Gibberish

Just in the nick of time I’m starting to feel better. Not perfect, but better. On Saturday I got out into the garden for a bit of clearing up and it was the first time I’ve done something in the last few weeks without really having to force myself to do it, or without having intrusive ‘what’s the point’ or ‘it won’t be good enough’ thoughts racing through my brain. What a relief to have a bit of peace.

Almost all of Sunday was spent working on my latest project, which is a) the cutest thing ever and b) really good for switching my brain off. Once I get started, that is. There is always the initial battle of starting it in the first place, but never mind that.

So what is this magical thing I have discovered? It is… KNITTING! It’s thanks to my sister that I discovered this in the first place after she sent me the sweetest little video on Instagram. It was of a knitted frog by a superb knitter named India Rose Crawford, and I strongly advise you to look at her photos and videos on Instagram (link) if you want to feel warm and fuzzy inside. I thought it would be such a nice surprise for my sister if I could get hold of one for her.

It didn’t take much investigation before I realised these froggos are in extremely high demand, but it was equally easy to find the person who made the original pattern – Claire Garland, AKA DotPebblesKnits (link). She’s a bonafide genius – how she even begins to come up with her patterns I cannot imagine.

So, despite the fact that I cannot knit, I bought the pattern from Claire’s Etsy shop (link).

When I first opened the PDF of the pattern, to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. Have you ever seen a knitting pattern? At first glance they look like utter gibberish, and I was quite convinced that if my sister was getting a frog, I would not be the one making it. Thankfully my mum is a talented knitter, so I printed off the instructions and asked her if she thought it would be possible for her to teach me how to do it.

She was confident she could, so I raided her wool stash and got practicing.

Do you know, it actually isn’t as hard as I first thought! First of all you have to decipher what the hell the pattern is telling you to do, but once you speak the language, that part is easy enough. Some of the actual stitches… they’re easy enough too, but with some of them, even watching Youtube videos, I just couldn’t get my head around what was happening there. Mum was on hand to help me though, and with her guidance I learned enough to be able to make the frog. I now know knits, purls, wraps and turns, knit front-to-backs, i-cords and all kinds of other things. And in the right combination, those things make up this…

I mean seriously. I cannot get over the cuteness.

It was not all plain sailing for me, because if you read my last post you know that my brain has not been in tip-top working order lately. The thing about knitting is that it’s very easy to lose your place and go wrong, and I don’t know enough yet to be able to easily rectify my mistakes. That meant starting over when I zoned out and forgot what I was doing, which was… often.

It forced me to practice staying in the moment, and then I’d get into a state of flow which was actually heaven. All that would be going through my mind would be knit, purl, knit, purl, wrap, turn, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit. Or I’d just be counting my stitches, so I’d be perfectly focused on not losing count. One, two, three, four, five… now purl… one, two, three, four, five…

Once I’d done the head and body I was well into it, and other than accidently knitting the first one-and-a-half legs I made inside out (I had to undo them and start again), I was able to figure out the instructions from that point on by myself.

Once I was finished, I could see the bits that weren’t quite right, all the imperfections, and I almost talked myself out of giving it to my sister at all. But I also knew further attempts probably wouldn’t be that much different, so I decided to give it to her anyway, warts and all. I also made a little jumper for him, but I’d already given him to my sister before I realised that in our photo session he’d been completely naked. But that’s not important.

When I handed froggo over yesterday, it got the exact reaction I’d been hoping for – my sister was over the moon. As if I could have waited till December to give it to her! Never in a million years could that have happened.

Once Mr Frog was safely handed over to my sister, we started our day. It’s become something of a tradition to have an art day together either in the summer or the winter – we just sit down together and make art just for the fun of it. How utterly wholesome!

First of all we took Newton for a walk in the park before it got too hot for him, and had a coffee at the visitors centre. I love me a good visitors centre, and what’s more, dogs are allowed in there so neither of us had to wait outside with him. Did you know that such a lot of shops in the UK are dog-friendly? You can even get a Puppucino from Starbucks (which of course does not contain coffee because giving dogs caffeine is a big no-no).

