnut Whips. (Mmmmmmmn Walnut Whips! I'd almost forgotten about those. I don't know if you can buy them outside of the U.K so maybe some of you have no idea what I'm talking about. In fact there aren't even many places here that stock them now, but they are like little chocolate bee-hives full of sweet, sticky goo with a walnut on top and they are delicious.)

Just writing those things made me smile. It made me want to go and dig out the photo's. And they made me smile even more. And in amongst those photo's I found a book of poems. Like many teenage girls I couldn't so much as sneeze without writing a poem about it. I didn't know I'd kept them! They are very naive, some of them are so badly written it made me laugh, but they are heartfelt and tell a story of youth better than any diary or journal could. I haven't written a poem since my early 20's. What a shame! I have no idea why I stopped, just too busy  suppose.

Anyway, one of the poems I found was this. I wrote it for Craig, a few weeks after his death, when I visited the park where he had worked and where my friends and I had once spent so very much time.

Nothing's Changed 

The little things,
so meaningless,
mean so much to me now.
Like walnut whips,
and thunderbird,
a rose,
a touch,
a smile.
And I know the smell
of fresh cut grass,
would make me want to cry,
and that I'd recognise your footsteps
even after all this time.
But the footsteps are just echos,
your face,
a shadow,
in the trees;
your voice
just a sweet memory,
a murmur on the breeze.
The lazy days of long ago,
come flooding back unchanged,
and it seems like only yesterday
but time can't be rearranged.
So I wonder where you are now?
And if you know I'm here?
But I feel so warm
despite the wind,
and something dries my tears.
I half expect to see you,
when I look around again,
but I see so many memories
and know that nothing's changed.




Monday, 24 October 2011

My Grandfather's Garden

I'd been planning a series of posts for this week about my memories of loved ones and the giveaway over at Witch Blog fits in perfectly. So head on over there if you want a chance of winning a signed copy of Christian Day's The Witches Book of the Dead.

With Samhain drawing nearer and the dark closing in, my thoughts have been drifting more frequently towards those who have passed. I won't say those I have lost, because I haven't lost them. They are still near, still influence my thinking, still speak to my soul. They are still a part of life and I honour them all year round, but with Samhain approaching, with the veil thinning, it is time to celebrate their lives. It is time to tell their stories.


My great-grandfather was a gardener in a big house. He had been long retired by the time I was born but the garden of his home was immaculate. One of my earliest memories is of walking between the dahlias at the bottom of his garden. I must have been very young as I clearly remember looking up at the underside of the flowers as they towered above me. The very first thing I would do when we went to visit would be to run to the greenhouse to smell the tomatoes. I love the smell of tomato plants to this day and it never fails to take me back to the long, hot summers of my childhood. I'm sure I get my love of gardening from him although I'm not sure what he'd think of my little wilderness!

His life, and that of my Nana, was touched by tragedy. And more than their fair share too, I think. They lost one child in infancy, which although not uncommon back then, must have been devastating all the same. They lost another in WWII. My grandfather served in both wars. He lost an eye in WWI , he didn't talk about it but he used to lift his eye patch sometimes to show us! Being in his garden brought him peace; I think it was the only thing that did.

He was a quiet man, a strong man. He had a subtle humour and a big smile.

I still feel him with me; whenever things get really bad, when it seems that everything is falling apart, he is there. I don't see him, or hear him but I know he's there and without fail that's a sign that things are about to get a whole lot better.










Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Timely Reminder

Over at Hearthwitch Cottage there's a great post about being grateful. Avie asks What are you grateful for today? Its a good question. So often we get bogged down with all the problems we face and that clouds our view. Yesterday was a good example. It was a glorious autumn day. The sky was blue; the air was crisp but not cold and I went for a drive with my husband through the beautiful Cornish countryside. Yet I spent the day consumed with panic about an unexpectedly large (extortionate!!!) water bill. What a waste of a lovely day.

