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Drowning in stuff

I have ambitions to be a domestic goddess but any frequent visitor to my home will be aware it is an aspiration rather than an achievement.

When my flat was on the market I went in for a marathon of cleaning, tidying and clutter hiding. Ultimately it was successful. I received several good offers which I didn’t accept because I couldn’t buy the house I wanted.

However it did bring about a kind of epiphany why was I making all that effort for the benefit of other people when I don’t make it for myself and I live here.   There was clearly something wrong with that and I decided it was something that had to change. I deserve a clean, tidy and clutterless home.

I’m on annual leave this week and I’m supposed to be resting and finishing unfinished craft and writing projects but what I’ve actually done is embark on a project to improve the home I actually live in instead of planning the home I’ll have when I find the perfect house.

So far I’ve sent five bags and a large box to the charity shop and posted six parcels of books to people who’d like them. More than 100 books have left my home and I honestly didn’t think I could do that when I started. I’ve filled a huge bag for rags and another for the clothes for cash place and I’ve only dealt with upstairs. My landfill and recycling bins are full to overflowing and I’m endearing how I managed to fit all that stuff in my flat. 

The cupboards of doom are doom laden no more and I’m unlikely to be knocked out by falling items from the airing cupboard. When I have the energy I’ll start on the kitchen cupboards.
I’ve composted all the past it plants in my front garden too and I intend to replant just a few of them so the exterior looks better.

I cannot believe how much better I feel now all that extraneous stuff has been evicted from my space.

April’s Happy things

We’re only four days into May and I’m posting I think that might be a record.

I always enjoy April, it usually signals the start of warmer days and lighter mornings and evenings. It’s also my birthday. All the best people have birthdays in April.

It started with K’s birthday dinner and Made in Dagenham a gift from D. Dinner was delicious and the play reminded me of all the reasons I’m a feminist. Barbara Castle and the Dagenham machinists don’t get nearly enough credit for what they did for all of us.

I went to see Cinderella with my big niece and my Mum – it was the best film I’ve seen in ages all three of us had a wonderful time
My Easter decorations I do like an excuse to decorate the flat and I don’t need much of one.
   

       

Easter egg hunting with both my nieces
Going to the swings after dinner with big niece it was  the first night it has been light enough to go
Watching A View From A Bridge with L. I was on the edge of my seat hoping it would somehow have a different ending although of course it didn’t
My Birthday Tea at my sister’s
Watching my baby niece taste birthday cake for the first time – she loved it
I saw a house I wanted to buy. I could really see myself living there. Ultimately it wasn’t to be but it made me realise that there will be other houses and other opportunities. Extending the lease has given me more opportunities than I thought
I did something very brave and way out of my comfort zone. I still can’t believe I did it
L came to stay and we talked half the night
Dinner out with the girls
My Nanna knew my name and that I was her granddaughter it was only for a moment but just for a little while the Alzheimers receded and she was back with me
The sapphire bracelet my sister gave me for my birthday
My little sister got engaged – so exciting
Successful end of year review – I’m virtually Mary Poppins
Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum
Dinner at Tas
Cocktails at Young Vic
  
Cocktails at Covent Garden Hotel
Shaun the sheep hunting with big niece
Taking big niece to Waterstones to choose her own books
My own copy of Captain of the Fifth
Good work news
Lovely birthday presents and cards
Family dinner at the Turkish
E came to stay I haven’t seen her for ages and we had the chance to catch up
I saw A for the first time in a year when she came for the weekend. We talked for hours, shared confidences and she supplied some much needed moral support

Generous apology vouchers from bank


New to me cutlery – it matches the vintage pattern I already own


Lovely new US magazines mum bought back from Texas for me. I always enjoy the escapism of Southern lifestyle magazines. It’s a world away from suburban London


Amazing parcels from L


I own the  Youngest Lady in Waiting thanks to L and Margin Note Books

Book shopping with Big Niece

On Sunday I took big niece out for the day. It was a long promised outing to spend some money her Grandad had given her.

Her modest desires were to have her auntie all to herself, to ride on a train, to go on the top of a bus and go back to that big big bookshop. The bookshop in question was the children’s department in Waterstones Piccadilly.

Happily I was able to grant her wishes. We went on a train and the front seat of the routemaster was obligingly empty. She quite literally ran to the second floor of Waterstones then sank to her knees in front of the five to eight fiction  section. To my amusement within two minutes she had two willing slaves in the form of the children’s book assistants who rushed to find any book big niece declared she wished to look at. 

