Monday, 30 July 2012

Bitter Sweet Peas


When we returned to Leeds at the weekend one of the first things I did was inspect the garden. After such a warm, dry week, I was expecting to find a dried out husk of a garden, but was pleasantly surprised to find things growing and flowering. At last, after weeks and weeks of rain, our little garden benefited from some sunshine. 

At last...at last...my sweet peas have flowered. I've been waiting months for these. I love their bright colours and floppy heads. I was greedy and picked nearly all of them. I reasoned that, since the weather forecast says rain showers all week, I will enjoy these flowers more in the house than in the garden.

From this...


...to this...


...and finally, some blooms!


I couldn't remember what colours I'd planted, so it was a nice surprise to see purple, pink and white flowers blooming.


It was not exactly an abundant crop, so I padded out my posey with lavender and bay. One little bouquet that cost me nothing.

I put them in a blue enamel jug on my bedside table.


I love having flowers in the bedroom, it feels more decadent somehow. Does anyone else keep cookery books on their bedside tables? I love reading recipe books in bed. I keep a pad of post it notes in the bedside table drawer so I can bookmark recipes I like the look of. Is that weird? I'm sure there are worse things to keep in one's bedside table drawers.


Pottering, prettying, nesting, blessing the home - call it what you will, but simple activities like picking some flowers I grew and arranging them in a jug make me inordinately happy. It is things like this that make me feel that I am home again and help banish the holiday blues.

It was hard to come back to Leeds. I have mixed feelings about living here. We moved here after university and, twelve years, one wedding, two houses and two children later, we are still here. The things that attracted us to Leeds (shopping, gigs, clubs, bars...oh yes, A JOB) no longer matter in the same way. Partly it is the fact that we have no family in Yorkshire - all my family live on the South Coast and John's in Durham, in the North East. But also, I do think that I want to raise our children in a less urban, more rural environment. This matters more to me than John, but I know he doesn't want to live here forever either.

But. 

We have made such good friends here. We've had too, really - when you have babies and your family live hundreds of miles away, you have to build a support network of people to count on and go to. Friends to celebrate with, hang out with, drink with, moan with. Friends who can babysit. And Bella is very happy and settled in her (fantastic) local school and we would have to think long and hard about moving her. And we love our little house. It is nothing to look at from the outside, just a typical three-bed-semi with a tiny garden, like millions of others in the UK, but inside we have worked so hard to make it ours.

Lots to think about. I am sure this is a dilemma for many people. I have only a handful of friends who live in the same area as their family and their partner's family. We move around now, for love, for our careers, because we want to leave the small town we grew up in and experience new  things. So Leeds is bitter-sweet for me, and despite twelve years and lots of wonderful friendships and happy memories, I still struggle to think of it as "home".

42 comments:

Jen Walshaw said...

The snails got all my sweet peas. Argggggggggggggg

Me and the man are originally from The NE coast where we live now but lived in the SE for 14 years and came back to be near family, it is hard. We miss the friends we made whilst living in Berkshire, We promised to see lots of each other, but it is hard with us all having our own families to get together often.

It is so hard to know what to do for the best. I like the fact that we are pretty rural. I love the fact the children can play out and all that, but we still miss out old home

Lerosso said...

It must be so rewarding having a bouquet made with your own flowers.
It sounds like a difficult decision, I hope the time makes it easier to take.

x

Jenny said...

Sweet peas are one of my favorites. Their smell is intoxicating.

Once again I am enamoured with your bed - that floral pillow case and the bed cover. And now your pitcher of sweet peas. I feel a nap coming on. :)

I understand your dilemma about loving/not loving the place you live. There are so many variables in life and so much to weigh and measure. But remember that you are still young and there's a lot of life left for you to explore. And I think there is no "best" - just "different."

jen said...

First of all, love the sweetpeas and your bouquet. And it's not at all weird to read cookery books at bedtime!

Secondly - I feel sad for you that you feel that way about Leeds. I found my way here in similar circumstances to you and I've now been here 16 years. It took a long time for me to call it home, but now it is, sadly more so than Glasgow! I love it. And I'm happy to be bringing up my son here.

