Posts tagged ‘slow living’

November 6, 2013

National Stress Awareness Day: BEDN #6

So, today it’s National Stress Awareness Day, apparently. I had no idea.

However, stress is something I have a very good knowledge of. This year has probably been one of the most stressful I’ve ever had and I’m actually quite proud of how I’ve coped through it. I’ve even recently written a post about managing stress, which you can find here

But overwhelmingly, the reason I’ve coped better with my stress this time is that I’ve been here before. Nearly eight years ago (which is a bit of a shock, as it means I’m not the teenager my brain often tries to convince me of) I had a bit of a meltdown. I’d just moved house, and I was planning my wedding, and then I got a promotion at work. The combination of living through what are commonly held to be amongst the most stressful things you can go through, all at once, conspired to send me spiralling out of control, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

The worst bit was at work. I’d got to a point where I felt like I should know the things that I didn’t know. And so I was too embarrassed to ask the questions that I really needed to ask. I struggled, and bluffed, and panicked and just about held it together for a while and then, everything collapsed and I ended up being signed off sick and prescribed medication; Prozac.It was a really horrible time. I felt as though I’d let so many people down, family, friends, colleagues, and I thought I’d made a fool of myself too. After several months away from work, and some counselling, I made a phased return to work. Then I found out I was pregnant.  Still on Prozac, I was told that I had to come off it straight away, rather than the recommended gradual reduction. So, then I struggled with dizziness, nausea, and general freaking-out, as my body came off the drugs overnight, and emotionally I was riddled with fear that I’d somehow damaged the new baby growing inside me. All good fun…

Anyway. I survived. The baby survived. Thrived, in fact, despite an early arrival.  She’s seven on Sunday. And I’m still living a life that’s a bit like Alice In Wonderland, though these days the character I identify with is the White Rabbit, as I’m always late…

I’ve mentioned above about my post that identifies lots of tips about stress management and if you’re struggling yourself, then I think it would be a good read for you. But more than anything, my number one piece of advice for anyone struggling with stress is this:Ask for help.We’re always expecting so much of ourselves, and quite often asking for help feels like an admission that we’ve somehow failed at life. These days, if I can feel myself getting really strung out, or notice my tell-tale signs (crying all the time, waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, lethargy, lacking interest in exercise, over-eating and drinking) then I ask for help. And I’m at the front of the queue when it comes to asking the ‘stupid’ questions, those ones that you think you should already have the answers to. I’d rather do that than face the alternatives. And chances are, someone else is relieved that you asked the question that they wanted to ask too!

So, do, ask for help, from family, friends, colleagues or your doctor. The one thing you really mustn’t do is try to struggle on alone. You’ll find that so many other people will empathise with you and so many people have been in a similar position. I wish you lots of luck and peace.

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November 4, 2013

Food, Glorious Food: BEDN #4

I’m starting to type this post with a stomach full of fluffy oven-baked potato, lashings of butter, a spot of parmesan and cracked black pepper, and a glass of red wine. Simple food, cooked with love, and completely perfect for Autumn.

We moved home on Friday, and I thought I’d share a couple of photos of our new kitchen. It’s not huge, but it is very sunny and, not shown in the photos, it has a table and chairs too, so we can sit and eat at the table together. Eating at the table as a family is such a huge memory of my own childhood and one that I hope to pass on to my own children. Its a time to catch up with each other, share stories, make time. And as such, it’s more important than what is on the plate in front of you.

Yellow kitchen aid mixer

Sunny little kitchen…

Having said that, what I eat is important to me, and has been at the forefront of my mind since our decision to quit using the supermarkets for a month (at the least – the way things are going it might be a permanent decision!)  We’ve set up a regular vegetable box delivery with Abel and Cole, which I really like because of the flexibility they allow with making changes to what we have delivered. As I have an allotment, very often the food I am getting in a veg box is the same as that I have grown, so to be able to say ‘no’ to various things when I’ve got a home grown glut is very helpful!

Kitchen

Freestanding kitchen unit. Spot the ‘moving-in’ Nutella glasses of prosecco!

