Archive for the ‘House’ Category

Emma chose ‘Space’ as this week’s word. I love words with a lot of potential interpretations. I’ve been thinking about this word since Emma picked it and there are so many ideas that come to mind. I confess, I am sitting down to write this post with no idea of where I’m going to go – I’m hoping that the pressure of a deadline will work its magic and I’ll have a coherent post by the end. This is fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants blogging, people!

I suppose one of the first ideas that I had was the ‘outer space’ connection. There was the brave chap who jumped from the ‘edge of space’ recently. ‘Outer space’ is a rich source of stories – usually stories about its inhabitants. I wonder if we people the ‘space’ of our imagination with all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures because we genuinely accept the rational view that logically, we can’t be the only living things in an infinite universe, or because the idea of being alone in infinite space is somehow scarier? I find reading about the vastness of space actually hurts my mind. I’ve posted this video before, because it’s amazing – if you haven’t seen it before, do watch it. It’s a marvellous testament to human curiosity as well as being pretty fascinating.

And then of course, at the opposite extreme, there’s the idea of having our ‘own space’, carving out a small part of the world that’s ours. Our ‘room of one’s own with a lock on the door’ that V Woolf argued was essential for creativity. This, as I mentioned in my last post, is a bit of a preoccupation Chez S&S at the moment. We’re trying to create spaces in our home that work for us as a family, and we’re having a bit of a rearrange so the youngest member of the family can have her own space. And my office will be moving to the attic, which is going to be a bit novel – I’m a bit apprehensive about making a creative space up there. It’s exhausting and expensive, but also exciting – it’ll be good to have this place as we need it to be. We live here and work here so it’s very important that our little corner is a happy and comfortable place to be.

And part of that process has involved the creating of spaces – of emptiness – where once there were none. Things have been moved, rearranged, given away and thrown out to create empty spaces in which we can realise our ideas. It’s wonderfully cathartic, and the empty spaces are quite exciting. The overgrown flowerbeds we’ve emptied now seem to overflow with potential. The once crowded storeroom is now empty and is going to be a lovely space for laundry, which means the rest of the house won’t have racks and baskets of washing all over it. This process is making me realise even more strongly that I’d like to simplify. I’d like to have less stuff and more space. More room to breathe, to create. Space can mean emptiness, but a space is a possibility, a potential. In a space, anything can happen. And that’s pretty cool.

Go and see Emma to see what other people have done with their spaces!

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What a brilliant prompt Aimee chose for this week! This blog is all about accentuating the positive, and so this has come at precisely the right time for me, because where I live is currently somewhat chaotic. We’re doing a spot of reorganisation. We’ve cleared out an upstairs storeroom to make a laundry room. This has necessitated the banging and scraping involved in new plumbing and the heaving about of the washing machine. I’ve just been told that because of a ‘vibration mounting’ (oo-er missus!) I can’t do any laundry for two days. I am, as you can imagine, heartbroken. We’ve also discovered that the chimney is leaking smoke and carbon monoxide into our bedroom so we’ve got to get it lined before we can light the woodburner. I’m also rearranging the playroom to make a proper family room, clearing a lot of stuff that was lingering in corners of the hall, and then I need to sort my office so I can move it up to the attic, thereby making space for Littlest S&S to have her own room (eventually). Then we’ll be finishing the new bathroom and putting in a new kitchen – our current one doesn’t suit the way we cook and the amount of stuff we have (my baking stuff alone could fill half the available storage) so that will be all change.

Yes, it’s exciting, but the process of planning changes on this scale means that you, of necessity, focus on what doesn’t work, what drives you mad, what needs changing. So, thank you, Aimee, for a timely reminder to do a spot of Blessing Counting.

For those who are not regular readers, I live in an old farmhouse in the middle of Wales. Nobody really knows how old the house is. We know the kitchen is the newest part and was built in the very early 19th century. (It’s the only room to have a damp-proof course). The oldest bit was probably a Welsh long barn and could be very old indeed. There have been people farming here since at least the twelfth century, and probably longer. The sense of history is one of the things I love – the feeling that other women have lived their lives here, brought up their children, done their laundry and swept their floors and tended their gardens and hens. And probably sat by the fire with their knitting or sewing at the end of the day. They are probably looking at me with my washing machine and dishwasher and muttering that I don’t know I’m born. I love sitting in bed, looking at the beams in the ceiling, beams that have been there for hundreds of years, but still have notches in them from where they were used before. How many people have sat under these beams, slept there, dreamed there? Yes, the house is cold, and old houses take seemingly endless maintenance and special paint and so on, but it’s worth it.

I love the river. It runs by the house – when the river’s full we can hear it from the kitchen – and one of our ways out is over a footbridge. I love the various moods of the river and how it changes over the seasons. When the river’s low, there are pebbly ‘beaches’ where we can sit, and the children paddle in the shallows of the clear, sparkling river and spot fish. When there’s been heavy rain, and the river’s full, it roars along at top speed, sometimes bearing branches – or whole trees – as it goes. The beaches are long gone, as are the river banks, under feet of swirling brown-grey water. Then the water subsides and the banks are covered with flattened grasses. And then in winter, the edges freeze and the banks are stippled with white.

I love the remoteness. I love the peace and quiet. We do have the rumble of the odd lorry on the road in the distance, and we also have the RAF practising low flying from time to time – a Tornado going over at less than 200ft is not restful – but generally it’s very peaceful here. Some visitors from the city complain that they can’t sleep as it’s ‘too quiet’. I love being surrounded by nature and the way it’s brought me an appreciation of the passing of the seasons. And I love the proper dark. There’s no light pollution so on a clear night the stars can be breathtaking.

