Push Through

When April arrives I immediately think of it as the true start of the gardening season. I think of, let’s say June or July, as the garden looking at its very best. I don’t know where I got that idea from though because looking back at my photos of the last two years September has easily been my favourite month for enjoying the fruits of my labour.

Tomatoes and sunflowers are two of my favourite things to grow, and they were both still doing spectacularly well in September of 2020 and 2021 respectively. Looking back at the photos has given me such a buzz of excitement.

The last couple of years I have worried so much that I haven’t started early enough, haven’t done enough, but since I now stay at work and earn a full wage if need be there will be the funds to buy a few mature plants rather than starting everything from scratch with seeds. As much as I love starting things off and secretly viewed buying actual plants as cheating, my ambitions in that regard do not match up with the reality of life. There just isn’t the time or space to do everything I want to do. Or climate, for that matter. It’s much better to work with the situation you find yourself in at the time, I have come to believe. Insert cheesy (but actually true) ‘bloom where you a planted’ poster here…

During the last couple of weeks I have been doing bits and bobs when it comes to art, but nothing that’s really set my heart alight. That’s the thing with art – for everything you do that you really love there will be plenty where it just doesn’t go as you planned. It’s all part of the process. In my case, I’m still learning, but to be an artist I don’t think you ever stop learning. You keep going, and all of a sudden something SPECTACULAR will come out of you.

Recent highlights include a biro sketch of some elephants I did for my mum. I’m really happy with how that came out, but in general I like to use my own photos as a reference. Sadly I did not have a couple of elephants handy as models so I used one of my favourite websites, Unsplash. They provide royalty-free photographs and it’s not at all a faff to use them. You don’t even have to sign up if you don’t want to. You don’t have to credit the photographer, either, and although I just realised I forgot to add that onto Instagram when I posted to my tiny amount of followers (I will go back and edit that in a mo) I think you should always give credit and should absolutely only use references you have permission to use.

My reference was photographed by Pawel Dotio and you can find it here. Pawel’s Unsplash profile can be found here. Thank you Pawel! You can support the artists via Paypal, too, but believe me Pawel when I tell you I am ABSOLUTELY SKINT this month. If I was selling this art as a print then I would definitely be sharing the proceeds.

As it is, this one is just a gift for me old mum.

I have also been working on my portrait of Chester the cat this weekend. I was scared to touch it again for fear of messing it up, but that is also part of the process. As you paint you will absolutely lose what you are trying to get, then get it back, then lose it, and so on and so forth. You simply have to push through that, as uncomfortable as it is.

Oil paints are a blessing and a curse – I can’t do any more on the painting right now because I have to wait for the current paint to dry, so it means I have to sit with what I have for a while. It’s annoying, but also good because on Sunday I hated where I was at with it but by Monday afternoon I’d changed my mind. Being an artist is an emotional rollercoaster for sure.

I was playing with my easel set up this weekend. I do love a good timelapse so I’ve found something that works in that respect. Also standing up to paint is SO MUCH BETTER for my poor neck and shoulders. And it makes me feel super fancy and like a proper artist.

My WordPress subscription doesn’t allow me to post videos, and I’m not paying an extra £159 a year for the privilege, but if you want to see my most recent video click here. I do want to be posting regularly to social media with all my art stuff, but I want to get my set-up a little more sorted before I do. I have a week off work coming up and I intend to get everything ready at that point.

At the moment, my painting looks like this:

It’s getting there alright, and my technique is definitely coming along. I just have to keep going.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Fool’s Spring

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Fool’s Spring, but it’s quite renowned within the gardening community. Every year, it seems, it looks like spring has arrived and everyone rushes to get their plants outside. Yet it’s a ruse and we get one final week of winter before spring proper arrives. The only plant I shouldn’t have put out but did was a dahlia seedling (I completely forgot it was there) which is now no more, but other than that everything I have outside is hardy enough to take a little frost. Hopefully, that’s it for the minus temperatures (at least until late autumn) and I can really start to get going with the gardening.