In addition to that, since moving here we’ve bought bread and delicious cakes from Crust & Crumb, a local cafe/delicatessen, and spied a great local fruit stall that we’ll be paying a return visit to. Hunting around our new local area of Chapel Allerton in search of non-supermarket food stockists is a great way to get acquainted with the area. It looks like we’ll be spoiled for places to go out for food too!  I’m feeling really lucky to live in a place with so much independent retail. Next on the list of places to buy food from in Leeds are Millie’s, a family run food store in central Leeds, the Leeds Bread Co-op and obviously the Leeds Market. I’m going to find out when all the farmers’ markets nearby take place too. There’s nothing quite as pleasing to eye or stomach as a wander round a good farmers’ market!

But, most of all, I’m looking forward to cooking for family and friends again, and inviting them to sit around the table with us, break bread, share stories and create new memories.

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November 3, 2013

BEDN #3. Light. Or, goodbye Pashley Princess…

Today’s #BEDN post prompt was ‘light’. Most people will probably write about light in rather a different way to me, especially because today is the main celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, and Happy Diwali to everyone celebrating!

But, this is what’s happening in my life, and so I’m writing about ‘light’ as the opposite to ‘heavy’… Because, after lots and lots of deliberating, I’ve sold my bike. Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will remember that it took a lot of deliberating roughly a year ago before I bought it!

The Pashley Princess is a beautiful thing. It’s utterly classic with immaculate, historic design credentials and that lovely leather Brooks saddle is the cherry on the top. I loved it. But in truth, I never should have bought it. In my head, the Pashley was perfect for me.  It’s pretty bomb-proof, so it would have lasted forever, the saddle was nice and comfy, the upright position perfect for a spot of nosying into other people’s gardens whilst cycling past and the basket on the front useful for putting my food shopping in, whilst slowly pottering my way along nice flat roads of Cambridge.

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Ah, but wait. I don’t live in Cambridge. Or York. Or Norfolk, for that matter, or anywhere else flat that might spring to mind. Holland, maybe?

I live in West Yorkshire. In old coalfield territory. We have hills here. And I’d been kidding myself all along that it wasn’t a problem. The last straw really came a couple of weeks ago when we decided to have a short cycle ride to visit my Grandma. She lives a mere five or six miles away, and I knew we’d have plenty of time to rest before making the return journey so I thought it would be totally fine. I was wrong. On leaving home, almost straight away we hit a hill, and by the time I got to the top of that, I was red-faced, and somewhat nauseous (sorry for that image!) whilst my lovely boyfriend Stephen, on his carbon-fibre road bike looked as fresh as a daisy. By the time we got to Grandma’s I was feeling quite sorry for myself and I think she was somewhat alarmed to see the colour of my face! A nice sit down and a cup of tea helped restore my natural colour and then we set off back home.

The return journey was even hillier, as we went a different, slightly longer way. We’d nearly reached home, and I’d had a big change of heart. Instead of thinking that I was slow and struggling because of the bike, I’d really started to think that perhaps I was slow and struggling simply because of me. Thinking that it was purely my lack of fitness, or simple ineptitude was starting to make me want to get off the bike, throw it into a hedge and walk away without a second glance. Thankfully, before I’d got to that point, Stephen realised what was going on. He stopped, jumped off his bike and offered to swap.

Now, the image of a big, fit male cyclist on a women’s Pashley Princess, complete with giant silver bell and wicker basket is quite a silly one, so I am incredibly grateful to him for doing that. But not so grateful that I didn’t whip past him on the next hill on his gorgeous, incredibly light (and three sizes too big) carbon fibre Planet X bike. And the incredible realisation that it wasn’t just me being slow and rubbish, it really and truly was the damn tank-like Pashley, was bloody brilliant. And I knew it was time…

My beloved 91 year old Grandma gave me one piece of advice when she saw how exhausted I was from riding such a heavy bike.

“Put it on Ebay”

And so I did.

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October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

October 18, 2013

Apple Day and Countryside Live.

