Monday, 25 June 2012

A Rainy Picnic In The Sun

There has been a lot to inspire pride and patriotism so far this year, from the big things such as the celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee to the forthcoming Olympic Games, but there are lots of little things too. Things like walking down a tiny side street and finding every shop has decorated with hanging baskets of red, white, and blue flowers; everyday groceries having their packaging emblazoned with Union Flags, and any number of opportunities to wear red, white, and blue.
Yesterday was one of those days that made me feel very proud to be English, and also gave me pause to wonder if, as a nation, we aren't ever so slightly eccentric. I had to get up early yesterday, so we could get to our adventure on time, and for a moment I thought it was Monday, as we don't normally get up at 6:30am on a Sunday! There were three car loads of us, and thanks to the wonders of technology (and boys in our group who understood how to put it all together!) we had CAB radios so we could keep in touch en route.
After a few hours on the road, we arrived in the beautiful grounds of Royal Windsor Park, the home of the Guards Polo Club. The park is so vast and surrounded by woodland, and the sun was was blissful. I cannot put into words how lush and green everything was, and how nice it was to see people riding horses, walking dogs, just enjoying the space.
I had never seen Polo before, and there was a game in full swing when we got there, so we sat and watched it. It is very quick to pick up and get into, and although I couldn't offer a full explanation of the finer points, it is essentially hockey played on horseback! The horses were amazing creatures, really magnificent.
After that game was over, we had a wander around more of the grounds, and admired some beautiful carriages, as there was also a carriage competition happening. I saw several that looked as though they would have been so at home in Pride and Prejudice!
By then it was time for lunch, so we set out some picnic blankets and settled down to lunch. We had decided that rather than make a picnic as we would usually, as so many people were busy on the Saturday, we would order one from Marks and Spencer, and for the cost each of a Starbucks Coffee and Panini, we ate very well indeed. Only as we were eating and drinking, the wind blew up harder and cooler, and suddenly, as though someone had turned on a tap, it began to rain. We all put our umbrellas up very quickly, and it must have looked from a distance like a clump of multicoloured mushrooms had suddenly popped up! Happily it passed soon, so we could continue to picnic. However, then it began to really rain, great big hard fat raindrops pelting out of the sky. Some of our group managed to scramble into the car, but there was only one car and three carloads of us, so the rest of us sat on the picnic mat under the umbrellas. Poor Carl's legs got soaking, and so did my back. But we were all very cheery, and it did strike us as very English to be sitting having a picnic in torrential rain. Something that made me smile as well was, as the first drops fell, the wail of 'someone save the cakes!' that came from one of the boys.
We aren't entirely sure how it happened, but we went to ask directions, and ended up in the Members enclosure, sitting right next to the Royal Box! The next game we saw was the final of the Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup and it was so exciting, the standard was much higher than the first game we had seen, and there was commentary too! Then, halfway through the third chukka (round!) there was a flurry of activity, and we turned to see the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arriving in the Royal Box! We were so close I could see her really well, and she was wearing a lovely pink hat and coat trimmed with black, with black gloves and shoes. She stayed and presented the prizes, and it was so exciting to see her 'in real life' and so close too, and of course the Duke too.
I don't know if it was because we were at the Guard's polo club, or because it was because the Queen was in attendance, but the Guard's Marching Band was there, marching and playing music. I have seen the odd Guard before, but not a whole troop of them in action before. They were so impressive. (Guard's are the soldiers you think of as 'traditional English soldiers', the ones who wear the red tunics and big black bearskin hats, and never, ever smile or move when they are on duty!)
To crown it all, although it was a very close match (1.5 goals in it - one team had a .5 goal handicap!) the team I wanted to win won! I would never want to play polo as I would not have the skill, and it is very fast, and of course you need 8 ponies, but I would love to see more of it. The play came really close once or twice, and seeing the agility of the ponies and hearing their hooves beating on the grass and the thwack of the mallet against the ball was really exciting. Considering that the Queen was there, it was also a really relaxed not very crowded affair. The tickets at £10 each were very reasonable too, so I hope very much we shall be having another rainy picnic in the sun soon!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Learning The Lessons

