Retroladytyping …

Desmond, stoicism and soft tissues

imagesDG4GUYX7  This is me at the moment – feeling very sorry for myself when that annoying tickle in the throat and headache chose the first day of our week in the Lake District to develop into a full-blown (pun intended), eyes-watering, throat-sanding, steam inhaling, Vick rubbing, Lemsip drinking cold.  Talk about timing … made much worse by enduring an 8 hour delay on the M6.  I tried to be brave, tried to think about the people in other cars with crying, hot, irritating children, and those at the side of the motorway standing forlornly by their bonnet-up cars, but it was difficult, very difficult.  My well of inner kindness was flooded with the effects of what feels like the worse cold ever, as well as the problem of what to do with a pile of soggy tissues.  Added to that, a glance in the mirror showed I looked like a cross between Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally – red-patches among the whiteness of my face and hair blown every which way into sweaty clumps.    I was not nice to look at, but not as awful as I felt.   I was in a pitiful state, and feeling very sorry for myself when we arrived, eventually.

Then two things happened, the first maybe less significant, though it meant a lot to me – MrP, having put up with my miserable grumblings, frustration, sneezing etc… for the past day, said “Don’t worry about unpacking.  I’ll do all that.  You lie down.  I’ll go to the Chemist and get some of those soft balsam tissues and whatever else they have to help.”

I do quite like him sometimes, and I certainly didn’t deserve any consideration.  Of course, I didn’t leave the unpacking to him (as if!), but it was so considerate of him to offer.  Just thought, maybe he  wanted to escape … and I don’t blame him.  I am not a patient patient.

The other thing was that I picked up a copy of Cumbria Life, the magazine which the lady who owns ‘our’ cottage saves for me, as she knows I appreciate a good pile of them for the first evening of our visit.  The January 2016 issue gave an account of the floods resulting from Storm Desmond in December 2015.  I was already aware, of course, of that event, but reading local people’s personal stories really brought it home. So much harm was done to more than their belongings.   One months rain fell in one day.  Just trying to understand that is beyond me without the pictures in Cumbria Life of places I knew.  One of our favourite walks was no more – two bridges had been swept away in the torrent; the main road between two of our favourite places, Grasmere and Ambleside, was no more.  Landslips had taken care of that.

More significant though is the effects on people’s everyday lives and their incredible stoicism and determination to get on with their lives.  We’ve seen pictures on the news of the effects of flooding on people’s homes, their precious possessions and their livelihoods.  You’d have thought morale would have been at rock bottom and it probably was, for a while. It was the middle of the winter, that dark,  time before Christmas, when there is so much to be done,  without coping with the ruination caused by Desmond.

There were many stories and pictures in Cumbrian Life showing how people overcame their feelings and carried on regardless to keep life as normal and routine as possible.    A Christmas Fair scheduled to happen just two days after the floods happened went ahead for example.  Not only that but the turnout exceeded previous records – how about that for stoicism in the face of what would have finished lesser people off for weeks, me included.

One picture stood out for me more than the others,  and I hadn’t seen it before – one little girl, aged 5, determinedly walking to her school along a specially made path around the landslip affected road, just two days after the floods.  It would have been very easy for that little girl and her parents to not bother.  It was nearly Christmas; what difference would a couple of weeks make, especially at age 5.  She, and they,  were clearly determined to carry on as normal.  I won’t post that picture – probably copyrighted, but it was of a tiny girl, carrying a backpack almost as big as she was, wearing wellies of course and a bright red coat, being watched by her proud mum, while she walked along a path at the edge of a flooded field so she could get to school, and maybe take part in Christmas festivities as planned.

Certainly puts my sniffles and self-pity into perspective.  In the wee small hours, when MrP was snoring contentedly, and I was blowing, sniffing, coughing and quietly hating him for just getting on with what he needed to do, I briefly considered giving up, catching the first train home and leaving him to it.  However, I’m not going to.  I shall keep taking the tablets, using my special soft tissues and spend some money to help support the wonderful people of Cumbria.  I may just spend today resting though … feeling a whole lot less sorry for myself than I did yesterday and at 2 a.m. this morning.  Then it’ll be life as normal, with added tissues and Lemsip.

