Saturday, 20 June 2015

Five Flowers on Friday

Short on time to post today so just linking up with Amy at Love Made my Home with a five June flower pictures from my garden and beyond.

This is bush is called Philadelphus I think or mock orange though I think we called it Bride's Blossom in Northern Ireland.  Whatever it is called, it smells wonderful and this year is magnificent. Last year the man we get to cut the hedges trimmed it at the wrong time and we had few flowers, but I managed to save it this year and it's better than ever.

My oriental poppies are also in flower.  They last a day or two before dropping their petals at the slightest sign of wind or rain, but are spectacular when they are out. This year I have noticed that there are two different colours, one salmony pink and the other paler. I'm sure the plants were identical when I planted them. A mystery. 

I don't bother much with pots of annuals as they need too much watering but I make an exception for these Livingstone Daisies which have an unspellable proper name beginning with M.  These were my mother's favourite and I plant them in memory of her.  They are a bit sulky, only opening when the sun comes out, but look so cheerful when they do. 

 And this week the wild dog roses have finally opened, rather later than usual after this cool spring.  These are growing by the railway line on my dog walk which is a real haven for wild flowers.

Will be back later this weekend with more news from a busy week.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Five on Friday

This week I'm linking up with Amy again with five 'highlights' of our week.

1. Exams.
 Not exactly a highlight but a major preoccupation in our house at present. My daughter had her first GCSE paper in Biology yesterday afternoon.  She has been working really hard for it so was a bit disappointed that a lot of the things she revised didn't come up and she found it quite tough.  I remember that feeling so well; other people talking about the questions afterwards and the anxiety that caused.  She's ok though - went to see Pitch Perfect 2 with a friend to take her mind off it all. But it's back to revision today.
And it was the English Language paper this week for my Year 11 students.  For one of their Writing Tasks they had to write a blog post about a favourite place.  I'm a bit worried that some may have written too informally for this task.  But time will tell and there's no point in fretting now.

2. Sandals
The week started cold and wet but by Thursday the sun came out and it was time to paint my toenails and wear my new sandals for the first time.  I'm very pleased with them - they're from Clark's.  I buy quite a lot of shoes from Clark's as they are good quality, comfortable and not that pricey.  My mum, who insisted as I do, that school shoes come from there, was right!

3. Evening Walks
I love the long summer evenings and the chance to get out for a walk in the evenings after dinner instead of just watching television.  Dog walk field is now waist high with long grass, buttercups and cow parsley.  It was peaceful swishing through the grass and watching the sun go down on Thursday evening.

4. Goldfinches
The goldfinches I had hoped for have finally discovered my niger seed feeder.  I managed to catch these two before they flew away - they are much more timid than the robins or bluetits.  One of the questions on the Biology paper my daughter did was about how the number of goldfinches seen in gardens is increasing and students were asked to give reasons for this.  Something to do with predators and food sources it seems,

5. Gardening
I bought a discounted gooseberry bush and planted it.  Too late for any fruit this year but I'll be patient.  After a couple of years of poor yields the blackcurrant bush I planted three years ago is promising a good crop.  I love fruit bushes and have good memoires of gathering fruit for jam from my grandparents' garden in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Year in Books: June

I missed last month's link up with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees as I didn't finish any of my planned reads for April and ended up reading a lot of self help books instead.  I've now decided to abandon this genre as you can see in this post and am enjoying reading again.

So a quick round up of my recent favourites and plans for June.  I'm half way through The Rosie Effect by Graham Simsion, the follow up to The Rosie Project which many other bloggers enjoyed. It's more of the same from the narrator Don and his interpretation of the world around him is touchingly humorous, but I'm finding the plot dragging a little this time.  But an easy bedtime read which is what I want sometimes.

It's my usual habit to read several books at once so I'm also half way through 'Late Fragments: Everything I want to Tell You (About this Magnificent Life) by Kate Gross.  This is a brilliant book and more valuable in its advice about how to be happy than any of the self help books I've read, surprisingly as the book was written by a young woman who is dying.   Kate Gross died of bowel cancer aged 36 on Christmas Day last year , leaving a husband Billy and twin boys aged 5. This book is primarily for her children.  She wrote about her life after her diagnosis as a way of coming to terms with it all,  and preparing herself and her family.  She wrote about her early memories; her family and friends; her awkward teenage years; her impressive career - how she became a policy advisor for Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister and then chief executive of the Africa Governance Initiative. But it's not just the subject matter and the fact she was a successful woman that makes this book so good.  It's also really well written. She's an English Lit graduate and her book is full of quotations from other writers - everything from John Donne to J. K. Rowling. Here's a snippet for you:

'I can spread my childhood memories out like a patchwork quilt.  My quilt is brightly coloured, richly textured, a mix of the familiar and the foreign.  My parents showed me the world form an early age and experiencing it - drinking in the astonishing wonder it provides - has made me who I am.  Because of them ,'the ears of my ears awake and the eyes of my eyes are open', as ee cummings put it.'

I'm looking forward to reading the rest.  How sad that such a talented woman died so young.

In June I'll be finishing these books and hope also to begin 'Bellman and Black' by Diane Setterfield which I'd ordered from the library after reading Penny's comments on it via The Year in Books.

I'm also reading 'Amongst Women' by John McGahern in preparation for a unit of work on Irish Literature which I am teaching in September.