Tonight I am filled with peace and excitement all at the same time. I feel that after so many months, finally, I can sigh a long deep sigh, and relax.
Since I started the secondment that has temporarily taken me out of libraries, I haven't been posting very much, as you know, so I haven't really shared with you what I have been doing. Officially, I went to be a business administrator, which I was enjoying, when there was an opportunity to try some PA work, which it turns out that I love and I seem to fairly good at. Isn't it odd how hard it can be to accept praise? To praise ourselves? Actually, I am good at it, and I enjoy it. It has been a revelation.
As you know, for so many months after being made redundant I just didn't know what else to try my hand at, and had no idea what I might be good at. To try something new and find that I can do it has done wonders for my self esteem, and while I have been missing the library, I have been enjoying it so much.
I had an interview on Tuesday for a year's secondment to PA for one of our Councillors. I felt very relaxed, I had done a lot of prep, and had a good feeling about it all. They said they would make a decision that day, so when I didn't hear about it that day or the next, I assumed the worst...but yesterday, just as I was walking into the National Gallery I received a voicemail to offer me the post. I am beyond excited, quite apprehensive as it is going to be a lot of responsibility, but the fact that I have been recognised in this new field of work and have a year's contract ahead of me is just wonderful.
I have some really exciting plans with the lovely Carla from Ducking Fabulous, and they are making me very excited for the future too. So much to look forward to.
I was in such a good mood today that even the news that although my wages have left my work's bank account, NatWest have not yet credited my account with them. Presumably they are floating around in the ether somewhere. I felt sorry for the staff today, as it is not their fault, and they had so many anxious and angry customers to deal with. is unacceptable, and makes you realise how vulnerable you are.
My trip to Bloomsbury yesterday was quite wonderful. One of our party is recovering from a broken ankle, so we took a taxi from the National Gallery to Bloomsbury, and asking the driver to take us to Bloomsbury Publishers felt very glamorous. One day, one day, one day, I hope to be going there as an author, one day...
I have posted before about my love of Whittard's rose tea, but I have to say that I tried Twinings Rose Garden Tea this week, and it was a revelation; it had a wonderfully full flavour and was much more rosey than Whittard's tea. I can definitely recommend it!
I have been having great fun on Pintrest and have so many recipes and ideas I want to try - expect more posts soon about some of my projects!
Wherever you are, I hope you are having a wonderful end to your week, and are looking forward to a lovely weekend
love, Mimi xxx
PS having pressed 'post' I saw the title of my post, and remembered what I had in mind when I started writing, but got distracted by my own thoughts. I feel like I Have learnt a lot of lessons over the past year. I am trying not to get too attached on an emotional level to things, people, places, work. Not in a cold way, but not letting my work become my identity, and to make sure I have a full life outside of it. Not to clutter up my work space with so many things. If I were to remove my notebooks and files and the work itself, I would be left with a cup, a pencil pot, and a small collection of a box of tissues, some sachets of cappuccino, and some handcream. I could fit it in a carrier bag, and walk out of the door. Anyone who knew me in my previous work life will hardly recognise that version of me. Somehow it makes it easier to visualise moving on when you don't have too much to take with you. So, just trying to look at where I have been, and what I have learnt.

Monday, 18 June 2012

To London, To London

Happily, I can report that the sling is slung and I have the use of my arm back again, although at last the bruise is coming out, and I have a diagonal streak of bright green across my arm, like a bolt of lightning! I have two additional pieces of exciting news to share...firstly, on Thursday this week I will be visiting Bloomsbury publishing house in London with some of the ladies from my book group. I have been reading an as yet unpublished novel scheduled for release later this year, and will be meeting the author and seeing some behinds the scene aspects of book publishing, such as the work that goes into designing the cover. The the Wednesday after, I will be going to London again, and I really couldn't be more excited! I will be having afternoon tea in a pretty hotel with non other than one of my favourite authors, Trisha Ashley! I entered a competition on a book blog, and forgot all about it until I had an email from them to say I had won one of three places! I really can't wait. Just had to pop in and share that with you....hope you are having a lovely evening wherever you are! Love Mimi xxx