That done we sat down to our painting. I was still feeling in a frog mood, so this is what I made:

Then we had a Newton walk/coffee break before I painted my second thing of the day, a colourful sea scape:

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be in the mood for art during art day, but I needn’t have been. It was so good for the soul, and I had the best day. It was also nice to practice being out and about before going back to work tonight. I am not relishing the thought of being around lots of people, but I can do it.

Recently I’ve felt so awful that I doubted if I would ever be OK again, but now I’m starting believe that actually, I will. Just because I felt so bad for that period of time, doesn’t mean I’m doomed to stay that way forever, or to repeat it. I have to believe that better things are coming, and it’s not a given that I (or life) will mess it all up. After all, was yesterday not a wonderful day, even though I didn’t have the greatest of hopes for it? Yes, it was.

It ain’t over yet.

Hayley x

When a Plan Comes Together

I used to say that I didn’t give a damn about what our house looked like- there are more important things in life than having a picture-perfect home. Up until quite recently, as a family, we’ve been dirt poor. Growing up it was normal not to have a carpet or to have hand-me-downs- you get used to these things. Check out one of the sofas we used to have… They don’t make ’em like that anymore (thank GOD). I believe that came from my great-nan, but I could be wrong. I wonder when it was made. The 70’s? Earlier? All I know is that it’s a monstrosity.

As time goes on I get increasingly self-aware, for better or worse, and once you start taking notice of things, you can’t help but spot patterns. One major thing I have learned about myself is that not living in a nice space makes me grumpy as hell. Despite the fact that the house has needed decorating for years (at least ten), it was with some reluctance that I started doing something about it. Once I began to really see the changes, however, I knew it was worth it. I feel so much better in myself.

When the chap came to lay the new flooring in the living room, I realised it was the first time I’d ever done proper adulting in that respect. It is the first time I have ever arranged something like that by myself, which was then followed by another first. I just bought my first ever brand new sofa, at age 39, which is quite something. Unless it came from a family member, the only other sofa I bought was a second-hand one from a charity shop when I briefly lived in an absolute dump of a flat with my then-boyfriend. I’m all for recycling, but that sofa did smell funny. There was no getting away from that.

As these things go, apart from the flooring, which we splashed out on so that the animals wouldn’t destroy it in five minutes flat, we haven’t spent much money and certainly don’t have the finest of anything. We don’t need anything particularly fancy, but it’s nice enough that I feel infinitely happier than I did. I think the pandemic made me realise how important for the soul it is to have a decent sanctuary away from the world. Home is a good place to be.

I’m not finished by any means. The old carpet and furniture is being taken away towards the end of the month, until which time we’ll just have to look like a bunch of hoarders, and there are loads of little odds and ends still to be done. Now I’ve made so much progress it thankfully doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming. Dare I say it, I’m actually having fun now! Most importantly, the animals approve. That’s the main thing.

Be that as it may, I have worked hard over the last few weeks and this weekend I just needed a good old rest. For so long it’s been all too easy for me to consider needing rest as an excuse for eating cake and drinking wine, but told you I was going to do better, and I did.

During the week I went to pick up a pile of bricks that my sister and her fiancé kindly let me have (giving the garden even more hoarder-vibes than ever), and I called upon my friend and his van to help me out. I was very grateful not to have to make twenty trips in the car, so as a thank you I took him out for lunch.

I’d had work the previous night and I was exhausted. Diets and exhaustion don’t go hand in hand, because once you reach that point of tiredness it becomes all too easy throw caution to the wind. Luckily I’d had the foresight to plan what I was going to do ahead of time, and somehow I managed to stick to said plan.

I find Wagamama a great place to eat out because even their healthy dishes are flipping delicious. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy a Wagamama as it happens. Do you ever do that thing where you eat something so tasty that you have to nod and say ‘mmm, MMM, MMMMMMM!!!!’ as you’re eating it? Maybe that’s just me, but either way it’s a sure sign I’m eating some fabulous grub.

On my days off I was going to start on the project I had in mind for the bricks, but I decided rest and relaxation were more important. The bricks can wait. My number one priority has been to stick to plan when it comes to food, and I’ve done exactly that. My reward to myself for working hard was to actually lose some weight and start feeling better already. Because I really do, after just one week.

The constant heartburn is now non-existent, there is a huge reduction in tummy bloating, meaning I can sit more comfortably, and I’ve seriously been enjoying my food. Plus a distinct lack of hangover is a bonus. What did I ultimately get for my hard work? A 7lb loss, that’s what. Happy days.