Just wondering - but how much do you go out and explore Leeds as a family? I don't live here for clubs, bars or shopping either as those days are long gone! But it's brilliant for families. Check out www.leedsinspired.co.uk if you need some inspiration - it's great for finding family friendly events. x

Col | Hello Olive said...

Your flowers look great in the enamel jug! (And your bed looks so comfy too!)

I have spent lots and lots of time torn between Cape Town and Edinburgh, and I don't know that I will ever be complete settled in either. My husband and I often joke that we'll need to move somewhere totally different so that we stop comparing the two :-)

Ellie Foster said...

Dear Gillian
Congratulations on your sweet peas. It has been such a difficult year for growing anything, so it is a real achievement. My sweet peas were bought from a garden centre and are only just beginning to bud up. They had better hurry up!
It is difficult when you would really like to be somewhere else - jobs do tend to dictate where you live. I would love to move out to the country, but that isn't a reality for the forseeable future. I try to enjoy what the city has to offer (the convenience of the shops and the interesting architecture of castles and cathedrals) and take day trips out into the countryside to enjoy the peacefulness.
Best wishes
Ellie

A Normandy kitchen said...

Hi,
You can always tell yourself the more you pick, the more they will grow! Love sweet peas too but ours sadly didn't get planted this year! As for where to live, I do the same thing as you, wondering if it is time to move on! 22 years of Hertfordshire, then 22 years of France, Half my life here... seeing your wonderful 'union jack bunting' photo yesterday made me wonder again! More great photos, well done. Ivan :-)

Monica said...

i move at the drop of a hat, but i am also ready to put down solid roots for my girl. yes, it's important to think long and heard - to not stay simply because of memories or a few good, if important points... but also, to not move simply for a need for change, or for some ideal elsewhere.

makes me yearn when you speak of nesting... i truly can't wait for our next HOME.

thelinencloud said...

Your sweetpeas are beautiful and I always read cookbooks in bed ... all those ideas to inspire yummy feasts for friends and family.

I don't envy your choice about moving or staying put ... I lived away for college, work and play for a good few years but when my husband and I were ready to settle and have our family we chose to come home to be near our families ... it has been good for us ... but it would be difficult to leave your new found friends ... I hope you can work out a decision that it right and you and yours ... take your time and don't make a panic decision. Bee x

Charmaine said...

such lovely flowers, I'll add them to the list for when I finally get a garden!

I know what you mean about having mixed feelings about where you live. I moved from Bristol to London 14 years ago for my degree and have lived here ever since. We've gradually moved further out (we started in Covent Garden), but we're still on the tube map. I would love to live in the countryside but it's difficult to find jobs in the places we want to move to. I do like living in a big city though, I always find it odd when we go to Cornwall and the shops actually shut at 6pm! x

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

My favourite flowers ... and I've not managed to grow any this year.

I totally understand your dilemma when it comes to settling in a place that doesn't quite feel like home. When the kids were young I spent 15 years in grotty towns that I basically loathed, but we had some good friends and got by - although returns from holiday were a nightmare, you're not alone in that - and then when the opportunity arose we moved to the country ... so you've still time to make the leap if that's what you decide that you want xxx

Cheryl said...

What a pretty bouquet, and so much more special because they were grown by you!

Julia said...

Your sweet peas are just beautiful! I love them in the blue jug next to your bed! I love your bed...such soothing colors. And the floral pillowcases are so lovely.

We have the same dilemma. My husband and I both grew up in the same small town that we live in. We are in search of something more. My mom lives here as well as my grandparents and my brother is an hour away. My husband's parents also live an hour away. We are planning a trip to the West Coast, Southern California (to visit my best friend and explore a few places) and Portland, Oregon because it's been on our "list" for the past year. We may never move that far away, but it's a possibility (someday!) Also, Charlotte, NC is probably the easiest since my husband could get a transfer there, we could live in a larger city (that we love) and only be an hour from family. Oh, but we do love the West Coast. Lots of decisions!

Greer said...