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

On Being Given What You Need

How many countless times have you thought, when rushing from one place to another, that it would be wonderful just to have some time, time without demands to be here or there or have this ready or that cooked? How many times have you passed the yarn shop and remembered that blanket you want to start, but haven't had time? With our coming plans, I have wished more than once recently for just a bit more time, and the universe has granted my wish, although in not quite the way I had hoped. Yesterday morning, I tripped and fell, and with a snap and burning pain thought I had broken my arm. Very thankfully, I had a much shorter wait at hospital than I feared, and even better, the arm isn't broken, just the bone badly bruised. I say just, because it still burns with a dull hot pain, and I am in a sling for a few days, and it hurts to move it, and typing this with my left hand has taken me four times as long as normal....but still, thankfully, it is temporary. And I have enforced time to sit and think. There isn't a lot else I can do. I have had a little browse of the internet, and joined Pintrest (how late I am the the Pintrest Party, but how inspiring it is!) but am pretty much limited to left handedness so it isn't easy. But it is good to have time, although in future, I think I will be a little more careful about what I wish for! It is good to be back. I have missed blogging so much. I worry about how many posts I started in my mind and they have now flittered away to wherever our half formed thoughts and unfinished ideas go to. I do hope they go to some sort of universal jumble sale or lost property where other people can use them! A whimsical idea, but I can see a cake stall with all the cakes we have never got round to baking, a clothes stall with all the dresses we meant to make or forgot to buy until they went out of the shops...Sir John Soanes once painted a pair of was all the buildings and designs he had ever been responsible for, and another of all the things he had designed but not had yet come to be. While having this time for musing and thinking, I read my horoscope, which seemed very apt: Is it better to create castles in the air than hovels in the mud? That's a trick question! Nothing ever need stop us from exploring wishes and fantasies. We can do that quite easily, even if we are leading lives of hardship. And is it those self-created castles that cause the hardship in the first place? Not necessarily. We should feel entitled to enjoy our dreams. As for hovels? Well, a palace is a hovel if it houses no joy. Even the most humble abode becomes a luxury home if it is full of love. So watch what you create today. Which seems very much an echo of Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance which I was listening to on audio tape last night, and her gentle reminder that all we have is all we need. Before I go, my thoughts on horoscopes...I don't believe the kind that say you will meet a tall dark stranger. I don't believe that we have no free will. I like to think that things happen for a reason. I think of them as kind of personal weather forecasts for our feelings and temperaments. We know that the full moon affects people's behaviour, and there are a lot of links between the lunar cycle and fertility. So I don't think it is wild conjecture to suggest that other things that happen in the heavens will affect how we may feel on earth. I don't see it as trying to tell the future, more like just trying to live as well as possible. What do you think? Love Mimi xxx

