Sunday, 23 December 2012

A six year study of an allotment

If I'm honest, I sort of fell into having an allotment and, had I been able to have some time to think, I would have realised that it was a bit much for me.
But I am the kind of person who likes a challenge.
I am the kind of person who likes to learn.
And I am the kind of person who won't be told.
Today I said goodbye to my allotment, so here is a look back on the highs and lows.

Year One
The week after I signed on the dotted line, I found out I was pregnant. It was August 2007 and the weeds were rampant with no produce to worry about except the odd potato. I wasn't sure if I could dig so I tried to cut the grass back and relied on family members to do the digging as and when they could fit it in. With a little bit of persuasion, my husband and his father built some 'raised' beds using panels recycled from an old shed. People were happy to chat to the men as they worked, whilst I seemed to be the object of much interest and derision.
I planted leeks, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, apple trees and thyme plants.

Year Two

With the arrival of Scarlett came the realisation that the plot was a huge commitment but Dan's parents mucked in, some friends took over a couple of beds and we just about got away with it in time for the Field Open Day.
Our strawberries were delicious and we made jar after jar of jam.
The raised beds started to sink but I simply regarded the edges as boundaries.

Year Three

Waterproof dungarees, a Barbie watering can and some wellies were introduced to the shed when really we should have bought a strimmer. Scarlett was on the move and shaking the apple trees as if they had coconuts attached became commonplace.
I misjudged the frosts this year and lost everything - twice.
This was my first year of growing sweet peas and it was a tremendous success. The problem was I didn't visit often enough to make the most of them so they soon faded.
It was around this time that the length of the grass between the beds started to keep me awake at night. I just couldn't go up as often as everyone else.

Year Four

I was much more organised this year. All my crop rotation plans came together and I planted cucumbers, tomato plants, runner beans, beetroot, potatoes, squash, purple sprouting broccoli, sweetcorn, turnip, onions and leeks.
Only one beetroot grew, I lost all the tomatoes to blight, not a leek came up and all the runner beans and squash were eaten by the slugs and snails I refused to kill.
My helpers became too occupied with other projects, but I felt quite on top of things.

Year Five

This was the year I received 'the howler' from the Field Secretary about the state of my plot. Some might say I should have had it much sooner. I knew it was coming. The grass had grown to waist height so the crops underneath were no longer visible. He wasn't aware that I had arranged for the plot to be strimmed in time for the Open Day.
As my plot was at the top of the field, I knew that he was right to be cross, but I took a deep breath and tackled him back anyway (he had said that my life was out of control, after all). We compromised and I agreed to give up half my plot. The man who took over, literally took over - leaving me with no grass, no weeds and the most perfect plot I had ever seen (see above).
Incidentally, the Field Secretary and I became good friends.

Year Six

A tough year for me personally and I think it is fair to say that the allotment has helped to keep me sane. There is nothing like a morning digging to feel less frustrated or angry.
Nothing grew too well, although we had a glut of strawberries - as you can see.

As our home life adapted to the rigours of running a pub, so the time that we have as a three has become squeezed into mornings. With the onset of school this time has become shortened further so trips to the allotment at the weekend were very obviously becoming time away from my family.
Numerous jobs to do at the allotment were always on my lists, and I often suffered that niggling feeling that usually turned out to be Allotment Guilt.
When I recently found out I was pregnant for the second time, I realised a few commitments should go once I was on maternity leave - and the allotment was one of these.
Once I lost the baby, I had to deal with many feelings but one of the things I could do was to act on the decisions I had already made.

So today I handed over the keys to the lady who owns the other half of my original plot. She has recently lost her husband so needs to keep busy, she has chickens who will love the grass that used to keep me awake at night and she now has two sheds - one for the chicken feed and one for her tools, many of which I have left as I inherited them.
I wasn't sad as I left, I know I will be back for their Open Day and I will still be in touch with them all through AGMs and the Awards Evening.
I have one less thing to feel guilty about, and that feels good.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Two Week Wait

