Posted in Cooking, Creative, Gardening, Home, Life

I gardened.

I went out to the veggie patches this morning.  It’s a nice zone, reallyt, basically adapted from what was there already.

When we moved in, the garden was an expanse of grass.  We had no idea what was under it.  We assumed it was just a huge blank meadow waiting to be mowed.

When we DID mow it, we found paths and walls and things that looked like they used to be flower beds.

Next door said the two large, walled rectangles surrounded by paths, positioned in sort of an ‘L’ shape with a flat concrete section in between, used to be where the generator was before the house was on mains electricity.

I looked at them and saw the perfect spot for a veggie patch – self contained and easily manageable (or so I thought) sizes.

Hubs bought me a (second hand, disintegrating) greenhouse.  It was half the size of what I expected my greenhouse would be, & made of corrugated plastic stuff instead of glass panels.  Which is a good thing since it all but collapsed the first winter it was up.

(He’s since re-inforced it with a wooden frame of sorts from some leftover joists from another project.)

The Allotment
The pumpkin patch with the greenhouse in the background and the other veggie patch behind it.

Along the side of one of the beds, between that and the path, was what looked like it might have been a flower bed…maybe to disguise or beautify the generators?

I got him to build a frame along the back of this long, narrow bed, and last year planted fruit bushes and vines….grapes, kiwifruit, loganberries, tayberries, raspberries and gooseberries, with the intention of trailing the growing plants up around the frame to create an edible wall along the path.

The fruit frame
The frame built along the side, with fruit bushes trailing up it. (Gooseberries at the very bottom of the picture)

 

The first year I did anything with them, in 2017, before the fruit frame was put up, I managed a few carrots and a couple of small onions, and a handful of potatoes.  The one broccoli plant I tried failed completely…mainly because of an abundance of slugs – on the plus side, I realised how much of a battle I’d have against slugs!

In 2018, there was the whole miscarriage thing, with two hospital admissions, in March and October; which meant that in between I really didn’t have any interest in putting in any effort in the garden; so apart from the greenhouse being reinforced, and the fruit frame built (and therefore me planting the fruit bushes against it…); not much was done on my part last year.

Which brings us to this year, 2019.

The fruit I had planted last year, I had checked on occasionally.  It was a 6-pack of ‘crumble mix’ fruit plants from a supermarket I think… rhubarb, goosberries, raspberries, tayberries and loganberries, and blackberries I think; although when I got home I realised the 6th one was missing from the pack so I only ended up with the first 5.  I also bought a grape plant and a kiwi plant at reduced price, so I didn’t really expect them to survive.

All were planted along the frame; grapes at the top for the vine to grow up and over the side of the greenhouse; kiwifruit next, then the tayberries and loganberries (I’m still having trouble distinguishing which is which, despite having picked and eaten quite a few this summer already!) then a space where I had wanted to put strawberries in raised beds (still haven’t got around to that one yet), and gooseberries at the end.

I think I planted them a little late, but they seemed to settle in and grow a little before the weather turned and winter set in.  Apart from the kiwi; which didn’t seem to want to be there at all.  Ah well, I hadn’t expected much from it anyway.  The grape vine, however, grew really well, and although I had no fruit of it, it reached the top of the frame and along the side of the greenhouse.

Of course, they all died off over the winter as expected.  Earlier this year, I went out to tidy up and check on the area and was overjoyed to see they all, including the kiwifruit plant, seemed to be springing back in to life.  That, in addition to having a huge bowl of carrot seeds I’d harvested from the original planting of carrots (It seeds bi-annually, so I’d left the strongest looking plant from 2017, and harvested a few large heads of seeds in 2018, and dried them and kept them in over winter, sewed them in trays in the house at the beginning of this year) seemed to have spurred me on…so this year, I took the plunge and bought a few more seeds to plant along side the carrot seedlings; and the pumpkin seeds I’d saved from last Halloween.  I spent a couple of weekends re-weeding the original veggie patch; and the second one that hadn’t been cleared or planted yet.  The pumpkin seedlings went in the ‘new’ patch; along with the rhubarb from the ‘crumble pack’ from the year before, which had been in a large pit from the year before.

Carrot plants flowering
Flowers like the ones I left to brown and harvested seeds from in 2018; on this year’s carrot crop – 2nd generation carrots from my garden!!

The veggie patch had a cloche in one corner, that I’d rescued and anchored down with some sand bags hanging over the frame in each corner (I’d almost given up on it last year as it kept being blown around the garden in high-winds!).  Inside the cloche this year are 2 honeydew melon plants…again, seeds harvested from a shop-bought melon so being grown to seedligns as an experiment; and 2 capsicum (sweet-pepper) plants, similarly, grown from seeds of shop-bought produce.

In front of the cloche are potatoes (grown from shop-bought potatos left to go to seed), cauliflowers, and turnips.

In the other full half of that veggie patch are beetroot, savoy cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots and garlic.

Pumpkin patch
The pumpkin patch as it stands August 2019, plants left to vye for their own space & nutrients
A baby pumpkin
Some plants are producing fruit though; as it stands, this is one of two I can find on the patch.

They all seemed to take off initially, 15 pumpkin seedlings, which grew and grew and have been flowering almost constantly since June.  They’re apparently quite thirsty plants so when we had a lot of hot, sunny weather I was watering them every evening; now we’ve had a lot of rain recently I haven’t bothered and they seem to be fighting for space now & weaker ones are failing.  I did get a snippet of advice about thinning them out but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered!!  And to be perfectly honest, it’s been pretty much the same with the veggie patch…I went through a short period of despondency.  I looked at the amount of weeds that were surrounding the veggies, and the hints of slugs having returned after I’d dilligently slug-pelleted and organically hand-picked and removed them, and felt like I just couldn’t face the constant battle.  So the patches were left for a few weeks.  In the meantime

Yesterday, just out of interest, I tugged out a few weeds from the edge; and cleared a few slugs by hand.