She studied all the Happy Families books they had in stock (Aallberg). I managed not to announce that I thought Janet Aallberg’s illustrations were better even though they are. A willing acolyte dashed to find Rhinos don’t eat pancakes when big niece pronounced she’d like it. Finally both managed to conceal their disdain for the hideous Princess Ponies book. They are a shrewd marketing ploy but quality children’s literature they are not. They are also pink and I have a rooted objection to gender stereotyping children’s books. Even more than toys books are for everyone.

After long consideration – Grandad was generous but not so generous she could have all the books she would like big niece settled on four books with her money discretely supplemented by auntie who could not be cruel enough to make her pare down her choice any further.

We left clutching Miss Dose the Doctor’s Daughter, Rhino’s Don’t Eat Pancakes and two of the monstrous Princess Ponies books. I console myself that there is no such thing as a bad book only one that is not to my taste.

I couldn’t help a little warm glow though. As we were leaving a ‘helpful’ fellow customer said to my niece. “You know you could get more books for your money at Amazon?” Big niece looked her up and down and said “I know but I like coming here best. No one helps me choose at Amazon and I can’t look at the books or touch them before I choose.” I’ve done something right.

After that I helped her cultural education along a little further. We visited an independent cheese monger in Jermyn St – her manners are improving she only complained the shop was stinky after we’d left. Then I showed her Floris which she found entrancing. A lovely sales assistant let her look at everything then offered her a squirt of scent I’m not sure whether she knew it or not but she made a six year old’s day. Our final visit was to Fortnum and Mason to ‘look but not touch’. I had some difficulty convincing her that I could not afford to buy chocolates for everyone she was very taken with the displays. Again much kudos to the shop assistant who knew we weren’t there to buy but gave her a chocolate to taste anyway. 

Our final activity was Shaun the Sheep hunting, we found six which was rather impressive considering I’d failed and forgotten the map. I’ve promised another attempt later.

We had a short rest at the Southbank Centre and read Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes. It is a truly fantastic picture book and I recommend it.

Now if I could just convince her Macdonald’s is not a sophisticated lunch choice…

Happy things in March

March was another happy month. Generally there are lots of small joys if you remember to appreciate them and I really am trying.

I made my first trip to Versailles with K and H. It was fascinating however I was sad that unlike Joey and Madge there were no ghosts of the past there for me.

I have a teapot for work – it’s so civilised to be able to make a nice pot of tea and the ritual is excellent stress relief

Taking small niece to play on the swings in the park for the first time this year

Call the Midwife evening with my Mum and sister

Cocktails and dinner with the girls in TGI Fridays

Crocuses

 

Discovering that I can get John Lewis orders delivered to the Little Waitrose near work
A line has been drawn under something completely ghastly. I can’t elaborate but the outcome was the best it possibly could be for everyone under the circumstances
Royal Assent Party – the joy of finally getting the Bill you have been contributing to for months through Parliament
Walking in St James Park – daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops
Walking in our local park
Blue skies and going to work in daylight
Elizabeth is Missing – moving, heartbreaking, unputdownable
Mother’s Day dinner at the Turkish restaurant
Cut and Colour
Comic relief Bake Sale we raised rather more than £200 with cake and I’m as always amazed by the generosity of my colleagues 
Kenwood House and the view of Hampstead Heath
Visiting my sister’s new house
Dinner with H and K
Italian with Mum
Making meringues and perfecting my piping
 
Last day at work. I was very sad to be leaving my fantastic colleagues and nearly cried but they said some lovely things and gave me some amazing gifts. They know me well and I felt spoilt
  
A note big niece wrote herself which said “I love you because you love me even when I’m bad.”
Bluestone 42 returned and broke my heart
K’s birthday party
The other K’s home cooked Sunday lunch
Exciting new job
Glorious view on the way to work I could see so much of London laid out from the elevated section of the railway line London Eye, the Abbey, Parliament, St Paul’s, the Shard, Gherkin, Canary Wharf. Just perfect
My Leaving do – cocktails and afternoon tea with lovely people
Nightmarish legal matter is finally over and done with after 18 months. I can now say my lease is extended to 2150 and I need never think about it again.
@herdyshepherd’s sheepdog puppies they absolutely entrance me. You should’ve follow him
A Catallus quote that suddenly made sense of something 
Dinner and cocktails with the girls
 
Dim Sum in China Town
A new Hamish Macbeth novel to read
The library had the Silkworm and the Third Granchester book – I’ve wanted to read both for ages
I have a new author to read which makes me so happy

Magnolia Tree – when the magnolias blossom I know Spring is on its way

Waste disposal thingie when I was off sick and needed looking after Dad noticed that the thingie that covered my waste disposal wasn’t working and sprayed tea leaves and eggshell everywhere so he bought me a new one – I didn’t know you could.