If anyone is considering a visit, the Lake District is well and truly open for business; it always was even during December’s floods.  It is beautiful; the weather is warm and sunny and set to remain that way for the rest of the week, so much so that MrP has just requested suncream for his head – least I can do …










 Life imitates knitting – at least it does in my case …

unravelled yarn

Over the past couple of weeks  I have become unravelled.

I have felt knotted, muddled, mixed up and unexpectedly confused.    I had taken on a project which should have only been slightly outside my comfort-zone.  I had expected to feel like I do when picking up a well-used, familiar knitting pattern: comfortable and at ease.   However, this time someone had  amended the pattern, without adding an erratum notice.

If I’d expected the unfamiliar, I would have done what I usually do – researched, Googled, You-tubed, practised and rehearsed until I felt comfortable.  I didn’t, so  I became unravelled.  I knew how to knit; I knew all the stitches.  What I hadn’t done was used them according to that particular pattern.

I  hadn’t realised the need to re-familiarise myself with what I thought were well-learned techniques before starting.  Big mistake.   I  carried on trying very hard to untangle the knot which I felt inside every day.   I re-read the pattern, but still had to cope with the knotted yarn.  I was becoming more and more frustrated and even thought of abandoning the project. I thought there was no way to sort the heap of unravelled-ness.

Today  someone told me to  pause,  think and check understanding before starting.     I did.  It worked.  The lesson I have learned is to not to assume knowledge; if you do, expect to become unravelled.  The other lesson I learned is make sure the yarn is untangled and the pattern is understood before attempting to start knitting.  Time is all it needed; that and the realisation that every new undertaking is slightly different.  Expecting that difference might avoid a mess  of unravelled yarn, which takes longer to sort than making sure all is in order before starting.


The project is still a work in progress; hopefully that tangle is no more.    If not, I shall  take time to smooth it out before starting.



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Starting over … in slippers

space clearing

I recently had a  conversation with a creative friend when we talked about writing being a form of therapy.  Yes, it certainly is, but, depending on my mood and how much nervous energy I need to expend, sometimes I need to be more active.

When that happens, gardening is the only activity which does the job enough for me to rest easily.

I used to think it was because of the exhaustion and sore muscles (aka being completely knackered) which follow a long session outside:   there was one occasion when, feeling annoyed because The One Who Likes Hitting Small Balls With a Strange Shaped Bat (aka playing golf), decided it was more important to do that than to remove the ivy which was slowly strangling our brickwork, I decided to do the job myself.   I tugged, ripped (several fingernails in the process), sweated, strained and eventually succeeded in denuding the wall by the garage.  I felt so much better, having used up all my anger.   Job done.  A blank  wall and a feeling of happy exhaustion and (not so) quiet satisfaction at leaving The One Who etc … a huge pile of debris to clear up.

As well as  using up nervous energy, I think it’s about starting again.  That blank garage wall became an, as yet untouched,   canvas for further creation.  There is something very therapeutic and renewing about digging, raking, cutting and clearing  a untidy area of the garden and planting anew.  There is then hope that whatever has gone awry can be corrected;  even after repeated attempts, there is hope that this time it will succeed and look perfect come June and July.  It won’t; I know that; it never does, as is proved by the many times I take my coffee outside for a sunshine sit-down, or while putting washing on the line,  and spot something which needs sorting immediately. Several hours later and without bothering to change into ‘gardening’ clothes,  I feel satisfied that there is again hope for the future.  There is mud under my nails,  I have scratches up my arms and I need a good hose down,  but I already feel refreshed and renewed.

Returning to the original idea of writing as therapy – maybe a blank sheet of paper, or computer screen, fulfils the same need to start over with  no dress code.

old man I found this picture on google.  The title is ‘Old Man Writing by Candlelight in Pyjamas’.  It reminded me of the friend in the first sentence, who is a midnight writer, as I am a dawn gardener.  He is definitely not old, but I think he would  like to be this man one day.  Whereas I would like to be, and probably already am,  ‘Middle-aged (and a bit)  Woman Gardening at Dawn in  Slippers,’ the point being that we each feel a need to do what we do, whenever we do it and however we do it,  without regard for convention.  It’s our therapy.    At least it is for me.  I know I would be (even more) stressed and miserable without that therapy.  So really, it’s a way of protecting my family and friends from the fall-out,  my motives are, therefore,  entirely selfless … naturally.