Now I finally feel like I’m moving forward, and absolutely nothing is going to get in my way.

Hayley x

For Now

I still haven’t had time to get out into the garden over the last week. I’ve felt like I’ve needed more than the usual amount of sleep just lately, so I’ve been letting it happen. Case in point- I slept for about ten hours last night, left my sister’s in the morning (intending to get cracking with a load of stuff I want to do), but went back to bed for another five hours. I finally emerged at about 5pm, and will definitely still be able to sleep tonight. Sometimes you just need a good old catch up.

Between naps (and rain showers) I’ve been out with my camera. Last year I sowed a wildflower mix, and since I didn’t know what it contained at all I had fun identifying what grew. To be honest ID-ing flowers is one of my favourite passtimes of all. One flower that stood out for me was the California poppy, which has come back this year and has definitely multiplied. They’re really cool – I like them from their initial seed heads all the way to their petals. They are so pretty in all kinds of ways.

In 2020 my friend’s mum moved house. She dug up a variety of unknown bulbs from her new place and donated them to me, which I then haphazardly planted around the garden. None at all flowered last year, but this month I have discovered that some of them are gladioli. I think. It’s not a plant I’m especially familiar with.

At first I wasn’t overly taken with them, but their petals unfurling is actually rather beautiful. I’ve decided they can stay.

The giant allium from last year is in full bloom, despite me wondering whether it might not perform as well this year. For one thing it flowered a lot earlier than its first year, but in addition to that it’s also just as big as it was before. It’s a beaut, for sure.

Unless it’s nighttime, you literally cannot go near it and not see a bee. It’s impossible. Same for the comfrey, which I grew to make feed for the garden. The bees love it, and I love the flowers, so I cannot bear to cut it down. Guess I’m sticking with ordinary tomato feed for now.

After 2.5 years, and one last evening of ‘treats’ (for the time being) my period of eating and drinking all kinds of unhealthy crap is now at an end. It absolutely has to be, because I’m really feeling it now. My fitness is certainly not at an all-time low, not by any means, but it ain’t great either. I have heartburn pretty much all the time and I’ve started to be concerned about other things, such as high blood pressure.

I’m approaching 40 now, and things like that are starting to seem a lot scarier than they used to. I’ve really got to start taking care of myself.

To see me through the next couple of months I had an evening of fun at my sister’s yesterday. I will eventually try to find a good balance of health and fun, but for now I just need to get my s**t together, you know?

We had a nice BBQ then once it got dark got the firepit out. I do love a good fire, and as a photographic subject it’s hard to beat. These are just taken on my phone, but they’re pretty cool all the same.

I do love visiting my sister and her fiancĂ©, but the best bit of all is Newton. It’s all the more fun visiting him at his home because he seems so excited that I have gone to see him instead of the other way round. But then the best of the best is that I was allowed to say over in the spare room (AKA Newton’s room) and he kindly permitted me to sleep in his bed.

He spent most of the night sleeping with me and… I just can’t tell you how happy it makes me. He’s such a sweetie, I will never get over how much I love that dog. How a whippet manages to take up the majority of a double bed is still a mystery, but he manages it somehow, and I’m still happy to take just a corner of the space if it means doggo snuggles.

For now, that’s it with just coating along. From now on I will be making progress.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

NOPE.

That’s it, my week of annual leave is at an end and I’m back at work tonight. Last night I started feeling familiar feelings of anxiety- not about going to work, but about how much there is still to do around the house. But then I told myself ‘NO’. We aren’t doing this. I have made a huge amount of progress with decorating despite the fact I’ve hated almost every single second of it.

Apart from the glossing. I quite enjoyed that part.

Weird.

Whilst decorating, I made a decision. Over the next couple of weeks, I still have some bits to finish off (including laying a carpet, ugh) but after that, I am vowing to NEVER decorate again. DIY can absolutely do one. I hate it, it’s my own private hell. In future what I’m going to do is pay someone to do it for me, which yes, could be construed as lazy. It’s not that I can’t be bothered though, it’s just that for some reason it’s TORTURE for me. Yes, I hate it that much!