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The first harvest of beetroot and turnip

There were far fewer slugs than I thought there’d be; and the weeds came out a lot easier than I thought they would…so I continued.  And then I pulled up a couple of turnips, just to see if it had ‘worked’ (I’ve never been a turnip fan so it was more of an experiement to see if I could grow them than growing them to be eaten!) and there they were; 4-5 suitably sized turnips (I had to look that up, I wasn’t sure what an average size for a turnip was supposed to be!!)

 

I moved down to the end of the patch and cleared some weeds around the beetroot; and noticed the tops of the root veggies showing at the base of the stalks looked quite impressive in size, so chose a few of those to pull up too; and ended up with a harvest that quite impressed me!

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Beetroot leaves and stalks….I had them for dinner!

I ended up googling what to do with beetroot leaves and stalks, as it felt wrong to ditch them (I don’t actually like beetroot all that much, shop-bought pickled stuff; only planted them because the seeds came as part of the pack and hoped they’d distract the slugs if they were along the edge, before they got to things I actually wanted!!).  I found that they were safe to eat and found this video on a way to cook them with lemon juice and garlic (also dug up from the veggie patch 😉 ) .  I gave it a go and that was my dinner last night…not bad, actually!

This morning I had another forage around, pulled out a few more weeds, realised the few broccoli and cabbage plants I have aren’t actually as bad as they first looked with the slug bites in them, and I might end up with something from them.

I know I could (and have) look up expert instructions on all of the things that might be wrong (weeds, slugs, too many pumkin plants overcrowding…and many more!) but I feel like I’m learning more from making my own mistakes – each year I’m producing a little more; and remembering more from what went wrong previously.

When the despondency hit last year, I’d pretty much given up, this year when I started the weeding I found a few more (small) carrots, onions and potatoes that had survived from the year before; and this year, just harvesting *something* edible, and standing back and looking at it and realising that it’s more than the year before, and the year before that, I realise that despite the mess and the chaos and the holey leaves, and my veggie patch not looking like the perfectly arranged and organised allotments I walk the dog past every day; I’ve managed to grow stuff, and increased the edible amount every year.

Today I pulled this carrot out when getting on with the majority of the weeding.

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yes…it’s straighter…believe it or not!!

This carrot might look a bit dodgy to you, but it’s already bigger, and straighter (believe it or not!) than what I got from the original 2017 lot (and the leftovers I found earlier this year); and this is not even the largest one from this crop… it is from the seeds I saved from last year, meaning it’s a second-generation carrot from my garden, and already stronger and healthier than my first attempt.

In watering and checking the fruit and veg, when training the fruit bushes to grow up and around the frame, I’ve picked a good few handfuls of berries, and washed and eaten them.  I’ve had no fruit from the grapes or kiwis yet but they’re already stronger plants than they were last year; so I’m ever hopeful.

I like to think of myself as an experimental gardner; much like when I’m cooking, really, once you know a few basic things, get out there and give it a go, don’t be afraid of things going wrong, and learn from the mistakes.

I’m ever hopeful that from the remaining beetroot, turnips, and garlic, and from the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, melons, capsicums, potatoes, onions, tomatoes in the greenhouse, chilli and lemon plants in the greenhouse (that might be adopted as house-plants), and the baby pumpkins, I should get more produce, at least enough to ecourage me to step it up and be better next year!

R

xx

n.b. on a side note, no, the children aren’t that interested in trying the turnips and beetroot! 2 of them have tried the berries and are impressed; and have shared the carrots in the past. But on the plus side, even if I produce enough for me; that’s one less person eating in to the rest of the monthly food bill!

 

 

 

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Posted in Family, Healthy, Home, Life, Medical, Miscarriage, Women's Issues

The Baby Room.

Today, I cleared out the baby room.

We hadn’t been trying for children.  We have children.  They’re fab and amazing.  I was 30 when I gave birth to the first one. I’m almost 40. I never said never again, mind you; we had baby stuff from the younget gathering dust in the attic; I hadn’t quite decided whether to get rid of it yet.

Having said that, it was still a bit of a shock to discover just before Christmas that I was pregnant.  It took me a couple of weeks of worry and consideration before I actually started getting excited about it.  We wouldn’t have told anyone until much later except that my dad was visiting – he lives a long way away and we don’t see him often.  We considered for a while but realised it might be nicer to tell him in person, rather than wait until the ‘safe’ 12 week mark – where the chances of miscarriage drop dramatically; and then tell him over the phone. And of course, telling him meant having to tell other people, so word got around.

Of course, I tried not to get *too* excited until the 12 week mark. But we got some of the stuff down from the aattic.  Well, we were up there anyway putting the Christmas decorartions away. We had baby stuff ‘donated’ to us immediately by family as soon as they found out. The magic 12-week mark came and went and all was fine.  And the smallest bedroom – too small even for a single bed – became ‘the baby room’.  Not neccessarily a nursery; just where we were putting all the baby stuff for now, as I went through it; checking if it was usable; cleaning stuff; preparing, as much as was possible.  It wasn’t neccessarily a room for *this* baby.  It was just a room to keep the baby stuff in; that we intended to fashion into some kind of nursery; when the time came.

Well, the time isn’t coming.   At 17 weeks, I suffered what’s known as a ‘late miscarriage’.  This is because it happened in the second trimester.  Had she made it to the third trimester it would have been counted as stillbirth.

Either way, She won’t be joining our family.

When I was in hospital, hubby asked if there was anything he should do, like sort out the baby stuff and clear the room away. I said no.

It didn’t upset me at the time. I had other stuff upsetting me enough than random baby stuff.

Because that’s all it is.  It didn’t upset me when I came home.  And even since, going in to that room and seeing baby stuff is still not  a trigger for me.  Not like the small teddy they brought in with her when they’d cleaned her up for me to spend time with; or the tiny urn that now contains her ashes; or the rose bush in her name that some friends very thoughfully sent us.

It’s just a room with baby items in it.  Crib, Cot, pram, clothes, toys, nappies (no, I didn’t ”stock up”…I use cloth one. They’ve been passed down from the others.)

It wasn’t ever ‘HER’ room….until the miscarriage we didn’t even know if she was a boy or a girl; so that made it hard to marry up the posessions with the coming baby.   She never spent a night in it, so that didn’t make it ‘HER’ room, either.

