Tuesday, 20 April 2021

It's Superglue, Don't You Know?

Hello Friends!

Thank you to all of you in our lovely online community who made the time for me, who read and then to share your kind and generous words and thoughts of support after my last post, especially to the many of you who unexpectedly contacted me privately.  It seems I voiced the fears and concerns shared by so many of us, and remember we are not alone. Together we can get through this. To those of you who said this helped, then it has made my effort very worth the while. 

I must add a caveat.  If you think you need professional help, seek it. Ask. Phone someone, anyone, talk it out, or call your GP or the Samaritans.  Don't suffer in silence.

I am continuing to rebuild my strength for walking, but am starting to wonder if I will ever make it out on to my beloved coast path again, for it is so hard on my knees and back. I am not complaining, I am, for once in my life, being sensible and looking after myself.  It's not so much the up and down, but the rocky rough patches, the loose stones, and the uneven stretches that give me cause for concern. Distracted by a view, a flower, or a bird, it's oh! so easy to turn your ankle, or slip on a stone you didn't see. As we get older, simple injuries seem to be easier to come by, and take oh! so much longer to heal.  I know that the paths are very different from the last time I traversed them. Bits have fallen off into the sea, and general errosion from countless pairs of feet pounding along has taken it's toll on some sections.  A bit like me!  Time will tell.  I promise I will not do anything rash and will proceed cautiously. 

The stretch of path where this was taken no longer exists.  It has slid into the sea for eternity to be but a memory.

It's been over five years since I did any serious coast path hiking.  I did get out on a short stretch in 2019, which I documented here, and paid the price, for the very next day I woke up with a bad back, angry and aggravated from the uneaven and stony ground I'd traversed.  The pain lasted a week. Why, in one spot the access had become so erroded I found no visible track and I had to slither down on my bottom! Most undignified, and I hope no one saw me.  This is why I say the path will be different from what I remember it was.

I found myself typing a version of this, the other day:

I love where I live, and where I live is the glue that holds me together.

or, as my lovely Twitter friend Kim replied to it when I shared my words with some photos on Twitter, "that's what I call super glue!" and it's the title of this blog, so Thank You, Kim! 

I have been looking through old photos, there's so many happy memories of days out and about, and until such time as I can get properly out and about again, here are a few of my favourites.

Gorse in full bloom

Gorse looking along the Coast Path

Coast Path view

A lovely day for a hike or a sail along the bay

A bucolic landscape

A welcome spot to rest a while

An early sea fog begins to settle along distant islandss

A golden glow as the sun sets to the west

Across the fields

Meadow, sea, and sky

One of my favourite seats to take a spell

and the view from that seat {fantastic vantage point}

Thrift with barbed wire

The setting sun at close of day

And here are a few taken this week.  The weather, although chilly, is dry and gloriously sunny.  I can live with that, especially as I'm not a fan of the heat anyway.  I'm not going far, still doing baby steps, but going further each time I feel I can add some more in.  I met a lovely couple, we stopped for a socially distanced chat, they told me where they were heading.  They've a long day on the coast path hiking in front of them, about nine miles.  Should take about five hours if they don't stop, but it all really depends on how much time you spend taking in the majesty and splendor of the views.  Oh, to do that again.

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Well

Monday, 12 April 2021

One Foot Before the Other is All it Takes

Hello Friends!

I hadn't planned on publishing this, it started out life as one of those cathartic moments when you write it down and let it go to the Universe, so if you are reading this, obviously I decided to go ahead in the hopes that it might help someone else find their way through the darkness.  We're not alone.

I can't say I've hated lockdown the way many have because, on the whole, I don't mind being alone, in fact I prefer being alone anytime compared to being with the wrong people, but there's a difference between being alone and being lonely. While I haven't minded lockdown too much, it hasn't been a bed of roses either.  