When we were trying to get pregnant, the 'two week wait' ( or 2WW) was a phrase commonly used to describe the time between ovulation and finding out if you had been successful. For three years and over the course of numerous unsuccessful treatments, I seemed to constantly count from 1 to 14.
Then Scarlett came along, and I stopped counting.
But there is another two week wait in the world of women's bodies and fertility.
If there is no heartbeat at an ultrasound scan then current NHS guidelines suggest you go home to miscarry naturally. You are asked to return in two weeks for another ultrasound which will determine whether you require 'surgical intervention'.
After waiting 4 years for a second pregnancy, and not being prepared for the possibility of a lost baby, waiting two weeks has felt like some kind of torture.
This is why I have pushed for intervention after ten days. We need to save my sanity, enable my husband to move forward and protect our daughter from any further disruption.
Maybe then we can focus on the most wonderful time of the year.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Love the Lakes

We have just returned from a week in Cumbria. A long way to travel but a beautiful place.
It was the first time we had holidayed with the masses so we had to avoid some of the more obvious places.
The air was fresh, the views were spectacular and the weather was wonderfully wild.
Rain, sun, hail, clouds and snow, just in one day.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Finding the balance

Almost a month into our new life and I think I am finding a balance between work and life.
The first two weeks were a blur of logistics, juggling and worrying. Then we hit a period of extreme work and play (our babysitter earned £100 that week) - as if everything had been postponed to those seven days. This last week has seen me having more than one Dynamic Day and a few big tasks being ticked off. I have also run twice and had two yoga lessons.
But I have also had to admit defeat. Tonight I am staying home rather than dancing with my friends as I am feeling weary and a little achey.
Knowing when to listen to your body is all part of finding a balance. And it is OK.
I also have an extremely tired child who has been so emotionally fraught today that I would have consumed large quantities of wine under the heading Much Needed Reward and written off tomorrow......

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

'Twas The Night Before School Started

Like many parents, I am feeling a little all over the place as I sit here.
With each task, we move a step closer. Buying the uniform, leaving nursery, trying on the uniform, sewing in the labels ... and now the big moment is almost upon us.
Tonight I removed her amber necklace, the one she has worn since she was one. I tried to wear it myself but she gently took it off me and packed it away in her jewellery box telling me she will wear it at weekends and for holidays.
I want to be strong in the playground tomorrow, I want to focus on all the positives and I want to watch her walk away, ready to make new friends and learn new things. I know I will be a mess - a gulping wet mess - and I will not be alone.
I will miss her, that is the bottom line. She is my companion and my little friend. Sometimes she drives me nuts and other times I want to burst with the love I have for her and how happy she makes me feel. She makes me smile and she makes me laugh; she is my reason and all the answers.
But we have to let her go - just a little bit - to become her own person and to live her own life.
That is good parenting.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

4 days and counting......

There is something extremely therapeutic and exciting about sewing in name labels. I am assured this will pass and I will be scrawling SL onto labels with a Sharpies pen in no time.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

I want to blog .....

....... but I no longer have an idea of what to write about.
One of my life rules is to try and remember that if people want my advice they will ask for it.
One of my twitter rules is not to tweet unless I have something to say.
But a blog should be regularly updated and offer an opinion, or at the very least a commentary.
This has become something I am very fond of - but not sure of.
I am not a brand, I don't have something to sell, I am not interested in self-promotion.
Love, Life and Knitting was created when my daughter was very small and I was adapting to a relatively empty life. Now she is older, I am working and socialising again and I'm pretty sure that the more fulfilling  interactions I have in my daily life, the less inclination I have to blog........
There are a million and one people blogging - many of them getting no comments - so who are we all talking to and why?
I genuinely have no idea!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Next time I will channel Sali Hughes