Last night when my husband came to bed (a couple of hours after I had), he said 'Thank You'. In my sleepy, only half awake state I wondered what on earth he was going on about. I reluctantly dragged myself towards full consciousness to hear him say how much he appreciates everything I do for him, how grateful he is for my support :-). It was lovely to hear and I went back to sleep with a smile on my face. He thinks he doesn't say things like that often enough, but actually he does. He sings my praises whenever, and wherever, he can; you only have to take a look through the posts on his blog to know that (and yes, that is a shameless plug). I think, maybe, I sometimes take his appreciation for granted.

So the post over at Hearthwitch Cottage was a timely reminder to appreciate all the little, lovely things that make life special and I think I'm going to adopt the idea (thanks Avie) of keeping a Gratitude Diary.

So what am I grateful for today?

For my husband, loving and gentle and utterly insane (that's a good thing by the way).
For my children and my step-children and the grandchildren they have given us. And all the joy, stress, fun and frustration they bring.
For having a roof over our heads because for a while there, we didn't.
For the experiences I've had, the good, the great, the bad, and the very bad. They have made me what I am today.
For the wind in my hair and the sound of the sea.

And I am grateful that in my kitchen cupboard there are ingredients to bake cakes...if I wanted to. Which I don't. I got off my broom, remember?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Challenge Too Far?

Last weekend I turned 42. The number itself doesn't bother me, ( no, not even the year the needle tipped from 39 to 40), but there is something about birthdays that makes me want to, to....to? I don't really know what it is exactly. Change? Move on? Ponder the ins and outs, ups and downs, of my life? What ever it is, it usually makes me DO things. Sometimes they can be quite dramatic things, like putting the wheels in motion to leave my abusive first husband. Other times it might be quite subtle like trying my hand at painting watercolours. Sometimes I manage to keep the momentum going and make real changes in my life, other times it just fizzles out.

This year was no exception, I felt the need to DO something. So I did. I signed up for the Get Off Your Broom fitness challenge over at The Domestic Pagan. Not only that I also signed up to take part in this years NaNoWriMo and committed myself to trying to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November!

Am I mad? You bet!

It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all I have put on a few pounds this summer and getting in shape can only be a good thing, right? And learning a bit of writing discipline by having to write each day might mean I finally get around to finishing the children's book I've been working on for like...forever. My motives are sound. I'm just not sure about the practicality of it all. It now means that for all of next month I've got to stick to my diet and exercise programme, and maintain all my usual commitments, all whilst I'm chained to my lap top churning out a minimum of 1666.66667 (so my calculator tells me) words a day!

If I don't spontaneously combust from all the pressure, I'll keep you informed on how I get on!!!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

You know you're getting old when you get wrinkle cream for your birthday!

Today's my birthday. I've just spoken to my youngest daughter and told her what a lovely, quiet, lazy day I'm having. When she stopped laughing she informed me that birthdays are not supposed to be quiet. She says the should be noisy, raucous, and wild. Then she asked me what presents I'd got. Cue more laughter.

So I'm having a quiet birthday. I got wrinkle cream from my mother. What's wrong with that?

I could have told her tales of birthdays from my youth and maybe she would have been impressed. Then again, maybe she'd have disowned me. I had a lot of fun, back in the day! But quite frankly I just haven't got the energy to paaaaartaaaaay anymore. And that's fine.

These days I prefer a bit of peace and quiet. I'd rather go for a walk on the beach than shop till I drop. I'd rather have a romantic meal with my husband than dance the night away. I'd rather spend time with the people I love. That may seem boring to my daughter. It may make me 'officially old', (yes she really said that!) but I don't care.

I'm very patient. I can bide my time. I know that one day she will understand. That will be the year I buy her wrinkle cream for her birthday.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thinning of the Veil

It's been easy to forget, given the glorious weather we've been enjoying here in the U.K, that Samhain is creeping up on us. I like Samhain, its one of my favourite times of year, but I don't get swept away with enthusiasm for decorating our home and tripping over plastic pumpkins every time I turn around. If you do...Enjoy. And if you come knocking at my door trick-or-treating, I'll have plenty of goodies waiting for you by then :-)

I'm kind of hoping the lovely weather will hold until my birthday at the weekend but I won't be sorry to see a return to autumnal mists and a nip in the air. It seems more appropriate somehow. But even though the weather seams to have forgotten what to do in this season, the wheel is still turning. The sun sets a little earlier each day and rises a little later. The dark is coming. The veil is thinning. The dead are waiting for me to set a place at the table and invite them to the feast.