I keep thinking ‘don’t be silly, you can save so much money doing it yourself’ but then I think of all the other things I could have been doing this week. The garden has been calling out to me- although I’ve spent some time out there it’s not been nearly enough. I have only sat down to (properly) paint once. This is an unacceptable use of future annual leave.

It doesn’t help that I was pretty poorly the week before my holiday. I had intended to get a lot of prep done so that I could just crack on with the actual painting and get it out of the way, but I just wasn’t up to it. Still, never again. I am standing by that.

DIY is just NOT my thing.

I have been having thoughts about the garden, those thoughts being that I’m really happy with it right now. I haven’t actually had to do much to it this year, other than a bit of weeding and cutting the grass. When it’s the middle of winter and everything is so bleak, it’s hard to imagine anything looking nice and colourful again.

But the garden has come back to life spectacularly, and even though I don’t have time to do all the things I’d like to out there, I’m glad that it is a welcoming space. I do enjoy just sitting out there and looking at it (when I get the chance, that is).

Probably my favourite place is under the apple tree. Newton likes it there too (he obviously has good taste). To some, it’s probably a mess, but I’m not some, I’m me. I love it, and that’s all that matters. There is so much growing under there. Some stuff I planted myself, some of it mum planted years ago, some stuff has found its way there all by itself. It’s one of those spaces where the more you look the more you see, and I could look at it for hours.

It’s hard to imagine that when we moved here the whole garden was just dirt and rubble. There wasn’t even a single blade of grass. It’s a shame we didn’t get a picture of it, but in those days (damn, I’m sounding old now!) we couldn’t afford film for the camera, (did we even have a camera at that point?) if we did have film we couldn’t have afforded to get it developed, and I was still a few years away from getting my first digital camera. Don’t get me started on that subject- after all this time I’m still in awe that digital photography is a thing. It’s just… magic. There are a few material things in life I’ll never take for granted, and photography is one of them.

Did you know, there are people in the world who don’t like tulips? I was only made aware of this recently through the gardening corner of Instagram. It’s true that they don’t last long (some people online refer to them as ‘divas’) but I don’t care about that.

They come, they slap you in the face with spring then they go. They can be flashy divas all they want, I need that wake-up call to let me know spring is finally here.

I have started to deadhead them now, but they have performed so spectacularly. I have no regrets. Here’s the last tulip picture I took, one for the road I guess.

Until next year, ladies. Everything has its time, right?

Speaking of time, how is it MAY? That one snuck up stealthily on me. I have some plans for this month, but more about that next time. Right now I have the very exciting task of… doing the laundry. Rock n’ roll.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Me and My Brain

Right, I am finally getting somewhere when it comes to understanding and working WITH what I have in the brain department rather than against it. Of all my artistic pursuits it’s clear to me now that painting is the hands-down favourite of them all, so in order to have the best chance of actually, well, painting anything (as opposed to just thinking about painting and not actually doing it) I have now perfected the permanent painting set-up in my room. It is WORKING!

As soon as an obstacle is placed in front of me, procrastination sets in. I would just paint but first I have to do such and such, but such and such is booooooooring so I’ll put it off and then put it off some more. But now, I walk into my room and BAM, everything is ready to go.

I will share that space with you soon, but first (this is not a ‘procrastination’ first but a real one) I need to spend this week doing a different kind of painting. Then I’ll show you this little area that I’m so excited about.

To say I’ve been putting off decorating for about 20 years would not even be exaggerating. Over the last three years or so I’ve been very much intending to give everything a refresh, but every time I booked annual leave in order to do it, it so happened that I found myself quite badly depressed.

On these occasions I’d go so far as to say my week off left everything in a worse state than before.

It doesn’t help that decorating is one of those tasks I find incredibly boring, but in this instance I think I’ve come to the very limit of how long I can put it off. I just have to bite the bullet and GET IT DONE.

It’s actually funny reading back what I’ve written so far because I started this post yesterday. At the exact time I should have started the decorating, as it happens. I did locate everything I need for the task, so that’s something, but the entire day was spent doing anything but decorating.

I intended to get started but somehow I found myself in the garden. I did a bit of weeding and whatnot, then got the carrots sown in the small raised bed. I’m actually really excited about these, but it’ll be at least three months till they’re ready. Hopefully they’ll be worth the wait.