Apple Day is one of my favourite annual events, first launched by Common Ground back in 1990. Celebrating the rich variety of apples we have in this country, ‘local distinctiveness’, landscape, ecology and the importance of provenance and traceability in food, this is a day that I absolutely love. Apple Day itself is on 21st October, but you’re likely to find events over most of October up and down the country, including cookery demonstrations, apple identification for those of you with unknown varieties in your garden, games for children to have fun with, growing tips and orchard tours. Common Ground no longer manage an Apple Day calendar, because their original intent was always that it took on a life of its own and became part of the seasonal calendar as much as any Harvest Festival might; a naturally occuring part of every October.  I, for one, will always celebrate Apple Day in some way or another.

I quite often go to RHS Harlow Carr on Apple Day. They don’t seem to have an Apple Day event this year, but they’re doing  a week of ‘Sensational Autumn’ activities for half term which look great fun. Other Apple Day events across the country include those run at several National Trust properties, such as apple pressing and other activities at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire.

This weekend is also Countryside Live, at the Harrogate Show Ground on Sunday. As well as  a display of apples and apple variety identification, there will be lots of other seasonal goodness, show-jumping and other equine classes for me to reminisce over, a myriad of other activities from sheepdog trials to chainsaw carving and the addition of tractors and animals will ensure that my kids have a great day out, so we’re going to spend Sunday there. Do come and say hello if you’re visiting too!

Many apple varieties remain unfamiliar to most of us because we’re presented with a pitiful selection in the supermarkets. Apple Day is a chance for us to redress that balance, find a bit about our local area, and the amazing heritage of fruit growing that we have. Do have a look to see if there’s an event near you!

Apple Varieties

October 11, 2013

Doing One Thing Well.

As someone who has a myriad of interests, I’m usually in the middle of several projects at once. At the moment, having just counted them out, there are at least a dozen things I’m in the middle of and that’s pretty typical. Sometimes, it works well and I feel in control and sometimes it doesn’t. Today is one of the ‘it doesn’t’ days, and I feel a bit like I’m in the eye of a storm of my own making.

For the past couple of days I’ve had a sentence running through my head, and it’s one that is anathema to a scanner, really.

“Do one thing well”.

It’s from the brilliant David Hieatt, founder of Huit Denim and the Do Lectures. Attending the Do Lectures is high on my life’s wish list. But for me, the idea of doing just one thing is a bit terrifying. I hate the thought of missing something, the chance to try something new, have a great experience or learn. Yet the self-made storm of projects that are littering both my mind and my home means that I really need to move towards doing one thing, rather than trying to do everything simultaneously.

Perhaps I can translate ‘do one thing well’ to ‘do one thing well at once‘? So, instead of trying to write, research, check Twitter, plan my allotment crop rotation, take a photo for Instagram and set up a mailing list all at once, I could commit to one thing at a time. I’m thinking of using something like the Pomodoro technique;  even I could manage 25 minutes of concentrating on one thing instead of trying to do it all together and ultimately achieving very little! As I wrote on my friend Dave’s brilliant blog the other day, although I’d really like to be accomplished at something, I have accepted that I’m not a specialist, and this is just who I am. But I still need to check myself every so often to make sure that I’m not sabotaging myself.

Although multi-tasking is often spoken of as a way in which to achieve lots, I’m not really convinced of it as a tool for me to get more done. There is a Japanese saying that springs to mind; one who chases after two hares won’t even catch one. Doing two things at once means you’ll fail at both. Sometimes, that’s a small failing. I often leave the tea-bag in my tea because I’ve been distracted by Twitter in the middle of making it. That’s bad enough. But sometimes it can be much bigger – not making progress on projects because I’m too busy ‘researching’ (looking at pretty things on Pinterest) or ‘planning’ (doodling random words in a notebook) and I am driving myself to distraction with this self-sabotage. I know that time spent enjoying yourself isn’t time wasted. But actually, getting a spike of envy by looking at the perfect home/holiday/lifestyle on Pinterest sometimes isn’t terribly enjoyable anyway!

Alongside thinking about the Pomodoro technique, I’m  re-reading the ultimate guidebook for scanners and having a look through some life-hacking and time management blogs.

But I’d also really like your tips for getting things done. What do you do to make things happen? How to do you manage your time effectively? And how on earth do I decide what to concentrate my time on?

