Tuesday 26 September 2023

Early Autumn


As the wind begins to pick up, we are braced and ready ahead of tomorrow's incoming storm. I hope any damage will be minimal, I've already secured everything that I can in the garden. 

Last weekend, coinciding with the equinox, we experienced our first proper taste of autumn. Saturday began all dewy and fresh, becoming warm and sunny by mid-morning. I decided that I would get outside while I had the chance. The challenging week at work had taken it's toll, and getting caught in the crossfire of some strained relationships had left me feeling rather discouraged. Fresh air was called for, so the weekly shop and household chores could wait until the following day. 

Not too far from home we have one of my favourite National Trust properties, Sizergh Castle, where even when I don't much feel like walking very far, I can easily be persuaded to visit, as the gardens there are so beautiful.  Even better, at this time of year the orchards are full of apples and pears.

We took our time walking around the garden, following the paths in the same direction we always do, with Lily being extra careful to avoid getting too close to the beehives :) Familiarity means we get to appreciate the changing seasons there, and the Rock Garden, especially, is displaying some beautiful rich shades of autumn colour.

The Kitchen Garden is always worth a visit, and where we often catch a glimpse of Charlie the cat.

And it was there that they had all their different varieties of apples for sale. I paid for a small bag, which would provide me with more than enough cookers to make two batches of apple sauce and some crumbles, as well as five Ribston Pippins to go in the fruit bowl.

And the following day, while the expected wind and rain kept us indoors, I spent a lovely afternoon in the kitchen, filling the house with the delicious aromas of warm apples and cinnamon.

Last week, we enjoyed visits to two prospective secondary schools. Between us, we must have clocked up miles walking along corridors :)  Lily has now made her final decision and yesterday we submitted her application. It won't be until March that we find out whether or not she has secured a place, but I gather it is highly likely that she will be successful. It was quite a difficult decision in the end, but I am very happy with her choice. We are very fortunate to have some excellent schools in this area.

Following a couple of chillier nights, yesterday I made the switch to our winter weight duvets. The summer ones will now be aired, before being stored away until spring. The central heating came on very briefly the other morning, and I now am watching carefully as to when the grass will need it's last cut of the year. Autumn is here.

J. X

Sunday 17 September 2023



Mog is demonstrating, beautifully, exactly how I would like to have spent my weekend. Instead, I've been catching up with housework, getting the weekly shopping done and tackled a huge pile of ironing, which had been threatening to completely engulf the dining table. I'm feeling tired.

Being back at work has been a lot harder than I'd envisaged. My days are long and there never seems to be enough time to complete everything I need to do each day. My working hours are the same as before, but, without going into too much detail, my actual workload has increased. I realise it's very early days, so I'm hopeful that the situation will ease going forwards, but if it doesn't, then I may need to re-evaluate my position. All that aside I'm enjoying being back with my colleagues again, it's almost like I've never been away :)

Lily's start to the new school year has been a positive one, although I never expected she would be making the return while wearing a summer dress. It just didn't feel quite right, the weather being so warm. Thankfully, the unexpected heatwave has since been replaced with 'proper' back to school weather, by which I mean we can see our breath in the early morning air. The other day, I even made an apple crumble. Autumn definitely has one foot in the door now. This week, we will be visiting several secondary schools to make our final decision, before completing the application for her place next year. This is something which felt so far off when she first began primary school all those years ago now, and I'm not sure I'm ready for this next big step.

With the autumn equinox falling at the weekend, I'm hoping things will feel a little more settled for me as the days get even shorter. I should know to expect a certain level of unease as we transition from one season to the next, as for some reason these in-between times usually leave me feeling somewhat out-of-sorts. Soon it will be time for hunkering down, cosy night's in and warm sweaters. I think I'm ready for it. 

J. X

Sunday 10 September 2023

Sea and Sunflowers


Just a few days before school started back for the autumn term, we took our final trip of the summer. This was a two day break that we should have taken at the beginning of August, but I had changed our plans because of the weather. The idea was to travel up the West coast of Cumbria, starting at Ravenglass, driving north towards Silloth, then finishing off with a morning at the sunflower field at Waverton.  As it turned out, the sunflower field would have been closed, but we could still visit if we went on the Sunday morning instead. So we decided to simply switch our journey around and drove in the opposite direction, meaning the sunflowers would be first on our itinerary.

The sunflower field was so pretty. Even though many of the sunflowers were past their best, there were plenty still growing and I'd already decided that we would bring home some of the heads, so we can plant the seeds next year. Lily loved sitting on the huge swing seat situated in amongst all the sunflowers and we had such a nice morning wandering around the field. Farmer Neil kindly said we could pick as many of the flowers as we would like, and I would have gathered armfuls if only I'd been going straight home afterwards. Never mind, I'll look forward to growing our own next year, perhaps just not quite as many!