There are new shops in the local high st – an unwanted pawn shop has become a traditional sweet shop and an empty shop now provides art and craft activities for children. This gives me hope that things are getting better here
D came to stay
My foot has healed enough that for the first time in 2015 I could take my niece out for a walk after Sunday dinner albeit not in the dark.

February – peaceful and contented

February has been another month filled with quiet, peaceful happy things with a few spectacular joys along the way.

I discovered how useful one of my Christmas presents a Vera Bradley wristlets is. My consultant was very unhappy about the weight of my handbag and said I had to carry less if I wanted my gait to improve. So the wristlet came into daily use. Not only is it pretty it holds my phone, cash, credit cards and a pen. With tissues and blue inhaler in my coat pocket I’m good to go.

My first solo adventure was a trip to the Dolls House Fair at the Tower Hotel. As always it was full of miniature delights but I managed to just buy a few tiny treasures for Mum’s house and mine. Aside from anything else I think it potentially costs less to furnish a full size house than a 1/12th scale one.

I met H for lunch and a good gossip afterwards. I’d not seen her since mid December what with Christmas, her busy season and my op.

There was snow. Snow is pretty  even if it did delay my long awaited return to the office. I’m still not allowed out in ice in case I fall. I’m not allowed to fall over at all.

Belatedly I began my slow phased return to the office. It was lovely to see everyone again and they appeared thrilled to see me.

The bank sent me an apology present because they really messed up. The messing up was irritating (and if I’m honest the chocolates were rubbish) but I was pleased they acknowledged just what a wrong thing they’d done.

Launch of Arsenic for Tea and meeting the author Robin Stevens. I loved her first book “Murder Most Unladylike” and the sequel didn’t disappoint. I have a pretty signed copy.

Reading Arsenic for Tea – three hours of reading joy.

Dinner at Côte with my Mum and sister

The view across London from the PDC – Eltham Palace, The Shard, The gherkin, one Canary Wharf. I forget how high up the part of London I live in is. Then suddenly I see London spread out in front of me like a toy town and I remember.

Riding in taxis as if they are little black buses. I’ve travelled in more black cabs in the last month than I have in the last five years. All the cab drivers have been so kind and helpful. It helps that I’ve not had to pay for most of my taxi journeys they’ve been a vital part of my phased return.

Staying with L in Cambridge and seeing her lovely house

My Christmas present Hyacinths flowering

Rereading the La Rochelle books – perfect convalescent reading.

The new Kings Cross – more especially the shop at Platform 9 3/4.

People have been so helpful as I’ve started moving around again. My fellow commuters have been kind and considerate as have most railway staff. It’s only cyclists and mother’s with oversized pushchairs who’ve tried to shove me out of the way for being too slow.

Getting behind the wheel again. Being able to drive myself around again made me very very happy. It was most of my independence back in an instant.

Interviewing Headteacher’s  for the school where I’m a governor. It was a fascinating experience and we made what I hope is going to be an excellent appointment.

The sudden reappearance appearance of a parcel posted to me on 1 December. Next door’s gardener found it in the middle of the bush the courier had dumped it in. Amazingly after two months exposed to the elements the contents were unharmed.

Baby J a long awaited, much wanted first baby was born to some family friends. He’s gorgeous.

An incredible surprise yarn parcel from D – I will be able to do something amazing with that.

Dinner out with K and L

Snowdrops

Light sunny mornings with blue skies

Back to having coffee with the girls.

Pimmy’s new home

Finishing baby Oscar’s sweater

All the money donated to the mugged Gateshead pensioner which has restored my faith in human nature

The outpouring of love and support from all over the world for a critically injured friend. She remains very unwell but continues in old fashioned parlance to hold her own so I’m hopeful that in the end she will recover.

Another family friend survived serious spinal surger. Once again to use a girlsown term it was kill or cure surgery. They survived, the tumour was benign and at the moment all the indications are that it will cure them completely.

Watching a plane take off from London City as my morning train headed to town.

I seem to be back to my normal whatever that is. My energy levels are up and I seem to have my time management skills back.

I’ve made more than £50 selling duplicates from my book collection.

Fantastic and flattering new job opportunity. I start at the end of March.

