The simple pleasures of feeling better

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Winter light on the lake

 

We’ve said goodbye to January, which turned out to be a month where for every single day one or more of us was ill! Like many people, the virus/cold we had came in two instalments. We watched the current events of the world unfold on the news from under blankets, or full of cough syrup, which made it all the more surreal.

There have been some big joys in our lives recently – we have a grandson in the family who we met as soon as we were recovered and fit to be around a tiny person! And, as always, we have been tuning in to the many small simple pleasures in the day, the satisfying things that make everyday life glow even (or especially) when we feel under the weather and/or baffled by the behaviour of some of our fellow humans.

Such as:

Not always thinking about saving money
There is a particularly effective ad campaign in the UK at the moment by a company who pay out less for buying your stuff, but save you lots of time. They make a good point, that sometimes it’s best not to take the most cost effective option (as long as you have enough money to get by, of course). For Lucy going back to work, feeling better but not fully back to normal, cycling in on cold mornings would not have been a good idea and so for once the bicycle was left alone for a week and she went to work using a bus pass. The bus goes door to door from home to work. Pure luxury and totally worth it.

This month Lucy has also bought two coats, and not the cheapest options available. It isn’t good value for money to have a cheap high-visibility cycling jacket, if the lining and zips break within a year and the coat is so thin it provides no warmth so requires a hoodie underneath. The new one below is much thicker and better quality. The coat with a furry hood is for cold winter days: properly warm and big enough to wear with layers underneath if needed. A much more practical choice than the last coat Lucy bought which was impractical: too small, not at all warm, and with novelty buttons half of which fell off within a week. It was only really purchased because it was in a sale (and it was purple).

Soup, tuna, or whatever we really want to eat
We both lost our appetites for several days. It was interesting to see what it was we first started to really crave. For Lucy it was soup, because it was the only thing that felt good for a sore throat. A lot of soup has been consumed in 2017 so far! Brian surprised himself by suddenly desiring tuna. Our bodies are obviously telling us what they want!

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Soup time on a day off sick

 

Birds in the garden
It’s a privilege to have a garden we can look at while keeping warm indoors. We put out stale wholemeal bread (don’t give white to birds, it causes them problems) and the garden birds were there within seconds, entertaining us. There were blackbird fights, a robin that could carry surprisingly large bread lumps, dunnocks and blue tits waiting for the bigger birds to go away.

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Robin in a curly willow waits to seize some bread

 

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Blackbirds enjoying the feast

 


There was no point planning to achieve any major tasks while we felt ill. The only big undertaking we had to do was to move 10 bags of coal that were delivered, and we certainly felt the effects of that afterwards. We needed to sleep, rest, potter gently around the house, and that was what we did most of the time. Because we didn’t want to make unnecessary trips to the shops, we also spent much less on food than usual (and have been able break some of our snacking habits.)

It feels good to share these little positive things. They are important in the world. We think that in a simple life, there is endless room for love, inclusion and compassion, and no room whatsoever for division, suspicion and persecution.

Current reading:
Ali Smith – The Whole Story and other stories
Ali Smith – The First Person and other stories
Kate Atkinson – Emotionally Weird
Kate Atkinson – Human Croquet

Lucy’s current playlist:
Siouxie & The Banshees – Dazzle
Amerie – Gotta Work
XTC – Wrapped in Grey
Marcella Detroit – I Believe: This song is 23 years old and more relevant than ever. I’m playing it several times a day right now. Read the lyrics here:

Looking to the moon and wildlife

With all the division and separatism going on in the world it seems almost incredible that everyone on the planet sees the same moon, sun and stars when they look into the sky. But we do, and the moon that will visit us all over the next few days will be a very rare full supermoon, the closest full moon to Earth since 1948. Find out more here. It was already looking big yesterday.

There is something deeply moving about a full moon and seeing our enduring, regular visitor glowing above all the changing world below. I’m still here, it seems to say, and it reminds us that so are we, able to be looking up at it once more.

Watching wildlife is another everyday way to find inspiration. On our staycation a week ago we saw these coots drifting across a mere in a very zen way.

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It’s the time of year for making Christmas cakes. We make three (one each and one for Lucy’s parents) and we currently have one made, and one in the oven right now, the smell of boozy fruit and spices filling the house.

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A jolly Santa watches over the baking process

 

Thank you all for reading and don’t forget to look for the moon!

Simple Living Review: June 2016

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Looking outside at the summer sky

We came to the end of June with a renewed sense of the power of living simply.  As events in the wider world continue on their course, it would be easy to feel powerless, but within the many articles we’ve read recently there have been some timely reminders of true positivity. Not going ‘la la la, everything’s fine!’ but acknowledging the reality, harnessing the inner and outer resources that we do have, and working together in the most positive way possible. Keeping our own lives simple is a way of avoiding wasting the limited time we have here on the planet on things that really do not matter. We’re always trying to live up to the title of this blog!

What did we spend and do this month?
We paid a year’s worth of insurance this month so we didn’t save anything overall, we also had an expensive month for food and drink (£15.15 per day), but considering we don’t go on holiday or to many events, having a curry night while watching Glastonbury on TV, for example, is a treat well worth having! Our food treats provide some of the most memorable and grateful times of our lives.

Other spending:
– Petunias for the garden
– A kettle (not had one since 2014)
– Music downloads
– Shoe insoles
– Moisturiser
– Some health supplies
– Some gifts
That’s it. It was a very sparse month on the Excel budget sheet!