After spending a lovely morning in the sunflowers, we journeyed on towards Silloth, a small Victorian seaside resort on the Solway Firth. It was here that we enjoyed our picnic lunch overlooking the sea, before Lily spent some time playing at the splash park on the green. After a much needed cup of coffee (and once I managed to persuade Lily to leave the splash park), we made our way back to the car, walking past the Big Fella Sculpture a little way farther along the promenade. It's much bigger than it looks.

Driving south, our next stop was Allonby. There isn't really much I can say about Allonby, other than it is a small village by the sea, has quite a nice beach, and it is home to a very popular ice cream shop. I had heard good things about it, so I thought we should give it a try. I even joined the queue, which is something I don't do very often! Was it worth it? I'm not sure that it was, but it was okay.

From Allonby, we continued our journey south towards Whitehaven, where we stayed overnight. Now, this was a pleasant surprise, and after dinner we spent a lovely evening down by the harbour, walking along the pier and then out to one of the lighthouses. 

I promised Lily a sunset. And the one we got was quite spectacular. The first photograph was taken while we walking out to the end of the North pier, the second was taken from the North Pier Lighthouse out towards the West Pier Lighthouse, and the third one was taken as we were heading back towards the car.

The next day we awoke to another beautiful bright morning, and after a brief walk around the town centre, including a lengthy browse in a rather fascinating old bookshop, we set off for the next stop on our journey, which was St. Bees. At first glance there didn't appear to be a lot there, but we turned along a road next to the station and at the end there was a large car park, which led on to a huge expanse of beach. On this particular day it was quite busy, with families making the most of the hot weather while they had chance, including ourselves :) Taking off my shoes there was just time for a quick paddle, the water was lovely and warm. St Bees Head is one of the starting points for the Coast to Coast walk, so I followed the coastal path uphill for a short way, retracing my steps again just before the track turns inland, heading east. I'd love to complete the walk one day, maybe in a few years. 

The final stop on our west coast road trip was to Ravenglass. Raveglass is situated on the estuary where three rivers meet, and it was here we took a short walk out to see the remains of a Roman Bath House, then on returning to the village we caught sight of one of the small steam trains, which had just pulled into the station. We didn't take a ride on this occasion, but maybe we can look forward to one on a future visit.

It was also here that I got to enjoy probably the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted.
And I didn't need to queue!

J. X

Saturday 2 September 2023

September 2023

It may be September now,  but finally we're experiencing the warm sunny weather that might have been more suited to earlier on in the summer. Still, I'm here for it, even though just last week I had been seriously contemplating whether or not to dispose of a few of my numerous bottles of little used sunscreen, and then possibly unearthing some of my warmer sweaters from the darkest depths of the wardrobe. Then again, I should have realised we would see an improvement in the weather, just as soon as we were preparing for the new school year. Isn't it always the way.

Since returning from Belfast, I've been indulging in some serious down time. Anchoring myself at home, the garden is looking tidier than it has done all summer so far, and I've enjoyed some shorter walks straight from the doorstep. I've also been Blackberry picking, which is always a fun activity, not to mention the delicious treats I can make with them. They have been washed, weighed and bagged, and are now tucked away at the back of the freezer. I'm sure I'll be making compote at some point, but the Blackberry Vodka is already steeping quite nicely at the back of the cupboard, in anticipation of the colder months ahead. 

In the garden, the tomatoes still seem to be a little while off ripening, but the sweetcorn looks to be growing remarkably well, which is pretty good going, considering they were planted only as an experiment. This afternoon, I've re-potted both of the apple trees and I've noticed some small thorns appearing on the 'lockdown lemons', which I've read is a good sign that they're maturing.

Earlier this week, Lily and I took a trip into town for the annual back to school shopping trip. Never one of the most joyful activities, it proved to be fairly painless in the end. Especially as we managed to get nearly everything on our list first time, which is almost unheard of.

In other exciting news, I am very pleased to say that this week, after walking up Gray Crag and Thornthwaite Crag, we have now reached the halfway point in our Wainwright bagging journey. That's 107 fells! There's still a long way to go, but I'm quite proud of our achievement so far. 

This morning, at the library, Lily received her certificate for completing the Summer Reading Challenge. I'm not sure how many years the scheme has been running for now, but it has always been very popular and is a great incentive for those more reluctant readers. I am going to try and continue our visits to the library going forwards, as I'm sure we would both benefit from reading far more than we already do.

This week, I also received some positive feedback on the first study module I submitted. It is always useful to learn new skills and, if I get the opportunity, I would quite like to complete one more course before the end of the year. But there is still a lot of work on the house which I need to complete, so that might need to take priority for a while. 

On reflection, it has been a very enjoyable break, and the weather has been very kind each time I've been away. Still, summer's not over just yet...

J. X