Buzzing, raining and hopping

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At the start of this month all the ivy growing in the garden flowered and brought in a multitude of bees, wasps, hoverflies, butterflies, and a couple of massive hornets keen to hunt them all. The amount of pollen that bees can carry always amazes us.

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On rainy days all such activity stops, but we enjoyed sheltering in the woodshed on a particularly torrential afternoon, watching part of the garden turn to a puddle and being impressed by the power of the rain.

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Its looking like being a good year for autumn colour, as our North American Hawthorn has once again turned the shades of traffic-lights. We can never get over this stunning transformation.

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So while our summer flowers and long evenings are departing, new sources of colour and life are not so hard to find all around us. Today we noticed that garden birds are returning from the weeks they spend feeding in fields, and are again flitting around and entertaining us outside the windows.

This year we also have hundreds of flowers on the hops which climbs through the other shrubs and ends up dangling from the apple tree.  They have beautiful papery bells and leaves that provide food for Comma butterfly caterpillars earlier in the year. When you crush the flowers you can smell the pungent chemicals that make them valuable for beer brewing!

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Our other focus at the moment is to get into a healthier way of eating and also reduce our spend. After a few weeks of simply cutting out the obvious culprits we have both lost weight and have done far less food shopping than we had been doing so we are saving money.  Its exciting to be so motivated again and reminds us why we started this blog in the very beginning!

 

Recent reading
James Kelman – Dirt Road
Barbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour
And a book about hygge that we forgot to note the name of!
Recent listening:
Scritti Politti – Absolute
Grizzly Bear – Losing All Sense
Naughty Boy/Beyoncé/Arrow Benjamin – Runnin’
Radiohead – The Numbers
Portishead – The Rip
Years & Years – Eyes Shut

 

 

 

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Creatures and comforts

Today there is a chill in the air and we are feeling autumnal. Lucy has polished her cold weather shoes, the heater is on and we just made and enjoyed our first apple spice cake with apples off the garden tree…

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We haven’t blogged for a while as we were enjoying our summer holidays. This was a good chance to question whether we even need to be regularly blogging, and of course we don’t. There is no reason why it should be done monthly or on any particular day, and it feels good to be more relaxed about things. Now we’ll just be posting whenever we feel like it!

During the last few weeks there were many nature treats for us. We went to the coast and managed to catch a low tide which revealed rock pools and some big crabs. Standing barefoot beside the rock pools, Lucy was surprised when one emerged from the sand beneath her feet! We caught one, though it wasn’t happy about it and gave a good finger-pince! It was nice to see it close up but nicer to put it back in it’s pool again.

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Here is our garden hedgehog, which we saw several times at the end of August. It seemed to have a route it strolled in the early evening, past the woodshed and then across the bridge over the ditch, before returning home under a pile of sticks and leaves.

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We also uncovered this fantastic big warty toad, under a wheelie bin.

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On a visit to a nearby wood, Brian saw two young roe deer in the adjoining field, incredibly close and, when they started barking, quite loud too!

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Lucy and her mum had a day out in Bury St Edmunds this weekend, somewhere new to explore. There are two rivers with lovely names, the Linnet and the Lark. Here is the River Lark, which is easy to walk to in the Abbey Gardens. If we have a good year for colour of autumnal leaves, it will soon look spectacular reflecting in the water.

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We are excited about all the things that make autumn special – the colours, the sunrises and sunsets, Strictly Come Dancing (of course), lighting fires, warming foods and cosy clothes. The whole hygge concept comes quite naturally to us, so bring on the season!

RECENT READING
Maggie O’Farrell – This Must Be The Place
John Boyne – This House is Haunted
Kit de Waal – My Name is Leon

RECENT LISTENING
Grizzly Bear – Three Rings
Bjork – Thunderbolt
Janelle Monae – Cold War
Goldfrapp – Systemagic
Mama Cass – Make Your Own Kind of Music
Beirut – Port of Call

The mini-meadow and more

Out in the garden there is an abundance of colour…

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Plenty of lifeforms are enjoying it as well as us! The mini-meadow is full of bees, hoverflies and butterflies (especially gatekeepers).  Brian saw a vole running into cover, so it’s exciting to know there are mammals in there. This year we have also got grasshoppers again after they were absent for a while. They are much harder to find and photograph than crickets!

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A very obliging cricket

One new visitor is this meadow long horn moth:

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As the sunsets get slightly earlier, it’s easy to catch a stunning sky on an evening walk. It was also a great month for cycling to work, often after a rain shower when everything is fresh and bright.

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Lucy has had a week’s holiday from work, so it is staycation time again. We finished July with a visit to a water garden, where we sat on a little bridge over a trout pond, took off shoes and socks and splashed our feet in the lovely (cold) water! That is our kind of ‘seize the day’ activity…

The rest of our staycation has included catch-ups with friends, including a trip to a family festival (just a shame we are all too big for bouncy castles), leisurely mornings, a lot of cake (cheaper than each choosing our own desserts though…), and relaxed evenings at home. 