I love the view from my back door. Winter or summer, rain or shine, I absolutely count the blessing of this view every day of my life.

I love the community of living in a rural area. I love knowing my postmen by name. I love seeing lots of people I know when I go into town. I love knowing that if I need a lift, a half hour’s babysitting or a parcel collecting, there are a dozen people I can ask. Yes, there’s gossip and the occasional generations-old family feud that can trap the unwary newcomer, but generally, I love the ‘everyone knows everyone’ thing.

I love the space. There’s room for the children to run around, for friends to come and camp, for parties and bonfires. We have decent sized rooms and big cupboards and store rooms that can be made into laundries. Yes, this sense of space often manifests itself, day to day, as frustration – a garden so big I’ll never get it under control, and a big house that takes an age to clean and has infinite corners to accumulate clutter and dust and cobwebs. (Argh, the cobwebs in old houses! That’s one thing I do not love.) But we will chip, chip, chip away and get things closer to how we want them, and in the meantime, we have space to run about and space to keep all our stuff in while we sort out which we actually need to hang onto. And the space brings possibilities. There are so many things we can do – obviously, doing them is another matter. But the possibility is a wonderful thing. And I’ve got the rest of my life to explore it.

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Ray of sunshine

I do love sunflowers – they’re so happy! And they also give me an excuse to use the lovely tall jug we were given as a wedding present; long-stemmed roses not featuring prominently in my life, ahem ahem.

They’re especially nice when there isn’t much actual sun – which is the case a lot at the moment. But when sunflowers meet autumn sunshine, something lovely happens. Something so lovely that I’m sharing this picture, even though I didn’t artfully remove the tons of clutter from the background before taking it.

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Yellow tulips

I love tulips. I love the big blowsy parrot tulips, and the frilly peony tulips. I love the unusual colours. Tulips are never half hearted – if they’re going to be a colour, they do so with verve and energy and I love them for that. But at the same time, they can be so simple – a vase of white tulips has such purity of colour and form.

I saw these wonderful yellow tulips and treated myself – this was about half the bunch. Then a friend came for lunch on Easter Sunday and brought me another big bunch – she obviously knows my tastes! So for the last week I have had these wonderful bursts of yellow all over my house and they’re making me smile. On sunny days they catch the sun and seem to glow from within – and when it’s cloudy and dull they add a splash of sunshine.

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Fantastic flowers

One of the nice things about having a new baby is that people bring you flowers, especially with your third as they assume (correctly) that you’re all set for babygros and small teddy bears. They were all so lovely that I took pictures.

So, I had these stunning parrot tulips:

And some daffodils, which always make me feel like spring is in the air, even on dull days:

And these gorgeous roses – they are still going strong and looking marvellous:

I also have a beautiful planted basket, full of spring flowers, which I haven’t got round to photographing yet – I feel very lucky!

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Christmas tree

I have lots of decorations – I like to ring the changes with my colour scheme. This year I was going to go for red and white, and bought a few extra white decorations. I also had the bright idea of using ribbon to make some bows. I planned to get the tree done at the weekend, but what with everything, it was yesterday before I managed it.

When I do a two-colour tree, I do one colour first and then the other; that way I don’t end up with it lopsided and with pools of one colour that I notice later and then have to rearrange. So I got all the white stuff on and thought, ‘Actually, I quite like that as it is.’

So here’s my all-white (apart from a little red and white bird which snuck on courtesy of my daughter) tree.

Did I mention my bows? I bought 15 metres of cheap uber-synthetic satin ribbon; I didn’t want to splash out too much until I knew the idea worked. And my goodness, it’s hard to tie that stuff into proper, even bows. I managed it in the end, by devising a two-ribbon and needle and thread loop-loop-stitch-pinch-tie process.

I am very happy with them.

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I’m finding my customary morning listening – Radio 4’s Today programme – to be a bit too much for me the moment, so in the mornings, I tend to find myself listening to this:

Yes, I’ve cracked open the festive music. Mr S&S has stopped complaining since I told him that he was squashing my attempts to be happy and festive and accused him of being a Grinch. Sometimes guilt has its uses. Anyway, no, this is not, despite what it claims, the Best Christmas Album in the World Ever, but it’s pretty good. It has most of the must-have classics (White Christmas, The Christmas Song, an Ella Fitzgerald number), the obligatory Wizzard and Mud and Slade, and some more unusual choices (Mad World and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love, not to mention a bit of Steeleye Span (Gaudete, one of my favourites). It has Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews doing Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which is a marvellous version. I do prefer Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, but I can live with Kylie’s. There are some fillers – I could live without The Waitresses – and I am fairly sure that the true best album ever would have East 17’s Stay Another Day, which despite being objectively awful, is one of my favourite Christmas songs ever.

But no. The thing that comprehensively ruins this compilations claim to greatness is that while it does contain the marvellous Fairytale of New York, it is not the Pogues version with Kirsty MacColl. No. It is the version with Ronan bloody Keating. Ronan Keating. Yes, him out of the squeaky-clean boyband. And a woman who has a nice voice but who lacks the venom necessary. (‘I could have been someone…’ ‘Well, so could anyone’ , spits Kirsty. Marvellous.)

Whose idea was this travesty? Find them. And … well, what I want to say next may lead to comparisons with Jeremy Clarkson. Let’s just say I skip past that track. In a week or so I’ll be breaking out the Carols from Kings CD, which is my music of choice for baking and decorating and present wrapping. That’s when things get serious.

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