03 December 2020
It is odd that at a time which should be of ‘good cheer and merriment’ with friends and family that Jules and I continue to shield. I love Christmas, and with that in mind, we decided to celebrate each weekend of Advent. The observance of Advent seems to have begun in Gaul in modern day France during the fourth century. The word ‘Advent ‘ is derived from the Latin word Adventus which means ‘arrival’. We decided this year to really throw ourselves into advent and to try to do some different things each weekend. It seemed a little odd to be doing this in November, but once Jules got his head round the fact that advent really does sometimes fall in November we got started.
We decided that each Saturday we would try to do a long walk in different places. Despite the grey mist we set off to Byland Abbey, a beautiful ruined abbey not too far from us which was built in 1165. There are many wonderful stories about the abbey, including 12 ghost stories. One was written by an old monk. “Young Robert died and was interred in the cemetery but was wont to depart from the tomb at night and to disturb and frighten off the villagers. The dogs of the village would follow him and bark loudly. At last the young men of the village spoke together, proposing to capture him if by any means they were able, and convening at the cemetery. Having seen him, all fled except two of them. One, called Robert Foxton, caught him and laid him over the church gate. The priest hurried quickly and conjured him the holy name until he responded to his questions. At that conjuration, he spoke in his guts and not with his tongue and confessed his many crimes. The priest absolved him of his crimes and he rested in peace”. The walk was hauntingly beautiful, as we climbed up and up to Elm Hag and up to an old observatory. We walked with the crunch of pine cones under our feet and stopped at the top to enjoy our flask of coffee and homemade cake. As we walked down into the dusky mist, it felt as if the vale between the worlds could lift at anytime, and we would see the monks walking the countryside deep in meditation. It was one of those special walks you get from time to time with goose bumps pricking at your neck. However, I have to say that as we walked back to the car passed the ruined abbey, we were glad to lock the doors and drive off!!! We rewarded ourselves with a piping hot, candlelit bath filled with radox bath salts. We ordered a takeout pizza and opened a bottle of wine and relaxed with a raging log fire and Strictly!
On Sunday we tried Scandinavian pancakes with blueberries, maple syrup and Greek Yoghurt. Jules decided he would crack on and make the pancakes whilst Patch and I went for our morning jog. I don’t know what he did, but even Tinker wouldn’t eat them. We both gave each other an advent present and went out for a walk with Ruthy. There is nothing like a romantic Christmas novel to get you in the Christmassy mood, (and the next day I had breakfast in bed as I finished it off - yes they got engaged under the mistletoe in Alaska). In the afternoon we enjoyed a liqueur coffee and Christmas Chronicles on the TV and rounded off our day with a Scandinavian Smorrebrod. My mom had bought us a piece of beef, and we enjoyed rare beef sandwiches, smoked salmon and dill, prawn and egg with gherkins, crisps and a big salad. It was a good job I had bought a very nice loaf, as my homemade rye bread went the same way as the pancakes... inedible. The sourdough starter had been prepared a few days in advance, and the yeast was working well and keeping warm in the cupboard, but it all went horribly wrong. The bread has been sitting on the bird table for several days now, and not even the pigeon has taken a bite!!! I am frightened if it falls off the table with Patch underneath, it could knock him out!
The rest of the week has flown by. I am so lucky to have friends and family who know me so well. I have an Advent Calendar with a different organic tea to open each day, and a beautiful advent card. Why is it that even as an adult, there is something so special about seeing what is behind the door each day? I have bought myself a book which explains Christmas traditions, and did not realise that most of what we do originated in Germany. In the 19th century German Protestant Christians counted down the days to Christmas by marking 24 chalk lines on a door, and rubbing them off each day. Among Lutheran families it was common for them to hang little pictures on the wall, one for each day of December. The German Weihnachtsmuseum relates how the first Advent calendars were given out on 6th December, Saint Nicholas Day, and not on the 1st, as they are today. This is why most traditional advent calendars have a picture of St Nicholas on the 24th and not the baby Jesus. As a child, the last day of opening the advent calendar was always ruined by mom having a hissy fit that it should have been a stable scene and not Father Christmas!!! I have made more Christmas biscuits, stollen and we have put marzipan on the Christmas cakes. The builders start knocking the back of the kitchen down next week, so I have had to get things done early. The decorations are out of the attic, but we have resisted buying the tree until this weekend.