Today is my brother's birthday, but he is going to the funeral of a friend. On Thursday we have the funeral of a much loved uncle and events in the news have brought back to mind the tragic and brutal death of a lovely, vibrant, bubbly young girl I once knew. My feelings on that are too intense and quite probably too irrational to share. Part of me deep down knows I would not see the truly innocent punished, but the resurgence of my grief has chased away all objectivity...for now.

For now I welcome the thinning of the veil. I am glad the dead, the beloved, the ancestors, are close. I cherish the memories, I absorb the lessons, I revere the wisdom of those that have gone before. I celebrate the lives of those I have known.

Samhain is coming. The veil is thinning. The dead are gathering... Come on in my lovelies, I'll put the kettle on.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Mists, Magic, Mystery, Myth and Meditation

This was the view from my window this morning.
There is a town out there somewhere...honest. Although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

The fog rolled in from the sea late last night and the fog horn was the soundtrack to my dreams. I rather like its mournful sound, it is eerily beautiful in its loneliness, like a lost soul singing from the deep.

When I wake on a day like today I am drawn to the blanket of white. It is strangely hypnotic and I know I will get very little done until it clears. It is deceptively still outside; not only because movement is hidden and sound smothered, but because the fog itself is anything but still. It may look it at first glance; an empty world, a shroud of featureless grey. But those who take the time to watch will see a multitude of softest hues swirling in a misty ballet of water droplets and air currents. There was magic in the air this morning; mystery and meditation were my companions. I walked in the world of the unknown, in that timeless place beyond the veil...

...and returned to the mundane and the everyday.





And now the skies have cleared and a hazy sun shines. But as I once more go about my daily tasks I carry myth and magic and mystery in my soul.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Colours of the Moors

I love the moors. I could spend hours just enjoying the space and the quiet that isn't quiet; not really, if you listen you will hear the cry of a distant buzzard on the wind, the rustle of long grass and the bleating movements of the sheep or the soft breath of inquisitive moorland ponies and the buzz of bees on heather. The moor isn't quiet, it isn't silent, it isn't bleak. The moor is full of life and I adore it.

By the time I remembered I had my camera the ponies had moved on but never mind, there will be other days. Instead I tried to capture the amazingly vibrant colour palate of the Dartmoor autumn. These don't really do it justice, but I hope you'll like them anyway.

The late afternoon sun, blindingly beautiful

The bluest of skies

 Gorse Flowers, as bright as the sun

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Death Awakens.....or sad news and happy memories

I logged on to facebook last night to quickly leave a birthday message for my step-daughter only to instead be stunned by news of the tragic and untimely death of an old friend.

I haven't seen him in many years, our lives went in different directions and we lost touch. I'm sure that is a story familiar to many of us. Yet every friend, no matter how brief our acquaintance, touches our life in profound ways. We may lose touch and forget about the friendship but these people are threads which link us to the past. The severing of one of those threads sends ripples across the still waters of time; it disturbs the store of memories, shaking things up and bringing long forgotten events to the fore.

We were just teenagers when our shared past was created. We frequented bars and nightclubs we weren't old enough to be in; we got drunk on Thunderbird in the park; we sat in a city centre cafe on a Saturday afternoon making one cup of coffee last for hours; we had fun as teenagers should.

Today I've spoken to long lost friends who shared that connection. We've shared our memories and we have cried and we have laughed. This afternoon we sit in our homes many miles apart and we will all raise a glass to the memory of someone we once knew and cared about. We remember how he always had a kind word and time for others, how he transcended friendship groups and seemed to fit in with everyone, and hopefully we'll take those things forward with us and make a little part of him live on.

Rest In Peace Mark. Thank you for the memories.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

I NEED JAFFA CAKES

I'm in hospital tomorrow. It's nothing serious, just some tests that are a bit on the unpleasant side. I 'm really not looking forward to it but I'm not as worried as I expected to be. This is partly because I'm having them done at the Nuffield (thanks NHS!) and they've been really great keeping me in the loop and having time to answer my questions. But I think the main reason I'm not worried is I'm distracted.

