moving house

It’s taken many years, uhming and ahhing about whether to move or not, and somehow lockdown managed to persuade us that we didnt need a big family house any more. I guess spending time amongst all your things and being more at home, really ingrains how much stuff you possess. Don’t get me wrong, I was very lucky to be in the house during the pandemic, having space, an outdoor garden, even small was a godsend, especially as 2020 was a sunny warm summer, but once winter drew in, we had made up our mind that it was time to leave after 26 years and allow another family to grow and enjoy the space, create their own memories and have their own adventures. Mine have now grown up, Maude being 22, she is still the baby of the family, but already enjoying the wide world out there.

Although you usually have at least 3 months to prepare for the moving out process, one doesn’t actually start properly until you have exchanged; as we had had one buyer pull out close to exchanging, we really didn’t want to accept that it was actually going to happen until we had exchanged – in this case, that gave us just 2 weeks to pack. So I totally underestimated the amount of work physically and emotionally packing up a house;  5 floors of stuff that tell stories from 5 different individuals…. I tried to refrain from opening each file, each book, each box, but curiosity and human nature beat me to it and so by the last week, I was literally throwing things in boxes to enable the move.   Strangely once you start dismantling your space, it becomes less and less your space, devoid of your family, friends and personal trinkets, it becomes another box, an empty shell to make your own.  I definitely have now separated myself from the house, just seeing the vastness and endless floors as more and more work.   I have to admit that I did shed a tear on the last hour walking around checking the cupboards and nooks and crannies.  

As we have to refurbish our next home, moving was more problematic, as most of our stuff had to go into store, some work stuff went into a local store for easy access, some went to both my older children as they were moving into new homes, and a lot went to charity and the dump! it definitely made life easier employing a company to deliver boxes and packaging and help on the day with packing and carrying. its definitely money worth spending.

We are temporarily living in a 2 bedroom flat, a quarter of the size of the house, but strangely it’s just enough for us both.  I guess we are realising that we have now entered a new phase of our life, cleansing and reducing, living more simply, it’s a breath of fresh air and a weight of our shoulders..

We look forward to the next chapter of our lives; downsizing enables you to clear any debts and mortgages, help the children a little but mainly it allows you to rethink your own life and what you need and desire.

meditation and mindfulness

I cannot recommend anything as potent as taking the time to meditate.  for many years I have dismissed it as hippy nonsense.  but as we lead a more stressful and fast pace of life, I’ve realised that being ‘mindful’ and taking the time to meditate are indeed great tools for calming, controlling, and rejuvenating one’s mind.   I used to do yoga as a form of exercise – stretching, keeping the body supple and gently toning , but now I choose yoga classes that not only achieve those things, but also help calm the mind and cultivate well being.  Susan Nove at triyoga has a lovely sense and spirit;  she runs 6 week evening courses on mindfulness, that teach you how to incorporate mindfulness in your every day tasks, meaning that you don’t have to just sit still to practise.  her half hour classes also help you maintain what you have learned.  Anna Price is also a great teacher and can personalise methods to help you get through more difficult times.  my favourite yoga teacher is Erika Tourrell – she has the right balance between yoga for revitalising the body, but her words and spirit really take you to the next level of self care and appreciation of life.   each morning, my husband and I do a meditation with Clare Connolly on Insight Timer – the breathing meditation is particularly useful for calming and setting you up for the day.  we have done this practically every day for the last year and half.   I have also been doing Qigong, which has really grasped my time  – not only have I been taking classes, but also teaching them to my friends, passing on the goodness and benefits that it has given me.   It also makes me learn more moves and the facts behind the principles of Qigong.  Not only does it keep you toned and flexible, but it also calms your mind and heart and enables you to deal with life in general, all that it throws up, its challenges, its problems, uncertainties.   i have a weekly online class by zoom, but soon I will be starting live classes in open public spaces, weather permitting……

 

Ronnie Scotts and Soho

it’s amazing how the simple things in life, like seeing a few friends, being able to sit in a cafe and hug your daughter have become so appreciated. But how lovely to be able to go and sit in Ronnie Scotts and see a live band. We did exactly that last Thursday and what a treat it was. Reuben James and his fellow artists wooed and entertained us reminding us how amazing it is to see someone in person and not just on a screen. The only advantage to the few rules that are left with the pandemic, is that you have more space around you, there is no crowding and everyone seems to be so patient with queuing and waiting around…… Seating was evenly spaced, so that the venue still looked full. If you get a chance then I would put Ronnie Scotts high on your list.