The beautiful black and white cat that prowls around my parents’ house.

Watching Shaun Evans in Hello Goodbye at the Hampstead Theatre. I had several fangirl moments that afternoon.

All the steps are now in place to finally complete the annoying legal matter at the beginning of April. Hurrah!

A weekend in Paris with K & H to reward myself for being brave and agreeing to surgery.

Finally making it to Shakespeare and Co. So many books crammed into so little space.

I never tire of the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame.

January – a quiet but happy month

Somehow we are already ten days into February and I still haven’t blogged about the things that made me happy in January. However there’s no time like the present.

Circumstances have meant that most of January was spent on the sofa. This is because I have already fulfilled part of my New Year’s resolution to sort out the problem with my feet. I screwed up all my courage and allowed them to operate on my worst foot.

It had been a very quiet and quite solitary month but despite immobility and some pain it has not been without its happy moments. There’s a quote in Anne of Green Gables, if I’m honest it’s rather twee but it sums it up “if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it”.

I began the year by winning at Trivial Pursuit. It was more by luck than good management but still gratifying.

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Last year New Years Day was a terrible anti climax. I stayed inside all day and was frankly very miserable it wasn’t a good start to 2014. This year I was determined to do better. So I recruited three like minded friends and arranged a day trip to start the new year on a high note. We drove to the Kent Coast and enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Marine Hotel in Tankerton and afterwards we went for a five mile stomp along Tankerton beach. It was a lovely beginning for 2015. There is kudos but no prizes for spotting the children’s book reference in the photo.

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My boss gave me some delightful chocolates in return for lending her an embroidery pattern.

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Before my solitary confinement. I managed 4 days back at work where I cleared the decks and managed to fit in a pizza night with my Mum and sister to watch the Call the Midnight Christmas Special – the rest of the family don’t want to watch so we always have a girls evening to watch it together.

There was a lovely last hurrah before being confined to the sofa with L, K and S. We had a splendid dinner out and a gossip.

Then my surgery went very well. I’d been warned about multiple things that could go wrong but none of them did. The severe pain I’d been told to expect didn’t materialise. It was almost a pity. I was offered morphine and didn’t want or need it. My pain levels were very low and I reacted well to the GA. So well that I came round and immediately asked for a cup of tea which was promptly produced. The only unfortunate event was that the wound began bleeding as I was about to be discharged and I had to stay in hospital overnight but I’d always known that was a possibility and had prepared for it. The splendid breakfast they bought me in bed more or less made up for that. I was incredibly well looked after and everyone surgeon, anaesthetist, nurses, physio and pantry staff were so kind and helpful.

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If I’m honest everyone was kind to me and very helpful. I had lots of visitors all of whom were happy to do anything that might make my life a little easier or more comfortable while I recovered.

Tulips – the pink ones I bought myself, yellow ones from Mum, Rainbow ones from Pimmy.

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The first daffodils of this year.

My Amaryllis has beautiful bright red flowers. I love Amaryllis they are one if the things that brighten January for me.

My great aunt’s Orchid is flowering for the first time in two years. I’ve cherished it since she died but it hasn’t really done anything for ages then suddenly there are spectacular flowers again.

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My Christmas hyacinths from A beginning to grow.

Kind friends lending me books and DVDs to keep my occupied while I was confined.

I received so much lovely post.

K cooking me dinner fabby stuffed peppers.

P cooking dinner, changing a lightbulb and cleaning my bathroom – what true friendship.

Cuddles from big niece.

Meeting baby R again.

Orchid from fairy godmother.

January TV: Father Brown, Broadchurch, Call the Midwife, Death in Paradise.

The joy of being set free of non weight bearing and the despised cast. Even if it did look a trifle horrific.

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But it was better after a bath

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The joy of my first hot bubble bath when I was released from plaster. I had a Lush bath melt and enjoyed a long hot soak.

Choosing the food I wanted in the supermarket when I could go out again. Small things you know…

The first cup of tea in bed for 15 days.

My colleagues sent me gorgeous flowers. Once I was working remotely from the sofa they also took turns to phone me to keep me in touch with the office and share all the gossip.

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My sofa of convalescence – a complete bargain from the charity shop purchased when my surgeon said I must be able to lay flat. It turns out to be so comfortable I might keep it despite its lack of aesthetic appeal.

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S who kindly accompanied me for a little walk.

Selling a redundant knitting book for a truly ridiculous sum.

K and H who helped me celebrate my freedom with curry and wine.