The best advent gift of all was waking up on December Ist and finding out that Kevin Escoffier, a participant in the Vendee Globe Yacht race (single handed round the world), had been rescued from his life raft by a fellow competitor in 35 knot winds and huge waves. As we went to bed the night before, Jean Le Cam (rescuer) had lost sight of the raft which was 800 miles south of Cape Town and everyone was fearing the worst. Kevin was in the liferaft for nearly 12 hours before he was rescued. Jean came alongside the liferaft in his yacht. Kevin thought he would have to sail away and come back in order to take down sails and to slow the boat down. He shouted, ‘you will come back?’ and Jean said, ‘no we are doing this now’ and threw him the life ring. As we watched them retell the story over satellite phone we were sobbing. Kevin was so upset that he had caused Jean to lose his position in the race. Jean just shrugged his shoulders and said, “it is all zen, just zen”.
Moments of Pleasure
25 November 2020
Life needs moments of pleasure... the more the better. Ashley Montagu said. “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us”. In the last week I have had some worries about my health. My GP was wonderful and she arranged for me to go to the surgery when no one else was there. She came out to the car dressed in full scrubs and took me inside, checked me over and took bloods and mouth swabs. It took two agonising days to get my results but my full blood count was all in range and all the extra checks such as Vitamin D, B12 and iron came back perfect. It looks like I have burnt mouth syndrome, which is painful, but I can live with that. My oncologist was happy with the blood results and has said (with Covid in mind) that I can put off the big tests until the Spring. Jules and I never need any encouragement to postpone those tests, as we always consider them to be an opportunity for bad news!
It has reminded us that life is so fragile and incredibly special. Every moment has taken on that shiny feeling, where you realise just how lucky you are to be alive and well. After I got my blood results back and Prem had said she thought they were fine, we went for a walk along Sandsend beach near Whitby. The tide was just on the turn on a very blustery day, but it felt magical to be walking along the beach. There was a white rainbow over the sea. I have always seen rainbows as a symbol of hope, and as we sat on the damp sand drinking from our flask and eating home made honey biscuits it turned into a full rainbow right in front of us. On the way home we were rewarded by the most amazing sunset which set the whole sky ablaze with colour.... and of course it would not have been a perfect day without a portion of fish and chips to share up on the moors on the ride home.
We have missed the warmer weather for socialising in our gardens with neighbours, so I have been out walking with Kate. Just being outside with the sun on your face, the dogs trotting beside you and catching up with other people and their news is a very ordinary but special thing to do. This is especially true with Kate, who has great stories to tell of her ‘Wonder Woman’ days! I walked with my sister again on Sunday...it is turning into a new tradition. We took a flask and biscuits and all was going well until we came through a farmyard. The pathway was covered in very wet and slippy cow dung. Tinker, refused to put one foot in it and we had to drag her through, whilst Patch was as happy as a hippo, resting his little tummy in the steaming piles!! Needless to say, we both got covered in it too, and it was home for a good bath for us all!!
We have continued to enjoy a few frosty days, which has led us to fill up the hot tub. We have a great time, with steaming hot water and starry skies, the smell of the wood- burning fire that heats the water and the much needed gin and tonic to cool down the body temperature. I never thought I could become addicted to a hot tub but I am now really hoping for a snowy dip before the year is out!
Jules has continued with jobs in the garden, and is putting the door on the new log shed he has made today. I have enjoyed days in the kitchen, cooking up biscuits, cakes and pheasant pies. No wonder I need to jog!
“The whole world is a series of miracles - but we are so used to them we call them ordinary things”. Hans Christian Anderson.
A week of Hygge
17 November 2020
My brother has put up his Christmas tree, and by the looks of Facebook, so has half of the nation. The local farm is already selling Christmas trees and when we walk the dogs in the evening there are a lot of Christmas lights shining. I am glad that people are doing it, as it brings a big smile to my face. I love Christmas. In our second lockdown everyone is looking for those little Hygge moments. That happy, warm feeling of coziness, comfort, contentment, and appreciation of the little things.