It hasn’t been left untouched.  The airing cupboard is in there, so I am in and out regularly getting clean towels and putting some away.

I’ve not been avoiding it.  Sometimes I’ve gone in just to sit quietly in the rocking chair. And it doesn’t upset me.  For one thing, they’re all items that we’ve used before for the other three. So nothing in there was bought exclusively for this baby anyway.

So when I went in there to clear away some space to use as storage space for some of the camping gear that’s coming out to hand ready for the summer; it was just like tidying any other room.

Now, the baby stuff is still there; but instead of laid out carefully organised, the cot and crib have been folded away and clothes and baby blankets folded up and stored, and the new tent is in there waiting for the summer camping trip.

Now, of course it would make more sense to put the baby things away completely – to put them back up in the attic or start giving them away or taking to second-hand shops and so on; but her surprise existence, although a shock initially, has got us into the expectation that there might actually be another addition to the family.  We’d got used to the idea, purely because of her existence; when we hadn’t even been planning her or trying for her.  So for now, they’re staying in the baby room.  And we may pay a little more attention to trying.

At first, I was scared to say anything about trying again.  It seemed to me that people would think another one would be a replacement for the one we lost.  It’s not.  She wasn’t planned, nor was she expected.  But a new baby now would be her legacy.  A new baby now wouldn’t have existed if she hadn’t forced her existence upon us.

So today, I’ve sorted out the baby room.  The smallest room.  I’ve not cleared it.  It’s a store room.  Full of things ready for when they’re needed.

Posted in Creative, Home, Life, Travel, writing

Is this summer read guaranteed to leave you wanting more?

So, I wrote this book…

I did.  I mean it.  Well, actually, I wrote it, like five years ago when I was a bored housewife in the Caribbean.  Y’know, like all Fleming-esque, sitting on the verandah with my laptop (I wanted to inherit my grandma’s typewriter but it was not to be 😦 ) and a Bahama-mam… Nah, just kidding…

I was at the dining table with the air conditioning on while the children had afternoon naps.  You know how hot it is in the Bahamas, right? Without air con I’d have done nothing for 2 years but sit on the beach.

And then…nothing.  It sat gathering dust.  Virtual dust on my laptop.  Well, on a memory card inside my laptop.  I had another baby.  We moved back to the UK. Life got on top of me. Again. As has always been my excuse.  As did a few more pounds. And…my 35+ year old dreams of being a writer were sat aging in the corner of my mind again.

Well, to be fair, I was making a little headway (by way of one step forward, twelve steps back, but still, headway…) with an acting career, of sorts.

And then, at the beginning of this month I suffered a personal trauma that pretty much made me burst in to tears every time I saw people, let alone had to talk to them.

The only thing that distracted me was reading a detective novel on my e-reader.  And then I finished that one, and something drew me back in to getting back to my series again…so I did.  And within 2 weeks I had it edited to within an inch of it’s life (Honestly, some parts were just crap, didn’t make sense or just didn’t fit) and made some sembelance of a contemporary romance novel, oh and with a hero I was totally in love with, so jealous of the heroine!

So, I finally bit the bullet, and forgoing the myriad of rejection letters from publishers I’d probably have to put up with, (there’s enough rejection in acting already) I signed up to Kindle Direct Publishing and have published it as an ebook and paperback and just telling the whole world (that I know personally) about it 🙂

So, go take a look, it’s a contemporary romance with a bit or action and adventure, and a bit of raunchiness.  Well, if people will read 50 Shades..

Buy “Dreamboat” on Amazon

Dreamboat cover

Posted in Acting, Creative, Home, Life, writing

21600 minutes

21600 minutes.

That’s how many minutes are in 15 days.  15 days since my last blog entry…I’m slipping again.

And the silly thing is….it’s not because I’ve not been doing anything exciting.  I have. 21600 minutes of doing stuff. Good, fun, exciting non-houseworky non-parenty stuff.

It’s just all secret.  I can’t tell you about it.  Although…technically..since this is my secret little blog that I don’t tell anyone about I’m not sure it would count as publicising.

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I was doing housework one day, last week, and I got a message asking “Can you be at *** for 3pm and be free for the next 3 days?” {dun-dun-duuuuuuun how covert is that?}. So that took up most of last week (it was Good Friday on…er…Friday so no-one would have been working that day anyway otherwise I’m sure I’d have been working that day too.) Yes, it was work…of sorts. Filming.  Some people know already (one of those ‘worst kept secrets’ things).  I should be able to talk about it in…er…September.  Statute of limitations on certain types of filming work where one is employed in a certain type of role… 😉

And then…I got specially selected to join an exclusive Film Club.  And since the First Rule of (said) film Club is that you don’t talk about film club…well…there ya go.

Ooooh, I guess it’s not-so-secret that I’m going to be a Doctor Who tour guide.  I haven’t signed the tour-guides-official-secrets-act for that one; however I’m playing with ideas in my head that *I* want to keep secret so that anyone wishing to join my tour will have a couple of nice moments they didn’t know about before…

AND it’s been the Easter holidays from school…although I didn’t get to do much with the children last week due to the top-secret last-minute filming booking (which was *REALLY* fun to do, by the way.)  But, we did get to go and see Dewi & Dwynwen the dragons and their new…er…born (?) eggs at Caerphilly Castle … they’re SO fab.  Someimes I wish they were real…

And we had a BBQ.  Oh, and we went to the rugby!  Judgement Day V .. what a day out that was.  Apart from *some* unruly junior players sat around us, who I suspect lack both the discipline and the self-control to ever really make it to the top of their sport… Luckily, I like to think that my little player, despite being the smallest in the team (he has the speed to make up for it though…) has the the dedication and the passion to do just a little bit well (seriously…he gets REALLY upset when he has to miss even one training session or game…and he’s only in the Under-7’s!) ….and I’m looking forward to my free tickets to the hospitality box when he does… #ProudRugbyMum 

Posted in Family, History, Home, Life

27 Addresses

I was in the supermarket the other night on my way home, picking up some last minute stuff.  It was quiet.  Almost closing time.  Two men behind me at the only open check-out knew each other, and began chatting as acquaintances do who haven’t seen each other for a little while. One told the other they’d just moved house and bemoaned some of the things that go along with it.  The other responded with “I moved house, once. Never again”

Once???? I’ve recently moved for the 27th time.