We talked about moving out of the city for years and years before finally doing it about 8 months ago. I knew I'd regret not at least giving it a go. Ultimately, it was about lifestyle and giving my girls something more than city hustle and bustle. That stuff can come on holidays and weekend visits - we're only 90 minutes drive from our old house. I was scared I'd miss my friends but we catch up regularly, here or back in the city. And I've met so many lovely people already, many who've made the same move as us in recent years. I think if it means enough to you and your family, everything will fall into place. Good luck! (And as my sister said to me last year, if it doesn't work out, just move back again...)

Trudy said...

Love flowers in the house, anywhere! I have a vase of daphne on the dining room table at the moment and the perfume is beautiful. Must say I have never read a cook book in bed!! Your room looks lovely.

galant said...

Love flowers around the house, too. When, years ago, I showed a friend our upstairs bed sitting room (formerly our elder son's bedroom) she exclaimed, "There's posh! Flowers in a spare room!" But why not, I try and have them in as many rooms as possible, and if not flowers, then leaves and berries. Can't stand pot plants, though (pot 'mums' as they are called in the supermarket, are truly awful) or dried flowers which are just relics of their former selves! And yes, I put flowers on the bedside tables.
Something else nice for the bedroom: Lavender pillow mist, which really helps me sleep.
Margaret P

Thomasina Tittlemouse said...

Love your sweet peas in their blue jug beside the bed! beautiful and to go to sleep with that scent in the air - idyllic! I too keep recipe books beside the bed so no, you are not alone in this! The post-it pad I had not thought of and I think is a brilliant idea which I will shamelessly copy to avoid that exasperating scenario of being unable to remember where I saw that particular idea I wanted to try but can't trace. I sympathise very much with your ambivalence about where "home" is. I think it's particularly acute when one comes home from a lovely holiday. Just remember that, as far as I can see, you have the most lovely home-making ability and that translates wherever you are and is not easy to generate if it doesn't come naturally. Keep faith in it and wherever you land, you will create a home that Bella and Angus will treasure and at the end of the day that can be anywhere you choose - where you are now or somewhere new. E x

Gillian said...

The snails got a lot in the garden, but I was ruthless with the slug pellets around my precious sweet peas!

It's hard isn't it. We all move around for various reasons. But you seem pretty happy where you are, your blog always comes across that way. x

Gillian said...

Hi Leticia, thanks so much for stopping by. It's my first bouquet this year, so it's been a long time coming!

Gillian said...

Cath Kidston pillow cases - it will satisfy all your English Country bedding needs! Not sure if you can get it in the US but look at her website - some of it's a but too country but I do like her stuff.

No "best" just "different" - i really like that Jenny, thank you. x

Gillian said...

Thanks Jen for such a lovely response. I feel I should say that it's not Leeds, it's me! Leeds is a fantastic , vibrant, friendly city and there is lots of good stuff here. But you made me think - I don't think we do explore the city enough as a family and we tend to just stick to the same places.

We often visit the museum and art gallery on a rainy Sunday, and the Royal Armouries, usually followed by lunch somewhere. And Golden Acre, Roundhay and Horsforth parks are all brilliant. Yes, there is loads to do! I will check out that link, thank you. x

Gillian said...

Ok, at least we are all in the same country! You've put it into perspective for me Col, I will stop moaning now.

(the bed is super comfy - someone once said to me spend as much on your mattress as your can afford. We did and I've never regretted it) x

Gillian said...

Yes, jobs to dicate things, and we are so lucky that John has a job when so many don;t at the moment. I really like your aim to balance enjoying what the city has while visiting the countryside for quiet - the best of both worlds. Thanks Ellie.

Gillian said...

Thanks Ivan. 22 years in France, that really must feel like home for you now. And I like your philosophy on flower picking, I will pick away now without feeling guilty! x

Gillian said...

I think I am realising that you can make home anywhere. Home is where John and the kids are really. But important to put down roots too, and become part of a community. x

Gillian said...

Thanks for such a lovely comment. There will be no decision making for now, we are content where we are. I just often muse about "what if" and wonder what is around the corner. Always hard to come home after a wonderful holiday, I guess! x

Gillian said...

You are so right Charmaine. My Cotswolds dream was abruptly halted when I looked at job opportunities and house prices (eeek! - pricey!) and there is a reason why we live in cities - jobs! Now where did I put that winning lottery ticket... ;-)

Gillian said...

