Happy Birthday Ben

It’s Ben’s birthday today! (This picture was taken a long time ago, he looks much older nowadays, he is younger than me but he looks older…)

Ben and I get on much better in our 40’s than we ever did when we were younger and I’m so proud of him. None of us are perfect but I know how far he’s come and what a good father and husband he is (my dad was not a great example!)

I’m sure that he’ll have a lovely day with Laura, the boys and the dog! Five more years until 50 brother!

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Allotment Adventures: Chilly

The weather has turned, on Saturday, we went to the plot and it was cold and wet. We’ve got a ton of stuff to do but we are waiting on some key equipment (a wheelbarrow, a strimmer, some more woodchip!) and I should have brought the drill!

We have cleared and covered some more beds and we collected the last of the winter squash, did a bit of weeding and then as it started to rain, we went home. But not before admiring the roses, which are having a moment.


And we harvested sweet potatoes. It worked! This is my half, they were Ma’s idea and we’ll grow them again next year!

Sweet potatoes

So let’s talk winter construction plans. In some of the flat clearing out over the last week, I found a rough drawing of what I thought the first half plot would eventually look like and it doesn’t look anything like that! So please bear in mind that these are our current plans but the allotment may have other ideas….

  • First up moving beds, two of the beds that held tomatoes this year are going. We’ll use to wood from one of them to increase the depth of the third bed. And I’m going to have the lovely job of moving and riddling the soil from the old beds into that one and then we’ll plant garlic.
  • Less fun will be clearing and spliting the big squash bed on the left. This was the last bed to have anything planted in it this year. However, Ma says it’s too big to weed and it is horribly weedy! So we’re going to split it into 3 or 4 beds and increase the depth of them, that with some more cardboard and compost should help with the weeds! I’m thinking that at least three of them will be used for overwintering onions, shallots and broad beans.
  • I’m not finished with beds because the other squash bed is going to be split in half lengthways, we’ll put a path down the middle and in the spring we’ll make a tunnel for squash to grow up.
Bucket of greens
  • The other thing I really want to sort over the winter, is the compost area. So it’s moving. I’ve already created a ‘rubbish compost’ pile by moving some of the pallets. We’re going to cover the ground at the back with cardboard and woodchip and then set up 3 compost bins that are easy access so I can turn it more easily. So once we’ve bought and assembled them, we (who am I kidding?) I will need to move the contents of the bins we have to determine what goes back into the compost and what we can use to top up the beds.
  • Gooseberries. I have two that need moving into a bed and then the area where the gooseberries were needs weeding and amending and then I need to get rhubarb to go into that area.
  • I’m debating whether the rhubarb in the corner needs splitting. It’s the only one that hasn’t and it wasn’t brilliant this year. So that may or not happen.
Rosemary flowers
  • Raspberries. I need to move the summer raspberries out and despite the advice, I’m going to put autumn raspberries into them. I also need to move the blackcurrants, I’m either going to move the entire bed and put the blackcurrants back into them or I’m going to move the bed and put more raspberries in that bed (we like raspberries!) and find another space for the blackcurrants.
  • Patio. The patio may not happen but we are planning to put it slap bang next to the rose garden and pond and I need to sort out the edging for that area and plant some bulbs in the pond area now the soil is less concrete like.

So lots to do and while it feels like winter goes on forever there is actually only 26 weeks between now and our last frost dates next year!

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Monday Miscellany: Autumn Prep

Happy. Monday!

I’ve always been upfront about how autumn affects me. I don’t enjoy the dark, but can cope with the cold, so last week I didn’t post much because last weekend and this week, I was busy with the flat and exercise.

But I did get the desk built and in place, the house is looking very organised and tidy and I love the changes. I want to sort out shelves for above the desk, curtains for the bedroom and maybe a bigger and more insulating rug for the living room and then I am done for home improvement for 2020.

I’m know how lucky I am to have a job and to have the flat and not have to share it, but 2020 has meant that I’ve needed to use it in different ways than usual. So this year I properly sorted out the cupboard of doom and got a decent work from home space carved out in the living room, so my colleagues won’t get distracted by my knife rack during calls!