Just for clarity, I’m counting any address where I lived, made my own beds, bought my own food, (unless too young and my mum was doing said things for me) received mail – so that it doesn’t count as a ‘holiday’ (or vacation if you want to be mutli-national about it).

There’s no one set reason. I wasn’t an ‘army brat’ whose parent or parents were in the military and so we moved bases regularly.  I wasn’t born into a tribe of Romany travellers or some nomadic tribe in Timbuctu.  There were (are?) all sorts of reasons.

The first was that my mum & dad grew up in different parts of the country.  They bought their first married home in *his* region; but when his job took him away a lot and mum found herself alone for long periods with a baby, it made more sense for the family home to be near to *her* family; so when I was 2 we moved house back to her home town.

I count being at sea as being “somewhere I lived”, so that’s one of the 27 places.  Even though we went back and forth a LOT of times, and on different ships; I can’t really separate the memories of different voyages, but they all lasted for months.  Besides, any mail we received (and this is why I’ve counted it…I remember a helicopter landing on board out at sea once, near Christmas, and “Santa” getting off and handing a sack to the crew member who’d gone out to meet him) would have been addressed to the same shipping office address and then forwarded on.

We moved house again, after my little sister was born, so I would have been 7; and as a family of 5, with a nanny, we were outgrowing our 3-bed terrace; besides, Dad had ‘made Captain’ so I’m assuming the income was better.

After that…well, it’s difficult to track the amount of time spent in each place.  My parents divorced and we left the bigger house.  We moved in with mum’s boyfriend.  Then we moved in with her next boyfriend….and so it went for a while.  Rentals, with or without boyfriends. Then after a few years she remarried and I thought, finally…a bit of stability…

Alas, that was not to be. They decided to go into business as a pub-management couple and so we lived above various pubs, moving around a few as the tenancies ended or whatever other reasons we were moved. Then it was convenience stores…we lived above/behind two of those.

Then I went to university; and so I moved…this time into a house share with 3 other students.  And eventually my dog – but dog-tales is probably another post…

My next ‘move’ was Camp America.  My first time abroad on my own and first visit to the USA. OK so it wasn’t *technically* a move, since I was on a student/temp work visa to work in the USA for the summer; but I did receive mail there during the few months I spent in Iowa. (Mum, and a friend, both sent ‘care packages’ – a collection of sweets/foods from home!  remember, these were days before everything was global; there were far more brands that remained local and hadn’t yet breached human borders. Although one bag of jelly sweets mum sent had congealed – the package must have been left in a warm place, maybe out in the sun at the cargo depot in between flights, but they’d then gelled back together into one big lump of multicoloured jelly sweet.  it was quite amusing.  And difficult to eat!!).  and if it counts, I then traveled down to Brazil to stay with Dad for a few weeks, although I’ve included that in this whole summer experience as 1 move.

After that, mum left husband#2 and we moved to a small rented terrace; which was quite sweet, really.  And a nice location.  It was close to where I ended up working for the next 10+ years and I cycled to work regularly.  Also accessible to nightlife and shopping and public transport. And my grandparents – they were in walking/cycling distance so I could pop round when I felt like it.   Mum eventually moved back with husband#2 and I took over the rental of the little terrace.  And I was so happy to finally have a place of my own, I was there for a good few years.  I hadn’t learned to drive up until that point and didn’t see the need to living there either.  I was dispatching airplanes for a living, and completing loadsheets, and even had a couple of flying lessons but couldn’t drive a car!

Then I met my husband-to-be.  Once it seemed we were to ‘settle down’ together he brought up the idea of buying our own place.  We searched around and even though my preference was to stay in my home town, we found a new build (His preference…I’ve always prefered older houses), up in the valleys, that was still to be built but the plot looked amazing and the showhome was a similar style…we bought it off plan the same day and it transpired that I would need to drive in order to get to work, so the driving lessons began in earnest.

And I kept saying, over and over, I was only moving again because this would be the last time I moved.  We would put our stamp on this new home and stay there. It was sizeable, bigger than we would have been able to afford down in my home town (houses in the valleys invariably are at the lower end of the house-price range), and there was a playpark, and a school nearby…we figured, not that we had set plans, but if children of our own came along, we would grow into the house and the area.

And then…one strange evening, he got a phone call in the middle of the night from a company in New Zealand asking if he’d like to come and work for them…

It wasn’t a decision we took lightly.  I mean, who gets a call like that out of  the blue from a country you’ve never been let alone ever considered living in?  It took us a while, but we thought, hey why not?  And once again…I promised my self: last-time

Of course, then there were a few address changes when we first got there. He went out first as he had to start work; I followed after I had worked my notice and packed up the house to be shipped over (since the new company had given him a relocation allowance…otherwise it’s a very expensive undertaking!  Even then, it pretty much ate up anything we had – which wasn’t much.).  They had put him up in a city waterfront apartment to begin with for his first 4 weeks, to get a foothold while he started work and had a chance to look around.  Then he found a small bedsit in the city for when I arrived.  To be honest, it was a nice little place.  Very basic, and all our own stuff was in storage.  But it was nice, kind of freeing, to be living with very few belongings for a while. But we had a container of stuff arriving, so we needed to think about renting an actual house.  So we found one.  And moved in.  And the stuff arrived. And then he heard from someone in work about other ex-pats on the same visa as us (work-to-residency) who had managed to get mortgages.  So, we found a nice place and bought again.  So we moved.  Luckily before having unpacked the boxes of stuff!

And we got a dog.  And I found out I was pregnant. And I looked out at the view from our balcony regularly and told myself, again, that this was the last time, that I would stay here and settle down…

After I had the second child, Other half was getting itchy feet again and was browsing jobs…and was really taken by an ad he’d seen for his role…but in The Bahamas.  I rolled my eyes.  Thinking it was a long shot I just nodded and said ‘go for it’ when he asked if he should apply. Not such a long shot as it turned out; he was offered the job…and after that there was very little chance of him being persuaded to turn it down. It was a 2-year contract ‘with a view to extend’.