Yes there is plenty of time. I just want to do a "big move" while the kids are still small, I guess, to assuage my guilt in dragging them away from their friends! And I don't loathe Leeds, I actually really like it, it's just...I miss my family. And the sea. Thanks Annie. x

Gillian said...

Thank you Cheryl, I am hoping to pick many more this summer and put them all over the house!

Gillian said...

It must be really hard to want to leave a place you grew up when all your family are nearby - I didn't think about it from that point of view. It seems that everyone has similar dilemmas!

Thanks for your comments on the bedding - it's from Cath Kidston.

Gillian said...

Thanks Greer. It's scary taking the plunge, but at least you did it while your girls were small, so no need to move schools. Moving schools in the UK is a hideous bureaucratic nightmare and almost puts me off ever moving anywhere!

Gillian said...

Thanks Trudy. I highly recommend reading cookery books in bed (but not if you are on diet or feeling peckish, then it's just torture!) x

Gillian said...

I'd have flowers everywhere if I could! Not Elton John style bouquets, just some pretty jugs. I will try lavender pillow mist, that sounds nice. The only dried flower I like is honesty - it's so beautiful, like little silvery coins.

Gillian said...

I think a lot of this is post-holiday blues. All these wonderful comments have given me a lot to think about. Home is where my immediate family is, wherever that may be, and that's really all that matters. And Leeds is nice really, I've just had a taste of the countryside and liked it very much! x

Donna said...

Your sweet peas are beautiful - and they look very pretty on your bedside table. It's completely normal to have recipe books there- good bedtime reading :)
I totally understand the post-holiday blues and thoughts about where you live. I moved to Scotland for love -the mister's home town. What was supposed to be a pit stop has been my home now for 10 years. I don't particularly like the town, but wherever we are together I consider to be home. He lived in London for 10 years and would go back- I'm torn - I like everything a city has to offer, but I also like the countryside. Best to go with the flow for now, I think. Life has a way of throwing unexpected things in your path. xx

Gillian said...

You are right - wherever the people we love most live, that is home, and so long as we are with them and happy, that is what really matters. xx

Andrea said...

Hmm. I'm with you on the growing up rural thing- its why I left cities. ...and if you don't feel at home then.....sometimes you have to bite the bullet with these things. However millions of kids grow up in cities and you can build country life into it by getting out of the city on weekends for walks, going to farmers markets and doing farm holidays maybe?

Andrea said...

Oh... And I would like to see more photos of your very well made pretty bed please!

Gillian said...

You're right, it's about finding the balance between what we have and what we want. There is so much on offer in the city if you look for it.

Gillian said...

It's not always that well made or pretty! There is one here whe i tidied it especially!

http://www.talesfromahappyhouse.com/2012/06/bedside-cabinet-makeover.html

little homebird said...

Hi there, have found your blog recently and working back through old posts!

I soo know where you are coming from about wanting to move. We live in the Midlands but I'm from the South and we moved here due to house prices and wanting something decent for family life. This is also where hubby is from. But once we were here his family started to move away and then 5 years ago his folks moved to Skegness, 2 hours away! So we are now 2 hours from my parents and his! I was quite put out about it but am now used to them not being here but get so fed up with being on our own here and no back up for childcare etc. Hubby obviously can't see it from my point of view so much and we can't just up sticks and move because his job is here! The kids were born here so to them it's home, but for me it wont be. But then some days I think I'm just seeing everything in a very negative way and would it really be great to move back, is the grass greener??!! Familes are so spread out these days, like you say due to work and wanting to experience new places it's quite strange to meet people who still live in their home town!!!

Lovely blog by the way :)
Ali

Gillian said...

Hi Ali, thanks for stopping by and your lovely comment. It's the house prices that encouraged us to buy in the north and will make buying in the south so hard (it's so expensive!) And I know what you mean about it being the kid's home, that makes it all the more hard! It's not that I hate Leeds, not at all, it's a fantastic city to live in and raise kids in, it's just not my HOME.

I think sometimes the grass is greener, but sometimes your heart is really telling you something. We just have to make the most of each day and wait and see what lies around the corner.

Gillian x