JULY BOOKSHELF:
Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls
Anne Patchett – Commonwealth
John Boyne – Beneath the Earth
Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass
Rachel Joyce – The Music Shop

JULY PLAYLIST:
XTC – Summer’s Cauldron
Laura Marling – Soothing
Owen Pallett – The Riverbed
Perfume Genius – Just Like Love
Rufus Wainwright – Across the Universe
Eurythmics – There Must Be an Angel
Paloma Faith – Upside Down

June: A sunset, some sparkle, and living alongside wildlife

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June – midsummer – a beautiful time of year, and this year we took more time to enjoy it by having some long weekends, or sitting in the garden after work (sometimes with a gin and tonic each.)

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Sparkly sandals are a simple pleasure of summer. £15 well spent last year! This month was the first month since 2013 when we didn’t record all our expenditure. It felt like a big change for us to stop doing it but now we are settled and coming up for 2 years on our one-income budget, there really isn’t any need to do it.

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This day-flying moth was a new sighting for us. It’s called a Mother Shipton, named after the prophetess whose face the wings resemble.

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We also have a new house-mate! This is our porch, where a leafcutter bee has made a nest. We’ve seen it carrying in the pieces of leaf, and packing them in tightly.

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Another first for us was the experience of seeing the sun set into the ocean. On a very hot afternoon we headed to the coast expecting a cool evening sea breeze. It wasn’t much cooler there, but we enjoyed ice creams, fish and chips, and a walk along the shore before the sun turned deeper orange, then red, and then appeared to be swallowed by the sea!

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We collected some jam jars and added to our wall of candles. The Mexican fleabane was only sowed into the wall 1 year ago, and now looks like it was always there.

 

 

JUNE BOOKSHELF:
Kevin Maher – The Fields
David Whitehouse – Mobile Library

JUNE PLAYLIST:
Goldfrapp – Annabel
case/lang/veirs – Greens of June
Perfume Genius – Otherside
Ludovico Eindaudi – I Giorni
James – Nothing But Love
Radiohead at Glastonbury
Grizzly Bear – Mourning Sound
Years & Years – Shine – This month Lucy finished listening to all the music we own, A-Z, and de-cluttering unwanted tracks. This was the final artist of the alphabet. The whole process took 3 years!

Rays of Light

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Evening walks are a treat at this time of year, with the extra daylight hours. As the sun starts to move lower in the sky, you can catch rays of light as they hit the ground.

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We’ve also had our first evening meal in the garden, and gin & tonics, listening to people cheer and/or groan at a TV football match a few houses away, and watching the Mexican Fleabane slowly start to close up for the evening.

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Mexican Fleabane in our concrete block wall

The incredible diversity of flower shapes and colours in the garden, for attracting pollinators, is fun to observe. Watch and see where the bees like to go best – foxgloves are a favourite…the detail is stunning when you look closely.

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We like to do some Spring cleaning and de-cluttering. A few weeks ago this table had a big potted ivy on it and twice as many objects as there are now. The ivy had to go as it was covered in insects secreting sticky liquid all over the mirror and everything else! It feels so much fresher and cleaner after being pared back.

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Posting pictures like these, of our everyday life, feels like an incredible thing to be able to do, given how this week has unfolded for so many other people.  To have something you can even call ‘everyday life’ is an immense good fortune. We hope that in some small way this blog contributes to a message that every day of every life is special and we should act accordingly.

Current library bookshelf:
Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass

Lucy’s current playlist:
James – Nothing But Love

 

Bright days, flowers and socks

It’s a cold and overcast day today (we’ve even got a fire lit indoors) but our blog is looking back on the bright moments and colours of recent weeks.

By our front door the Lithodora is in flower, a sea of blue stars.

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On woodland walks there are bluebells and purple orchids, but equally beautiful are  ancient woodland plants such as Herb Paris

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And the pretty flowers of wild garlic, which you can smell before you see!

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Light shines through the trees, which are not yet fully in leaf, creating a dappled semi-shade on the footpaths

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All the brightness and colour in nature inspires us to add to it with our human efforts and objects. Therefore, Lucy chose these socks for her birthday this year…

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And Brian brought in this spring bouquet, creating the most colourful mantelpiece display possible! (Last year’s birthday gnome was down off the shelf for the day, and beside it is a gnome candle, one of this year’s excellent gifts!)