The Danes are one of the happiest nations on earth, and they put a lot of it down to Hygge. Hygge illuminates the long, dark Scandinavian winters with candlelight and crackling fires and good times shared with friends. Hygge is a state of being and of finding joy in the simple pleasures. It is not something you can buy, but is about crafting, baking, experiencing natural wonders and lingering over everyday rituals and making the most of time with loved ones. It is warm drinks, comfortable clothes, beautifully lit rooms, blankets, conversations, walks through the forest as autumn leaves fall, the warmth of the fire.
So this week we have tried to create our own little bit of Hygge, which has also reduced the amount of time spent on social media! We love our wood stoves and try to settle down around 7pm for a night of reading, sewing or watching a movie. We sit and relax with flickering candles and a crackling fire. I snuggle under a cosy quilt and it isn’t long before Tinker and Patch join me. Kate fetched me a bottle of sloe gin which has added to the relaxed atmosphere. We have had evenings laughing over celebrity google box ( something I never thought I would watch), singing along to old Bruce Springstein concerts and have loved Anton as our new strictly judge. We have had some lovely afternoons with the wind howling outside and rain battering the windows and snuggled down with an afternoon movie. Nothing can give you a better feel good factor than Mrs Miracle who is a Christmas angel bringing fairytale endings to Christmas stories.
The Danish believe that being out in nature is healing for the mind and body and creates a relaxing and welcoming environment. We were lucky to get a long walk in the first autumnal frost. Patch was fascinated by the crisp leaves and spent the entire walk running through them and catching them in his mouth. We met a lady in tweeds collecting in the pheasants that had been shot that morning, and watched in fascination as the beaters arrived with pheasants tied round their waists. Tinker was keen to make acquaintance with a very loud goose and we got some fresh eggs for tea. The autumnal colours have been beautiful and we have loved walking round our village and into Helmsley to walk down by the river. We had a very long coastal walk which gave Patch plenty of social interaction with other dogs, which wore him out! He jumped on my lap once back at van and fell asleep cuddled into my coat and didn’t even wake with the smell of warm Cornish pasty! On a Sunday I have met up with my sister and we have taken a long walks together, sinking in the mud and watching Patch chase rabbits. Tinker adores Ruthy, and walks like a princess to heel for her the way. Tinker certainly has a hygge moment when Ruthy comes for a walk!
Comfort food, especially in the darker months of the year is quintessentially Hygge. I have loved cooking rich pheasant casseroles in cider and partridge in red wine. I am a morning person, so I like getting up when the house is asleep and slip out for a quick jog or do my morning Pilates. Last Monday, Patch and I went for a jog through the woods before we returned and rolled out the dough for Swedish honey biscuits. I listened to the music from the Nutcracker, whilst Patch sat watching me and Tinker and Jules snoozed in bed. The smell of cloves, ginger and all-spice were too much and Jules joined me in the kitchen. We have a nice shiny tiled floor and did the dance of the sugar plum fairy together. On Saturday I got up early to deliver biscuits and my homemade chocolate bombs to my mom and Farmer Frank. It was lovely to see her, even if it was only for a ten minute chat on the drive. They enjoyed the chocolate bombs later in the afternoon, which explode open when hot milk is poured on them, and marshmallows float to the top of the mug. They even sent me a little video.
We had a definite ‘non hygge’ moment when Farmer Frank killed a hare and after hanging him in the out buildings asked if we wanted it. I knew it was a mistake going with Jules to collect him. When I saw his chestnut brown fur coat with white chest I knew there was no way I could eat him, let alone have Jules skin him in the kitchen. No one else wanted Hartley the Hare, so we went for a ride around in the van as darkness fell and buried him in the woods. I am now too frightened to drive out that way, in fear of finding the police excavating the whole area!