Last weekend I attended my first boot sale of the year and bought two ENORMOUS plastic pots for a mere £5 each. The guy selling them only sells pots so I think he’ll be one of those sellers that return every week. You can guarantee he’ll be seeing more of me this year. My pots are second-hand and have weathered in a way that makes them look like real terracotta. I can’t wait to get those babies planted up.

Despite the chilly evenings my tulips have been doing well and varieties I planted last spring yet didn’t make an appearance at the time are starting to make themselves known. I don’t remember buying parrot tulips, but evidently, I did.

I am in love with this pink tulip, but I didn’t make it out with my camera when the light was actually good. Did I cheat with my edits and add a little sunshine? Yep, I certainly did. I figure I needed to do this beauty justice.

The same goes for the anemonies. They’re just too beautiful to not show those creams and pinks off.

Operation sort-out-the-front-garden is also underway. The neighbourhood cats currently use it as a toilet so I’m going to fill the ground up entirely with flowers and vegetables. The vegetables will be in pots (definitely at least one of the HUGE pots) because I read it’s not safe to eat food that has been fertilized by cat poop. Even if it was, it’s somewhat unsavoury. The front garden is a little heat trap so I’m envisaging some tomatoes growing nicely out there.

I myself have been more than ok with the cold snap because during that time I entered a state of semi-hibernation and played the absolute hell out of Sims. The Cottage LIving expansion pack was finally on offer at a reduced price so I treated myself to that and spent most of my spare time milking pretend cows, collecting pretend eggs and growing pretend oversized produce. I won some competitions at the village fair, and one of my prizes included a top hat for a chicken. Does life get any better than that? Not by much.

My simple plans of NOT THINKING TOO MUCH are working out really well. If the thinking isn’t useful, it gets thrown out. On top of that even when I wake up feeling a bit down and anxious, I have been making the conscious decision that actually, no, I intend to have a GOOD DAY and FEEL HAPPY and will MAKE IT HAPPEN. So far so good!

Feeling your feelings is good. If something bad happens then I don’t think you should push it to one side, otherwise it will come back to bite you at a later date. My problem is that if I feel my feelings when nothing in particular is happening, I would just feel sad all the time. In my opinion, some feelings don’t belong and should not be invited to stay.

My art plans are under the category of ADVANCED PLANS and said plans are coming along nicely. One of the most important things right now is for me to start living more frugally, something I’ve been banging on about for the last five years or so without doing a damn thing about it. I have now completed two full weeks at work with no unpaid early finishes (something which never happens) and have stopped buying crap I don’t need. It hasn’t been easy. After Christmas is a very quiet period at work and there has been the opportunity to knock off early every single day of the week.

I think that because my plans are doable and because I have a real passion to see them through, it’s enough to get me through the preparatory stage where not-so-exciting things need to be done. Like getting some savings behind me. And not letting unfounded doubts talk me out of it. Rest assured there will be more about these plans at a later date!

Right now there’s time for one more cup of tea then I’m spending the morning with my little sister, something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Thanks for reading,

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

Friends

This year has already been challenging. I decided that, no matter what happens, I’ll keep working towards my goals. I didn’t expect to be challenged quite so soon, but the first week of January was a tough one.

In October last year, we had to say goodbye to one of our pets, our little Chester. Pet doesn’t cover it, he was our little friend, our family member, and he was with us for eighteen years. He had a good inning, as they say, but no matter how much time we have it’s never enough. I knew I’d be upset, but I honestly had no idea just how hard it would be.

He was such a good cat. And so funny! He had the loudest cat snore I’ve heard in my life but at the same time the most pathetic little squeak of a meow. He liked tummy rubs and he would always dart into the bathroom and keep me company whenever I needed the loo. Yes, he was a bit strange, but that’s why he fit in with our family so well. We’re all a bit odd here.

It was only once he was gone I registered that he greeted me at the door nearly every single morning when I got home from work. Even now I always expect to see him sitting there waiting for a cheek rub.

I guess I’ve been struggling since then. Then on top of that, we have the crappy weather and the usual January blues. I was determined to make a good start to the year in spite of not exactly feeling in the mood, and I have been doing a good job, but then my sister unexpectedly had her parrot, Petrie, pass away.