And I'm distracted because I am starving.

My stomach thinks my throat's been cut! Yesterday my diet was limited, today it's non-existent. I'm  allowed water and black coffee and fizzy drinks. I can have bovril and and oxo cubes dissolved in hot water (yum) and boiled sweets...mustn't forget the boiled sweets. Now I'm not obsessed with food. I like it, obviously. I enjoy eating it and I enjoy cooking it but if I'm doing something I'm interested in or just plain busy I can go all day and forget I haven't eaten until supper time. But not today.

Today, because I know I can't eat, all I can think about is food. And of course because food is forbidden I won't be satisfied tomorrow afternoon with a nice crunchy salad and a creamy yogurt, oh no! I want chips, and cream cakes, and steak (nice, juicy rare steak), and jaffa cakes. I need jaffa cakes, a whole box of them, all to myself. So I'm a jaffa cake fiend, I make no apologies for that. I'm going to nibble around the edge and then eat the jelly bit, just like I used to as a child and get chocolate all over my fingers.

Oh yes, tomorrow will be the day my mother's threat of old will come true. I will eat so many Jaffa Cakes I will finally turn into one.

Monday, 5 September 2011

September Stews

It is dark outside. Or at least almost dark; there is still a trace of the sun on the western horizon, a lighter tone to the inky sky. The wind blows and rain threatens.

This time last year it was still warm enough to keep the windows open long after it had grown dark. We spent long evenings with the T.V turned off as we listened to the grasshoppers outside in the garden with their endless song and moths flew in following the lamp light.

What a difference a year makes; the cloak of autumn is wrapping around me early this year.

Tonight I made stew. A thick, hot chicken stew, something I usually save for cold October or November nights. It isn't really cold, not yet. Not cold enough to put the heating on anyway. But as I listened to the wind howl through the oak and hazel outside, stew just felt right. The windows steamed up as it simmered away. The candle I always light on my kitchen altar when I cook guttered in the wind forcing through a crack of open window casting shadows in the darkening gloom.

For the first time this season it was dark enough to cook by candlelight and I felt winter in my bones.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Thank You Berry Much

I am addicted to blackberry muffins. There! I've said it. It's out in the open, this dark secret of mine. I can't help it; they're just irresistible. I'd like to be able to tell you that I've tried to resist the purple temptations, but I haven't. Worse than that I've even tried to convince myself, and others, such things are good for you. Healthy even.
In the world according to ME all you need to do to turn 256 calories of loveliness into an 'I'm-being-good-honest' treat, is add more fruit than the recipe states and put slightly less mixture in each muffin case. (Depending on how restrained I'm being I can get between 18 and 24 muffins from a recipe for 12). Have one for breakfast with natural yogurt and voila! Healthy. Its simple when you know how. Of course that only works when you stop at one... What can I say? I have no will power.
You see, I recognise a good thing when I've got it. The wheel turns and the seasons change. Even the most prolific blackberry bush must succumb to the tides of change. Winter will come creeping in soon enough, the harvest will be over and all will sleep. I indulge while I can, you can't blame a girl for that!

I have strict rules for picking hedgerow gems though.
Rule number 1
I always ask permission first and  listen to the answer, you need to know what is required from you. Yesterday I found myself explaining to one particular 'blackberry sprite' exactly what jam is. Have you any idea how hard that is?
Rule number 2
Never, ever, take too much from any one place. I hate to get to a favourite harvesting spot to find someone has beaten me to it and stripped the bush bare. Nature's larder is there for us to share, with each other, but most importantly with the wildlife. I aim to take no more than about 10-20% of the ripe fruit but I pay attention to the spirit of the place. If I get stung or scratched on thorns I take that as an 'Okay, you've had enough!' and stop. Immediately.
Rule number 3
Say Thank You. Make an offering. Take a sample of what you've made back to the harvesting site. I've found its always appreciated.

Sticking to these rules I get enough for my needs.

And right now I need another blackberry muffin.