After that, I took Newty out for a walk, something that I had been intending to do no matter what. It’s been too long since I last went to the woods with my bestest mate.

It was the perfect spring day for walking. A bit chilly, until you get started that is, then exactly the right temperature. With added sunny spells. Then the tiniest bit of refreshing drizzle right at the end of the walk.

As much as I’ve been enjoying the sunshine we really could do with some rain. The water butt is nearly empty already.

Ok, I get it. I’m still procrastinating. So I’d best finish up here and get the hell on with it.

After just one more cup of tea.

Hayley x

Suddenly I See

Sometimes I’m such an idiot. I mean really. I looked back on a post I made this time last year and, yep, my theory is correct. I don’t think I am depressed as such, I think I just CANNOT HANDLE THE WINTER. The sun has been back for a total of five whole minutes and I swear I am a different person. It begs the question – going forward, how on earth am I going to make future winters less hellish? I don’t know, but that’s a problem I’ll come back to in December. For now I will be making the most of the good times. Let’s make hay while the sun shines, right?

Right!

Ok I haven’t actually been making hay, but I have been sowing alllllll the seeds. Last year I was too busy beating myself up for not gardening enough to garden enough (is my brain its own worst enemy or what?) but this year as soon as those extremely unhelpful thoughts started up I gave them a firm ‘NO’ and carried on with my business. Sometimes I even say it out loud, and it’s working out really well!

I still haven’t got around to having that blood test because I have to go and pick up a form for the doctors, and I keep forgetting. I will get around to it, because it’s worth getting everything checked out. I just need to remember at a time when the doctors is actually open…

I do have another theory though, one that I wasn’t going to share on here because it felt a little… dramatic? Anyway, as I would be so quick to tell others, better out than in, so here we go. I’m fairly sure I have some form of ADHD. It was like slap in the face when almost everything I saw about ADHD on social media turned out to be a) not what I thought ADHD was and b) EXTREMELY relatable. I’ve been talking to a colleague at work whose partner is trying to get a diagnosis through the NHS, but after being told she’s looking at a minimum seven-year wait they are saving up so she can go private. I’m reluctant to do that (because think of all the plants and paint I could buy with that money) but in the meantime I have been treating myself as if I do officially have ADHD and what can I say? Life is better! Whether I do have it or not, some of the strategies seem to be working so what does it really matter?

Just finding out it’s not just me who feels this way has been such a big deal. It’s not been the same as finding out others feel the same way about depression and stuff like that, because this feels so specific. I’m reading about other people’s experiences and it’s really hitting home like nothing ever has before. Sometimes social media is a turd but at times like this, well, I’m glad it’s there.

A big part of this has been my constant overthinking, and when my brain gets seriously damn loud instead of thinking ‘whyyyyyy is this happening?’ I’ve given myself permission to say ‘Nope, we aren’t doing this. SHUT UP’. And what a huge difference that little thing has made. We’ll see how it all pans out though. I’m going forward with an open mind and finding out what works for me and what doesn’t, without judgement. What have I got to lose?

My art has taken a bit of a back seat over the last couple of weeks, purely because I’ve had so much to do in the garden (which I’ve just run with because I’ve been enjoying it so much). I also have no room for the art I particularly want to make right now, because my art space is currently home to about 200 baby plants. It has been a struggle trying to cater for every seed’s special needs so they can germinate, but next year I am choosing easy grow varieties that can be started off outside. The idea is to grow lots of maybe five or six different varieties and go for huge, colourful, impact. Maximum effect, minimum effort. Yes please and thank you very much.

Once I can be reasonably sure there won’t be another frost (probably in the next week or two) everything can go into the garden where it bloody belongs and I can get going with some artistic plans. Of which I have many. The gardening helps with this, it helps spark ideas. Ugh, why can’t it be spring all year round?

Since an eternal spring is not on the cards, I’ve been outside recording the events of this spring so that the images can see me through when I need them most.

I have SO MANY tulips that are almost ready to go, it’s so exciting. And this is just the beginning, there is so much more to come.

Here is a bonus Newty picture to say thank you for reading. Until next time!

Hayley x

Gently Does It.

January seems to have lasted a hundred years already. Despite the strong urge to do the opposite, I’m letting myself ease into the year gently. Veeeeery gently. I’ve just finished a three-day weekend and during that time I did virtually nothing. I could Not. Be. Bothered.