Petrie and I had a rocky start – the first time I bird-sat she bit me quite a lot and even drew some blood, but as I got to know her and learned her boundaries we became really good friends. I will miss hanging out with her so much, she was the coolest little bird and it was such a privilege when she let me scritch her cheek feathers. I always felt so honoured when she would do a kind of little bow to let me know it was ok to stroke her. So special!

When I sat down and allowed myself to be completely honest with myself, I realised how much I have been using food and alcohol to manage my emotions over the last two years. I’ve always been an emotional eater, even at the best of times, but just lately I realised I simply have to stop. I want to be able to cope with my emotions in a healthy way, and I’ll never learn how if I don’t face up to them instead of pretending it’s not happening and smothering them with wine and pizza.

So that’s been HARD, just letting myself feel sad. I can’t say I’m a fan, but I’ve been really feeling in my body how my lifestyle has been affecting me and I simply couldn’t carry on that way any longer. It was a make or break moment, and so far I’ve made it through without sabotaging my plans for this year. Given my current mood, I’m fairly proud of that.

Crappy things will always be happening in life. I can’t let them put me back every single time, because that will get me absolutely nowhere at all. As evidenced by the 39 years of my life so far. Opening yourself up though and letting yourself feel after years of pretending you’re not bothered… oof, that’s painful. But even though it’s almost unbearable, the good stuff that comes along with it is worth it. Every time. Feeling a loss like that means you got to feel the love, too. Cheesy, but oh so true.

So, here’s what I’ve done in terms of ‘self-care’. I’ve made an appointment to have an assessment for counselling. I’ve started to increase my exercise levels and have even been OUTSIDE for a couple of walks. I have been eating VEGETABLES! I have been sleeping when I needed to. I took a couple of sick days from work instead of pushing through.

The outside has been lovely, actually. Bitterly cold, but when the sun has been out (and I’ve had the energy) me and my camera have been out adventuring. Oh, I had missed doing that!

Everything is coming to life again already. Even in my poor neglected garden there is so much to discover, so I’m going to make the effort to get out there this weekend and do some jobs that should have been done weeks ago. A bit of gardening is always good for the soul.

The sadness I’ve been feeling lately, it’s almost like it’s physical pain. Like I’m… bruised, somehow. At the same time I feel like it would be weird to not feel that way, given the circumstances, and in actual fact in the long run feeling like has got to be a good thing. Better out than in.

Whilst it’s important to honour those feelings it’s also important to be grateful for all the good stuff in life. I feel like I appreciate the positives deeply lately, and that is what can come from letting yourself feel all the things.

Friends, thank you for reading. I am glad you’re here.

Hayley x

One of THOSE People

I’ve got to admit, I was not my most productive self ever during my last shift of 2021. I get really excited by any kind of fresh start, so I was going around asking people what their hopes/dreams/plans are for 2022. Hardly anyone had thought about it, and I got a lot of ‘oh, you’re one of THOSE people’ comments. That’s ok though, I absolutely am one of those people.

I love Mondays, the first of the month, and a new year.

I didn’t have the usual fire inside of me for 2021, and I think that showed during the year. Without proper plans, I find myself coasting along, and that does not make me happy. I know I’m an overthinker, and I wondered if (oh, the irony) just letting things take their own course might be a good idea.

It was a useful experiment, but it’s not for me. I’m a planner through and through, so I’m taking all of the good things I liked doing from previous years and smooshing them all together to make this year a good year. I’ve got my plans and they’re being put into ACTION.

For the last two years, what I’ve mostly been is scared. I’ve been scared to go out, even to the woods, because thanks to Covid I have a very strong fear of people, even when I’m outside. Of course to some extent, my fears are completely rational. Covid is a very real threat and should be avoided. But passing a couple of dog walkers out in the open is lower risk than my anxiety would have me believe.

When I was at my happiest I spent a lot of time outdoors. Being active meant that I slept better, my appetite was regulated, I was fitter and just generally felt pretty good. This is a non-negotiable for 2022- I MUST get back outside. I cannot let that fear control my life.