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There had been a suggestion discussed that I would stay in NZ with the children and he could send money back, at least to begin with.  But I didn’t really have that much fight left in me by this point, and couldn’t see myself being here alone with children. And I asked for reassurance that there was little chance of this actually only being a 2-year contract and a high possibility that it WOULD be extended? Yes, of course!  Why would they let him go after spending all that on relocation and so on and so forth…

So, just short of 5 years after arriving in New Zealand, we all went.  We packed up…again….with another relocation allowance.  We flew to LA.  Stayed there a couple of nights to wait for the dog (She wasn’t allowed to fly Air NZ so we had to collect her off a Qantas flight at LAX). Then we used a little of the relocation allowance to take a 2-week road trip across the States from LA to Huston, from where we could get a short hopper-flight to The Bahamas with the dog in the cabin.  I’d investigated different routes and options and this seemed the best option to lessen the stress of shipping and flight-changes and different cargo handlers the dog would have to endure in order to get straight to Nassau.  Plus it gave us a bit of a holiday. And it was pretty long and involved a lot of sleeping.  And we did normal regular life things like visiting vets (The dog had 2 separate import events – NZ to USA then exported US to Bahamas as there was no direct route; so we had to get vet checks and certificates from a US vet to OK her travel to the Bahamas for them to issue an import certificate and registration…)

And then…Again, the company had secured us accommodation to begin with so we could settle in while we looked around.  Then Hubby got talking to a guy…who struck me as dodgy immediately, but he assured hubby all was above board, and we rented a rather stylish penthouse apartment from him.  At about 30% the price he’d originally been advertising it for…

…a few months later after we’d moved to an actual house in a gated community, hubby got talking to someone who had been a neighbour in the swish apartment block…turned out the building was stolen and the guy had no business renting out apartments to anyone!!

Taught me to trust my gut instincts again…

I became pregnant again.  Now, considering we’d gone 5-6 years of, well, not necessarily ‘trying’ but then, not really taking any preventative measures, before moving to NZ, and nothing happened, (well, there was that one miscarriage but let’s not get into that), before no1 came along we’d kind of resigned to the fact that they never were.  And now, here was the third… Maybe it was the environments we were living in? The local foods?  And so, no3 was born in The Bahamas.

And then…his contract wasn’t extended.  There had been a general election while we were there.  The opposition got in, and immediately started making changes, as new governments are wont to do.  One of their policies was to strengthen the ‘jobs for Bahamians’ policies.  So, although it was nigh-on impossible for a foreigner to get a work-permit for Bahamas (I was allowed to live there as a spouse of a worker but only on a non-working resident visa), in cases where technical specialists, or highly skilled workers were required, then exceptions were made.  Now, it was even harder for those exceptions to get passed.  The company CEO was a Canadian.  His 2-year visa was up 6 months before hubby’s.  The company were having so much trouble trying to get a visa for their C.E.O that they took one look at hubby and thought they couldn’t even be bothered trying to apply for his…and so, we were off again.  Except, not sure where to…

Hubby had been chatting to an engineer on the other end of his cable network…in Miami, Florida.  He was invited to interview, and was given reason to believe a job was being offered to him.  He was emailed advice on which US visa to apply for and so on and so forth (they were very careful about the wordings of their emails and contacts…) and we started looking for homes and schools and details on living in Florida… and two weeks before we were due to go over; the company in Miami turned around and said, in basic terms: ‘actually, we’re not offering you a job…’.

So, we ditched the US visa application.  (We were going to get it anyway having already paid the non-refundable application fee; y’know, just in case it came in handy coz one of us was going to need a job before long and it couldn’t hurt to have it; but when we went in for our appointment, the snooty, self-important embassy staff were so rude and condescending – our photos were the wrong colour or the wording of something was wrong – I just took one look at hubby, and having had far too much stress and experiences of international visa applications and jumping through other people’s hoops over the years, I said, “let’s go, I can’t be bothered with this, we don’t need it.” and walked out, leaving a stunned desk clerk.  As though she’d not witnessed anyone turning down a US visa before?! Come to think of it, she probably hadn’t…coz everyone’s desperate to be American, right?)

We couldn’t go back the NZ because we’d left just shy of being able to convert our ‘returning resident’ visas into ‘permanent resident’ visas.  (The children were born as UK citizens as we weren’t ‘returning or permanent residents’ when they were born so didn’t qualify to be Kiwi…more money we didn’t have being poured away trying to get NZ birth certificates to get UK passports to get NZ visas put in them…Oh, and they charge you more for a UK passport if you’re not in the UK applying for them.)

There was nothing for it than to return to the UK.  Although with nowhere to live (having sold up and emigrated…remember?!) we were at the mercy of family and friends.  Hubby cashed in some pension fund he had to see us through for the first few weeks.  We lived in his mum’s 1 bedroom flat with her for a short while. We moved in with my mum for a short while but needed to get out.  By this time no1 was nearing 5 years of age and I’d already searched info and found that legally in the UK children must be enrolled in full-time education at age 5 (even though they *can* start younger in a lot of areas, it’s not compulsory until age 5.  just thought I’d clarify because a friend was adamant that because her daughter had started school age 3 that it was compulsory.  It’s not.)

So, we rented a house from a friend of a friend, and I found the nearest Welsh-medium primary school and no1 & no2 started there.  Mainly because, despite moving school countless times myself, growing up, I went through school in Welsh and this is what I know.  So I was more comfortable with them having that education, knowing I could help as much as I could.  (Plus it’s giving me a LOT of practice speaking Welsh!).  In fact, had we stayed in NZ and they’re grown up there, that would have been my one regret, that they couldn’t have a Welsh educational background.

Speaking of moving schools; now that they’re there (no3 started there in January too) I am ADAMANT that they will not change schools.  Of all the memories of my childhood, good and bad, one of the experiences I hate the most is being made to change schools. Multiple times.  I refuse to subject my own children to that.  So for now, at least, while they’re in school, we will stay in the same area. Having said that….we’re now on our 3rd rented property in the same area since we were moved on from mum’s.