Maybe it’s work culture that makes me feel like this, but there’s always that background pressure to do MORE. All the time, more, more, MORE. I lost five pounds this week. But if I tried HARDER, exercised MORE, I could have lost MORE. I started reading a book, but if I read quicker and didn’t take breaks then I could have read 3 books! Imagine that! Think of the books I could read over the course of a year!

It does my head in.

I finished a painting today, which was fun.

But I could have done it quicker. I could have done three paintings and I could sell them, and make more money, and I could be a BOSS BITCH or some shit and have a side hustle and… knowing me, have a lovely nervous breakdown.

I have to consciously make myself stop those kinds of thoughts. The main reason (apart from that it’s super unhealthy for me) is that I don’t want my life to be like that. I want to live a slow, considered life, a life where I take notice of the small things. That’s not the kind of world we live in, is it? I find myself getting swept up in it all, but I’m throwing out the anchor. I am intentionally making the life I want and ignoring what other people are doing. Unless what they are doing is chilling the heck out.

I was doing quite well with this a few years ago. During my walks in the woods I started noticing all the thousands and thousands of details I’d previously missed. Gradually, as I got fitter and started losing weight more successfully, my focus slipped and my primary goal became BURNING MORE CALORIES. Now with every walk I feel guilty that I haven’t had a ‘proper workout’. I feel that I somehow wasted that time.

Which is nonsense, isn’t it. My walks made me so happy yet I somehow made it something to get stressed about. That is soooooo me.

I am intentionally going back to the Hayley that stops to notice all the things. I have learned so much about myself over the last few years, through trial and more error than I’d like to admit. Now I know enough that going forward I can bring with me the things that make me happy whilst leaving the rest behind. The only other thing of note that’s happened during my weekend is to get a little gardening done, just a little. I’m late (or early, depending on which way you look at it) but the bulbs have finally been planted.

This year I have 30 tulips, 30 ranunculus and a few anemones. I’m very excited to see a bit of colour in the garden again. My little garden helper had come to visit but he spent most of the time staring at me from the bushes. Little weirdo.

I’m definitely getting somewhere, but I’m getting there one little step at a time and enjoying the view on the way. Life is precious, and I intend to make the most of it in the most gentle way possible. In fact, gentle is going to be my word of the year.

Thank for reading,

Hayley x

Mixed Feelings

In theory, I love Christmas. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year. As much as I want to enjoy it though, there’s something in me that makes the whole season really hard to handle. I genuinely have no idea why. One minute I’m excited, the next minute I’m struggling to find the willpower to brush my teeth.

In the last few years I’ve become much more self-aware, and knowing that this is a thing that happens to me means that this year I was better at going easy on myself through the roughest patch. I did have the usual grand plans of lots of homemade gifts and surprises for everyone, but when it came down to it I didn’t have the energy. Rather than berate myself for being weak, I ended up spending as much time resting as I needed to. Which turned out to be a lot. As such by the time Christmas Day arrived I felt well enough to enjoy it.

I feel very much that there is ‘something wrong with me’. I seem to have a very limited capacity for doing things, and wonder if this is actually a mental or physical problem. Maybe it’s both? I think there’s very little point in speaking to a doctor about this, especially at the moment, because the NHS is at absolute breaking point. Even in the best of times getting a diagnosis for certain things takes years. Or never, in some cases. I just don’t have the energy to go through that.

My plan for the coming year is to not try to pour from an empty cup. Let’s see how I get on with that.

In order to make time and energy for the things I desperately want to do and are most important to me, I’m going to try to stay as organised as possible (and keep life as simple as I can) so that I don’t feel like I’m endlessly trying to catch up. That’s how I’ve felt for the entirety of this year – like if I could just get everything in order I’ll be fine. But I never make it to that point.

This does bring up enormous feelings of guilt that are almost overwhelming, because there are people who do so much more than me and manage to get through it. This has, however, been the case for most of my adult life and no amount of feeling guilty has changed the fact that I can only do so much. That just happens to be less than some others, so how about I try accepting the situation for what it is? Just a thought.

It’s very hard to shake off the feeling that 2021 has been a complete waste, just a year of treading water, but that’s not true. My love for art most definitely exploded and I found another pastime I really enjoy. It’s one that I can do from bed when I’m feeling my crappiest, which goes a long way to explain the impressive numbers of hours per week I’m dedicating to it.