For me, it's been a long eighteen months and then some.  If you'll listen, I'll tell you why. It began many months before the Pandemic.  I had barely begun to get my thoughts in order after losing my darling mother in October 2018, when in September 2019 I came down with a beast of an upper respiratory virus that knocked me sideways and laid me low for four months. Several times I would wake up unable to draw breath and several times I thought I was done for.  Terrifying doesn't even begin to cover it.  I ended up sleeping in an armchair for three months, too afraid to go to bed.  That didn't do my mental or physical health any good for the long term either. Then, in December I was hit with another respiratory tract virus, almost as bad, but not quite. In January 2020 both viral infections eased and, although weak, I began to feel a little better physically, my test results were all good, so I began, cautiously, to make some plans for the coming year.  Then, in February I unexpectedly lost my job, so I decided to take a senior gap year.  That was when the first whispers of a new, novel virus crept out of Wuhan, and my stomach lurched.  Somehow, I knew this was the Big One we had all hoped would never happen, yet knew and feared would come. I was already planning to make plans to put my plans on hold.  As we got further in, the fear grew inside me, like a cold, dark void, it engulfed my every waking thought, as it did for almost everyone else {other than the naysayers, of course}.  Overshadowed by what I had just gone through, and knowing I suffer from asthma, this new threat was overwhelming my reasoning and perception to a point of panic.  It didn't take much for me to withdraw, and I withdrew into my shell, slamming doors behind me as I went, cutting myself off from the world.  That was actually not that difficult for me for I have introvert tendencies to begin with.  Self isolation for a few weeks was going to be a doddle.  So I thought.  Who knew what was coming?  Oh, and did I mention I suffer annually from SAD?  My personal perfect storm was happening.

As I just mentioned, I had recently lost my job, so this was an ideal time to turn this around and take some healing "me time" and respite, doing things I enjoy, after being a long time care giver.  I hadn't had a holiday since 2006. Hopefully it would also give me to time to grieve properly for my recently deceased mother.   I call it a senior, or later life, gap year.  I wanted to find the person I used to be, before I had to give up twelve years to care for my parents. Don't get me wrong, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of me.  2019 was to be my year to find me again.  The pandemic that was about to hit the world had other ideas for us all.

I had just bought these two publications and was going to explore the area through the eyes of people from nearly one hundred years ago, but with the modern day convenience of my digital camera.  {note the lovely stamps!}  I thought you'd like to come along, and although it didn't happen in 2019, I hope it will happen soon.

I may seem outgoing and gregarious online, but the people who know me really well in person know differently.  They know, for better or worse, the real me.  I am a generally very positive and happy person, but painfully shy and introverted {until I get to know you} which in itself masks the real me, and my positivity as it gets mistaken for something else. Many have told me in the past that they are often astonished at how I can find something good in everything, even the really, really bad stuff, yet I will happily do all I can to avoid meeting people, especially groups where I don't know many, if any.  The flip side of this is bizarre.  I am quite happy striking up a conversation with a total stranger who sits by my side on a crowded bus.  What?  Anyway, I digress. Whatever plans I had made, the fear of Coronavirus drove me underground.  I've left my cottage only once a month to pick up my prescriptions, and I've left twice for my 'flu and first Covid vaccines at my local GP Practice.  That's all. And I've gardened a bit. Not anything like as much as I should, and I'm now paying for that mistake.  You see, as I got pulled down, it was easier to sit in my chair and procrastinate, and worse, let my thoughts wander into often dangerous lands of What Might Have Been.

Those of you who have followed this blog know well enough that I am, by nature, a walker.  Pack me a picnic, charge my camera, put my sketch book in my backpack, and point me into the wild and I am off.  A short walk is a couple of miles, more often I'll do three to five miles if time in my day permits. Those long walks became curtailed, and then had to stop all together as my caring duties escalated.  Missing this daily routine, my fitness has plummeted, although as a care giver you are on the go in different ways.  With arthritis, walking has become more a slow hobbling, although I am lucky in that I haven't gained any more weight in the last year or so.  {I do have plenty of weight to lose!}.