Although we’d eventually like to buy this one, and stay for ever (so much so that I’ve started tending the garden with a vigour for gardening I’ve not had since that first new-build we bought over in the other valley…purely because I haven’t felt like investing the time and hard work in the other places thinking I wouldn’t be around long enough to reap the benefits) … we (as in hubby & I) have said that before…and for various reasons we’ve had to move on.  And I’m losing more of my resolve to put up a fight each and every time.

What would be REALLY nice, though, is if the universe & its powers-that-be, can agree with me, and realise that 27 really is a good number to finish on.  So, Stop now.  Let me be settled.

x

Posted in Creative, Family, Home, Life

Seeking The Good Life

 (…or, how would we continue to live after a zombie apocalypse?)

In accordance with the parenthood-induced-paranoia of my last post, and constantly worrying about what goes into our food, I’m increasingly interested in all things related to natural, sustainable living.  My guiding principle in this endeavour being, what if the unthinkable happened (Zombie apocalypse, world-order collapse etc.) and there were NO MORE SHOPS??? (Or cars, or farms…well..ok, there might be some quite healthy farmers laughing at the rest of us but they might live too far away from home to be able to pop over – without a car – for an egg and a side of beef…and how would we pay them?)

There was a TV show on when I was little.  Well, it was being repeated when I was little – it was produced originally before I was born.  It was called “The Good Life“.  Many readers will remember it.  For those that don’t, modern couple in Surbiton ditch their city-jobs and ‘modern life’ and decide to become self-sufficent, living off their garden and things they can make and grow and produce themselves. (My sister lives there, in Surbiton, now…can’t see her living like that though…)

Today, I planted a cherry tree and an apple tree in my front garden.  I also did a bit more weeding and planting in the flower bed just outside the back door.  It’s tough going – it’s been left wild for seemingly years to what used to be a flower bed was solid grass and dandelions before I began.

I planted some strawberries in tubs.  Time will tell but last time I tried strawberries they were rescued from B&Q for 50p per plant at the end of the season before being dumped by them.  By the following year I had a bumper crop.  It may have had something to do with the copious amounts of Miracle-Gro I was using.  Still, it gave me the confidence that I could actually produce something.  Then we moved.  And moved again…and again… (Again, another post…) and so the effort I had put in to that garden has never really come back to me.  Until recently when we moved again and this house, well, this one seems right…

I’d prefer to be doing this chemical free.  Of course.  I do not use weed-killers. of any kind.  I believe the safest and most effective way of removing weeds is..well..to remove them.  Dig up the roots and all and get rid of the whole thing completely,  And no poisons left behind to seep to your other plants.  I’m not much of a scientific gardeer; following rules and testing soil samples and paying attention to acidity levels and all that.  So far I’ve just been a fair-weather plant-it-and-see kind of gardener.  learning by trial and error and giving a bit of care and attention. Because I haven’t had to rely on the results…

Where did it start?:
It’s not a new interest of mine.  I grew up, as I’m sure many of us millennials did, with a grampy & great-grampy whose gardens were mostly given over to cultivating their own foodstuffs for the family.  Vines of beans and peas, greenhouses full of weird and wonderful scents and sights; and the weekly bribe of “ah, but they’re from grampy’s garden” over Sunday lunch to guilt us in to eating our veg.  (It always worked and I’ve been a keep veg&fruit eater since). It’s always been obvious to me that it’s perfectly natural that part of your garden is used for growing food.  In fact, I watch some of the more recent crop of ‘reality’ shows on TV, teaching people how to save money on their groceries, or eat a healthier diet, or a combination of the two, healthier cheaper supermarket shopping, and am at a loss to understand the pre-made roast potatoes and Yorkshire  puddings and the pre-grated cheese; the sauces-from-jars-or-packets and every other over-processed convenience food; the throwing away of the ridiculous over-stocks of fresh foods when it was clear they’d bought too much for them to consume within the time-frame of freshness…and I wonder whether these people are real…was there no hint during their childhood of what was in their food?  Did their mothers and grandmothers not involve them in the cooking & baking (and the washing up)?  Didn’t they pick their own peas from great-grampy’s garden and eat them fresh straight from the pod before even going inside?  Did they honestly think the only way to get lasagne was to buy it ready-prepared in the freezer section?

To me, having the space, even a small patch, in a garden, at your home, to grow at least something edible, is a normal part of life.

The Duck Collection:
We have a duck collection. (Rubber ducks, I might add). I think it would take a whole other post to explain the background to it; but suffice to say, it’s now the theme of our bathroom.

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( just *some* of the duck collection & theme, in our old bathroom)

Since that began, it’s always been at the back of my mind that I’d like to own ducks. Real ones, I mean.  As pets/domestic animals, partly, and partly to provide a fresh supply of eggs (and general amusement).  Actually, I say since then, I actually mean, since there was a 4-legged duck born in the UK, randomly, who became famous and made the news.  I looked him up on the internet (in it’s early days back then I suppose) and discovered that the farm where he was born also supplied ducks.  And they weren’t overly expensive either. And the seed was sewn…if they were that easy to get hold of, how difficult is it to look after them…? So I’ve been researching and procrastinating ever since.  About 10-12 years now.  I’m pretty sure it might happen one day.  I have an aunt who has chickens.  And I’ve learned that ducks not only produce nicer/more nutritious eggs than chickens but they’re also calmer and quieter in general.  I’m sure the neighbours would prefer ducks.   Various moves and living situations and so on have thus far prevented the very thought; but in keeping with the spirit of this post, Ducks for eggs (and eventually meat, maybe?) would be another addition to my Good Life garden.

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Stumpy the 4 legged duck as a chick…
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Stumpy grown up, with 3 legs after an amputation.