Another fear I have is a fear of failure. The garden got very much neglected in 2021, because I put off doing so much. I’d want to sow some seeds, but this annoying voice in my head kept telling me that I wouldn’t do it right so it was best not to do it all. This voice was also pretty strong in previous years but in 2020 I managed to ignore it. As such the garden thrived, but then the next year I lost a lot of self-belief.

Even if something did grow successfully, I’d remember I needed to water it but then just… not do it. I’d get a weird sinking feeling inside of me, I’d decide to do it another time but in fact end up letting the plant die. Writing this down, I realise how strange I am. I wonder if anyone can relate or if it’s just me with this one.

Most of what I wanted to do over the last 12 months got put to one side because of that stupid feeling, so this year I’m doing my best to quiet it.

I am capable of much more than I give myself credit for, and even if things don’t all work out, it’s worth it to at least try. I’ve said the words, now I have to live by them.

One thing I want to do this year is to take more photos. I’ve always loved photography but my picture-taking has definitely slowed down. Probably because I don’t go out adventuring as much (or at all!) That’s going to change very soon.

I started this year as I mean to go on. I got out into the garden with my camera, and even though it looks all grey and horrible out there, there is always something to be found if you just go and look for it.

Despite my neglect, there is still plenty of life out there and much to be excited about. Some auriculas I grew from seed have somehow made it through, there is kale to be harvested, bulbs are starting to make their way up into the light and the sun even came out. I haven’t seen a blue sky in weeks!

And just like that, anything seems entirely possible once more.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Something to show for it

Roughly two days after I was sooooooooo motivated to finally lose some weight, it all went tits up and I had a massive gain. I’d been already been thinking about rejoining my old Slimming World group, even though it was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I realised that although I might not want to do it, I needed to do something. Fortuitously, my consultant sent out a text a few weeks ago saying that group was reopening, but due to Covid we had to book. Since we have to be spaced out, less people can fit in the venue and spots are in short supply.

I didn’t think about it, I just replied back straight away. SIGN ME UP.

I could have written about my intentions at that moment, but I didn’t want to do that then eff it all up. I waited until I had something to show you.

My first week, I got my half stone award. My second week (this week) I got Slimmer of the Week and I have lost a total of 10lbs. I’m ACTUALLY DOING IT! FINALLY!

It’s been a bit of a mind f**k so far to be honest. Again because of Covid, we have to keep our shoes on when we weigh. That first week back was hard because what with the shoes being on along with wearing more clothes (no more weighing in undies for me) and switching to an evening weigh from a morning weigh, the difference between my home scales and the SW scales was astronomical. I know the number doesn’t matter, as long as I see a difference week after week, but it didn’t stop my heart sinking when I saw it.

Still, I pulled myself together and got right into it.

The key is going to be consistency. If I lose 2.5 pounds a week, which has traditionally been my average, then I should be at target by Swingamajig 2022 as planned. I just have to KEEP GOING.

It hasn’t been too hard so far, but since I’m going through a spot of depression all I want to do is sleep. Nothing is bringing me a buzz like the garden did last year, or like I had when I started getting back into painting and drawing. I decided to come off of my anti depressants some months ago, because although I felt just fine in the end I didn’t feel anything else at all (apart from extreme anxiety) and it wasn’t sitting right with me.

I’ve learned some coping mechanisms over the last couple of years, and I think if I really look after myself then I can be happy without pills. It’s just going to take some time to adjust. Don’t get me wrong, they were great for getting by when I needed them, when the alternative was something much, much worse, but I didn’t want to rely on them forever.

I was getting more and more stressed out at work, and I felt if I could just sit and have a good cry it would be a great release. But when I was medicated, the tears wouldn’t come. I couldn’t cry the whole time I was on them. Shortly after I stopped taking them I cried whilst watching Bridgerton, of all things, and it felt wonderful to finally be feeling all the feelings, even the painful ones.

At the moment everything is a little flat again, but I know I’m just in a dip and if I practice some self-care I’ll come out of it again. I haven’t had alcohol since I went back to group and I’m getting moving again. That, along with at last eating some gosh darn vegetables, should do me the world of good. Same as with the diet, I just need to keep going. And getting a bit of extra shut-eye isn’t the worst thing someone who has being working nights for nearly 13 years could do!

