Posts Tagged ‘ blue sky ’

Sunny Day

only cloud in the sky

It was nice today, wasn’t it? This series of pictures was taken today in my back garden. It’s a rather unloved place; it lacks order or definition. But on a day like today it is a great place to hang out.

Eldest son and his dad spent the previous night in Hurcott Woods on a survival adventure with Wyre Forest’s rangers. The boy came back a man; full of tales of derring do, tree felling, sleeping on a bed of ferns under a hastily constructed shelter, burning sausages and fighting off bats and mice.

By the time they dragged their exhausted bodies homeward this morning, me and littlest were already engaged in our own battle against the encroaching weeds and ivy that have joined forces to strangle the life out of anything remotely recognisable as a flower in the back garden.

Three hours, two tip runs, busted nails and hedge-backwards hair later, and I was ready to down tools. It looked alright. I probably won’t do any gardening for another two months, but at least today we got to enjoy freshly mown lawn, tidy beds and neatly coiled hosepipe.

Watching the kids squealing in and out of the paddling pool and playing tig; and joining in with the lego-building and odd game of tennis; got me all nostalgic. This was what I used to do when I was a kid, when the sun shone and the summer holidays stretched endlessly ahead – it is what I hope my grandkids will do too. We had nowhere to be, noone to see – just a lovely simple day. The tunes we put on reflected the nostalgic mood – Cafe Bleu, Boat to Bolivia, Architecture and Morality, Rattlesnakes – interspersed with some Nick Drake and Scott Matthews. As I said, very chilled, very simple.

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Blue Skies

Night sky, sea, sand

I’ve waxed lyrical about Woolacombe in north Devon before. It’s become a family tradition to come here over Easter to celebrate my birthday and it’s one of my highlights of the year.

This photo was taken within a few hours of our arrival for this year’s annual sojourn. I love  its simplicity and calmness, the lines and the shadows.

This week away is one of those rare times when I get to carry my camera around with me much of the time. There is so much amazing scenery, so many places worthy of a photograph, that I could spend the entire week snapping.

I’ll try not to bore you though – just a photo a day if that’s all right with you.

Spring is sprung – and I’ve won the lottery!

“Season creep” is the term describing the gradual process by which one season slowly but noticeably slides earlier and earlier into the next. (It’s not to be confused with the term “slimy creep”, which is when a dodgy bloke slowly but noticeably tries to slide his hand up your leg.)

Spring is the season we in England most often think of as “creeping”. Apparently the rate of “creep” has now reached a couple of days each decade.

This is good, yes? Soon the first day of Spring could well coincide with Christmas Day. January will truly be a month of new beginnings and renewal, instead of the dull, overcast, flu-filled drudge it is now.

Today was, I am convinced, the first day of Spring 2011.

I was fortunate enough to have a day completely devoid of commitments (at least, nothing I couldn’t put off.) So when I walked/dragged the kids to school this morning, blue sky overhead, fluffy clouds a-skittering, I knew it was going to be impossible to resist the lure of the outdoors.

Appropriately suited and booted, I set off from home at about 11am, the Fleet Foxes singing me a lullaby or two through my earphones.

Within minutes I was off-road, heading over the marshland skirting the edge of Kidderminster town centre, pictured above, towards the Staffs & Worcs Canal, which I followed to Wolverley village, about two miles away.

Halfway along, when I stopped to take a few photos, I spotted two discarded lottery tickets on the towpath. Out of curiosity I stooped to pick them up. They are in my pocket now. I assume one of them will prove to be the winning ticket. It will make a great story. (Should you care my “winning” numbers are 11, 26, 31, 42, 43 and 47 or 04, 25, 40, 42, 45 and 47.)

No, Mr Lotto, I don’t want publicity if I win. Oh. Oops.

Anyway, distracted though I was by thinking of where I’d travel to first with my lottery winnings, I carried on walking, reaching Wolverley Court bridge and lock a few minutes later. This is the approach towards the bridge.

It was a glorious day. I was lucky to be able to enjoy it, rather than be stuck in a centrally heated office.

I do count my blessings, I promise; I know I’m lucky to be able to enjoy days like this when it suits me. It also means me and mine will never be rich, not financially anyway. (Oh, except for the lottery millions heading my way.) But there is more to life…

Anyway, back to my theme – which is, or was, Spring. The realisation that Spring might, just, have sprung already, came quite a long way further on.

After passing the Lock pub (and resisting the urge to go in and order champagne all round in lieu of my upcoming lottery win) I headed across a field, bathed in sunshine.

Whatever seed had been sown there was beginning to come to life. Green shoots, standing in stiff rows, swayed gently, like overheated guards at the Changing of the Guard.

Now, I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to nature’s cycles, but I thought this was significant. I’m certain one of you can tell me what this crop is, if not bog-standard grass…and will also be able to tell me if it would be expected to come up yet? I am interested. Really. (No Latin names though…)

Here’s a picture of it, with sun streaming in to help it keep growing.