And another thing…
It’s always bugged me…well, since I’ve been trying to research stuff on the internet, it’s bugged me…that when you look up an instructional for something; say, how to make a home-made hair-conditioning or face-mask from scratch using household ingredients; invariably, it involves getting some exotic essential oil from your nearest branch of *insert name of US niche chain store here*.  Another example – I recently began working as a costumed medieval tour guide and so researching history has become more than a hobby, and actually sort of work-related.  So looking up ways to make certain things the old-fashioned way came in to play – cheese, butter (I play a dairy maid 😉 ); bread, wine, herbal medicines and so on. We have an apothecary nun who grows all kinds of things so learning what certain native British plants used to be used for is interesting. It annoyed me that everything online, suggesting how to ‘make this yourself at home without buying shop-bought stuff with preservatives and additives in’ STILL included having to ‘go and get something from the bakery aisle of your local supermarket ‘ …
Take Yeast for example. I looked up how to make simple, basic, home made bread.  Invariably “get some dried yeast from the supermarket” was always one of the steps.  With a little more digging I found that with a little starter yeast it’s easy to produce more; a bit like when I make home-made yoghurt with my Easiyo yoghurt maker, without the use of their pre-packed sachets, using UHT or pre-heated milk and some starter yoghurt.

But in a bit like ‘the chicken and the egg’ – where did the FIRST sample of starter yeast and starter yoghurt come from?  What happens if you run out inadvertantly?  Does the medieval village baker close down and wait for the next trader from the holy-lands to wander through the village and hope he’s carrying a sample of yeast?  How do you explain that to his Lordship and hope his lack of Pain-de-Main doesn’t cause him to close down your oven and chop your hands off? How do I get some starter yoghurt if I’ve run out (alright I had an unplanned house party, made a mint-yoghurt dip and a lamb curry with my yoghurt and forgot to save some for the next batch…). Now, the fermentation of milk into yoghurt & cheese was discovered by accident in the middle-east thousands of years before (or holy-lands I suppose as they were better known at the time). Fresh milk for drinking would be stored in a drinks container made from a sheep or camel stomach or intestines, for example, and after a few days riding across the hot desert, they’d find the milk, well, not quite as it should be.  It wasn’t just soured and gone off; but had been preserved in some kind of slightly solid and quite tasty substance.  Rennet has been used in cheese & yoghurt making ever since. There are alternatives such as certain vegetables that produce a coagulating substance

Now, with a little more digging I’ve discovered that it’s possible to recreate the yoghurting (is that a word or did I just invent it?) process without a starter, or the rennet, believe it or not.  There’s a few web posts dedicated to it.  I haven’t tried it yet but am anxious to try…y’know, so I know I can make yoghurt & cheese after the apocalypse…

Apart from some sources I’ve found mentioning that a bread starter can be made using just water and flour, I have discovered that yeast is a natural substance that grows on the outside of various fruits.  Raisins are good apparently.  It (basically – look up more in depth instructions if you want to try this...) involves soaking the fruit (I used raisins and orange peel) in water and leaving it to ferment.  Eventually, a film of solid…well…mush, separates from the fruit and sinks to the bottom. After a few days, remove the fruit and save the yeast and the water it’s contained in.   Now, I *have* tried this….I think it was successful (it certainly *smelled* a bit yeasty…well, like a brewery so I think that was close enough 😉 ) but I’ve yet to test it in the making of bread.  Well, I tried, but it was after moving house meaning the jar had not been refrigerated constantly (it was kept at room temp during the move while the fridge was unplugged, moved, settled and then plugged back in) and also, I think I may have stored it too long…and I dind’t exactly follow instructions to the letter, so it didn’t seem to have much of a reaction to warmth and the ‘bread’ was a bit, well, like a brick!  I am determined to try again, properly. Y’know, so I know I can still  make bread (if I figure out how to grow a good yield of grains in my garden) after the apocalypse.

So, once I’ve got the gardens cultivated and growing (also, without relying on buying Miracle-Gro from the shops that may not exist after the mentioned apocalypse!) settled the ducks in (and maybe a pygmy goat or two) and have figured out the yoghurt and yeast thing, we might be pretty well off!Oh, and I’ve even looked into which plants make a good soap-like substance 😉

Anything else I’ve forgotten?

*Disclaimer* Nothing in this post is meant as an instructional of any kind.  If you decide to have a go at the things I’ve described, please look elsewhere for full instructions and don’t hold me responsible 😉 !!
Posted in Acting, Christmas, Family, Home, Life, writing

Happy New Year

I know, I know, it’s almost 2 weeks into 2017.  Most people have stopped wishing each other ‘Happy New Year’ by now.

So much so that when someone said it to me yesterday I had to do a double take, and was so stunned into silence that a slight stutter in response was all I could manage before they were out of earshot to hear me return the sentiment.

Well, the darling laptop is home! Finally.  I realised, from finding my last blog entry, that it was 6 months ago that she ‘died’ … and I’ve survived that long! I know, right?

laptop

As explained to friends the other day (via messenger chat, on the laptop! Woohoo!) … 2 months for the actual fixing (she had to be sent back to the manufacturer’s regional HQ across the Irish Sea since the repairs were beyond the capabilities of the little local repairman – so much for supporting the local High-street!) followed by 4 months of trying to scrape together enough money to spare to pay him. Yes, it’s that bad. It wasn’t even that much in the grand scheme of things; but to us, me, it was. I even did the Mrs Claus thing again this past Christmas, with all the good intentions that a short-lived regular income would pay off the small list of items I had prepared.  No such luck.  It got frittered away on Christmas luxuries like feeding the children and paying unauthorised-overdraft-charges and late-payment-fees at the bank.  Still, just about managed a couple of Christmas presents; a pile of Christmas cards which ended up never getting posted (Sorry!)

(It’s a whole other story what I think of a certain bank charging £££ for my account having accidentally strayed a whole 70p into the red for LESS THAN 24 HOURS – it was actually about 7 – before I found a little bit of cash to pay in to bring it back to normal)

But, this post isn’t about that.

In all honesty, I’m not sure WHAT it’s about specifically… in which case, I apologise for boring you!