The garden has been a bit of a mixed bag. We are having a lot more problems with pests this year, particularly snails, who have eaten the majority of the seedlings/young plants I’ve grown. Some of what they left has been eaten by the sparrows, so I’ve been feeling quite disheartened. Until my brother pointed out it still looks lovely out there. He’s right, it does.

My favourite bits are the area above underneath the apple tree, which looks better every single day (those poppies though!) and my little raised salad bed. The rocket is coming thick and fast now and the lettuce and kale is coming along nicely. It’s one of the few areas I have properly protected so the damn snails can’t get at it.

Next year I’m concentrating on things that are easy to grow and don’t get eaten too much. Simple is best I reckon.

It’s nearly time to begin another working week, and as it happens I’m still doing really well at staying at work and actually earning some wages. Dare I say it, things are actually going ok right now. Ok, I’m off before I jinx it.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

This Time Next Year

The weekend just gone I had a rather impressive pity party. I did get some things done – I assembled a new bed, had a rearrange… and left everything else in a bigger state than when I started. I had one of those weekends where I could only bring myself to do the bare minimum. All I really wanted to do was stay in bed, and for the most part, that’s what I did.

On the plus side I read three books. On the downside I am now even heavier than when I decided that this time I was really, really going to get back on my diet. The lies we tell ourselves!

As I was laying awake at 4am (my sleep has also been atrocious) I realised that there’s only one way to get myself out of this funk, and that’s with sheer bloody-minded effort on my part. I’ve got to work my way out of this.

As if he was psychic, a message from a friend popped up while I was reading an ebook on my phone.

‘Is this you?’

It was indeed me. There’s no point showing you the picture, because it was taken in the days before phone cameras were good (although I’m only talking 2012… I feel old!) but I looked hefty. Someone shared it on Facebook and my friend wasn’t entirely sure it was me he was looking at.

Because it was this time in 2012 I really started losing weight properly for the first time, I could say off the top of my head how much I weighed in that picture – 22 stone 4 pounds, my heaviest ever. I remember weighing myself that very morning and looking at the scales in dismay. Although I’m glad to say I never got that heavy ever again, if I don’t take action now I could well end up back there.

I told my friend that right now I weigh a mere two stone less than I did in that picture, and happily he agrees that it looks like there’s a much bigger difference than there actually is. I think it’s because I’m so much more active now than I was back then, I guess I must have more muscle tone. My fitness levels seem to confirm this. The last time I was the weight I am now I was getting seriously out of breath walking in and out of the warehouse at work, but now I can easily hold a conversation as I walk, even when wearing a mask. I suppose things aren’t as bad as I thought they were.

I used my trusty Google photos app to look up other photos of me from that year. I remember I joined Slimming World in the beginning of May that year, and a photo of me from late November shows that I was unrecognisable 6 months later.

That gave me hope that this year is far away from being a write-off. I got my butt out of bed the next day and took Newton for a walk to brush off the cobwebs.

Yesterday another friend messaged me to let me know a band we both like are going to be playing… this time next year. Tickets had just gone on sale and after a moments hesitation, I booked my ticket to Swingamajig 2022.

Swingamajig 2019 (2020 was of course cancelled) was one of the best days I ever had and also the last day I can say I felt truly happy and the world felt vaguely normal. It was also the best I’ve ever felt about myself (I mean, I looked magnificent) and I can’t wait to get back there.

When I was choosing that fabulous dress I couldn’t decide between that one and another one on sale, so I bought both. The other one I still have, and I’m going to slim into it ready for 2022. I had to have a chuckle at how half-cut I look in that picture, but still along way from full-cut (see below!)

365 days to get back into the swing of things (geddit?) then celebrate with an epic evening of shenanigans? I think having this to look forward to is EXACTLY what I need.

After finishing work this morning I got up early, which I try and fail to do every single work day, and went for a 3 mile walk. I intend to go out walking every single day, which is exactly what I used to do. I used to do it and I used to LOVE it. Once home I cut the grass, hung out with Pea then got another few hours sleep. I woke up before my alarm went off AND woke up with more energy than I have done in a good while.

It looks like I chose the right day to get back to it.

