Compulsions

Do you ever have those things that you never get bored of? For me, it’s the poppies coming out. They arrive every May without fail, and (almost) every year I still rush to get my camera even though I have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of poppy pictures that all basically look the same. I say almost because I don’t have any pictures from 2019. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed because I have at least one from every year since 2014 and to have a gap, well. I’m not best pleased! Looking back, 2019 was a challenging year for me. That was probably why that year is missing.

I don’t like to dwell on those times. Even now, I don’t even know how to refer to what was going on. Am I talking about my ex? Some guy I knew? What was he? What was I to him? No idea. It was all so… weird. It’s nice to sit here and not feel much at all about that time – I really believe I have properly and healthily processed all that crap (besides the occasional wondering – what the hell was that all about?) But I can’t help thinking… Isn’t it WILD how a literal pandemic affected me less than the emotional abuse of one single fellow human?

Even so, to come out the other side of that with my main concern being that I DIDN’T CAPTURE MY 2019 POPPY? I’ll call that a win.

Aaaaanyway. Yesterday was the day the 2022 poppies emerged for the first time. They’re so sneaky. One moment they look like a bunch of thistles, then the next minute you look over and they have big fat buds waiting to burst. Then one morning you look out of the window and BOOM, red everywhere, blooms the size of plates. They have to be a contender for my favourite plant, but if I’m being honest there’s no way I could pick just one.

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This week I’ve also seen my first fledgling sparrows of the year, just a couple of days after seeing the babies in the nesting box for the first time. One was poking its head out, too impatient to be fed. I’ve recycled a picture from a previous year as I don’t have the lens that can capture that sort of thing anymore. It seemed a waste to keep it when I literally only used it to photograph sparrows once a year.

Both of our bird boxes are in use this year, and I’m sure there will be a few more broods to come from each before the breeding season is out. I do love watching our garden sparrows, they never fail to be entertaining.

The garden is actually a bit of a mess right now because I’ve been indoors all week decorating my room. I’ve had the paint for TWO WHOLE YEARS but as you know from previous posts I really effing hate decorating. I hate it so much that I was considering going with plain old white again just so I didn’t have to worry so much about edges and all that. But that’s cheating, and it would be such a shame to waste the lovely greeny/bluey paint that I’d already bought.

I’m so glad I made the effort (eventually) because it’s looking really good in there now. I’m not ready to share a picture yet because we have other things going on in the house so the decorating stuff is yet to be cleared away. Today I have to empty the living room in its entirety because the flooring is being done in there tomorrow. That’s something I both can’t wait for and am dreading. It’ll be nice once it’s done but… everything is in turmoil!

After this week life should return to something resembling normality and I can actually do something fun again. And dare I say it, sort some aspects of my life out that have needed attention for a while.

More on that later, once everything is back to some kind of order. I cannot wait.

Hayley x

Just Like Heaven

It has been a perfect Sunday of simple pleasures. I’m sitting writing in the garden with a cup of tea and the sun is hot (but not too hot) on my back. Earlier I had a little lay down on the picnic blanket, and when I put my head on the pillow I’d bought down with me, the side that had been sitting in the sun was deliciously hot. That’s the only word I can think to describe it. I don’t think I have felt this relaxed since 2017.

I got up nice and early to visit a boot sale I’ve never been to before. The one near me is absolutely enormous but people don’t really seem to sell much in the way of boot sale-type stuff. I like to go for the food, especially when the bakery stall is open, but it’s quite rare to find an actual bargain.

This new one was situated in, shall we say, a more reputable area and it showed. I’m wary of pickpockets at our one but at this one, I spotted someone selling photo frames who had left a note- ‘if I’m not here leave £5 per frame in the box’. You would not get that in my area!

A chap at work was selling at the other boot sale a few weeks ago and had to threaten to call security when a less-than-savoury sort was stuffing all of the contents of his table in bin bags but not, y’know, paying him.

Do you know, today I don’t think they even had security guards at their boot sale? Absolutely wild.

What I enjoyed most about today was that there were unusual things. Even if I didn’t particularly like them, there was plenty of ‘ooh look at that’ rather than ‘why are there so many people selling bongs?’

Although I don’t usually go to boot sales with anything in particular in mind that I want to buy, today I was on the lookout for some lavender plants. I came home with three of them, for a fiver. Perfect.

Then I saw a sewing box. It’s a definite fixer-upper, but it should be easy enough that even I can do it. That was £10. Locally I’d never be able to buy something like that- they’d ask for something extortionate like £40.

My favourite item of the day was another sewing box, this one is more of a sorry state but really unusual. I only had £5, so I was brave and did an actual haggle. I’m normally so uncomfortable doing that, but I wanted that sewing box badly, I really did.

I have a tendency to buy things with the intention of fixing them up, but then I get overwhelmed and end up giving them away. In this case, I’m determined. I’ve already made a start, as it happens.

As I removed the veneer on the top of the box, was I pretending I was on an episode of The Repair Shop? You bet I was.

In the garden, this is what’s left of the sunflower I was most excited about.

The variety is ‘Mongolian Giant’ and out of four healthy plants this one leaf is all that’s left. I’m having a huge slug and snail problem this year, much worse than my first gardening year, which was 2020, and again worse than 2021 which itself was a bitch. In 2020 people on Instagram were asking me, ‘how did you grow that without it being eaten?’ Turns out the answer was sheer dumb luck.

This year I’ve been taking preventative measures but the only foolproof way to protect the plants is basically to not have them in the bloody garden. Or pesticides I guess, but I absolutely will not use them and never ever will. Some seedlings I had in a sealed mini greenhouse but somehow a slug managed to get in the smallest gap. Then I read somewhere that they can stretch to 20x their body length. DAMN THEM TO HELL.

I’m on a rescue mission with my special sunflower, which has been bought into the house until it is strong enough to withstand the pests. If all else fails, I will try again next year, but be much more protective of my seedlings in future.

Apart from that, little seed pods are appearing on the honesty, and when they are backlit by the afternoon sun they are just gorgeous.

So cool.

The poppies always seem to come out of nowhere. One minute they’re not doing much and the next second you look they have big fat buds on them waiting to burst.

And we have ALLIUMS INCOMING.

The only thing that would be good enough to end this perfect day is a good old session of playing Sims 4. Yes I’m 39, and yes I still play Sims. Unapologetically. As adults we don’t make enough time for play. I’m here to tell you that we should!

Thanks for reading,

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