My love of twitter is not dissimilar to most users. I love it for its news, views and comments. I enjoy the interaction with people I haven't met and I like getting to know more about people (with the option to stop following if they are not my cup of tea).
There are times when something happens and, because of the nature of twitter, it happens in many small stages which leaves you dying to know what happens next.
I started following Sali Hughes as she is the beauty journalist for the Guardian, but she often chats with Caitlin Moran which makes her worthy of much interest to me. Last week, she was on a train, a delayed train, when a woman refused to move her suitcase for an older woman. A man moved for the older woman but had to sit on the floor.
Sali was tweeting this, and her understandable horror at the situation. Then she tweeted "I'm so angry. I'm going in...."
This is what happened:
[She recorded it in case it got a bit nasty. I love the 'hear hear' from the back of the carriage].
I listened with so much admiration. Whilst I can totally identify with her feelings and I could even hear myself saying what she said, I am just not sure I would have been that brave.
One of my weaknesses is saying what I really think when I feel it. I am often wishing I had said something, or playing things I wish I had said on a loop in my head.
I am braver, of course, after a glass or two of wine but of course then it is possible that I will say something that I will spend much of the next day wishing I had said differently.
I know I am scared of the person yelling abuse at me - although as you can hear in this recording that doesn't happen. I think I am also scared of fumbling my words, even though I am pretty eloquent and happy doing a spot of public speaking. I am also unsure of how to end these conversations when it is impossible to flounce off like a teenager.
There was once a confrontation on a train over people sitting in seats my friends and I had booked. Two of my friends took the culprits to task whilst my other friend and I held back and then shook as we all gave up and walked away with abuse being hurled in our direction.
For a while, I stopped booking seats on trains in case I had to confront someone unpleasant.
I think I am getting better with at dealing with my life and my issues - but telling someone that you find their behaviour, which doesn't directly affect you, is unacceptable?
Now that's brave and - at the moment - Sali Hughes is my hero.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dipping my toe back in

I have had no inclination to knit or crochet, sew or mend since February. Of course I have dabbled but I have had no creative thoughts, no designing daydreams and no enthusiasm. It was as if that part of me had died.
This is quite strange as I have always found making things to be a stress-release. The methodical nature of knitting and crochet has worked well at stopping me over-eating, over-doing and over-analysing. It has filled my time and, occasionally, it has helped me to cope.
I sense the creative part of my brain maybe linked to emotions - is it possible that when you are very sad or very stressed you can no longer imagine?
In conjunction with feeling that writing publicly is now safe has been a niggling feeling that I want to make something - not obsessively, nor to hit any target, but slowly and gently. There is a part of me that will always look back at the Creative Me negatively - the back-to-back nights in comfy clothes, on the sofa with the television on and a ball of yarn and a hook/needles was not always a Happy Me - but now I need to move on.
This morning, I was able to choose whether I visited the allotment, the gym, did some work or went to my knitting group. The weather was so unpredictable that I couldn't face the allotment, I had visited the gym and done over an hour of yoga yesterday and my work is for once at a manageable point so I walked the dogs, kissed Scarlett and Dan goodbye and then headed off to Needham Market.

I discovered Halfpenny Home about a year ago through twitter. I clicked with Nicola immediately, and found her recent support invaluable. The women in the group have all become friends - they will never know how much it meant to me that they cheered on my first visit back.

I have to make a square for a friend's birthday present so I needed to knit - but I needed something new to knit with. I have discovered Adriafil yarn today, Giada Trends to be exact. Complete with tiny sequins (that you probably can't see, but will make my square sparkle like the snow).

So I knitted and chatted, knitted and listened. The great thing about groups of women is that the conversation flows so we had happy stories, terrible events, funny tales and frustrations laid out on the table and put to rest over a large cup of tea, a variety of cakes and the knowledge that no-one is judging.

The cake I chose incidentally was a lemon and lime meringue. It really was as good as it looks and I let everyone know I was prepared to arm-wrestle for a slice.

The only downside to starting the day with cake for breakfast is that your eating is all downhill from there. The upside to starting the day with a visit to my knitting group is that my mind is calmer and I can now see my knitting mojo - still a little way off, but there all the same.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Look back only to learn

Love and Life - as I knew it - came to an abrupt halt on Monday February 27th at 6.30pm.
For a long long time I was just breathing and parenting.
But I am here as our world is getting back on track. Slowly.
It is far too personal and sad to share our story here, nor would it be appropriate for those involved, but as I feel ready to move forward so I feel ready to return to writing publicly.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