The tulips in the garden are now looking absolutely stunning. Since I got the little greenhouse up the garden looks kinda cute and I stopped stressing out about how I hadn’t done enough. Since there’s no guarantee our local climate is suitable enough for the tulips to come back next year, I got my early bird order of more bulbs in, since you get a discount for doing that.

Worst comes to worst, I only have 70 new plants next year. Best case scenario, they all come back and I have HUNDREDS. I’m hoping for the latter!

Hayley x

Vange Well No. 5

Ah, things were going so well. For 10 days. 10 days of being on plan, of feeling in control, before hormones came along and ruined it all. ‘That’ time of the month is always a bitch, but since I’ve been tracking these things using an app (for a few years now) I’ve been as regular as a… regular thing. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I was a whole SEVEN DAYS LATE.

This was a problem because the depression, cravings, sore boobies and irritability just build and build until I come on. So I had seven days of feeling extra shit. Yaaaaaaay. I have this thing where I want something tasty to eat but I don’t know what I want, so I go around eating things until I stop getting a craving.

I did lose 9lbs. I found 8 of them again. It wasn’t even worth it (I never did find the tasty thing I was looking for).

So I’ll start again, and hopefully my hormones will go back to being vaguely manageable in future.

I do think I need to go back to my Slimming World group when it reopens on the 18th of May, because I lose weight better when I’m there. The problem is, I’m so sick to death of the whole format. It’s the same conversations week after week and I’m not sure my tired brain can take it. Maybe if I just go every couple of weeks? I guess it’s probably going to be a weigh-and-go situation anyway? Because of COVID? Ah, to hell with it. I’ll give it a go and see how I get on.

I felt so crappy last week I almost called in sick for work, but I got through it. In fact, I haven’t taken any unpaid time off in two months now, something I don’t think I’ve done in the whole 12 years I’ve worked there. A pat on the back for me, please!

I’ve been gardening sporadically, and right now the tulips and the honesty are looking great. I grew the honesty from seed last year because I’ve seen the seed pods on my past travels, but I never knew the flowers looked so good in spring. They don’t do anything until their second year, but it’s worth the wait.

Beautiful, yes? Their Latin name is Lumeria, meaning moon-like, because of the shape of the seed pods. You can eat the leaves, seeds and root, which apparently taste like cabbage, but I’m not testing that out right now because there is a high probability that Newton has done a wee on them.

Update: I just nibbled a leaf and it was unpleasant.

Today I did manage to do a lot of catching up, and the mini greenhouse that has lived in the hall for god knows how long has finally made it into the garden.

All the baby plants were taking over my room, so even though it may still be a bit too cold at night for them I’ve moved them all out into the greenhouse regardless. For next year I’ve decided that I won’t be starting anything off indoors, as it was all becoming a bit much!

Yesterday me and the brother went on a mini adventure. It’s about time we started getting out again, so we went to find something I’ve been meaning to check out for some time now. I stumbled across it when I was bored at work looking at satellite photos of our nearest nature reserve – Vange Well No. 5.

A bit of Googling tells me that the building was built in the 1920’s, to enclose a well (the last of five, who would have guessed) from which bottles of ‘Farmer Cash’s Famous Medicinal Vange Water’ was sold. If you had ever visted Vange, you would know how utterly unsavoury that sounds.

The building could actually still be beautiful, but of course the vandals have been at it. It’s littered with broken glass, old disposable masks, empty plastic bags that no doubt once contained Class A substances… It’s not somewhere you’d take your kids. I took a few snaps, focusing on the less disgusting parts.

Despite the fact that as soon as you step into the woods the first thing you see is a used condom (the woods are notoriously used by doggers, don’t look it up if you don’t know what it is!) it really is a beautiful spot. You see the odd wildflower the other side of the woods, the parts that I usually frequent, but in this part there are swathes of flowers. It’s such a shame that I wouldn’t dare set foot there if I was alone.

I think that’s it for today’s post because all the gardening has left me well and truly done in.