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Current library bookshelf:
JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany – Harry Potter & The Cursed Child
Cordelia Fine – Testosterone Rex

Lucy’s current playlist:
LP – Lost on You
Case/Lang/Veirs – Greens of June
Tom Robinson – War Baby
Tori Amos – Space Dog

Dawn chorus & doughnuts

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We’ve had a week’s holiday, which started with a dawn chorus walk. We set out while it was still quite dark at 5.30, and walked through the mist to the woods. We heard deer barking and a mixture of birdsong. Soon we were watching a majestic sunrise through the trees and by the time we got back to the car the skies were blue and the air was warm. Before leaving the wood, we saw a muntjac deer chase a Chinese water deer off it’s territory very aggressively.

We went back to the woods a few days later with one particular treat in mind: jam doughnuts toasted over a fire pit! This makes the sugar melt and go crunchy, and the insides deliciously warm…we forgot to take toasting forks with us, so Brian made some out of branches.

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Garden wildlife is abundant, here is a female orange-tip butterfly (only the males have orange wing-tips) resting in the sunshine.

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There was also plenty of time for eating chocolate, sitting in cafés, seeing family, reading, pottering, baths, and experimenting with our cameras when we saw interesting scenes or shapes such as this twisty ivy on a tree trunk…

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Current library bookshelf:
Sebastian Barry – The Temporary Gentleman
Anne Enright – The Forgotten Waltz
Anne Tyler – Vinegar Girl

Lucy’s current playlist:
Talk Talk – Its Getting Late in the Evening
Goldfrapp – Anymore
Thundercat- Them Changes
Dua Lipa – Could Be The One

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:

January Dawns

When we mentioned Brian coming down with a cold in our last blog, what then actually happened is that we spent the next 10 days with some sort of flu-like virus. Lucy lost her voice for the new year and was then off sick for a few days before returning to work. We had to cancel plans with family and friends. Even so, we were safe and warm, together and without any pressure to accomplish more than the basics of daily life.

When we were ready to venture outside again, the atmosphere had changed from December to January. Our local jackdaw couple were attentively preening each other in an oak tree.

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We walked in the fields at sunset, a thin crescent moon overhead. The quality of light at dusk was so beautiful, when the day offers little in the way of sunlight these moments are memorable.

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There are treasures in the garden all year round. Busy little wrens, dunnocks and robins have been picking around for food and singing to us, and there are lots of gulls around, lining up on rooftops. On New Year’s Day morning we had a jay in our cherry tree, seen from the living room window while we were huddled around the TV watching a ballet! There is an exquisite flower out at this time of year too, Wintersweet, which has a powerful exotic fragrance similar to ylang ylang. Brian sowed these seeds around 15 years ago, and it has been producing flowers now for the last four winters.

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While the leaves are off the trees it is the perfect time to admire the beauty of the branches, and we have a 20 year old curly Hazel which comes into its own at this time of the year with its fantastical shapes.

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Now that we both feel better at the end of this first week of 2017, we’re excited about all the things we will do, make, see and discover during the coming seasons.

Current reading:
Dave Goulson – A Buzz in the Meadow
Ali Smith – Hotel World
Lucy Scott – My Tiny Garden
Kazuo Ishiguro – The Buried Giant

Current playlist:
Solange  – Weary
Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky
Christine & The Queens – Saint Claude

 

Living Simply: October 2016

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Red and gold leaves, sunrises and sunsets and Strictly Come Dancing – there are many reasons to love the autumn and especially October! We’ve enjoyed it so much this year, and had a relatively simple month although there were some big purchases.

Our washing machine broke after 13 years of service, which is hugely impressive, so we didn’t mind at all spending a day in the city looking for a new one to arrive later this week. Lucy is on a week’s holiday from work and we made a special day out of it with a café breakfast and lunch, and another unexpected purchase shown below.

Here’s our October spending summary:
– An expensive food/drink month, average £16.13 per day but the treats were worth it
– Set of USB charging bicycle lights: no more batteries!
– Bus fares, one fill of petrol
– Green paint for our windows
– A washing machine
– A Christmas decoration
– Shoelaces
– Haircare, soaps
– A pair of Doc Martens!

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These were an unplanned buy, made after walking into the city to choose the washing machine and noticing that one of Lucy’s winter boots was slouching uncomfortably to one side. After a discussion about the fact most women’s shoes are badly designed for cold seasons (hard to wear with socks), we ended up in the Doc Martens shop investing in these. They weren’t cheap, but should last for years.

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The sky puts on a display on the way to work

October is a spectacular month full of free natural wonders. After the summer’s long days, to see sunrises and sunsets again as part of the office-hours day is a privilege. This month has been particularly stunning, with lots of rainbows and even seeing the full moon set one early morning. There is so much going on out there: every day something special.

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Early morning moonset

 

Lucy’s Book & Music Club

OCTOBER SOUNDTRACK:
Anohni – Drone Bomb Me
INXS – Never Tear Us Apart
Christine & The Queens – Safe & Holy
Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better
Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Crystallise

BOOKS READ:
Anne Tyler – If Morning Ever Comes
Anne Tyler – Back When We Were Grownups