I also get to teach some Seamus Heaney poems which I am looking forward to very much.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Cunard Three Queens in Liverpool

On Bank Holiday Monday I braved the crowds with my sister-in-law and her husband to attend the 3 Queens event on the Mersey.  I rarely get the chance to go to such events as my husband and daughter hate crowds and so sadly I never did see the giant puppets when they came to Liverpool.  So I was happy to have someone to go with on this occasion.  My sister and brother-in-law are a bit older than us and have been on quite a few cruise holidays. So they have actually sailed on two of the ships - the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth - and have a cruise planned on the Queen Victoria to the Norwegian Fjords later this year.

It was crowded but I think not so crowded as on the other side as you can see from Angel Jem's post on the event.  We caught a train to Birkenhead and viewed the event from the quayside by the ferry terminal.  As you can see from the pictures there were people in front of us but we still had a fairly good view and it was all fairly good humoured despite the crowds.

The advantage of viewing from this side is that you can see all the iconic Liverpool landmarks in the background. Can you spot the cathedral and the Liver Building with the 'birds' on the top in the pictures above?  Liverpool has more historic buildings than any other city in Europe according to my brother-in-law who was, like my husband, born in the city. 

The Cunard company started its cruise business from here but now sail from Southampton.  A pity really as it would help revive the economy if they came back up north.  We might even consider a cruise holiday if they sailed from here though I still am not sure it's for me.  My only experience of cruising is the overnight Brittany Ferries trip from Portsmouth to St Malo and it was something to  be endured rather than enjoyed, despite the on board patisserie, restaurant, bars and entertainment. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Five on Friday: Self Help Books

Over the past year I've read quite a few self help books which I've mentioned in the blog on occasions.  Currently I've got several Mindfulness books out of the library and have been dipping into them.  But I'm starting to question my addiction to this genre and think now it is time to stop and evaluate the advice given.  There's just so much of it floating around my head now that I'm afraid I'll forget what I am supposed to be doing to make me less anxious.  A paradox - I'm anxious about how to be less anxious. 

Many years ago (late 70s?) I read Susie Orbach's Fat is a Feminist Issue and it helped me escape the yoyo diet cycle I was trapped in at the time.  I don't remember the details, just one piece of advice - eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.  Sensible and easy to follow advice which seems to work for me as I've managed to maintain a fairly stable and healthy weight since.  So I'm now going to condense the advice from the self help books I have read into five commandments.

1. Slow down
I tend to rush through days, even days off, squeezing in as many chores and improving activities as possible. This needs to stop.

2. Do one thing at a time
This will be hard - I'm a habitual multi-tasker. But I know from experience that lesson planning while  making dinner often leads to burnt offerings.

3. Be in the moment.
Smell the flowers; listen to the birdsong; taste the coffee; watch the woodpecker; stroke the dog.  Be aware of your body and senses.  This one is easier for me.

4. Listen actively to others.  
I'm ashamed to say that I've been in the habit of finishing people's sentences for them.  This will stop if I focus on them and stop being so self-absorbed.

5. Breathe
I've been doing some of the meditations in one of the Mindfulness books and, for the first time, it seems to be working.  The Three Minute Breathing space works best for me.

By the way, my life was not changed magically by tidying up, as promised by Marie Kondo, so none of her advice is included here.  I have decluttered as instructed but now am regretting getting rid of some items of clothing I didn't feel love for because I have nothing to wear to work! I now fold my knickers and scarves are packed vertically in an old shoe box in a pleasing way, but otherwise my house is still relatively untidy.  


Saturday, 16 May 2015

First Five on Friday

I'm joining in with this link up with Amy at Love Made my Home in the hope of getting back to a more regular blogging.  Here are my five highlights of the week.

1. Far from the Madding Crowd
A trip to the cinema with slightly reluctant daughter last Sunday to see the latest film version of one of my favourite classic novels.  We both enjoyed it.  I loved Carey Mulligan's performance as Bathsheba in this new one but preferred Alan Bates as Gabriel Oak in the 1967 version.

2. RSPB Burton Mere - The Bluebell Wood
I'm still determined to do something with my day off  other than catch up with chores and school work so on Wednesday, a beautiful sunny morning, I went on a trip with my neighbour to Burton Mere where there is a bluebell wood and a Bird Sanctuary.  It's 15 minutes away yet, incredbily, we have never been there before - mostly because dogs aren't allowed.  A brilliant place - the bluebells were spectacular. Forgot my camera but did take a phone photo.

RSPB - Give Nature a Home

3. Bird Watching
At Burton Mere a helpful RSPB employee helped us use their telescope to see some rare birds including an avocet, that's the one on the RSPB logo, and and its cute chick with a little curved beak.
Then we went for a walk along the Dee Estuary and saw more birds in the high trees, larger ones: herons and egrets.  My neighbour took photos and promised to send me some so I will add when I get them.  At home, the woodpecker has been visiting our nutfeeder this week too.  I love watching the drama from the kitchen window.  He's a bit of a bully and chases away all the bluetits.

4. May Meadows
We are lucky in our village to have a dog walking field, left uncultivated by the owner who lets the grass and weeds grow untouched, just cutting it once a year, and allows dog walkers to use it.  At present it is beautiful - cow parsley, buttercups, dandelions, and a pale lilac flower which is apparently called a cuckoo flower or a milkmaid here in Cheshire where it is is the county flower, according to this website.

5. Proud Parent
Last week my daughter was made a prefect at school.  As she's prone to bending rules about uniform etc.., we weren't sure she'd be considered.  Her classmates were able to vote as well as teachers though so that may have tipped the balance.

So those are the good bits from an otherwise not much fun week. Now will see if I can manage to link...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Blogging taking a backseat at present: exam season at work so quite busy. Just a quick post to share a favourite poem which has been in my mind in the last few weeks.

The Treesby Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said:
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief,

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings and grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

May is my favourite month of the year and Larkin's words capture exactly how I feel about it.