Afterwards, we walked through Soho, its streets lined with tables and chairs, and canopies to shield the rain and sun – so continental – it WAS busy, but it didnt feel chaotic. You can avoid the really busy streets if you still feel a bit aware. we ate in Wun’s tearoom, and managed to get a table inside without a booking – there are so many restaurants to choose from, you can take a chance and you can definitely get a table outside in most of the popular restaurants. We just felt a bit cold with that wind… and perhaps its just us getting older that we feel the cold more. we had never eaten in Wuns Tearoom, but we can recommend it as somewhere to get quick tasty food. Think Chinese Tapas….. and I loved what the waitresses wore, lovely striped cheongsam dresses with velvet jackets.

Let’s hope that everything remains open and that the weather gets better……

remarkable creatures

I am very slow at reading books, just reading before sleeping and perhaps in the middle of the night when I can’t get back to sleep…. but this book by Tracy Chevalier is a really easy read. I did watch the recent film with Kate Winslet, but this interpretation of the life of Mary Anning takes a different path and reveals a different version of life in those times. Since visiting Dorset myself for the first time last year, I have been really fascinated by those Jurassic cliffs and now that I know more about the fossils and imprints really want to visit again.

I have just started Hamnett, which was a birthday gift from my girlfriend, but wondering whether its too dark and sad to continue for nighttime reading – after all this is meant to be the time to relax, unwind and clear the mind…..

my husband bought me this great device – a clip on reading light with 3 levels of non glaring light; it definitely works and does not wake him up, except when the clip falls on the floor…..

a favourite street of mine to wander is cecil court, a wonderfully atmospheric alley of victorian bookshops, specialising in antiquarian books.  One year I stepped into the lovely marchpane book shop, which was filled from floor to ceiling with beautiful old copies of children’s books.  you can spend anything from £10 to thousands, you have to just decide what you want to pay, and then see what you like.  i chose an early 1909 copy of alice in wonderland for my daughter alice – who now she is older has decided to collect these books.  i could have spent hours in there – the graphics and design of the books were so inspirational.  so for the perfect and original gift for the person who has everything, take a trip to cecil court.

Minari

I have not got used to this watching films at home – it challenges my concentration, the phone rings, I get up and write a reminder note or an email, its definitely not the same as watching on the big screen, where your entire attention is captured. Being in the cinema is like being in a dream, you are taken from real life for a couple of hours and transported into someone else’s life. As the year seems to have flown by and all these films have been coming out, we really felt that we needed to watch some of the films. So last week we watched Minari , the Korean film about a family who have moved to Arkansas from California to start a new life – in a mobile home. its a gentle film that shows the struggle of married life with different aspirations, caring for a child with health problems and trying to make a living to just be able to eat . When the grandmother arrived, it made me sad, as she reminded me of my own mother with her odd ways and phrases – I won’t spoil the film, but you will understand why she made an impression on me. I thought it a lovely film, I think my husband thought it a bit sentimental.

I cannot wait for cinemas to reopen – that with galleries will be one of the things on my list to do in the next couple of months. I do hope that they all have survived this pandemic, especially the Curzon, and the BFI and my favourite Wiltons, which occasionally shows old classics with live orchestras. we also went to a Secret Cinema, which was great fun, especially if you are with a group of friends….. the nearest I will ever get to being an actor……

cornwall with a japanese flavour

a few years ago my friends took me to the japanese gardens at st mawgan – a beautiful bit of escapism in the cornish countryside – filled with zen gardens, azaleas, bamboo and bonsai trees – its worth the visit..  whilst you are in St Mawgan go and see the monastery there, it dates back from the 6C;  not sure if you can go in, but take a walk around it.  the village of St Mawgan is very pretty and there is also a good pub with big garden there.

whilst I am down there, I always try to make a visit to St Ives;  St Ives must have more art galleries and crafts studios per square foot than any other town I have been to.  I love its winding streets, up and down, higgledy piggledy , surrounded by the sea all round, its a really atmospheric town.  probably best to visit out of the high season and school holidays.   we usually pop into the Tate St Ives too.

i also pop into the barbara hepworth gallery, probably my favourite place in the whole world – the gardens, the house, the sculptures and the workshops are just inspiring.