It’s been an expensive house year and it means that I haven’t (for the 11th year in a row) sorted out a wardrobe but that’s an issue for next year. The flat is a lot like the plot, I’m never really finished!

So the week was mostly about the house, but I got outside a bit more and got a bit more exercise, all good things.

This week is more work – I’ve set myself a deadline for some work because I need to get some things finished for my own peace of mind.

That’s pretty much it. Have a good week…

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Recommended: Marks and Spencer Perfume

These are my two current favourite perfumes. They are lovely and about a fifth of the price of my favourite Chanel No 5!

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Allotment Adventures: Back to rain

We came back on Saturday to a downpour, which didn’t really stop on Sunday. The plot is looking autumnal and bedraggled.

So we went to the plot for kale, chard, leeks and raspberries!

One of the rhubarb is still alive and kicking but the cukes and crookneck plants are dead.

To cheer us up the we still have some viable winter lettuce!

Mum is coming over today to do some weeding and I might even get some time to plant bulbs now the soil is damp clay instead of concrete!

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Monday Miscellany: Holiday, Puppies, Nephews

Happy Monday!

It’s back to reality with a bump for me today. I’m back to work, I need to sort out the new desk (should it ever arrive!) and get to the doctor’s for my flu jab.

Ducks at Alnwick

Project October is a go and I did the first day of the six week exercise challenge today. Food for the week is prepped and I have a ton of emails to work through. Today will be pretty easy, ask me how I feel about being back to work on Thursday! I’ve given up the fight against Autumn and set my wake-up lamp last night so getting up before 7am was easier than expected.


I’m still getting over my sadness at the lack of ducks in my life, but a visit to visit the new puppy and the nephews cheered me up somewhat. Does it make me a bad aunt if I love the puppy more than the boys?

Right time to get on with the week and the 300 odd emails that are waiting for me!

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Going Home

Today we’ll be mostly in the car, for the 350-ish mile drive home. As ever, I’m sad to leave but happy to be going home.

It’s been a different holiday from usual but I really needed the break and although it was a rest it was also more active. It’s easy to go for a walk every day when the sea is right there!

I thought that everywhere we’ve visited has handled the Covid situation well, I thought that most of the shops were better organised than they are in London. It’s also worth knowing what lockdown and the new local rules have done to the economy.

The Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre has lost £12,000 in donations and cafe profits, they aren’t going to be able to make that up and it’s a great place that needs all the help it can get to carry on.

I know that the National Trust and English Heritage are having difficulty everywhere too. But it’s the local businesses, the pubs and restaurants that are really suffering and will continue to while this going on and next year after Brexit. I would encourage you, if you can and feel safe to do so, please take your holidays in the UK in the next couple of years because it’s safer, because the country needs it and you’d be helping the environment by not flying!

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Friday Links: The Govt. don’t know the rules that they’ve made…

Happy Friday! Well the world is pretty much a disaster, has been for a while but the UK govt. are really excelling themselves in levels of incompetency and ignorance. The American experiment seems to be on fire and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be in much better shape.

So here are this week’s links…

It goes way beyond the BBC: the right’s target is liberalism itself

Battered, bloodshot Boris is no longer the star of his own show

Boris’s Brexit and Covid incompetence spreads to infect asylum policy

The Guardian view on asylum policy: nasty, brutish and wrong

The Trump-Biden debate revealed the dangers of Britain’s ‘special relationship’

The Proud Boys, explained

Federal Food Box Aid to Millions of Americans Now Required to Include Letter Crediting Trump. It would be funny, if it wasn’t about the end of ethics in US democracy..

