Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Hello July

I have joined a book group and discovered a renewed love of reading. It was organised by my dear friend Abigail and there are six of us, scattered across the country, and so we meet via Zoom. It's not quite the same as all being in the same room but I don't think it particularly impacts on the conversation or amount of wine drunk. We chose two books each which have been randomly allotted to different months, and our first title was Our House by Louise Candlish. It's a pretty good thriller, well plotted and with an excellent twist, although I did think it could have done with being one hundred pages shorter. But good. Our next title was my choice: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I'm half way through and absolutely loving. It is one of the best books I have read in years, one to keep and read again, one which is enjoyable but you learn so much from. I'll admit I'm relieved...imagine if I had recommended a dud? The book after that is Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson. I remember when this was published and I must've read it soon after, as it was more than twenty years ago. I also remember feeling underwhelmed and like I'd missed something, so I'm quite keen to read it again and see if I like it more on a second reading. Not for book group, but I also just bought Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo which I'm really excited to read. Have you read any of these? Do you belong to a book group?

Reading aside, it's been a so-so week. We had a mini, mid-week heatwave, two days of gloriously hot weather when I was at work, which was swiftly followed by a weekend of wind and rain and a feeling of restlessness and frustration that wouldn't go away. I am still finding this strange nearly-normal much harder than the initial lockdown, but I have to be patient and count my blessings and, as always, when I stop and think about it and look back at the photos I've taken, there have been so many good things, including:

:: an afternoon at the beach and my first sea swim of the year

:: brightly painted beach huts

:: swim suits and sandals drip drying on the line

:: balmy summer evenings where I walk barefoot around the garden watering the plants

:: my first sweet pea (thank you for the tips)

:: chatty dog walks with this one

:: and a rare photo of a natural smile

:: An afternoon in Chichester with Bella. It was quiet and we wandered around a couple of shops including my favourite Winter's Moon and Waterstones, got a take away drink (coffee for me, milkshake for her) and tried to pretend it was a little bit normal.

 :: I bought a few bits and bobs - small, practical, well made things that I will use over and over again, like a little window sill watering can, simple candle holder, woven bowl to hold the detritus that gathers on the hall table, and a wooden coffee scoop.

:: my crochet top is coming on nicely and I think it may be finished in time to wear in the right season! (It's this one.)

And now it's July and there are only three more weeks left at school before the six week summer holiday starts. 

Monday, 22 June 2020

Enjoying the Ordinary

Last weekend was lovely. Nothing special happened, it was just one of those weekends when ordinary doesn't feel so ordinary, when everyday life feels uplifting and liberating, rather than suffocating and oppressive, as it sometimes did during lockdown. Actually, something unusual did happen yesterday: my sisters and I met in our parents' garden for a Father's Day cream tea, the first time we'd all been together in person since lockdown began. It was so good to all be together - although without our own families - in the garden, eating my mum's delicious scones.

I've felt a renewed appreciation for our weekends since returning to work and was very happy to spend most of my time in the garden. What started off as "I'm just going to have a bit of a tidy up" turned into hours of painting, weeding, pruning and moving plants. 

This old planter needed a lick of paint, so I started off optimistically with a tin of mint green, leftover from when we painted the balcony railings a couple of years ago.

I was so optimistic for that mint to work, it made me think of Miami and sunshine. 

But as soon as I put on the first coat I had doubts. It was so bright, and seemed to get brighter as the evening got darker. I kept catching glimpses of it out of the corner of my eye from the kitchen and it was troubling me.

So yesterday I gave it two coats of a soft blue-grey, leftover from when we painted the metalwork on our stairs, and feel much happier. 

John painted some of our wooden fences with a gorgeous charcoal grey paint/stain (above) and then used up the leftovers on our wood store and gate. It's all looking much smarter. Just try to ignore the paint I managed to walk all over the decking.

All plants seem to have doubled in size in the last two weeks - it must be the rain. Everything except my sweet peas, that is, which continue to look straggly and weedy and I despair that they will ever flower. I planted them from seed and won't do that again. My redcurrants are looking promising though, and the blackcurrants are not far behind. 

I accidentally cut off a few stems of my favourite verbena bonariensis so I brought them indoors whereupon they promptly shed all their tiny petals over the mantel and floor.

Excitingly, I just bought an outdoor rug for our decking area. (£18 from B&Q, a bit of a bargain I thought.) For months I failed to see the point of outdoor rugs, but then I thought about creating a little sitting/reading/coffee drinking area and suddenly a rug seemed like just the thing to bring it together. It's made of plastic so rain proof and easy to clean, I imagine.

In the kitchen, I tried a new recipe: rhubarb, ginger and white chocolate cookies. My mum gave me about a kilo of rhubarb from a friend's garden and I was excited to try this recipe. 

They are very good; soft and chewy, with the tart rhubarb contrasting nicely with the sweet chunks of white chocolate.

It still left me with a lot of rhubarb, half of which I roasted with a little sugar, and the rest was chopped and frozen ready for future crumbles.

I've been enjoying a bit of seasonal faffing lately, moving pictures and plants around, creating little displays. I moved the log basket into the garage and put this monstera in it's place. I like it there, with the green leaves by the white wall and black stove. 

I haven't felt like crocheting anything since March but I finally have a project on my hook that I'm really enjoying. You may remember that I unravelled a pink cotton cardigan a couple of months ago, and so I needed to find a pattern that used Aran weight cotton yarn. I am making this t-shirt which I'm hoping will be a versatile summer top which I can wear with jeans and cropped trousers.

Do you remember my sugarhouse blanket which I made last summer? It was inspired by the tiled wall at Sugarhouse Studios in London. Well, it's currently enjoying a moment of fame on this episode of the architecture podcast, 99 Percent Invisible, which is all about the wall itself. It's sent lots of people my way on Instagram and I feel so proud for my little blanket, getting so much love from all these different people. Architecture and crochet, who'd have thought?