Hopefully by the next post I’ll have even better news – that I’ve managed to lose a few pounds AND keep them off.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

The Scarcity Mindest

I’ve read so much about various subjects over the last year, but I am the absolute worst at remembering, well, anything. Details, what I’ve read, who wrote it… none of it sticks. However the scarcity mindset… that, I’m sure, is most definitely a thing.

I think it’s why I became so obsessed with food and drink. Looking back to April last year, in the end we were able to get plenty of food (despite the panic buyers going absolutely nuts), yet the moment I even percieved any kind of scarcity I wanted nothing more than the things I thought I couldn’t have.

When I did get my hands on pizza, ice cream and wine after queueing outsite Tesco for an hour-and-a-half, I started something that I’ve only just been able to stop.

This last year has most definitely made me more sensitive to this mode of thinking. Every week since Christmas I’ve decided, right, this is the last weekend I eat crap, truly believing it would be the last time I did it. And every single weekend I lasted, ooh, about half a day before I broke. Soooooo much money spent on food and alcohol (especially the impulse buys ordered via Uber for twice the price of the supermarket) over the last 12 months, it brings me out in a cold sweat. It’s done now though. I can’t take it back.

There’s another element to it. When I tried to get back on track I started feeling guilty for every single morsel that passed my lips. Even vegetables. I felt like I was being greedy going back to my old portion sizes (despite losing weight very successfully whilst easting them), and that I was broken now and I’d never be able to lose weight again. So I restricted myself too much, and the result of that was a corresponding binge. Am I really the same person who has lost seven stone SEVERAL TIMES OVER? Sometimes I wonder, because it seems I have to relearn the same lessons every. single. time.

The only way to get out of this pattern was to grit my teeth and get on with it. I had the feeling I needed to get through a single weekend without any blips, so I ate nice big portions of healthy food. The result was that, despite me being ‘greedy’, I actually ate less food overall. Success!

I managed to resist the thoughts trying to sabotage me into ordering takeaway, even when the intoxicating scent of a barbecue came wafting into the garden on Easter Sunday. I so love barbecues, which of course can be done quite healthily, but I just know it wouldn’t be five minutes before I started eating whole blocks of halloumi to myself.

The next morning, feeling quite smug, I got up early to meet a friend for a walk. We did six miles in total, and since I’m feeling so determined I got him to take a ‘before’ picture of me. I’d been too ashamed to do it until now.

That look on my face is because my balance is awful and that stump is taller than it looks, but I’m happy to say I made it through the photo shoot without any injuries. When I got in it did feel like I had a mild case of hypothermia, as despite it being gloriously warm and sunny on Sunday, on Monday we had snow. Of course we did. Damn British weather.

Going for walks is definitely getting easier already. I’m still a bit self-conscious, but the physical act of getting round my old routes is becoming a lot more manageable already. I’m surprised at the level of fitness I’ve kept, probably because I’m so active at work and in the garden. It’s just the hills that are a killer – on one particularly evil hill I’m having to stop half way up to catch my breath whereas before I could do it in one, but I’m already excited to report back when I’m back on top form. I don’t think it’ll be too long.

Spring is doing lots of springing in the woods right now, and I’m feeling rather pleased with myself that I’ve managed to indentify a load of stuff off the top of my head that I’d never heard of this time last year. Sweet violets, dog violets, anemones, cow parsley, cowslips, greater stitchwort, lesser celandine, ground ivy… every time I go there’s something new.

The following plant I came across on Sunday, but it wasn’t one I recognised. It did however look a bit iris-ey so when I got home I looked it up.

A strong contender for the plant was the stinking iris (see, I was on the right track) which is also known as a roast-beef plant. So-called because if you crush the leaves it apparently smells like beef. I saw another one on my Monday walk, so picked a leaf and crushed it between my fingers. It only bloody smells like beef! I asked my friend what he thought and he immediately said it smelled like an Oxo cube. How weird!

There was no walk today but I’ve been out working hard in the garden. One raised bed has been assembled, with a net thing that goes over it.

This is where the stuff that’s especially tasty to bugs will live – the cauliflower, broccoli and (if I’m not too late) cabbages. As I write it’s started snowing again, so who knows when I’ll actually be able to start planting stuff out.

