Is it me or has spring been really rather spectacular this year? It feels like everything is growing and blooming; the blossom seems to be everywhere, extra-colourful and lasting longer than usual. The skies have been gloriously blue, the sun has shone. Maybe it's just that we were all so ground down by that long, wet winter with endless grey skies (and we didn't even have floods to worry about up here) and I was just so ready for spring and some vitamin D. I've just been looking back through my photos from the last two weeks and I've noticed that most of them were taken outside; on the beach, in the park, in the garden. I do love it when the weather is good in the school holidays, the difference it makes - to the quality our days, to my mood, to our health - is not to be underestimated, I think.
The children and I spent the first week on the south coast, staying with my parents. John stayed behind as he had to work, and we missed him of course, but I did enjoy all that time with my sisters and parents, and with my nieces and my nephew too. Honestly, those little people are all delicious. That's Eleanor you can see above, looking out to sea. At just turned four, she is the baby of the group of six cousins, Bella being the oldest at seven. Eleanor used to be very shy with me, warming up to me just at the end of my visits, but this time she was delightful, non-stop chatter and kisses, wanting to hold my hand and sit next to me. No-one prepared me for how much I'd love them - even when they are little monkeys and hitting each other - and I love seeing them grow bigger and watching their confidence increase.
We all visited Arundel to see the Wetland Centre, or Wildlife Park as it was called when I last visited about twenty five years ago. Angus called it a "bird zoo". Wetland Centre means nothing to a four year old. There were a few comical moments in the bird hides, watching Angus try to look through the telescopes....
...bless him, he just wasn't getting it. He found a stick and spent the rest of his time in the hides pointing it at the birds and making shooting noises, much to my mortification...This is West Sussex, Angus, I hissed, these Boden-clad children do not pretend to shoot the birds!
Spring is the time to go though, I think, as chicks and ducklings were everywhere.
This lot sneaked out of their fenced area and were waddling around the path, cute as you like. It was all I could do not to squeal - they were about two feet away from me - and put one in my pocket and take it home. We had a dreamy boat ride around the wetland, where the motion of the boat and views of the surrounding area made me veeery relaxed indeed.
I'll take that over a theme park any day.
We met up with my friend Abigail (my BFF as Bella would say) in Chichester and spent an idyllic morning in a beautiful park right in the city center.
Since moving away I've come to appreciate how rich in history Chichester is, how attractive I find the low-lying Georgian architecture, what a pleasant buzz the whole place has, while also feeling very peacful. I like how you can see the minster spire from almost everywhere within the city walls.
This week has been all about gardening and Easter preparations. I've done about fifteen loads of washing. I decided to wash every single hat, scarf, glove and woolen jumper this week, before packing them away. I like to do this, I feel like it sort of marks the end of winter. Of course I am never without a scarf (and have worn my cowl constantly this holiday) but I have winter scarves, spring scarves and summer ones. Don't mock me. I also have these pretty new tea towels, from Asda of all places. I'd thought about using the fabric for cushions but decided I just like them as they are, hung over the oven handle or pegged on the line. There's nothing like pegging out washing to dry in the sun to make me really, truly, deep down happy.
We made our usual fayre, Easter nests and egg-shaped biscuits. That's about as traditional as we get round here - I'm still scarred from my hot cross bun escapades two years ago when I spent about eight hours in the kitchen, pampering and nursing a very needy batch of dough.
Easter baking tends to involve children, sugar and pastel shades round here. Damn tasty, they were, and pretty too.
I made an Easter wreath the other evening. It took as long as two episodes of House of Cards* and it was fairly low-level crochet, no real concentrating. I needed to focus on the television!
I like how it came out though, and the yellow looks nice against our grey front door.
I finally cracked and bought a copy of the latest edition of Kinfolk Magazine, mainly to see what the fuss was all about. It's expensive, true, but that's because it contains no adverts, which I didn't realise. It's just page after page of very good writing and photography. Sometimes I found it a little bit precious, but overall I liked it. The current issue is all about the home, which particularly appealed to me, and I think of it more as a book than a magazine. It's my current bedtime reading, that and Donna Leon.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, I hope you have a wonderful, joyful day, whatever you are doing. We'll be making the most of these last few days of what has been a truly glorious two week break.
Spring, I think you may be overtaking autumn as my favourite season.
*Is anyone else watching House Of Cards? We're on the second series now. Oh, it's good, so good, I feel like I need to talk to everyone about it! The Underwoods - I am both captivated by them and terrified of them. Great writing, great acting. What did we do before box sets of US dramas, I wonder?