At the heart of hygge is the home, and crafts are a huge part of feeling happy and content. Jules and I have enjoyed doing some projects together. We have reupholstered a wing back chair in a stylish silver grey material. The cheapest quote to get this done was £650 and we did it for £30. We decided that if we made a mess of it, we had lost nothing. We are extremely proud of our achievement, although I can’t claim it was all Hygge when 6 layers of material nearly broke my little sewing machine! Jules has moved his shed this week and I have spent a lot of time in the sewing room, enjoying the delights of projects sent to me in the post. I have made Christmas angels, snowman cushions and advent mats with little sheep on them. I have painted old tins for our Christmas Hyacinths and Jules has made a window box to put them in. I have had weekly zoom chats with my friends Liz and Jill and it has been great to see the knitted garments they have been making. It inspired me to get the knitting needles out, but Jules has banned me, reminding me that when I struggle to cast on, drop a stitch in the first row or gain several by row seven and throw the knitting in the bin... it most definitely isn’t Hygge!!
“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary”. Brene Browne
A Quiet Halloween
08 November 2020
Halloween was very quiet. Although sweets were placed at the end of front gardens and pumpkins were lit, parents kept their children at home, choosing to have family parties in their gardens instead. We wandered out to walk the dogs and to admire the pumpkins. The carvings were superb. We even had a carving of a naked man, cleverly using the large, erect stalk as his willy. Jules said that he was made to feel inadequate by a pumpkin !!
On Sunday we went for a walk along the river in Malton, and loved the autumnal colours and crispy leaves underfoot. The sun shone and we managed to get a pot of tea in the grounds of the Old Lodge Hotel. On the way back we took a peek inside the ancient church. It might have been All Saint’s Day, but I swear a few souls had forgotten that they were supposed to have departed and were still wandering the grounds. The church had a very eerie feel as I walked in with the vestry door slamming and the old oak front door opening and shutting, blowing leaves and a blast of cold air into the church. The hairs on the back of my neck began to prickle and with heart pounding I admit legging it out of the church to Jules and the dogs who were waiting patiently in the graveyard. I sent Jules in and he came out declaring it to be ‘a lovely building with great ambience’. Whoever it was, they were clearly after me! The church was so old that it had a coffin niche in the grounds, where they used to store a single coffin which was used by every body that arrived in a linen cloth at the church. The coffin never got buried and was then stored in the niche until it was needed again.
Celts believed that on Samhain, the walls between our world and the spirit world became thin enough to allow ghosts and spirits to pass through and damage their crops. To mark the event, people would build great bonfires to burn crops and to give animal sacrifices to the gods. Huge festivals would be held and people would try to tell each other’s fortunes. All Hallow’s Eve began In the eighth century as a Christian version of Samhain. Christians would honour saints and pray for souls that had not yet reached heaven but which wandered the earth. It is odd that it is this weekend that we received Scrappy’s dog tag. It arrived from Oliver, our detectorist friend, in a beautiful envelope with a wax seal on the back. Even our postman waited to see what was inside as it looked like something from a past era. Inside was a beautiful letter, Scrappy’s tag and an old penny from 1799 which was found in the same spot. Oliver sent it to me in the hope I would keep it as a lucky penny. I don’t know what Scrappy wanted to tell us, probably that Patch gets away with far more than he ever did. His tag is now round Patch’s neck as it doesn’t have a name, just a phone number. Patch does not always have the best recall, so perhaps Scrappy wants him kept safe! As for the penny, I wonder who dropped it on those woods and if they missed it, and whose hands had it passed through in the 160 years it was in use.
Samhain is also the third and final festival of nuts, fruits and berries. All the harvest is in and the new seeds lie dormant until the spring. It is interesting that it now marks the time when many of us make our Christmas cakes, ready to feed them over the coming weeks with brandy. Our house has smelled so Christmassy with two cakes rich with dried fruit, cherries, nuts and spices in the oven. For the first time I sliced up lemons and oranges (I had used the zest in the cakes) and dried them in the bottom of the oven as the cake cooked. I now have my own Pot Pourri which is making the house smell beautiful. On our Sunday morning walk I found some conkers still in half of their shells. I dried them out and lightly lacquered them, and they look very pretty sitting in the little dish with the fruit. In the days of Samhain, people used to believe conkers would prevent rheumatism and bad backs! Now the extract is used in hemarroid cream. Let's hope it is a while before I need that! Earlier in the week I had hoped to find some elderberries, as they sometimes last well into October, but was disappointed that they had long been picked. Last night there was a knock at the door and our neighbour Carol, who had seen us foraging in the woods, came round with a bottle of elderberry and lemon liquor. I had hoped to make some elderberry juice, but this is even better. It has that warm feeling as it sides smoothly down the throat and is clearly extremely medicinal!