Years and years ago I downloaded Duolingo, a language-learning app, but never stuck with it. A few months ago I started learning again, and this time I really caught the bug. I mean, I am ADDICTED. I started learning Dutch, primarily because I have a Dutch friend and thought it would be fun to learn more about her native language.

I’m pleased I did because although it’s an impossible language and I find it insanely complicated, I also absolutely love it! At the same time I’ve been learning Spanish, because a guy at work is doing the same thing and I thought it would be cool for us to speak Spanish together as we progress.

You might think that learning two languages at the same time would be counter-productive (I had misgivings myself) but in fact I’d say it’s been easier doing them both simultaneously. It’s like once I activated that part of my brain there was no stopping it.

I find it really interesting that I’ve managed to retain so many new words in my memory, especially since I’d say memory is not my strong point at the best of times. At the moment I’d say I can think of a sentence and probably be able to get my meaning across, but right now each sentence would be in a mixture of Spanish and Dutch. That might have a somewhat limited reach! I’ll keep learning though, because I’m thoroughly enjoying it. As of now I’m on a 61-day streak with no sign of letting up.

As it happens I just completed my most productive week of language learning to date, because I was locked in a bitter battle with another learner who wanted my top spot. Every week you are put in a league with 30 other random users. The top five are promoted to a higher league every week, whereas the bottom 5 are demoted. The top league is Diamond, and that’s where I found myself last week. You unlock a special achievement if you get to number one in the Diamond League, and I just couldn’t, couldn’t let it go.

I’m so sorry Alessandra, I know you wanted that gold medal, I just wanted it more! Sadly you can’t message each other through the app, because if you could I would have thanked this person for seriously motivating me this week. I spent over 30 hours learning!

I even practiced on Christmas Day, although I only spent the bare minimum on it in order to keep my lead and keep my streak. The rest of the day was spent with the family at my sister’s new house, which was an honour because a first Christmas in a new home is always special.

What’s even more special is that we even got to spend it together at all (I’m looking at you Covid) and I didn’t dare hope that it would go ahead until we’d done our lateral flow tests on Christmas morning. But happen it did, and I ate the most poshest Christmas dinner I’ve ever had in my life. My sister’s fiance cooked us a veggie meal, and the main was made of lentils which to be honest concerned me greatly. They are not a food I generally choose to eat.

It tasted incredible though. The highlight for me though was the leek. How does someone make a leek taste that delicious? The carrot almost got the top spot, but the leek just edged it for me. Seriously good grub.

I got so many thoughtful presents, I spent the day feeling very special and very loved. The presents I gifted also went down as well as I hoped they would. For me receiving the presents is secondary (no, really!) because I always forget I’m getting presents too. As an adult I think it’s much more special seeing the people you love open the gifts from you.

The most special gift of all of course was seeing Newton. The first glimpse I got of him was from the kitchen door where he was standing on his hind legs trying to get a look at us as we came up the garden path. It’s so lovely when someone is that excited to see you!

At that point my heart melted, because he was wearing the cutest snuggly jimjams I ever saw in my entire life, along with a Christmas hat. It’s lucky that boy likes my cuddles, otherwise there would have been trouble.

Here’s Newton and his mum with their matching headwear. It’s got to be my favourite picture of the day.

I could (should) end this post right now, but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t mention how utterly crappy I’m feeling. I knew I wanted a picture of me and Newton, for the memories, but I’m finding it really hard to stand the sight of myself.

I did lose a bit of weight (in fact I’m still lighter than the last time I posted) but I don’t feel at all like me. I feel like me but with extra bits, like I’m me but swollen with bee stings and if the swelling would just go down my actual face would come back. It’s not just that. I feel so unhealthy and although it’s not all to do with weight I’m sure a good diet would go a long way to helping things.

So there’s no waiting for January the first, I am jumping on the wagon RIGHT NOW.

For 2022 I intend to get back to posting regularly. It’s definitely easier to post a lot than to sit down to a blank screen after a long break. After a year of feeling like I’m getting nowhere, with the state the world is in I’m lucky (and grateful) to make it through and I intend to make the most of things.

Starting from now.

Hayley x