Anyway, an hour later I was back home, feeling like shite. Two hours after that I was taking my first antibiotic for a chest infection and dose of flu.

No wonder this walking malarkey was leaving me a bit breathless and knackered. Don’t worry though; now Spring is here I’ll be just fine.

I often get a bit of a cold or somesuch in January – I think it’s the payoff for being fit and healthy for the Christmas/New Year frenzy. Let me know if Spring has sprung in your neck of the woods. I’m expecting daffs by next week. Not that I’ll care – I’ll be in Australia, enjoying my winnings.

The School Walk

I’ve been doing “school mornings” for five years now. Had I been doing the same task for five years at work I would have it down pat by now. Why, then, are schooldays still so fraught, so likely to spill over into disputes, shouting matches and fights? It seems so easy to come up with a winning formula.

The trick, obviously, is to get as much done as possible the night before, thus reducing the risk of it all going wrong during that tired, difficult hour before school.

I once had a night-time checklist. I typed it out and everything. It was brilliant. (By the way, if you’re super organised and always do all this stuff anyway, and never have a fraught morning, and get yourself and four kids off to school and work with ease, then please stop reading now. And know that I hate you.) My list went something like this:

Check and hang up school uniforms, including pants and socks

Check for PE kit, swimming kit, forms to return, letters to read, money to hand over

Make sure the doings for breakfast and packed lunches are ready to go

Rinse water bottles and leave by sink to refill

Woolly hats and gloves and coats on radiator to warm for next morning

Put car and house keys ready in case we have to resort to car dash

Put own outfit ready to throw on

I had everything covered. Fifteen minutes effort, tops. Sadly, I’d lost the checklist by day three of the new school term, and it all slowly unravelled from then onwards.

The reality of life in our household most mornings is that somebody has always lost something vital or suddenly remembers to tell me that I was meant to make Angel Gabriel’s costume (due in today); somebody else wants to lie in and then shouts at everyone else when they realise how late it is; somebody else feels sick/has headache/hurts knee in karate demonstration or jumping off settee onto beanbag; and somebody always loses the car key/house key/urgent form (me).

As a result we are, more often than not, cross with each other by the time we get out of the front door. My eldest is particularly cross if we leave the house a minute after 8.20am, as that means the  gaggle of mates who he walks the last 100 yards to school with will have left without him; the youngest is cross because we are walking at all; and I’m cross because I look like shit, having failed to find time to drag a brush through my hair, never mind put on any lippy.

On these days I harbour a dream. All parents harbour the same fantasy, I’m sure.

It’s the one where everyone tumbles out of bed gracefully at the allotted time, showers without fuss and dons perfectly ironed uniforms/outfits before assembling around the breakfast table (laid the night before). There we all exchange stories of the day ahead, discuss last night’s TV/family board game, while tucking into a hearty fresh breakfast. There is cereal (only healthy, non sugary brands), toast in the rack, juice (freshly squeezed), bacon grilling, eggs poaching, tea in the pot. We depart for school on time, without hassle, walking hand in hand. In some versions I think we are even skipping and singing Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music. I am also two stone lighter in this adaptation, but that’s another story.

This fantasy has actually happened in our family once or twice. Possibly. Though that might have been another dream.

Until I put in the effort to make this a reality, I’ll settle for just getting them to school with food in their bellies and in clean(ish) uniform. This morning was, actually, a nice, stress-free one. So much so that, on the way out of the house, I even took the time to snatch up my camera, with a vague plan to take some pics on the walk back. The images above and below are some of the results.

If you follow my blog occasionally, you’ll know I encourage myself to celebrate the mundane and simple wonders of life. It’s a bit of a theme in fact. More of a “memo to self” than to you, but here it is again: we all recognise the standout special moments – the fabulous holiday, the brilliant achievements of our loved ones or ourselves, the magical days when everything just falls into place – but these come along rarely and are generally accompanied by a loud fanfare and spotlights, so we can hardly miss them. What makes for a happy life, in my humble opinion, is appreciating those everyday moments, and realising amid the routine and the trials and tribulations of life just how blessed we are. Without these regular pick-me-ups I reckon life could soon become a despairing grind.

The walk to and from school, five days a week, is a case in point. I usually spend the best part of the 1km route trying to de-stress after the hassles of the morning, shouting at the kids to keep away from the kerb, and planning the rest of my day in my head. I’ve even been known to text or email while walking along in a bid to get a jump on the day.

We walk along a busy road for the most part, but the last section takes us down a narrow hedge-lined alley, with the school and fields on one side and a play park, football pitches and patch of marshland on the other.

This morning, the mere act of picking up my camera meant that I spent most of the walk there looking out for photo opportunities to snap on the way back. I noticed the deep blue of the wintery sky. The way the moon looked incredibly close, hanging like a globe in the empty sky. The way the light flitted through the stark trees. The long shadows cast across the playground. The frost on the ground, like a Christmas carpet. I talked to the kids about what we saw, and they spotted interesting stuff too.

