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

Just Can’t Get Enough

It’s a tradition that every single British bank holiday should have atrocious weather, but this Easter weekend has surprisingly been an absolute beauty. I’d go so far as to say it’s been almost perfect.

I knew the most sunshine was forecast for Saturday and Sunday, so I made sure I spent plenty of time in the garden on those days. Today is nice, but not quite as nice. I keep banging on about the tulips but DAMN they are performing. I just can’t stop looking at them! Most of them I planted the year before last, and although I’ve read that tulips don’t normally do as well in their second year, it seems that no one made mine aware of that.

I’ve been trying to pick a favourite, and I’d say that so far Princess Irene is the winner. At least I think they’re called Princess Irene. I am the worst with labelling so that’s just a guess.

All of my tulips are from Farmer Gracy. I first discovered Farmer Gracy from an Instagram ad so I was a bit suspicious at first, but everything I’ve ever bought from there has been spectacular. I noticed yesterday that my giant allium, which is in its second year, has got its head. That was one of my favourites from 2020 so I’m glad it’s making a decent comeback.

In a few months it should look like this:

What an absolute stunner. Also the bees LOVE IT.

In other garden news, I have decided that I am pretty much done with starting seeds off super early. It’s just too much of a pain in the behind, for very little benefit. The only thing I’d say was worth it is the chillies and the tomatoes. Even though it’s been fun to grow the chillies, I hardly ever eat fresh chillies so it’s kind of pointless that I now have SIX chilli plants. My sister is going to take one of them, and I want to keep one for myself, but I need to remember to only grow things that will either be beautiful or actually useful.

The tomatoes are another matter entirely. I eat a lot of tomatoes and some that I accidentally sowed in February are doing really well. I didn’t have any compost so I reused some I found in the garden that must have had tomato seeds in it from last season.

What I wanted to grow didn’t germinate at all, but the tomatoes are looking nice and healthy.

What can I say? It’s a learning curve. I am actually enjoying the trial and error and finding out what works for me.

In 2019 I had great success with marigolds, but last year they were all eaten by slugs. Even though they are supposed to be a natural slug and snail deterrent. I tried again this year and of the twenty seedlings I put in one of my cold frames, only three haven’t been munched to oblivion. I wondered if something else was eating them, but on closer inspection the telltale slime trail was indeed present.

The other cold frame has been ok because I tried a little experiment of putting Lava-Lite No-Slugs on the ground. It’s a pet- and child-safe deterrent that the slugs and snails simply don’t like to cross, so now I know it works I’ve ordered some more. As it happens I also recommend their solution for fungus gnats, which I only use for indoor plants. It doesn’t kill them, they just don’t like it and go away to annoy someone else.

I also did my first springtime walk in the woods last week. Greater Stitchwort is one of my favourite wildflowers and it’s everywhere right now.

It was also nice to get out for some proper exercise – something that I’ve been avoiding recently. I was planning more walks this week, but I’ve caught a bug (thankfully a non-covid bug) so instead I’m going to be resting up until I’m better. Exercising and not being able to breathe through your nose do not really go hand in hand!

In fact, I think it’s time for a nap.

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

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

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