Oh the Humidity

Yesterday I took myself out on a walk in the woods. It’s been horribly, horribly humid the last couple of days, but I’d decided I was going to go walking no matter what. No excuses.

When I got out of my car the air was like soup, but I thought once I got deep into the woods and into the shade it would probably be nicer. Nope. It was just as soupy. It was 25c outdoors, which is just about my perfect temperature under normal circumstances, but the humidity is just the worst. I spent a few months in Malta some years back, and even when it reached 42c it was easier to cope with than the weather here. Hot and dry, I can deal with. Hot and moist? No. No way. It’s exhausting.

If you’re in the UK and experiencing this drought, you may have noticed a distinct autumnal quality to the woods lately.

But we aren’t experiencing early autumn, it’s simply the trees dropping their leaves in an attempt to stay alive by diverting all the resources they have to essential functions only. That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately, now I come to think of it.

Some areas of my local woods are looking distincly forlorn, but other parts are doing just fine. Better than normal, in fact, because now we aren’t having any lockdowns, a lot less people are coming here for their exercise. As such this area has gone back to being overgrown just like it was pre-covid. There’s a lot less litter about, too (although still lots of abandoned poo bags, which is just flipping disgraceful).

On the 15th of August we were forecast rain for the next day, so I got every container that didnt have holes in the bottom out in the garden to catch any rain we might get. That’s in addition to the water butt. The ground is so hard and dry, if we do get any significant rain it just runs off instead of soaking in, so I thought I’d catch what I could.

We did get rain the next day, but it was only a few spots that evaporated almost instantly. Very disappointing. So that’s where they have stayed, empty, since the 15th. In fact, this morning is the first time since I don’t even know when that it really rained, and goodness me am I relieved. I’ve only been watering the plants I cannot bear to lose, and I especially couldn’t stand to use up all the water it would have taken to keep the grass green. It’ll bounce back just fine, and at least I haven’t had to worry about cutting it.

This morning we had a deluge and not only is the water butt completely full once more, things in the garden that have been struggling for weeks are already looking transformed.

That’s the very same bush, would you believe.

It’s still raining gently this afternoon, and although it is still humid the air has definitely cleared significantly. Hopefully it will be tolerable for work tonight, because last night was… damp. I managed to grab an impromptu night’s holiday after only being there for an hour-and-a-half, and I was already drenched in sweat. It doesn’t help that the forklift trucks are powered by a half-ton battery which gets hot when you use it, so you’re basically spending 8 hours sitting on a heater. Yuk.

Me, personally? I’m very much looking forward to real autumn and (hopefully) a more manageable climate to exist in for the time being. I’m also seriously hoping I manage to get my act together in terms of weight loss so I can have a much more comfortable summer next year, one I’m able to much better cope with.

Then again, I’ve been saying that for two years now! Still, I can but try.

Hayley x

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

Something of a Mess

This year I inadvertently took part in ‘No Mow May’. It was a complete accident- I was simply too busy to cut the grass. Or at least, when I did have a spare moment, it was of course raining. I’m not knocking the rain- I didn’t have time to water the plants so I owe anything still being alive out there to the odd shower. The weeds are thriving which I guess is good for the pollinators, but it’s not that easy on the eyes.

That’s kind of a lie actually. I am personally rather partial to the ‘wild’ look but my mother isn’t a fan, and it’s also really hard to find dog poops in the long grass.

Since we currently have a jungle instead of a garden, I’m patiently waiting until it gets late enough in the morning to cut the grass. I could do it now, but at 8am on a bank holiday? I don’t think the neighbours would be impressed. It is the Jubilee weekend in the UK, not that it means much to me. I couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the queen and I don’t get any extra days off work. Yay for working in retail. But I guess I should allow the rest of the street their lie-in. Me, bitter? Never.

In between paragraphs I’ve been popping out into the garden to see what’s new, and I’ve noticed that some of the nasturtiums have sneakily flowered. I haven’t even got around to sticking them in the ground yet but they’re doing just fine on their own.

So, I previously wrote that I was going to start being healthy this Monday, and wonder of wonders, I actually did. It’s a miracle! Before COVID I used to walk into town all the time instead of taking the car, but I haven’t done it since before the outbreak. Until yesterday that is. I’ve been putting it off for no other reason than I feel so bloody self-conscious about my appearance at the moment.

Fitness-wise I was fine. Despite being several stones heavier than the last time I walked that route, I did around five miles with not even a blister to show for it. Including doing my shopping, I was on my feet for just over two hours. Ok, I was also quite a bit out of breath and absolutely BAKING, but I’m happy that I don’t have to start right from the beginning when it comes to getting my old life back. In any case, look at that view. That sky! You don’t get that sitting indoors.

As for food, where I have repeatedly fallen down is that I started listening too much to other people. All the times I’ve been the most successful at losing weight so far, I’ve been following the Slimming World plan. The premise is that you can eat as much as you want of ‘Free Foods’, so you never have to worry about going hungry. The plan states that you should eat until you feel full, but that’s something I never paid much attention to at first. I like big portions, I always have. I like to eat.

It’s right that Slimming World should add a caveat with the Free Foods, because if you start eating everything in sight for the sake of it then you’re obviously not going to lose much weight. Having said that, I definitely took it too much to heart. I remember I’d lost quite a bit of weight already when my consultant asked me what I’d eaten recently. I’d made a crustless quiche, and if I remember rightly I’d used six eggs. She said to me, ‘but you didn’t eat it all, right?’ I did. I ate the whole damn lot, and I lost several pounds that week as it happens. I lost several pounds every week back then.

After that, other things started creeping into the group conversations. I started feeling guilty if my portions were too big or if I ate until I was stuffed, and that made me not only miserable but also, annoyingly, hungry. I see it on social media, too. HOW CAN SLIMMING WORLD WORK IF YOU CAN EAT 10KG OF PASTA AND STILL BE ON PLAN?!?!? Well, you can’t. As in, you can’t eat 10kg of pasta and not explode. That’s how it works.

Previous attempts to ignore the voice telling me to have one less potato or whatever have failed, but I have a whole new supply of determination at the moment. I have been eating very generous meals, and I’ve noticed that I haven’t been getting ridiculous cravings. Long may it continue! Yes, I’m still worried that I won’t lose any weight this week, but I need to see this through. I’m ignoring the doubts, and even if I don’t lose, at least I’m eating some veggies. My heartburn has almost gone, too. It will NOT be missed.

Ok, it’s only been 3 days and I have a long way to go, but I’m three days closer to my goal than I was before.

That’s something.

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

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