What light has been at the end of this darkness?  Well, until recently, very little.  Family, friends, and neighbours have caught Covid 19; one was very seriously ill but is thankfully miraculously recovering after months in hospital; three have died.   Every time someone has died, my thoughts turned to Mum and wondering how I would have coped had she lived.  What if I'd had to manage her deteriorating condition at home on my own?  What if she'd been in care {as she was} and I could not have seen her, hugged her, and held her hand?  

It's been a dark time in oh, so many ways, and I've had days, weeks even, where I have struggled, both with what is going on in the world and in my own universe.  I think the worst things were that I need repair work done to my cottage that had to be put on hold, and I began missing and grieving for my mother in a way that superseded anything that went before.  It's not easy to say this, but I had days when I didn't know how to go on.  I saw the darkness, then I somehow pushed myself on, hoping tomorrow would be better.  I never asked for help, I didn't want to burden anyone.  No one even noticed, at least I don't think they did, I hid my pain so well.  It's so easy to put up a positive vibe post on Twitter and Instagram which makes everyone think you are fine when you are anything but.  Then again, everyone is so collectively overwhelmed right now, who would even notice? Eventually, a glimmer of hope would light my darkness, but days later the darkness crept back, and so my year revolved in this spiralling pattern of alternating light and dark.

While the vaccine gives us hope, that is it, hope.  It is not a magic bullet we had all hoped for.  So, we must come to terms with some facts.  Unless we see a miracle, the virus is here for the duration.  We must learn to coexist with it, as we do with influenza and the common cold virus.  It means we must still be cautious and as our scientists remind us maintain the practice of Hands, Face, Space.  A fourth factor is now given: Fresh Air.  We are encouraged to get out in the fresh air to meet with friends and family, still keeping ourselves socially distanced and enjoy the great outdoors while remaining as safe as we can.

Getting out my front door to go shopping is not something I do easily.  The pandemic has exacerbated a pre existing condition, my fear of leaving home.  For years I have had to deal with this, but now,  just to go and fetch my monthly prescription takes days of mental planning and preparation.  I can't simply put on my coat and go.  If I can put it off until tomorrow, then I surely will. 

My days are getting good now, as the lighter days of Spring return, my arthritis pain is alleviated {which you can read about here} and I find it helps to give myself a good pep talk daily, and so, last Saturday, I DID IT.  I stepped off my drive and turned left.  Not into First Class, but something far better.  The wild and wonderful Welsh countryside.

I had tried going for a walk last summer, but saw so many people not socially distancing nor wearing masks I ran home.  So, I was terrified again that I would encounter more of the same, but I'm so thankful I didn't.  That step will come later, though, I am sure.  As the virus is here to stay, I must prepare to cross that bridge of meeting people again.

Everything was still there, just as I remember it, just as I left it the last time I walked this way over a year ago. Maybe the trees are a little taller.  I wept a few tears of joy at the sight of my old friends: the road beneath my feet, the trees, the fields, the sky, the ocean, the cliffs, and the distant hills and valleys, as they welcomed me back. Yet, it was so magical and special today, somehow bluer, greener, fresher than I ever remember it being. 

I give myself a daily happy talk, a little meditation, the effects of which I have found builds up over time, little by little. You don't notice it at first, but in a few weeks, if you keep on, you notice an improvement, that tiny spark of light grows and gets brighter.  It's easier to get out of bed; it's easier to get dressed and not put on clean pyjamas; it's easier to go out into the garden for a few minutes.  It's the first baby step, there's a long road ahead, but I pushed me out the door and I turned left.  Considering I haven't walked in over a year I was surprised and pleased with how I managed.  

One day at a time, one foot before the other, is all it takes.  

Thank you for reading.

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Well

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Company's Coming!

Hello Friends!

I hope you had a blessed Easter, however you celebrate.  For some reason, it's taking me a while to get back into this week, and every day feels like Monday. 

I have a question for you.  Now, I never thought this would ever be something I would ask.  Next week, I host my first guests in over fourteen months.  The strict safety guidelines must still apply, just two guests {I can have up to six outside my Bubble} and we will be socially distanced, wrapped up warmly, outside in the garden.  No hugging, not indoors, not even sitting close, and they are even bringing their own chairs.  We are all vaccinated, but we must not let things slip now, these guidelines must continue until we kick Covid's butt.  So, here's my etiquette question.