September 30, 2013

Time for Myself.

Saturday began with an argument. My children’s ‘whimsical’ approach to getting ready to leave the house, combined with a once-an-hour train schedule left me feeling exhausted and combative. I often find myself saying ‘put your shoes on, put your shoes on, put your shoes on’ like a stuck record (ah, vinyl) and it feels as though the mere idea of wearing shoes to leave the house has never entered their mind before, such is the response I get.

Anyway, suffice to say, we caught the train (which helped me out by being delayed) and by the time we’d reached the station, the kids had completely forgotten about our argument and were giddy about the journey. I left them in town with their daddy and returned to an empty house.

Once I got home, I immediately started on my never-ending, relentless ‘to-do’ list. I put some laundry on, sorted out a cupboard of kitchen stuff, tidied all the toys away, and was in the middle of unloading the dishwasher when I realised I had an enormous headache. And so, I sat down. And exhaled, for what felt like the first time all day. I stayed sitting in that kitchen chair for twenty minutes, listening to the quiet and taking a breath.  Gradually, other noises came back. The birds in the hedge outside. The cars on the motorway in the distance. The tap dripping into the kitchen sink.

At that moment, I decided not to do one single thing more from my list. Instead I spent the whole afternoon and evening just taking some time for myself.

I started with tea and the latest issue of Kinfolk, which is a beautiful, uplifting and inspiring read.

Kinfolk magazine, Emma Bridgewater mug

Then, I filled the bath with hot water and bubbles and took a cup of tea and a frothy novel (The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp) into the bathroom for a leisurely soak. There are few things that feel quite as decadent to me as mid-afternoon bathing. After slow, almost languid ablutions and the application of a coat of Chanel ‘Dragon’ red nail polish on my toenails, I then spent a bit of time reading through my RHS study notes, with yet more tea, followed by an easy, uplifting film – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – and noodles.  At about 9pm, I took myself off to bed with cheesecake, more tea and yet another book. It was simply a lovely afternoon.

As a gardener, I know that the first rule of all gardening is this: Look after your soil.

Gardeners, especially those of us who grow fruit and vegetables, know that we cannot keep taking, taking, taking from the soil and expecting the same results. We must put something back. The right nutrients. A bit of TLC. And, in some cases, we can give the earth a fallow year and a bit of a rest. And I do this. I make sure the soil on my allotment is well cared for. I add nutrients, change crops each year, and allow the soil to rest from producing. But, I don’t give myself the same attention. I expect myself to do all the time. To produce, create, deliver, and run about constantly. Without putting anything back into myself.

If I want to be healthy and have the energy to run around after my children and not be so exhausted, then I need to eat healthily. I need to get enough rest and sleep. I need to exercise to keep myself in decent health.

If I want to be creative, and to write better, then I need to read. If I want to become more accomplished in my chosen subjects, then I need to study and to find the space to learn and take on new ideas. Not just to produce all the time. In fallow periods, I need to slow down and make better use of that breathing space, so that when I do have inspiration, then I know what to do with it.

And, I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of those I love.  An afternoon off might not sound like much. But it’s given me a bit of peace and re-charged my batteries ready for when I need to be able to keep busy, to look after my children, do my job and, yes, to tackle that damn to-do list as well…

September 25, 2013

Happiness Every Day?

I know it’s Wednesday and that usually means it’s time for Three Good Things, but I’ve felt a need for a break as I’ve been mulling over the subject of happiness yet again…

It was my wedding anniversary recently.

Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life.  And yet, I don’t remember at any point during my wedding day thinking ‘this is it, the happiest day of my life, this is the happiest I’ll ever be‘. I’m sure that I was happy, certainly the photos suggest it, and I did have a wonderful day. Even though, as of this year, the marriage has not survived, the memories of the day are still positive ones. Yet I think that the sheer force of a wedding day, the speed of it, means it passes like a blur without you ever truly getting to take it all in.