It's OK, I'm just a Scanner

Having recently hit my energy rock bottom for the hundredth time, I decided to take a day off from being me.
A day off from running around in ever decreasing circles, a day off from feeling guilty, a day off from the constant checking of social media sites and a day off from the 'shoulda, woulda, coulda' that goes around and around in my head.
So today I have allowed my daughter to watch back-to-back Disney DVDs (she's on her 4th and it is barely afternoon) whilst still in her pyjamas (with her Snow White dress over the top). I have taken a really long shower and I have rubbed in all the lotions and potions that I feel should get used everyday. I have listened (properly) to Radio 4, drunk as many cups of tea and coffee as I can cope with, read some magazine articles and randomly clicked my way around the internet.
I recently read a blogpost on retraining a brain that is fearful of flying (I have one of those). The man who wrote the article followed me on twitter after I retweeted it, so I clicked on his profile and started reading more and more about his ideas.
And that is how I stumbled on my diagnosis.
I am just a Scanner. That is all that is wrong and right with me.
It is perhaps why I seem to burnout quicker than other people who work so much harder than me, it is why I am constantly wrestling with guilt and self-discipline. It is why I am easily distracted, waste huge amounts of time whilst I get ready to start my jobs and - ahem - may be a sign that I am bright, a fast learner and creative [see previous post for alternative view].
According to John Williams, Scanners are creative people with multiple interests and lots of ideas. The downside is a life of boredom, procrastination and unfinished projects. Scanners have also been described as approval addicts. Suzy Greaves used the phrase 'scattered energy' which resonated with me so much, I wrote it down. They often need someone to give them deadlines - which then keeps them committed. They are usually poorly paid (as they are not selling their skills) and working in a job that doesn't suit them as they are not brave enough to take the leap and make some of their ideas happen.

I am so sure this is me. I am unable to explain in a few sentences what I do for a job as I do so many different things for several people. I have a really wide spectrum of hobbies and interests and am constantly juggling so that everything gets equal energy. I strive the perfection of focusing on one thing for a significant period of time - even if that one thing is running my home.

I am not sure what to do now that I have my diagnosis.
I could buy the book and add it to the various Self-Help titles by the bed that I am interested in but haven't even started: The Power of Now, Wheat Belly, Emotional Intelligence and Bodies.
I could print off the free chapter of the book and add it to my reading pile: Psychologies, Country Living, Red and Mollie Makes magazines, Sue Johnston's autobiography and a transcript of a book on microbiology.
I could buy the audio guide and add it to all the other things I hope to listen to each day: Radio 4, music, podcasts and my relaxation CD.

Alternatively I could coast through the rest of today feeling rather pleased that I now understand myself a little bit better, make a cup of tea and read an article in Psychologies magazine that has caught my eye 'Stress less, feel better - why you should let go of your to-do list'.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I am not very creative

I can knit and I can crochet - but I couldn't design anything.
I love colours but have no idea how to put them together.
I can't draw or paint.
I don't have that knack of making things look pretty or as if they are meant to be together.
I love taking photos but I am definitely not a photographer.

However, technology has helped me to appear much more creative than I really am.
Twitter introduced me to Instagram. Instagram is like facebook for photographers, although everyone is much nicer to each other.

Most importantly, I can take a photo like this:

And turn it into this:

And then there is Picframe. I can take these photos:

And create this:

It makes you wonder how creative people really are.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

To resolve, or not

Being a planner, a list writer and an organiser - it is hard for me not to make any resolutions. For the last two days, I have been walking around with my notebooks thinking that at any moment I will sit down and write some. But nothing has happened.

Since changing my way of eating quite dramatically, I have no need for dieting pledges. Having given up half my allotment, I have no need for the Use It or Lose It mantra of last year. My gym closed down in November and as I haven't missed it, I haven't found another (and now I realise that what I eat, not what exercise I do is what affects weight loss, I don't have the same motivation). My work/life balance is not too bad, if anything I am taking on more work in 2012 as I have been able to see some space. I have my weekly yoga class and knitting group that are perfect 'me time'. I see my friends and family as much as I want to, I have good habits surrounding skincare, my relationship is in good nick and our house is as clean and uncluttered as I can manage.

But still I feel as if I should be promising something.

I suppose I'd like to find a way to be less distracted by e mails, twitter, facebook, instagram and television but that's a discipline I'm not sure could last 365 (sorry, 362) days as sometimes really interesting things are happening.
I would love to lose some of my recent reluctance towards driving on motorways. I have found our A Road Adventures liberating, but I need Dan in the car to do the navigation - or I must replace him with a Sat Nav, which seems unfair.
I'd like to train myself to use the spare room as an office rather than balancing the laptop whilst parenting, checking my iPhone and tripping over small dogs.

[I'm not saying resolutions are a waste of time. Three weeks ago, I finished the socks I pledged to make in 2010. Tick!]