I would probably have been oblivous to all of this normally; too busy plotting ahead to appreciate the here and now. Sure, I’d have noticed what a crisp, bright morning it was – but then my brain would have switched off and zoomed in on my to-do list.

I know what I’m saying is hardly rocket science – Buddhists have been practising the art of “mindfulness” and living in the moment for centuries – but I realised some time ago that I was spending large chunks of the day thinking about the next thing on my to-do list while doing something else. It’s a road that leads only to stress, stress and more stress. My life improved dramatically once I started to accept there was ALWAYS something else to do and I would NEVER be finished, if I lived to be 500. I learned, slowly, that it was definitely better to go with the flow and focus on one thing at a time.

The photos I took this morning are not of the most dazzling places in the country, nor are they the best composed, nor are they taken during the “golden hours” of sunrise and sunset, when proper photographers are out and about plotting the perfect shot. They are quick snapshots and sometimes I get lucky.

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Among the things I noticed this morning was the way a weeping willow’s leaves shone gold against the blue sky; the contrast of the last remaining red berries on a tree against the azure; a bird perched on a tree branch, soaking up the warmth of the sun; the way the sunlight fizzed across a patch of ice. I noticed how my younger son made a trail through the frost on his scooter, then tried to painstakingly retrace his track, without success. I saw my older son play wrestle with one of his pals before they all broke into a laugh about something one of them had said (probably about a girl; they are at that age).

They and these things would have been there anyway, being beautiful, whether I had noticed them or not. I’m glad I noticed them though; glad I spent a few minutes watching my sons finding their way, glad to watch that proud bird getting some rays. That’s the thing about ‘ordinary’ special things – nobody points a big arrow at them and yells: ‘look at me!’. They are just there waiting.

Reflecting on the positives!

St Mary's Church, Kidderminster

Just back from a week’s holiday to our favourite haunt – the beautiful bay of Woolacombe in north Devon.

Everyone has their own favourite “away-from-it-all” place. Well, this is my family’s best loved, the place where we can all kick back, relax and recharge our batteries. We first ended up there by chance for a weekend away, some six years ago, and had a brilliant time with a group of friends.

Since then we have made an annual pilgrimage back there, either as a family, or with extended family, or with groups of friends.

Every time the experience is different – yet comfortingly the same. I guess that’s why I love it. While everything else in life seems to speed by at a hundred miles an hour, here we can all slow down, take it easy, and get with the surfer vibe.

Every visit, without fail, I can be sure that we will do all of the following:

  • Climb up Potter’s Hill overlooking the bay and marvel at how windy it is, no matter what the season
  • Make the two-and-a-half mile trek along the beach to Putsborough at the other end, take a picture, and then walk all the way back
  • Tuck into delicious grub at the beachfront Red Barn pub
  • Get sick on the swingboats (will I never learn?)
  • Get sick on Big Chief Waffles and scrummy icecream from Normies (will the kids never learn?)
  • Get up early on the first morning to run along the beach to kickstart my new fitness regime (then forget to go again for the rest of the holiday)
  • Buy a bodyboard/inflatable boat/other seaside gizmo which we don’t have room for in the car
  • Enquire about buying a campervan from a surf dude
  • Have a beach barbie while watching the sun disappear
  • Have a serious discussion about what the year ahead holds and what we want to achieve individually and as a family, while getting slowly drunk – then by the next day completely fail to recall what we decided
  • Eat lots of croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast, completely forgetting we are not in France
  • Read at least two books each

Ah, good times. But why am I waffling on about Woolacombe when the picture in today’s blog is of St Mary’s Church in my hometown of Kidderminster?

Well, partly its because I have yet to get round to sorting through the hundreds of pictures I took while on holiday.

But mostly it’s because coming back from holiday always puts me in a reflective mood – and I thought this shot summed up where I am with my thoughts about Kidderminster.

I’m a relative newcomer to the town.  I arrived here eight years ago knowing nobody outside my immediate family of hubby and baby son.

It has taken me a long time to get used to living here but I’ve now made some lovely friends, and discovered some of its hidden secrets. I still think there’s a lot wrong with the town. For example, there’s still only one decent pub (The Boar’s Head Tap House) and barely any good shops – even the new Debenhams is a pale imitation of a department store. It’s a cultural desert when it comes to decent movies, plays and music. Picking a secondary school, as I will soon have to, seems to be about picking the best of a bad bunch.

But that hasn’t stopped me falling in love with it just a tiny bit – especially when the sun is shining.

I took this picture of St Mary’s Church on a suitable sunny afternoon. The church towers over the canal which runs through the heart of the town. It reflects my post-holiday mood – if you look hard enough you will always find something pretty wonderful. Time to count my blessings.

St Mary's Church tower reflection