Sunday, 21 August 2011

Fairy Wishes

As I've sat by my open window today, drinking in the sweet air and the August sunshine, clouds of dandelion fluff have softly floated by. Dancing on a warm and gentle breeze they have entertained me for hours as I whiled away my lazy Sunday morning. Of all the hundreds drifting past, one blew right in to dance before my eyes. I caught it gently and made a wish before releasing it out the window, and smiled.

That one simple act had transported me back some thirty-eight years. I was, for a moment, three again. Nearly four, (very important that, when you are only three), and in my Grandmother's garden. I'd picked a stem of cottonwool lovliness, a dandilion head just ready to blow.
     "One 'o' Clock, Two 'o' clock. Three..." we chanted together as each tiny puff of a childs breath scattered dozens of seeds to the wind.
     "Quick, catch one and make a wish" grandma said, her wrinkled hand gently closing around a floating seed. "They are fairies and if you catch one  gently, only one mind, and whisper your wish to her...it might come true."

I don't know what my lovely Grandma wished for, wishes should be secret she said, but I still remember mine. I wished for a pair of lovely red shoes, and I got them. It didn't matter that they were in the sale, or that Grandma was whispering in my Mother's ear; it was my fairy who made my Mum relent and let me have those glorious red shoes instead of her choice of sensible brown.

So will my wish today come true? I'll have to wait and see.

I'm sorry, but I can't tell you what I wished for. Wishes should be secret afterall.
    

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Looking Back to Move Forward

This week marks one whole year in our new flat. I guess that means its not really 'new' anymore.

There is much still to be done. The garden is just a tiny patch of mud. The front door is still to be painted (how I loathe the shabby faded purple it is at the moment); the stairs leading up from the front door need carpeting and the walls painting. In the flat proper there is still woodwork to be painted. Its been done once (we're not that lazy) but the chosen 'satin' finish looks worse than the undercoat did and needs to be re-done. The spare room and utility are devoted to our various crafts and with all the muck and mayhem that takes place in those rooms, decorating wasn't too high on our list of priorities but now I feel the need to get them finished. Actually, having written that it's not as bad as I thought, the list of jobs-to-do isn't really that long.

I had been feeling quite down just lately. I was feeling sorry for myself. Silly really, but I'd got it into my head that my life was one long struggle. Ever had one of those days where nothing goes right? Well that was my life! The wheel of fortune had got stuck in the mud. Or so I thought. But reaching that landmark of being here a year made me look back and take stock.

OK so we live our life with a permanent financial headache and health is an issue for us both. Between these two we're quite restricted in what we are able to do and yes, sometimes that gets me down. But a year ago we had no carpets. A year ago we were sitting on the floor in an empty flat because we had no chairs. A year ago we were living off salads and sandwiches because we couldn't afford to have the gas cooker connected. For the eight months before that we'd been living in a cold, damp flat and had a psycho neighbour who smashed windows for fun!

And before that, we were homeless. Everything we'd worked so hard for was gone.

We bounced about between various family members and as much as I was grateful for their hospitality and kindness there is only so long I can share a kitchen with another woman (no matter how much I love them) before I get the urge to run them through with a bread knife! Having a kitchen of my own was the thing I missed most and dreamed of constantly.

It has been a long, hard struggle. It has often felt like one step forward, two steps back. Reaching the age of 40 and realising you don't even own a teaspoon is hard to take! And yet here I am, writing this on my laptop in our lovely home. I have carpets and comfy chairs. I have a kitchen with a cooker that works (sort of). I have shelves and drawers and bottles and jars; all full off interesting things.

So do I still feel sorry for myself? No.

Do I feel a little bit embarrassed by my self pity? ummm yes. (blushes slightly)

Have I learnt from the whole experience? I did it the hard way but yes, I have.

Am I content with my life?

You know, all things considered, I really think I am.




Monday, 15 August 2011

Excuse me a moment while I wiggle my nose.

I've just had a phone call from my youngest daughter. She lives with her Dad and he's not exactly what one would describe as 'friendly', so communication with the kids is usually of the on-line variety. Its just easier for them that way. Phone calls are rare and usually means she wants something. This was confirmed when her opening words were

"MUUUUUUUUUUMMMMEEEEEEEEEEE. You do know I love you muchly don't you?"