What did strike me, on the school run yesterday, was that when I originally started writing here; I intended to at very least, write a short entry each day.  I even had a handful of titles, themes, trains of thought, to start me off.  I sometimes wrote 2-3 a day and scheduled their publication so there would be one each day.  And…

…as with other ventures, it trailed off.  I began to tell myself it was OK if I maybe only posted every couple of days.  Which turned in to once a week.  If I was lucky… And then, the whole laptop gone thing didn’t help because we do have an ancient desktop in the corner of one room, which is nice and compact for a desktop and it’s surrounded by the computer desk meaning that’s where the printer and all my belov’d stationery happen to reside also; but…it’s ancient (in terms of technology) and therefore is very slow and for the most part unresponsive.

stationery1

I barely managed to file my tax return online using it, and that was only after putting it off for 3 months longer than I would have, simply because I lived in hope of getting the laptop back in time to file on there before the deadline of 31 january.

Even though the computer desk in the corner is usually…well, at one point, always was…one of my (very few) happy places; even sitting there once a day/week/month attempting to write a blog on the old PC didn’t appeal.

Concerns such as “The children play computer and other games in this room” or “I can’t curl up comfortably on the end of the sofa, laptop resting on the arm, and write from a position of relaxation if I want to” (Yes, I was that petty.) Besides, I had other stuff, like winning acting awards (YAYYYYY!), looking for somewhere to live, getting a new Christmas Job and such things on my mind.

What the heck, I thought, no-one’s reading anyway.  Well, 2017, that’s not the point, is it?

Then, it struck me…DOH!  There’s all the things I was using as excuses to not keep up the blog (regardless of readership!) and yet…there’s instantly the beginnings of a list of posts.  Woohoo!

So, in case you missed it the first time, and in an attempt to get in my 750 words for today… Happy New Year.  I hope yours has started as you wish it to continue.  Or at the very least, better than last year ended.

 

Posted in Family, History, Home, Life

Growing up…

I just put a poster up on the wall.  The Cylch Meithrin  handed it to O/H the other day when he picked #3 up.

#3 will be 3 in a couple of months.

He can start school in January.

#1 moves to Juniors in September.

When did this happen?

The poster is a bunch of milestones/stages/abilities a schoolstarter should have reached or accomplished to show s/he is ready to start school; with some stickers to mark them off. I’m torn between feeling proud at how much he already can do; and feeling sad that he’s growing up so fast, without me even realising it.

Posted in Home, Life, Medical, Women's Issues

Six Months Later…

…I got the letter today.  I knew it was coming, it’s about 6 months since the colposcopy and biopsy and all that.  But actually receiving the letter with a date and a time, it’s made it more real. Time for another colposcopy/smear to check if what they scraped out last time has worked, gone, come back, grown, got worse… who knows?

So the doomsday thoughts and feelings have been whizzing around my head today.

And a couple of conversations going on on social media are grating on me, too; given that my mood is already on the dark side.

x

 

*Update… After a few weeks, I got an all clear letter, giving me all clear and that I’m back to regular check-ups*

Posted in camping, Family, Holiday, Home, Life

Coming Around Again…

The sun came out.

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I know.  In the UK. Amazing, right? And suddenly everyone has realised they own barbecues, and lawnmowers, and shorts.

Including us.

So the garage has been sorted and the ‘oudoor toys’ have been rediscovered by the children who forgot they had them.  In some cases they found some we didn’t even remember we had in there since before they were born…

And we got the pup-tents out.  The pop up ones for a laugh to start with, to amaze the children as to how easy and quick they were. (Yes, someone felt they had to make an instructional video….)

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They have memories attached themselves.  The road trip we were on to visit friends for the last time before we emigrated…the first time… and found them in a branch of Halfords and bought them as an impulse purchase; the (one and only) time we actually went camping, to a campsite, on a camping holiday, in them … and ended up on a pitch next to a family with a car emblazoned with a camping and outdoor accessories store logo; and the amazed looks on their faces when we turned up and within minutes were sitting next to our accomodation in camping chairs sipping wine; while they continued to struggle with their 12-person, multi-room mansion (I think they were only staying 1 night…)

And we started sorting out the camping gear in the garage, ready for the next foray into the fun of sleeping outdoors…under a sheet…

Because, so quickly, it seems like only yesterday I posted this blog post about last year’s trip. And here we are again, preparing ourselves for squashing as much as we can into the vehicle to make staying in a cubby hole made from thin fabric and plastic poles, feel like is has all mod cons, already…

And then, this one came out …

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Yes.  It’s just a tent.  It’s a little, 2-man, dome tent.  It says “Outbound Sierra 1” on it. Took me 5 minutes to pitch. But took me back an awfully long way.  It’s funny, how things, items, stuff can seem like just posessions, sometimes, but attach so many funny little memory triggers to them.

My dad bought this tent, for my brother, sister and I.  I’m not sure why…the exact reason behind it; but I remember we pitched it for the first time at one of his Seafaring colleagues houses up in Monmothshire somewhere I think.

I can remember sleeping in the back garden one night, in it.  I can remember lending it to a friend from Youth Theatre when he went to Glastonbury for the first time because he didn’t have a tent.  (The tent’s been to Glasto but I haven’t…).  I can remember taking it to my grandmother’s house in Cornwall with me, and two friends from school coming down by train and we camped in it … 17 years old and our first camping trip. And it was nuts. (and the beauty of living out your teens back then is…that’s all you’re getting…. we managed to live out our tweens and teens and twenties before the internet was invented; so we can hide all that stuff that we didn’t tweet and instagram and facebook about …and just smile about it fondly)

But trying to explain to the 7,6 and 2 year olds that this tent was … blimey… about 25 years old, got barely a reaction from them.

Best of all?  It’s still pretty weatherproof.  I attacked it with a hose from all angles, and pretty much turned the grass surrounding it into a bog, and it’s bone dry inside.

It stank a bit when I got it out … the last time I ‘aired it’ was about 5 years ago (at least).

So I think it’ll be sat outside for a while to freshen up a bit.

Which the children are pleased about – One’s favourite colour is green and the other is orange, so they’ve adopted it.  The third one loves blue so he’s gone for the blue pop up.  And I still have my pink one.

Poor Daddy.   Good job we have the cottage tent to go on holiday with, really!

 

X