I also have made more apple chutney, this time adding several green chillis to give it a real bite, I just hope I have chosen the right neighbours to give it to! Apples are important at Harvest festival, Samhain and at Halloween. Traditionally apple bobbing was for girls only. Once placed in water, a young girl would try to retrieve the apple. If it took her one go, her sweet heart was destined to be with her, two goes and her beloved would pursue her, but the relationship would fizzle out. Three goes... don’t even think about it!!!
Samhain is a magical time and Celts saw this as the end of the old year. It is a time for hibernating and resting. Jules and I are blessed with such wonderful friends. A parcel arrived from my friend Karen, with material from my favourite sewing shop “White Cottage’. It is a panel of snowmen which I shall enjoy turning into a quilt in the next few weeks as the nights grow darker and we spent more time inside the house. I also had a pattern from Jo and a parcel from Birmingham. Tonight with the wind howling outside and the rain pattering down, the fire is on and we are snuggled down with a good book and some hand sewing. There was a tap at the door and 2 pheasants and 2 partridge had been delivered on the doorstep. They are now plucked and drawn and in the freezer. They will be turned into a rich, slow cooked casserole with buttered mashed potatoes and plenty of green vegetables or perhaps a game pie for Christmas.
Samhain also teaches us that light is always born out of Darkness, they are inseparable and necessary. Let’s hope that we can all snuggle down and hibernate in the following month to emerge into the light and joy of advent and Christmas.
Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
29 October 2020
I am currently reading a novel by Kate Mosse about the Huguenot (Protestants) and Catholics in France in 1562. In the book a Protestant priest condemns the Catholic Church for keeping blackened fingernails and shards of old bones belonging to supposed saints or martyrs. The catholic priest replied that ‘If you take away the mystery and reduce everything to the commonplace, you take away beauty in the lives of people’. It made me smile, as my mom is a committed Methodist, who adores the plain functional chapels with their little communion glasses full of ribena. I on the other hand prefer the ritual of high church; the swinging of the incense, the shining silver chalices and the swish of the priest’s colourful robes.
If we look at Covid, I think that one reason that the virus is spreading is because people are sick of the everyday boredom of life. They long for the beauty and excitement of foreign holidays, meals with family and friends and celebrations and parties as well as family rituals like Christmas. We have come back from a beautiful break and we were fine during quarantine, but now that we are back to a relaxed type of shielding, life was becoming commonplace: cooking, cleaning, eating and watching utter rubbish on the TV. We have become like two grumpy old people. If it is not Brexit we are moaning about, it is Covid! So this week has been an active week, trying to do something to counter the boredom and frustration of it all.
We have tried to make everyday different in order to see beauty and mystery in the little things. We have had long walks with the dogs, where we have come back caked in mud and wondered whether it should be us or the dogs who have the first bath! We have had tea and scones in our local tearoom gardens, where we have loved watching the birds feeding - little wrens and coal tits, along with the jolly fat robins! When it has rained we have squeezed under their umbrella and ordered a second pot of tea to keep warm. Pheasants have been put down in the woods by us, and we have cried with laughter watching Patch run from one to another, getting totally frustrated as they take to the air. I have bought a Scandinavian craft book and have enjoyed baking biscuits for us and terracotta bells full of lard and seeds for the birds. Jules has had a go at zinc plating on the second hand baby Blake toilet we have got for the boat. We have had rainy afternoons curled up on the settee with a roaring fire and good books. I have enjoyed long candle lit baths and breakfast in bed when I haven’t been able to put my book down.