Thermal tea mug from K to help solve my inability to carry a hot drink when on crutches.

Finishing Steph’s Christmas cardigan only 25 days late.

The lovely podiatrist who spent 50% longer than I’d paid for sorting out the mess that was my post surgery feet.

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B came for lunch, gossip and to help me sort out the horror that is the GGBP bulk buy January Sale order. Roughly 100 books to sort and allocate them.

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Hopping on one foot.

The last twelve days have been a steep learning curve for me.

On the 9th I had minor orthopaedic surgery. This involved a very short operation – I’m told it only took 16 minutes – where a surgeon aka the Great Doctor removed a centimetre of extraneous bone and a large amount of fluid from my right heel. I am at least now sure it was the right decision because virtually the first thing I was told when I came round was that surgery was the only thing that would have helped.

I’ve been lucky. I barely noticed the GA in fact I woke up and asked for tea then consumed every bite of my post op meal. It also has not hurt as much as I anticipated or as much as I was warned it would. It hurts less than the spike of bone did. Frankly I laughed when they offered me morphine after surgery I needed it before not after.

Tragically I am not one of those people whose appetite is affected by a GA I hoped I would go off my food. Sadly it didn’t happen. I dread to think what the scales will say when I am finally released from my confinement on the sofa.

All this means at least a fortnight on crutches which is not so much fun when you live in a first and second floor maisonette and have two flights of stairs. However I’ve learned many useful things (some are just common sense) and now I share them to help anyone else who might end up with the horror of non weight bearing.

If like me you have advanced warning that you are going to be incapacitated, cook extra every time you make a meal and freeze it. I’m so glad I did this as it’s making my life so much easier now.

I now understand why people might buy pre-prepared fruit, vegetables and salads. I’m going for the quickest and easiest solution while still trying to eat properly as I’m sure proper nutrition will help me recover faster. M&S do excellent cook in the microwave bags of veggies in one person portions. You just nuke them and eat them.

If you can possibly squeeze one in put a stool or chair in the kitchen as close to the kettle as possible. It’s the only way you’ll get to enjoy a relaxing hot drink. You try using crutches and carrying a hot spillable drink and you’ll see what I mean. I’m really feeling the lack of tea.

Beg, borrow or steal a large table and place it right next to your sofa of convalescence. Put everything you might need on it within easy reach: Medication, tissues, mobile, remotes, chargers, large bottle of water, pen etc. I have a 4 gang extension lead on my table (purple plastic borrowed from big niece) so I can charge things as and when I need to without getting up.

Keep your waste paper basket close at hand so you can deal with rubbish promptly and not have to look at a big pile of it.

Baby wipes are your friend. Your very best friend. When a hot bath becomes impossible and a shower is an epic exercise, baby wipes at least make you feel clean and remove surface grime.

Your mobile phone can be safely carried inside your bra thus it is always to hand should you fall but not in your hand making you more likely to fall.

The easiest way to transport anything else is in a cloth bag either over your shoulder or hooked over the handle of your crutches.

Small cartons of juice and water are also your friend. They are easy to transport and don’t leak until you open them.

Invite all your friends to visit. When they offer to help accept the offer, ask them to do whatever you need and let them do it. In my case all visitors are asked to make tea the minute they enter.

Be organised: Collect everything you need to get dressed and put it where you intend to dress to save trips around the room. Ideally keep things as close to where you dress as possible. I have temporarily put all my frequently used cosmetics on my bedside table as I’m dressing sitting on my bed.

If I ever have to do this again I’m either installing an intercom system or getting a key safe so I don’t have to crawl downstairs to let people in.

Elinor Brent Dyer was right you really do feel so much better if you can manage to wash your hair. If that’s impossible even just washing your face and hands, brushing your hair and teeth and moisturising your face helps. I add a quick spritz of scent to make me feel like me.

I believe Cousin Helen also recommended trying to be an attractive invalid in as pleasant surroundings as possible. If people kindly bring you flowers have them arranged where you can see them and try to keep things as tidy as you can. Apart from anything else the fewer things to fall over the better.

Accept it’s only temporary and try to enjoy guilt free lounging. So far I’ve read 20 books, knitted lots and watched about thirty hours of TV. I’d never normally be able to do that.

I’m consoling myself that if one must be more or less housebound and compelled to rest on the sofa there are worse months to do it in than January.

Roll on Saturday when hopefully I will be set free. I am looking forward to putting my foot flat on the floor without pain even if that does take a few more weeks.

I may ceremonially burn my compression stockings.

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