I know from experience that openers like that are usually followed by requests for money ranging from £5 for new mascara to almost £100 for a festival ticket. What ever it is, its always an "I'll simply die without it" item.

This time, as much as I'd have liked to help, it was out of the question and I really didn't think that being unable to have, instantly, that little pair of shorts she's so desperate for was likely to prove life threatening. I'm a cruel mother aren't I? I explained that with Christmas looming on the horizon, numerous birthdays both before, during and after the dreaded festive period, two new grandchildren well on the way, not to mention all the usual bills there really wasn't anything spare at the moment. She may have the luxury of living for the moment but I have to plan ahead!

'But, but You're A Witch!' she cried as though that solved everything.

Oh Yes! Silly me. I'll just wiggle my nose like Samantha and the shorts will magically materialise in the perfect size. While I'm at it I'll wave my magic wand and get her some extra pairs in a range of colours. Throw in a bit of fairy dust for good measure and Cinderella shall go to the ball!  While I'm at it I'll fix the cooker, dig out the new pond, paint the hall and lay that new stair carpet I can't afford yet. All with one little wiggle.

Oh yes, a witch's life is an easy one.




Sunday, 14 August 2011

Butterly Delicious

Yesterday I made homemade butter for the first time ever. I can't believe I've never done it before; it was so easy!

I've been trying for a while now to be more self-sufficient. I don't mean in a small-holding-with-chickens-and-goats-and-row-upon-row-of-glorious-veg kind of way; I just don't have the room for that. I mean in a simple tomatoes-on the-windowsill and the-supermarket's-charging-HOW-MUCH? kind of way. Rising food prices are having an impact on us all but if, like us, you're trying to manage on a very tiny income then you'll really be feeling the pinch.

About a decade ago, when hubby and I were saving hard to move and the kids were either not working or worked for an agency that provided only sporadic work, my step-daughter and I perfected the art of the 'Poverty Shop'. This involves heading to the supermarket with £20 and coming home with enough food to feed four of us for a week! These days feeding four might be a bit ambitious but I can feed two on that if I need to, and often do. That might seem surprising to you if you're at all like the woman in front of me at the checkout last week who spent £80 on what couldn't possibly be more than about 3 days of food. Good luck to her, I say. Or at least I might have done if she hadn't eyed my own trolley with such derision. If like me, your trolley's usually piled high with the supermarket's own brand basic/economy/really-scraping-the-barrel-here cheapest possible buys in yellow & green or blue & white or whatever two colours your usual supermarket utilises, you'll know that nothing advertises that you're broke like a two-tone trolley!

I'm not knocking basic brands here, it takes a bit of trial and error but some are every bit as good as the household names, but there was no denying that as prices rose the standard of our diet was definitely slipping. So I've been on a mission to change that. I bake cakes. I've begun baking my own bread again and I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy that. I've made Gorse flower wine and Nettle beer. I bake cakes. I've started cooking meals from scratch again. I bake cakes. I've got tomatoes and lettuce growing in my kitchen and herbs in what I laughingly call my garden (for garden read tiny patch of sun starved mud...but I'm working on that). Oh, and I bake cakes, did I mention that?

But butter? That was a first. And I loved it. There are recipes for homemade butter all over the Internet so I won't repeat it here but suffice to say all you need is a jar, half full of double cream and then you shake and shake and shake some more. You could, of course, shorten the process by using an electric whisk but a) I don't have one and b) where's the fun in that? I put something loud and raucous on the stereo and danced around the kitchen like a lunatic. The end result was just under half a pound of butter and as an added bonus; lovely, fresh buttermilk (which incidentally is nothing like the stuff you buy in the shops).