Since thinking of gardening as therapy,   I’ve discovered that there are a wealth of scholarly articles on the benefits for mental health of gardening.  I’m not at all surprised.  I was going to read one or two, but I’ve just spotted a huge dandelion in the middle of my petunia bed – how dare it?  It is going to die.  Where are my slippers?

gardening in slippers






The Legacy

IMG_0506 (3).JPG

Near our back door we have a broken pot which contains various gardening implements.  These are proper implements, some dating back to the 1950s, as their cracked handles and rust illustrate.  They have been used, neglected, abandoned in the rain, buried in mud and rescued, but never replaced.  Some may be  vintage; some are just plain old; all are useful and are used – frequently.

We acquired them from our parents, now sadly no longer with us.  (Sad, but not tragic – they all lived into their 80s and 90s).  They were all keen gardeners and we were lucky enough to be given free run of their garages and garden sheds.  We toyed with the idea of a car boot sale but these, and other,  old, damaged, but still useful tools now stored in the garage, had much more than monetary value for us, and still do.  I’m not sure where old ends and vintage begins, but these items are more valuable than they look.

Young and old hands have grasped those handles over many years, dug, tugged, raked and hoed to produce gardens which, we think, were worthy of more than a Chelsea medal.  Those gardens  fed us, entertained us while we ‘helped’ as children, kept us busy and out of mischief and gave our parents a hobby well into their old age, as well as providing a sanctuary  when indoor life became too much to deal with.

Now they are used by us and our siblings in an attempt to create a similar place, with varying degrees of success.  It can safely be said that I am an enthusiastic gardener, but will never have the skills demonstrated by my parents, or in-laws.  However each time I grasp one of those muddy damaged handles and use that rusty trowel, I remember them and their gardens; each time I use that extra large, and very strong, yard broom, I bless them; each time my husband uses his work bench, customised with old lino,  and vice  – old and very, very heavy – which he inherited from his father, he remembers his dad.  I’m not quite sure why he needs a vice; I’ve never seen him use it, but he loves it and insisted on transporting it and the workbench from his dad’s garage to ours, enlisting the help of a neighbour to heave it into position.

There is a rusty sweet tin in our garage,  which used to belong in the Aladdin’s cave of my father-in-law’s garage.  It contains all manner of nails, screws, tacks and even the occasional rusty coin.  I have briefly considered going through it, sorting out what is useful, and replacing the rusty tin, but I can’t; I just can’t, any more than I could replace the several trowels, rakes and forks which we have by the back door.


forget me not




Touching reality


I have a friend who I first met around 6 years ago.  I was greeted by her when I went into work each morning and we had a quick chat.  That was all … then.  Our paths diverged;  we went our own ways, not planning on encountering each other again – probably.  I can’t even remember saying goodbye.

Since then we’ve each had some tough times and some lovely times, but without the other’s knowledge, until the day when we happened upon each other’s names on Facebook.  (Yes, I know, I know, but bear with me.)  I’ve reconnected with several other former acquaintances through FB, as have many people.  However, after the initial flurry of interest and catching up on each other’s lives, we’ve lost touch, maybe deliberately, maybe just because life got in the way.

However,  that was not the case with this Facebook friend.   After the initial catching up on the intervening six years, we discovered we share interests which we didn’t know about before; we talk each other’s language – no need for explanations:  we both know what we mean; we share information, comments, confidences and links.  It’s amazing how many times she shares a link with me, or vice versa, at precisely the same time as the other. Perhaps co-incidence, perhaps  great minds (Hah!) thinking alike and the timing is a virtual accident.

The point of this is that, while we may or not arrange to meet again in the ‘real’ world, we have discovered a real friendship in the virtual world of the internet.  We don’t need to meet.  We’ve shared much more since those few moments at the beginning of each working day than we ever did then.

Is it a friendship?  Some people, especially people of my generation, would say it’s not.  I think it is.  I know she will read this.  I hope she agrees.

I ought to mention that she is a writer.  She reviews books and writes a blog.  This is the link to her site:

It is well worth a look and particularly pleasing to know that six years ago, she dreamed of being a writer; now she is.


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