Monday, 11 June 2012

Springtime in Paris

I can hardly believe that midsummer is nearly here, when it barely feels like we have had a spring, let alone summer. At the end of last week, the wind was blowing so hard that my plants were swept off the kitchen windowsill with a clatter. So in my mind, it is really the beginning of spring, hence my blog post. I have found myself drawn towards France recently. I adore how the language sounds, although never managed to emulate it myself at school. I have been ordering books from the library a lot, and noticed that several of them are set in France, so it feels like I have taken myself off for a virtual holiday in springtime in Paris. First I read Love In A Warm Climate by Helena Frith Powell. It was in some ways predictable, if you have read any of her non-fiction; a woman moves to France with her husband to buy and run a vineyard, he leaves her, and she survives by discovering her inner French Woman. For all that, it was enjoyable to read, and has given me a real urge to take up morning yoga again. Next came Peaches For Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris, the third book in the Chocolat trilogy, a series I hope she continues. I love the whimsical style of her writing, I feel like I know Vianne, and in my mind she looks like Dervla Kirwan when she was in Ballykissangel. I didn't have the restraint to do anything other than devour this, and enjoyed it so much. It was lovely to explore the character of Pere Reynaud a little more, and there is a recipe for peach jam that I will be trying later in the year. Most recently it has been Lunchtime in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. One of my favourite kinds of book, a story with recipes, and this time, the true story of her falling in love with and marrying a Frenchman, and learning to live in that culture. Although I have finished reading it, I have not yet returned it to the library as there are several recipes that I want to try. I have taken Entre Nous back off of my bookshelf, as it is a book I bought years ago. It is a guide to finding your own inner French Girl. Amongst the paragraphs are suggestions for books to read and films to watch. I am going to order some from Love Film. I watched the beautiful Audrey Tatou in Beautiful Lies last week and really enjoyed it. I love the styling in French films very much, and am always amazed at how little the subtitles get in the way of the film. Basically, she plays a hairdresser who receives an anonymous love letter. Her mother is very low having been left by her husband, so she copies the letter and sends it to her to give her a boost. Much confusion and entanglements ensue, and halfway through, I was struck that it is almost a retelling of Jane Austen's Emma. Although it is a little slow towards the middle, and suddenly takes a less light hearted look at truth and lies, it is a lovely film. The postman has delivered me the book that accompanies the tv series The Little Paris Kitchen and I can't wait to try out some of the recipes. I really like Rachel Khoo's style, and if she can achieve so much in her little tiny kitchen, then hopefully I should be able to achieve a little in my own little kitchen. Top of my list to try are her Croque Madame Muffins, although that will have to wait for the weekend, because in the week we are strictly porridge or yoghurt for breakfast people! So, an unplanned literary trip to France for me. I don't think I am ready to leave yet, so I shall be looking out some other titles set there. Do you know any good ones? Love Mimi xxx