Yesterday was a very productive day. I made butter and bread to go with it. I picked blackberries. And I used up all that buttermilk making Blackberry Muffins.
There were more, but by the time I'd found the camera we'd descended on them like a hoard of hungry locusts (all two of us). Bang goes the diet this month!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Rain

The rains came last night. After a warm and somewhat muggy day the weather men predicted fresher weather and for once they were right, by the bucket load. I lay in my bed listening to the drumming of the heaviest rain we've had for months, soothed by what is one of my favourite sounds. The urge to get up and go walk in it was very strong, although not quite strong enough to overcome the utter exhaustion that seems to have overtaken me lately so I contented myself with simply lying there listening.

From earliest childhood I have had a close relationship with the rain; I love the sound of it, feel of it, the look of it. There is something inspiring about a brooding grey sky, heavy with the promise of a good downpour. My whole family is the same; it must be something in the genes. Only this morning I got a message from my mother telling me she was off out to a local beauty spot for the day with some friends and she was the only one pleased it was raining!

Some of my happiest memories have been created in the rain. From childhood holidays in the mountains when the weather was never allowed to spoil our week away, to sleeping in the car on the cliffs or the moors listening to the rain drum on the roof; it is the soundtrack to my life. I have danced in the rain, sang in the rain, even washed my hair in the rain (you should try that, its the best its ever felt), I feel alive, truly alive, in the rain.

So I'm making up a flask of coffee and a sandwich and heading to the beach where I can watch the storm churned sea come rolling in under a leaden sky as I have my lunch and let the power of the sea and sky wash over me, recharging me, inspiring me. And then I'll take off my shoes and roll up my jeans and go for a paddle...a bit of silliness to make my day.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Wonderful Magic of Land and Sea

I've been pondering for a while now how to start this blog. Although I write a lot it seems a little strange to be writing about me and my life. I don't do much or really go anywhere, I don't live an exciting, fast paced life. What could I write that anyone would want to read? And yet the urge to do so has been getting stronger by the day.  I've spent a lot of time over the last few days waiting for inspiration to strike as I stared at a blank screen. I've written a bit, deleted a bit, written some more and deleted that too; blogging isn't as easy as it looks! I put a lot of it down to the headache from hell that I've been doing my best to ignore for the last few days but that's a lame excuse.

Finally yesterday afternoon, in utter frustration and a cloud of pain I decided to drag myself out for a walk. Not far, just up to the fields on the edge of the cliffs but as I left the rows of neat little houses behind and stepped out into that open space I felt a shift. Subtle and slight, but a shift all the same; an easing of pressure, a sense of calm. I walked around the edge of the fields, keeping one eye on the hedgerow, making a mental note of the progress of the blackberries, hazelnuts and sloes. This time last year the summer had been so wet that blackberries were rotting on the bushes still green but this year there is the promise of a bountiful harvest. I picked a few, already ripe and sweet and delicious, but it will be another week or two I think before they are plentiful. And when I felt I could walk no more I found a bench, close to the coast path but hidden away from sight amongst the bushes, and simply sat.

I don't know how long I sat there; maybe half an hour, maybe two. (I was annoyed with myself when I lost my watch a few weeks ago but now I'm rather enjoying the lack of awareness of the passage of time. It's strangely liberating.) I sat watching the waves, tiny in the distance, and the dancing of the sun on the moving water, like a million, million diamonds. The only sounds were birdsong and children's laughter being carried on the breeze from the town beach. And then I knew what to write about...or rather how to write it. The freedom I found up there on the cliffs is always there, a thread running through my life; holding it together when it might otherwise fall apart. It is a part of me, therefore a part of my writing. I should not be planning and over-thinking; I should not be structuring and labouring on something that should be free and flowing. I didn't need to know what I should write about. I should just write, dive right in.

So here I am, diving in. I might not make sense to you dear reader, if I skitter from topic to topic. I might confuse you with my dithering or repeat myself or tangle myself up in knots as I try to explain something I've not fully grasped myself, but this is me. Wayward, eccentric, dithery (sometimes), home-loving, wild and free. Here I will talk about the magical and the mundane; the mysteries of the landscape and the kitchen; you will get glimpses of my life, my faith, my magical practice, my crafts, my garden, my home. Whether you walk this journey with me or pop by just once in a while; even if you walk away, never to return, I bid you a warm welcome to this window on my life.

Oh, and that headache? Gone. Blown away on a sea breeze...now that's magic.