we ate lunch on the terrace at porthgwidden beach cafe, which looks onto the  beach.   the only downside to st ives is the distance from london-  its even further than padstow!  I think you just have to take a good book on the train and see it as a way to relax and catch up on reading.  I am reading Remarkable Creatures at the moment, by Tracy Chevalier, which a friend gave me.  the film Ammonite is based on the main character, so interesting to see how the different adaptations of Mary Anning.

back to padstow – if you have had enough of the rick stein empire, try the basement restaurant, which actually have an outdoor summer house to sit in, despite its name – its forte is sea food and is of a very good quality. Paul Ainsworth has a good daily menu too.  I am really looking forward to getting down there this summer, not only to see the lovely coast again, but also to visit our lovely friends.

L. cornelissen

it must be one of my favourite shops in london, l. cornelissen stocks art materials, but not just like your regular art shop,  its a specialist in all types of mediums, from inks, to watercolours, to gouache etc….  there are bottles, jars, tins, tubes of everything that you would ever need.  the problem is that i didnt even know what you used most of the things for!  its definitely a place for inspiring your creativity – i have decided to buy some calligraphy pens with the beautiful shades of sepia ink (in gorgeous bottles of course) and try them out in the beautiful sketch books that they stock.  what a brilliant present to buy somebody interested in art, a starter kit in drawing or painting  with a lovely notebook – perfect for any young teenager or budding artist! its also such a beautiful shop to be in and the staff so helpful and knowledgeable. I hope it never changes, modernises – just stay as inspiring as it also has been to me.

I have been trying out Chinese brush painting with ink and watercolour – the right brush definitely helps as its about using your brush , turning and splaying out the hairs to produce the marks – watching a professional is fascinating and of course they make it look so easy. I started online with the Chinese Community Centre in Chinatown with zoom classes and not only do you learn a lot, but you are helping keep the community centre thriving. my teacher during those classes William Cai does the most beautiful paintings – one day – practice makes perfect. these were my attempts.

bluebells are the symbol of humility and gratitude

I love wild flowers and bluebells are popping up everywhere;  I even have lilac bluebells in my garden.   did you know that bluebells are the symbol of humility and gratitude?

gratitude is something that I am feeling at the moment – gratitude for my health, my family, my home, the food that we have – I felt ‘ how can we stay in for weeks on end’, but we have to just think that its a small part of our long lives which can importantly save other lives.  I cannot believe that a year has passed so quickly and yet so slowly…….

I usually go to Cornwall to see my friends at this time of year,  and I am missing those visits so much – its strange how the simple act of seeing friends in other parts of the country can bring so much pleasure, something we just took for granted; these bluebells were growing wild on the slopes of the coastline of Rock.  I look forward to being able to do those simple things again……

ammonite

watched this film last night about the amazing resilient woman, Mary Anning whose passion for fossil hunting discovered one of the most important geological finds on the Jurassic coast, but she was not acknowledged for her accomplishments. fortunately she is now being recognised, alongside a whole array of other women in the world, who may have been dismissed because of their class and gender. We went to this beautiful coast last year for the first time and fell in love with it – seeing them walk the Cobb wall in Lyme Regis just brought the lovely memories of the window of freedom we were allowed last year, fingers crossed that we are allowed a little more this year.

feria in vejer de la fronterra

I am so missing visiting spain with its wonderful traditions and colour. its about this time in Vejer de la Fronterra that the annual  april feria occurs 10 days after Easter.  Easter, or Semana Santa as it is called in Spain is such a big occasion , more important than Xmas, with its evening street procession carrying the statues of Jesus  on Good Friday and  Easter Sunday bull run in the narrow streets, it is a sight that you never forget. The feria, that follows is a mini version of the seville feria, which if you have never seen is just spectacular, horses and carriages,  flamenco dresses and full of colour and splendour;  vejer’s feria is held in the new town, which is only 15 mins walk from my house, but mainly consists of a few casitas (tents for eating drinking and dancing) and an enormous fairground!  but for 4 nights there will be numerous flamenco shows and horse riding events.   the local school children clamber on their floats and there is a procession through the old town to the new town – there are so many festival days in spain, you need to check the calendars before you go so that you can watch them – there is a feria in almost every town in spain at some time of the year – its what makes Spain a wonderful country still steeped in tradition and fun.  sadly due to the pandemic, it will have been more than a year of disruption – so I am not even sure what celebrations will be happening;  I am so hoping that by the end of the year, life will resume as it used to be……

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