The birth of your child is another day that is supposed to be The Happiest. Yet, with all the fears surrounding the birth of my daughter, ten weeks too soon, it was far from being a happy day. My mother remembers it as ‘the day you nearly died’ which means that alongside the joy of her birthday every year, a few tears are shed for what might have happened. Bringing her home from hospital was certainly a happy day but there was just as much fear and anxiety at the thought of removing this tiny person from the safety of her hospital surroundings and looking after her all by ourselves. My son’s birth was easier, though it required yet another emergency c-section and so, again, it wasn’t just happiness. The huge, overwhelming love that blooms with the arrival of children brings with it many other feelings and they’re often not easy ones.

Sometimes, it’s easier to look back on a time and remember it as a happy one, rather than recognising it when you’re actually living it. Holidays, are a good example of this. Often fraught with delayed flights, arguing kids in the back of the car, or getting lost in a place you don’t know and barely speak the language, they’re usually looked back on with great fondness. Things that at the time seem like huge disasters are converted into funny anecdotes once we’re no longer in the middle of living them.

Yet, in ‘The Happiness Project‘, Gretchin Rubin says that what you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.  Genuine happiness perhaps does not lie in the big, once-in-a-lifetime situations that generally rush by in the blink of an eye but more in the little things that happen on a regular basis.  I know that Three Good Things is my attempt to find happiness in my busy life, showing a bit of gratitude for small every day things. Microadventures are my chance to try something new regularly, rather than once a blue moon. Getting the chance at the time to actually reflect that, yes, I am happy, makes a big difference. Whether that’s sitting at the top of a mountain I’ve climbed, reading a great book, having the afternoon with friends or just being on the cusp of eating a giant piece of cake, a bit of self-reflection there and then is a good way to realise happiness.

At the end of the new Richard Curtis film ‘About Time’ (spoiler alert) the lead character chooses to spend every day noticing the things that make each day a great one, instead of doing what he can do but we cannot – travel back in time and re-live the day again. Perhaps choosing to see the fun, the smiles,  the small things that can make an ordinary day a happy one instead of just rushing through with blinkers on from one day to the next, is a good way of feeling happiness. As for me, I’m still trying to work out when the happiest day of my life was – and perhaps I’ll never really know. It may well be that I’m at my happiest during an ordinary day, rather than during one of those ‘big’ life moments. But for now, I’m sitting alone on the sofa, typing. I’m just about to make a cup of tea and read a great book in peace. Does that make me happy? Yes it does…

Can you remember the happiest day of your life? I’d love to hear about it…

September 4, 2013

Three Good Things: Week 7

Welcome to this week’s edition of Three Good Things! 

Here we go…

One: Hugh’s loo roll creations!

My first good thing this week is a rather special one. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will remember that last week, I posted photos of cardboard owls that I’d made with my kids out of loo roll inners. Later in the week, I got a tweet from the lovely Rachel (@textilesteacher) saying that her young son, Hugh, was busily rootling around in the recycling bin looking for loo roll tubes to make his own owls.

Then, a bit later, she tweeted me these photos! How wonderful. It really made me smile. One of the nicest things about blogging, and indeed, about Twitter is the sharing of joyful, uplifting things and making new friends. I LOVED that Hugh had been inspired to make his own owls, and then he went one better and made Despicable Me minions. This was a genuine highlight of my week. Thank you Hugh, for your wonderful creations, and thank you Rachel for sharing them with me.

Hugh's wonderful creations! (photos credit: @textilesteacher)

Hugh’s wonderful creations! (photos credit: @textilesteacher)

Two: My sweetcorn.

The second thing to make me very happy this week is my long-awaited sweetcorn! Last year, the birds treated themselves to a feast of it, and so I didn’t get any to eat, but this year it’s amazing. Big, plump kernals, all the way round well grown cobs. And all with the minimum of help from me!  It’s been a tricky year on my allotment this year (and I’ll share more about this with you in another post) but this is a lovely success.

Sweetcorn

Three: A special birthday card.