The Most Important Thing Biden Did During Tuesday’s Debate

Donald Trump Is America’s Abusive Father

The “Women Can Have It All” Narrative Around Amy Coney Barrett Is a Trap

I don’t want children but being an aunt is the joy of my life. This is lovely but more complicated than she knows. I love my nephews, but do I love them more than I love Miss T? I don’t know, I spend Christmas with them and they are always around for my birthday because that’s what we do as a family. However, my responsibility to them is the same, it’s to support their parents as their parents can bring them up. (To a lesser extent, it’s what I do for all my friends that are parents.) For all three of them I am part of the back up, should the worse happen (which is why I pray for the continued health and wellbeing of their parents daily!) but it’s a role I have because their parents have asked me to have it. It’s not parenthood, I love them, but as involved as I’ll be when they are little, that’s will change. Loving children you didn’t birth or adopt is an exercise in mostly unrequited love in a way that parents don’t experience. I have have 6 godchildren and 2 nephews, 5 of the godchildren are adults. You have to love them fiercely and hold them lightly. Ryan is 35, I used to see him a couple of times a week, this year, I’ve spoken to him once. That’s entirely his choice. I know he’s ok because his parent is my friend (and he does still speak to his mother!). This is how it should be, I don’t want any of these children to be my children, I wanted my own. Aunthood is special but it’s a much more complicated place than you imagine when your nieces and nephews are 7 and 3.

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October is my mental health month

Despite the horribleness of 2020, the months move on and we are 91 days away from 2021. Although I’m on holiday this week, I’m going to be working from home for the rest of this year and probably into next, the best estimates are March but probably we’ll never have office life like we used to.

I struggle with autumn and winter, and I have written a lot about my coping mechanisms. (here, here and here). Over the last two years being able to work from home once a week has really helped because I don’t have to get up in the dark three days out of seven but working in an office has been good for me because I have to leave the house and be around people. This year is going to be different.

So I’m going to need a slightly different plan. I need good structure and a change of schedule but this year, I’ve also started to have the more obvious menopause symptoms (hot flushes I’m looking at you) but menopause can often be a bad time for depression so I do need to factor that into my autumn/winter survival plan. It’s important to point out that I don’t like doing some of this, but that I feel better for doing it. I need to treat myself like a toddler and force myself to do it because it will help and after a month it’ll feel natural and I’ll hate it less.

So this is the plan for the next four to six weeks.

A new desk

Next week I’m moving my work space from the kitchen to the living room. I’ve ordered a desk and I’ll need to rearrange the flat a bit but I’ll be working in a room with more natural light that looks out to the street. It’ll also mean that I’ll be able to order a screen and won’t have to pack away my work stuff every night so I can eat dinner!


I talk about it a lot but doing it is tricky. While I’ve been away, I’ve been doing body balance or yoga every morning and I’ve been walking more because I’m on holiday. It’s not just about the ‘corona kilos’, it’s because when I exercise I feel better. Next week, Christelle and I are going to start the Les Mills app ‘back to exercise’ challenge and Kathy and I are going to try to get a lunchtime walk in a couple of times a week. (That also keeps me in touch with my friends, which is good for mental health too). I’m going to try and get my 10,000 steps a day which means I have to leave the house more!

Food and Drink

I say food and drink but mostly I mean drink. Alcohol and caffeine are two of my favourite things and two of the things that contribute to hot flushes. So back to no drinking Monday to Thursday and limiting my coffee drinking to a four times a week (Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday!). Drinking coffee and booze isn’t the only thing, I need to get back to tracking my water intake and making sure that it’s at least two litres a day.

It’s not just about what I eat and drink, in October, I need to menu plan and prep food so I’m not aimlessly looking at the fridge searching for carbs and sweets because I’m tired and miserable. I know it doesn’t help but it’s too easy to do when I don’t have a food plan.

Golden Hour

This month I need to make Golden Hour non negotiable this month and get back into having a longer bath at night with candles.

Bed by 10 O’Clock and up by 7 O’Clock

Early nights, early-ish mornings because although I hate it, it makes me feel better.

So that’s my plan. A successful October, should give me a relatively ‘good’ winter.

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Allotment Adventures: Last of the Tomatoes

I picked all the tomatoes last Friday, and another eight squash and the last cucumbers.

The weather has changed and it’s getting colder so I didn’t want to go away for the week and lose the last of them. I took all the butternuts in that were mostly grown.

34 winter squash

There are eight other squash that I left out because the butternut had a last flourish, but I’m not sure that they’ll survive so bonus if they do!

I cleared some of the debris but we have a lot of tidying up to do when we get back!

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