However, we are all social creatures and it is people that provide the real beauty in our lives, and it is so hard for us all not being able to see family and friends. My brother is facing the thoughts of a Christmas where he cannot see his grandchildren. So this blog is going to focus on people who have really given us a ‘feel good factor’ in the last week and made the ordinary somehow extraordinary.
On Sunday morning I, like many people in the UK, was reduced to a sobbing mess as I heard a piece of music composed by Paul Harvey, a former music teacher with dementia. He improvised the composition after his son gave him four random notes to play. Despite his memory loss and deteriorating condition, he still loves music, and bought so much joy to so many people with that one creation.
The previous day we had a telephone conversation from Oliver, a man who said he was a detectorist. Our favourite TV drama is ‘the detectorists’ and this gentleman said he had found a dog tag with our phone number on it in a little village near Andover. We had been there 4 years ago, when we had to return to the UK after I could barely see out of my right eye due to the Leukaemia cells hiding behind it. We had left the boat in Spain and driven 1600 miles in two days, sleeping in the car. We were exhausted and found a little village with a dog friendly hotel and stayed the night. There were two double beds in the room with sparkling white sheets. After a walk in the woods, I went to fetch the dog towel whilst Jules held the dogs. Scrappy managed to escape and bounced between the two beds getting his dirty little paw prints everywhere. He was in the dog house, but as always not for long! It is his tag that the man had found, bringing back happy memories of Scrappy and his naughty antics. Oliver and I have been texting and I found out that he ‘detects’ when on leave from the army, and has popped the tag in the post for us. Now I need to work out if he is young, free and single and match him up with my sister!
In our first home together we had terrible neighbours. Burt, was a racist old man who objected to the Muslim families in the street. He used to chase the children down the road with his stick calling them ‘dirty darkies’. We learnt years later that he died all alone, and it was those lovely Muslim families that broke down his door when they realised the milk was piling up. Since then we have had great neighbours, and speak to our old neighbour ‘pork scratching Mark’ most weeks. In our new home we have been humbled by Kate bringing flowers, always ringing when she is popping to the shops or post office and delivering little goodies like chocolate brownies! Paul bought Jules some real ale after borrowing some tools and Stan next door delivered fresh smoked kippers from his holiday. Just when we thought nothing else could happen, Mick next door came round with his lawn mower and did the lawn for us! That was truly above and beyond!
On Saturday afternoon we went to Scarborough North beach (away from all the tourists) and watched our neighbour Annabel learning to surf. She was amazing and managed to stand up on the board a few times and even waved while “taking a wave’ as they say. What amazed us was that all the adults helping these children were volunteers from around the country. They travel every Saturday to stand in the icy brown North Sea to help youngsters have fun in the water. Their faces looked purple, but they stood for over an hour helping the children back on their boards time after time. Many had bare and very blue feet afterwards.
I have had a week full of long conversations with friends. Jo had to explain the rudimentary points of golf to me whilst Sare and I had a good giggle about how everyday phrases can now be offensive to people. We both had to admit to getting a bit old in the tooth for all things PC. It is a good job I am no longer teaching, as apparently we should not use the phrase ‘Chinese whispers’, let alone play it, as I did in the classroom!! Dee and I talked health and food as we always do, but it is not long before we got onto talking about what we missed most due to Covid -bacon sandwiches and cups full of caffeine filled coffee.
I am so lucky to enjoy sewing, which keeps me occupied, especially when there is nothing on the TV. I have joined lots of quilters groups on Facebook and have been blessed with lots of free patterns. It is superb to see what everyone has made and even better to see how the groups encourage people starting quilting and offer support, help and advice. A few months ago a lady in Australia was one small square short of the material she was using, and thought the quilt would have to be binned after hunting high and low for the discontinued material. Today she posted that a total stranger had read the comment, asked for her address and sent her a metre of the material, beautifully wrapped in tissue paper from the other side of the world. Closer to home, I had a pink parcel wrapped up in ribbon from my friend Sue, full of patterns and material. It felt like Christmas had come to our house!