Not yet is all I can say.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

The Overwhelm

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for a while but up until today that blank page has been a bit too intimidating. I haven’t known what to fill it with. I still don’t to be honest, but I figured it would be best to just get something out there. I feel like if I don’t make start now, even a half-arsed one, then I never will.

Everything’s a little bit overwhelming right now, and some have a theory as to why that might be. Can you believe it’s been over a year since the first UK lockdown? Some people reckon that the anniversary of the corona shit hitting the fan might be what’s making us all feel a little bit crappier than usual, but let’s face it, there are plenty of contenders for that these days.

Lockdown restrictions are starting to ease, and I’m not even feeling overly scared about it. I’m concerned of course – life going back to some semblance of normality is inevitably going to mean more cases, but the data for the vaccine looks good. It’s working! Although life isn’t going back to how it was pre-2020 any time soon, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. So why do I feel so meh?

I think it’s because I got so excited about what I could achieve last year. I had such grand plans for the house and garden, and now 2021 is here and it’s time to get started with those plans, I realised I don’t have the time or the energy. When I was furloughed it felt like I could do anything, but after being off work all that time I forgot that I’m usually there for such a huge portion of my life. I’m not a miracle worker. I need sleep to function, and as it happens, I need lots of it. I’m not a failure if I can’t manage to do all the things in one weekend.

I feel guilty that I won’t be building the shed I envisioned. That I haven’t put up the greenhouse. That I haven’t turned the garden into an oasis. But… who do I have to feel guilty to? No one, that’s who! I put so much pressure on myself that I managed to turn something I love into a monkey on my back. That is SO ME.

So over the last few days, I just got out into the garden with no particular agenda. No to-do list, the only plan was to get out there and see what I felt like doing.

Last year I planted so many bulbs, but when planting time came, again I was feeling a bit pants so my only goal was to get them in the ground so they didn’t rot. I didn’t think much about where I was putting them so they don’t have the impact that 300 bulbs could’ve had. However, by some happy accidents, it’s not all bad.

The area under the apple tree is my favourite by far. I have literally no memory of ordering any anemones, but they are the absolute star of the show. The bright purples, reds, and pinks are bringing me joy every time I look out into the garden, and they seem absolutely impervious to slugs and other pests. I’ll definitely be planting more of those for next year. They also happen to be cheap which is handy.

The bulbs in the rest of the garden are too spread out, but I’ll be remedying that next year. Probably. Unless I get sad.

Another thing that’s getting to me is my weight. When I wasn’t going out, not thinking about my appearance was easy. I had never been so comfortable in my own skin. My size just didn’t matter to me at all. But when I went back out into the world I realised that I simply cannot let go of the dream of being slim again.

It’s weirdly 20 degrees celcius out there right now, and although the decent weather is just a blip and typical British springtime will be returning in a couple of days, it’s made me think about how uncomfortable I’ll be at work if I carry on as I am. I’ve already gone through a winter of freezing my bits off as I can’t get adequate cold weather clothing to fit me.

I was doing ok until I reached the point of not being able to stand my own reflection any more, which has only happened over the last couple of weeks but still. Not ideal.

Something has to change.

I’ve been trying to quietly made positive changes over the last month, but every attempt has ended in failure. Therefore I’m going back to the old standby of writing about it here and hopefully staying on track for more than five minutes.

I’m trying not to dwell too much on weights and sizes, but the fact remains I’ve regained such a lot of weight. Since the end of 2018 I have gained a rather impressive seven stone. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s putting on the pounds. I am an expert.

Today met up for a walk and a coffee with my sister and Newton, since that is legal now, which has made me realise how much I need to start getting out regularly again. My size has meant that I’ve avoided leaving the house if I can, which HAS TO STOP!

Besides, if I hadn’t gone out then I wouldn’t have seen sunbathing terrapins in the park. It’s not every day you see that, right?!

I need to make diet and exercise my priority again, but no matter what I choose to do, be it gardening, art, exercise, I always feel guilt over the thing I’m not doing. Which is so stupid, since I’m an adult and it’s up to me what I do in my spare time.

Sigh. I suppose I’d better crack on with it and not think too much. I’m sure once I start making progress I’ll perk up!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x