Is it good or bad manners to place a pump of hand sanitiser on the refreshments table?  I feel, although an odd thing, it's good manners and lets your guests feel a little more secure, knowing you are doing your very best to take care of their safety.  What do you think?

So, instead of that old familiar situation of getting more cleaning done in the thirty minutes before your guests arrive, I'm mowing the garden and pulling weeds instead of vacuum cleaning and dusting malarkey!  I'm not ready to share garden photos just yet, still ashamed of the mess, and there's a long way to go. My "befores" are waiting, though, ready to go when I am ready.  It's not very nice out at the moment, cold and windy, and this is making me hold off, partly as I don't want to be out in the cold which plays havoc with my arthritis, and partly because I have nowhere that is protected enough to bring anything on by way of seeds and young plants.  It is warming up, though, next week ~ Company's Coming!

Speaking of arthritis, I feel compelled to share this with you. I have suffered with arthritis for some time, mainly in my legs and spine, but spreading.  Anyone who suffers with this knows how painful and unpredictable it can be, in my case particularly at night.  I follow a vegetarian diet, and love cheese, although I don't drink milk. I heard that milk and milk products can inflame arthritis, so although giving up cheese is my worst food nightmare, I have given it a go. Anything made with, or containing milk is out of my diet.  It didn't take long for my night time pain and discomfort to ease considerably, and I noticed I can now lead with my right leg when going up steps, something that has been painful and difficult for a long, long time now.  Then we had Easter.  I thought I could risk a little milk, milk products, just for one day.  So, I ate my milk chocolate eggs, spread unsalted butter lavishly on my Hot Cross Buns, made my richly creamy mushroom dish for Easter dinner, and treated myself to a small trifle with custard and cream.  After the following night, it turns out that may have been milk overload.  My legs burned all night, uncomfortably painful, sleep depriving pain keeping me awake.  So, that's it.  From now on, not even the smallest break from a milk free diet.  Much as I adore cheese, I dislike pain more.  I can still enjoy chocolate, just 70% dark or greater.

Having said that, there's a tad of butter to finish, and I cannot resist having a tiny amount on a slice of still warm, fresh~from~the~oven, Irish Soda bread.  If I suffer, I know what I am doing wrong.

I was recently given a couple of bags of snowdrops in the green, so have popped them into some holding pots until I know where they will go.  All of my previous snowdrops have disappeared.  Where? Why? I cannot answer.  Mice? Who knows?  I don't.  My neighbour has lost all hers too. 

Our weather, both sides of  The Pond, is bizarre.  Frankly, I'm a little fed up and more than a little disconcerted to see many on Social Media branding it as "quirky" and making jokes, when in reality it is very serious.  This is the reality of Climate Change.

Meanwhile, the garden is springing back to life.  Brambles continue to be chopped, an ongoing task, and I am frankly amazed at how much the lawn has shot up since I mowed it for the first time this year, not two weeks ago!  This year, it is actually green instead of the usual spring time yellow, and full of daisies and dandelions too.

While I watch the garden grow, from my living room, I have been painting.  I confess, I did not draw these images, but used stamps.  This first one I used some for Easter cards.

and this one is my favourite flower, a scene made using about eight or nine scene builder stamps.  I have shown it as I build it up.

Which led me to another scene, this time using stamps from two different scene builder sets, done twice on  different paper using Inktense paint pans

Easter did not go overlooked by my little helper, who was delighted with his chocolate egg

Meanwhile, back in the garden, I have discovered these, several plants that I believe are white comfrey plants.  The bees love them, so they're keepers indeed.

Before I go, I shall leave you with this quote

‘We have come as far as we have because we are the cleverest creatures to have ever lived on Earth. But if we are to continue to exist, we will require more than intelligence. We will require wisdom.’
Sir David Attenborough

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well.