Three Good Things is about celebrating the small things in life that make everyday worth smiling about, and yet the third thing to make my list this week isn’t small at all. For the past few years I have sponsored a small boy in India called Kishan through Plan and it’s soon to be his birthday. And so my third good thing this week is a birthday card. Written by me, and containing some drawings by my children, it will be on the way to India now. That my children know about Kishan and why we send money to help support him, his family and local community, is really important to me, and without wishing to sound like a spoilt cliche, now that my children are getting a bit older I hope that it helps them to understand a bit more about the world, the people who live in it and how important it is to share with those less fortunate than themselves. Kishan (who is only seven) goes to school now, instead of having to work in the local textiles factory. If that’s not a good thing, then I don’t know what is.

What are your good things this week?

July 17, 2013

Three Good Things: Week One

With sincere apologies to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the blatant theft of his book title, I’m calling this post ‘Three Good Things’ and it will be the first in an ongoing weekly series that I shall post each Wednesday.

Three Good Things is inspired by ongoing conversations I have with friends and from re-reading sections of The Happiness Project. It’s about focussing on what I do have in my life, instead of what I don’t have. A friend of mine mentioned that he’d done a writing project with his children during a period of change in their lives to get them to remember good things every day and it’s really resonated with me. I spend a lot of time planning the future; I can often struggle to keep my mind in the present day.

In times of change or upheaval, or when things feel like they’re an ongoing battle,  it’s good to be able to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude. And that’s what I shall be doing in this series. Each week, I shall choose three things to share. Things that have made me happy, made me smile, brought me a bit of joy or peace and made me grateful for the life that I have. I will always be a planner, always have one eye on the future and always strive to better myself and my life in one way or another, but this will hopefully help me be thankful for what my life looks like right now.

Robert Brault wrote ‘enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realise that they were the big things’.

So, without further ado, I present to you Three Good Things.

One: Strawberries

The first thing to bring me joy this week has been my strawberries. I’ve had a difficult year on the allotment this year. I’m living further away from it, and life is so busy that it’s often a challenge to get there. It can feel like a chore, instead of the hobby it is supposed to be, when I’m trying to work it into my schedule. And the sun, though very welcome, means that watering is an ongoing necessity.

Thankfully, my reward for all this effort has arrived in the form of beautiful strawberries. Giant, sweet and warmed by the sun, these are the best fruit I’ve ever grown and I’m thrilled with them. The fact that they match my red toenails pleases me enormously too. I always paint my toenails red. Actually, that’s not true. On a whim, I painted them blue the other week. Then I had a really long bath, which made my feet go wrinkly. After getting out of the bath, I dried my feet, and realised that the combination of the wrinkles and the blue toenails made my feet look like corpse feet. Those of you who remember my kayaking experience of last year will realise that this isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling about my feet… Given that ‘dead’ isn’t generally a look that I aim for, I swiftly removed the blue. I shall be sticking to red from now on!

The colour on my toes is Dragon, by Chanel, a truly bright red which makes me feel happy whenever I look at it.

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Two: The Cluny, Newcastle

The second thing to bring me lots of happiness this week was The Cluny, a brilliant pub in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle. We had such a great night out. The warm summer evening brought heaps of people to sit outside the pub on the curved stone steps and ‘village green’ area, so, armed with pints of beer, we sat and people-watched. It was a moment in my life when I wasn’t thinking about the past, or planning the future but was simply happy to be in the moment I was living and with the person I was with. These moments in life should be treasured and I’m very happy to remember that feeling.

The Cluny is a wonderful pub, filled with a great variety of beers including my favourite Timmermans (a fruit beer, I’m such a girl!) together with a live music venue. I really recommend it.

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Three: My lovely bike

The third thing that has made me smile this week is my Pashley Princess Sovereign. I’m pretty sure that I gave her a name but I’ve forgotten it, and when I took her out of the garage on Sunday she was covered in dust which made me feel a bit shameful. Nonetheless, the minute I got in the saddle, I remember why I love her so much. We had a little ride in the sun, punctuated halfway with a Primo’s gourmet hotdog (therefore reducing the health benefits of cycling to nil) and I’ve promised to myself that I won’t leave it as long before we go out together again.

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So, those are my Three Good Things for this week. See you here again next Wednesday!

I’d love for this series of posts to develop a bit of community – so do tell me, what are your good things this week?