People have been so generous with all their windfallen apples, and the other day an elderly lady saw me take a few for a crumble and pressed a giant cardboard box-full onto me, telling me she was too old to now do anything with them. As a way of saying thank you I wanted to make some chutney for her. I didn’t have any jars in the house, so sent out an SOS to our street wattsapp group and pretty little jars arrived for days. I was lucky that there were plenty of apples, so I could make enough chutney for everyone.
Although I haven’t seen too much of my mom and sister due to shielding, we managed to meet up in the tea garden for an hour, but the weather hasn’t been brilliant for sitting outside. However, we have tried to think about other ways to know we are thinking of each other. Mom managed to find some black treacle in Marks and Spencer’s ( all shops have sold out round here) for my Delia Christmas cake, and after being envious of her liver and onions for tea, liver magically appeared on the doorstep. We surprised my sister by leaving a plant on her doorstep and In exchange she has given me her old Fitbit!!!
Covid restrictions are tough on everyone at the moment, especially those having to isolate during half term, or those unable to see family. I know people are getting very fretful over Christmas, but whatever happens, as this week has proven, little things make such a difference and turn an ordinary day into something quite special.
PS Today has been a rainy day, so we have sat in front of the fire reading and writing the blog. Just as I was about to click the ‘send’ button on the blog, there was a knock at the door. A beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived from friends Angela and Martyn. I taught their two lovely daughters and on the day their youngest left school, Angela asked if we could become friends. It has been a beautiful friendship ever since.
Out of Quarantine
18 October 2020
We filled in our forms online, and went to a great deal of effort to get them printed at the marina office in Holland ready to hand them in at the tunnel port, but no one was interested in seeing them! The rules made us laugh - ‘once in the UK you must not use public transport’ (unless you have no other way to get home). ‘You must not go shopping’ (unless you have no other way to get food, and then of course you can use public transport if that is the only way to get to the shops). The list of people exempt from having to quarantine seemed to included most of the people at the tunnel port! We were tempted to offer to work for Farmer Frank for a few days, as anyone workIng on a farm does not have to quarantine. The day we arrived back he had a very sick cow which he cured by pouring two litres of caster oil down to throat. I made it perfectly clear to Jules that he would be on mucking out duties and I would make the tea! As it was, we didn’t have to prevail on Farmer Frank as a very clear headed official agreed that we could walk the dogs twice a day upon our return, as long as it was from home and in the countryside away from people.
We received a very warm welcome back in Yorkshire. My mom and sister had put a loin of pork, apple sauce and braised red cabbage in the freezer and an homemade belated birthday cake was on the side for Jules. Annabel, our young neighbour, had sewn a ‘welcome home’ banner and tied it across the door. Her mom,Kate, arrived with lillies, chocolate brownies and reading books and insisted on cooking for us for our first two evenings until our Asda delivery arrived. It was pure luxury. She arrived with a tray at 7pm with two roasting hot meals and came back half an hour later to collect the plates and to deliver pudding. We both could have got used to it! We could not believe how wonderful the garden looked and discovered that Mick, our other neighbour, had been looking after it for us while we were away. During quarantine Annabel has been walking Patch for us after school each day. He has quickly got used to his new routine, and sits on the top of the stairs looking out through the small glass window in the front door. When he sees the gate open, he races down the stairs and greets her in his usual excited manner and trots off without a second glance back.
We have spent our days reading and sewing in front of the roaring log fire, catching up on jobs, and enjoying long walks with the dogs through the countryside. We have caught up with the new version of “All creatures Great and Small”. I loved it the first time round as a young child on a Sunday night, and I think a whole generation of young girls were only too eager to see Christopher Timothy with his shirt off and his arm up a cow’s bottom! Lots of houses in our village have put boxes of windfall apples outside and I have enjoyed making apple pies, crumbles and jars of Christmas apple and cranberry chutney.
Today quarantine ended, and we headed out to the coast. Little will change for us, as I am still shielding, but we can now enjoy walking in different places. It was wonderful to drive out after 14 days at home and to walk along the beach for a few hours. What was even better was fish and chips upon the moors. If we have to do this for the next few months, I think we will stay safe and still have a very good time.