 

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Bumblebee on Cosmos

 

The garden is full of colour and creatures. We plant things which attract a lot of bees, and it’s a great year for baby birds. Recently we are also being visited every day by an energetic and very loud Song Thrush, which sits in a tree or on a rooftop singing for hours on end and is becoming less shy every day, allowing us to walk quite close.

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Newly fledged blackbird

 

Its also the time of year to stand outside in the evening and enjoy the fragrance of Night Scented Stock. They are so easy to grow, and the scent is unbelievable. During the day, they smell of nothing, but after a certain point in the evening, start to release a rich and intoxicating clove-like perfume. Just as we love our flavoursome food, we love natural wonders like these as they are so simple, so accessible and are truly what matters, giving us great pleasure in our lives and inspiring us every day.

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Night Scented  Stock

 

Lucy’s Books & Music Corner:

Music
Song of the month: B-52s – Breezin’
Duran Duran – Pressure Off
Patty Griffin – Standing
Christine & The Queens – Tilted / Here
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
Benjamin Clementine – I Won’t Complain
The Last Shadow Puppets – Moonage Daydream (Glastonbury)
Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better (Glastonbury)
Coldplay – Adventure of a Lifetime / A Sky Full of Stars (Glastonbury)
Sia – Alive

Books 
Ali Smith – How to Be Both
Ann Patchett – Bel Canto
Anne Enright – The Green Road
(And we read a lot of newspapers)

Summer Solstice

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Wandering in the garden at night is one of the gifts of summer. The hollows in our concrete wall (made from blocks found underground) are perfect for holding candles, and the effect is very beautiful, a simple glass ramekin from a dessert creating a lovely reflection in the light.

We had good views of the summer solstice full moon last night. It rose perfectly clear and bright, and then we watched as interesting mists and clouds swept across it. Our camera is not intended for night photography but sometimes captures nice effects anyway:

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We just like to stand quietly, watch and listen: maybe hearing frogs rustling in the grass, birds shifting about in the trees where they roost, and sometimes a special treat of an owl call. The fragrances change at night too. We collected white campion seeds from a roadside especially to bring it into our garden for night-time fragrance – it’s somewhere between hyacinth and jasmine.

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There is a peace and stillness in the garden at night that captures what matters to us. Trying to live a simple life is for us about taking a wider and less self-focussed view, caring about humanity and the world we live in, which is beyond politics but is essentially the most political thing we can do, by living it through positive actions on a daily basis.

 

Listening to Trees

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This weekend has been very relaxing and restorative. Like many, we were exhausted and paying the price for a week of spending too much time involved in the election: voting in it, watching it, and reading about it afterwards. This is not a political blog but it’s probably obvious that our approach to life wasn’t reflected particularly well!

So, we needed some positivity and peace, and we found it in the woods today when we went to look for bluebells and orchids. It was such a beautiful day, a perfect warm breeze carrying the smells of wild garlic and bluebells.

It felt wonderful to touch the textured barks of different trees and engage with something real and honest. Brian remembered that it was possible to listen to trees and hear their internal sounds – with a stethoscope, which we didn’t have! – but we tried it anyway, pressing our ears to the lovely cool trunks and listening carefully. And we did hear something – it sounded a bit like someone was inside the tree moving furniture, making muffled bumps and knocks with large silences in between. Is this the sound of the tree pumping all the water it takes up? Whatever it was, it was a very calming and soothing experience!

We also saw a big red deer, a holly blue and a green hairstreak butterfly. Being out in nature was exactly what we needed this weekend, and the fact we then came home and ate a big bowl of ice cream each didn’t hurt either!

Holly Blue butterfly on a Bluebell

Holly Blue butterfly on a Bluebell

Wild Garlic - it's edible and smells amazing

Wild Garlic – it’s edible and smells amazing

Bluebells and Orchids

Bluebells and Orchids

Lessons in Living Simply

This week has been packed full of little lessons in living simply. We’ve been swinging from losing ourselves in everyday stress, to returning and residing in a calmer place with appreciation of life’s wonders…before going down the hole of stress again, and so it goes on! Perspective can be really hard to hold on to sometimes. This is partly because we are due a holiday – we will be on staycation in a week, and we’re just tired. This is also traditionally Lucy’s busiest time at work.

One thing we never lose sight of is our privilege and the ‘first world problem’ nature of many of our worries. We are not struggling to survive, house, feed or clothe ourselves. Therefore it is even more important that we value simple pleasures, so that we are less likely to be wasteful or to buy and consume unnecessary things.

Here are some of our simple moments from this week:

Ducks know how to live

Ducks know how to live

On a day out yesterday Lucy and her mum watched this beautiful male mallard duck having a very thorough and exuberant wash, with lots of head-dunking, flapping and feather-smoothing. If you need a boost, seek out a duck!

White chocolate strawberries

White chocolate strawberries

Brian made these white lemon chocolate strawberries as a Sunday treat last weekend – simple and perfect!

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This week the smell of blossom has been very powerful. Every time we pass some and are hit by the wall of scent we know it’s Spring. On Lucy’s bicycle commutes, a regular blast of blossom aroma keeps her mind in the present moment.

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Lucy has been remembering to check out the moon every day. At the moment it’s a daytime and evening moon, and is looking down on us for most of the day.

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After the rushed breakfasts of working week days we always try to have some good long weekend breakfasts with radio and magazines. There’s something very relaxing about watching the steam coming off a nice cup of tea!