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A New Chapter

Hello's been a while, hasn't it? The virus I caught just before my birthday has taken a long long time to recover from. About three weeks ago, my poor husband went down with it, and having had a few weeks of finally feeling well again, I am back in the sick bay too. I am tired. My poor laptop has been out of action too...for quite a few weeks I was feeling too ill to post, and then too uninspired, and then just as I started to draft posts out in my head again, my poor laptop died. Happily, I got home on Friday to discover that the postman had delivered the vital part, and at last, at last it is working again. And although I am not feeling on top form, at last, I feel like I am starting to work again. So, a new chapter. I spent a lot of time pondering this evening, should I start a new blog? Have I been away from here too long? Is this still the right home for me? So much has changed over the last year, and the year ahead looks like it is going to be a year of change too. Let's just start with the 'about me' part of my blog. Although I believe that I will always carry working in a library with me all my life (in a good way!) I haven't worked in one since March. It seems like a lot longer, a lifetime ago. I have discovered that I love my new job, and am good at it. Even my new job isn't the job I signed up for, but again in a good way. I am officially doing business administration (in my head I am working in Mad Men!) but I did PA work for about 6 weeks, and after a short break am doing some more PA work as well as the admin. So I am at a fork in the road. I adore working full time. I don't know how many full time openings there are in libraries at the level I worked at before. Well I do, there aren't any. And I don't know if I could go back. The ideal would be for my little library up on the hill to be full time, but being serious and realistic, that is just never going to happen. Holding down a myriad of other little jobs besides that was exhausting. So I have some big choices to make, workwise. The one thing I do know for sure though, is that I need to work full time, or as near to it as possible, because I just feel happier when I do. So it looks like I need to re-write my 'about me', at least in some parts. There is a lot unchanged. I am still me I still love my vintage tea china and reading and crafting and cooking and the simple pleasures in life. I still wear my bright red lipstick and and flick of black eye-liner. I don't think those things will ever change, at least, I hope not. But there is big change coming my way. Perhaps it is because I have just finished reading Peaches For Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris, in which the winds of change are a theme, but I feel the first breezes of change ruffling my hair. This time next year, all being well, and if all goes to plan, I will be writing this blog from our new home that we hope to buy, and to be preparing to add to our little family of two. But really, it is this blog that I want to write, and to this blog that I have returned several times after a break, to start a new chapter. Essentially and selfishly, this is a blog about me and my life. For a little while it became a wedding blog, when I was getting married. Every Christmas it becomes a Christmas blog; it is a food blog and a craft blog and a musing-out-loud blog as the mood takes me. It is extraordinarily wonderful to have somewhere to voice the thoughts that float through my mind. It is almost like painting a picture that is never finished, that I can add to at any time. It has been a real gift to me for so many years, that I just don't want to leave it behind. And really, as it is about my life, then it seems that as my life unfolds, then so can my blog. And much of what the next chapters hold are related to what is already here. The focus on my home and domestic life as we prepare to find a home of our own to buy. Recipes to cook to put me in the best health I can be. All the high days and holidays we share along the way. I am so glad to have here to come back to. Now that my lovely husband and I have sat down and had a long talk about the next stages of our life, even though it is something we have both been thinking about for a while, it suddenly feels like advent, leading up to Christmas. Anticipation and preparation, a new chapter just around the corner. But before that new chapter, the prologue, which is where I am starting. As well as the practical side of deciding which area to search for a home in, looking into a mortgage and so on, there is the deciding what kind of home we hope to find. The putting together of mood boards on pintrest and making lists of things we will need to buy that are currently included in our rented little flat (such as a fridge and a cooker) and the kind of feel that we want our home to have. Then there is the preparation to move, which I want to start even now. After a year it is so easy to accumulate more things than you need, and I by no means want to give away things we love, but at the same time a slow gentle editing process started now is probably a very wise idea. I imagine that our home will have small but cosy rooms, by the constraints of budget, so I don't want to clutter them with things we don't love. I want to make sure our domestic routines are entirely right for us now and support us to help us make the transition to being home owners. And then of course, I really need to put some focussed effort into my own health and wellbeing, and of course of that of Carl, so that when we have our nest and decide the time is right, we are both in the best health to be parents. Although I wouldn't change the life I have for the world, there is a part of me that wishes I could have lived just for a little while in the Little House On The Prairie world. Life was so simple then. It was not uncommon then for the man to build the house. The lady would bring the quilts she had been sewing since she was a little girl. Everything would be simple, beautiful and functional, reminiscent of the Shakers. There were stores that sold a myriad of things, and there they would go to trade furs for fabric to make new clothes, shoes, and dried goods for the kitchen. That appeals, somehow. I think it is because today it isn't as possible to just start from scratch. Even though Carl and I have never lived anywhere other than our family home and together, we didn't by any stretch have the money to buy a new one of everything we needed. So much we have been given, and are so grateful for. Once you have furniture, it seems wrong to buy new things, even second hand new things, just because you prefer them to what you already have. I visited a friend's flat a while ago, and it was amazingly beautiful, everything was in exactly her taste, which was wonderful. And yet, I know that the things she loves now, the style that she adores she only discovered a year ago. So everything in there has been changed or bought new since then. I guess some people can just shed their skins, in a way. I don't criticise that, it just hadn't occurred to me that I could, really. So I am by no means about to toss all our possessions out and start over, but I am starting a lot of mood boards on Pintrest, as when we do invest in new things, I want them to really suit us. When we decorate our new home, I want it to be just in our taste. I want to look at what we have and think about decorating or renovating to make it more 'us'. I know it sounds so egocentric, but I want our new home to be the kind of place where people walk in and are struck with how 'us' it is. I hope it doesn't sound like I am dissatisfied with our current home in anyway, because this lovely flat is spacious and in such and ideal location, and we are lucky to have it. But we are not even allowed to hang curtains, much less paint or paper a wall or hang a new lampshade. So where I feel like we have both grown into ourselves and developed our taste and style over the decade we have been together, I want our home to reflect that. So stand by for lots of domesticity and planning and organization and shedding of old ways and taking up of new. But through it all, there will still be the chink of teacups and the click of knitting needles. I have missed it here, and missed all of you. I haven't read any of the comments you have been kind enough to leave since I went missing in action yet. I am tired now, and need a cup of chamomile tea and an early night. But I will read them, and hope you will all come and visit again soon. Love Mimi xxx