Saturday, 31 December 2011

Where I was 2011

2011 was an epic year for us, an astonishing year, a year of challenges and achievements.

In April I did something I never thought I would; I got engaged.  In August, I did the other thing I never thought I would, and got married.  Both things happened in one of my favourite places, the South-West of France. 

Or shall I just wear sandals...?
I wondered whether to wear my favourite Birkenstocks on my wedding day...

Wedding shoes
...but in the end I wore pretty white ballet flats, and showed off my Birkenstock tan marks

On both trips down to France I went on a good number of long walks - often in extremely hot temperatures.  There was a MASSIVE snake on one of my walks in April.  Five French spring walks here: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  And a dawn walk à deux, a few days before we got married in August.

Lush green springtime in France
Walking through lush, spring grass in France in April

French orchids in April
Orchids were everywhere when we were down in Tarn-et-Garonne in April

O camping in France
O ready for a walk, August

On St Cecile Plage
With O on St Cecile plage in Normandy, on our way home

I also did a great deal of walking with Miss Moss Stitch in the first half of the year as we walked the length of the Thames in central London, and visited a few markets too.  You can find our first ten weekday walks, covering most of our river walks, here.

Mudlarking finds
Treasure from the river

Estuary mud
Estuary mud - at Silvertown in February

At Bankside with Gill
Self portrait at Bankside, on one of our river walks

Mudlarking with Gill
Mudlarking again, on the Isle of Dogs

One of the biggest things that happened to our family this year was Graham's Ironman race, which he did in Nottingham in July.  In many ways it was a bigger event than our wedding, because it took much more preparation!  I was so incredibly proud of him when he finished, and came home a whole half-hour faster than he had hoped for.

Watching the end of the Ironman
I watched the marathon part of the race, lounging on G's quilt in the sunshine

Muddy forest legs - March
Ironman training - muddy, bloody legs after a 3 hour run in Epping Forest in March

I was also very proud when C did his first ever triathlon, in July too.  He put in so much effort; and like his father, he trained properly and consistently leading up to it.  July was a month of snickers bars, bike grease and dirty trainers.

Cam's triathlon
C's tired legs, after his triathlon

Cam did well at Park Run
C's new trainers, and an award from Park Run

At other points during the year we camped with friends, I made G an autumn leaf quilt for his 40th birthday, C started secondary school, I went to Kew Gardens regularly with family and with friends, I baked pies, I did a great deal of knitting, I found a new friend and I made a great deal of jam.

Graham's birthday quilt - February
Graham's 40th birthday quilt

First day at school
First day at secondary school

Stratford station - May
Coming home from Kew - at Stratford station - May

School Playground - June
In the school playground - June

Cousiny toes
C's big nearly-teenage feet, and cousin L's little baby feet

Knitting at Fairlop Water
Knitting in the sunshine, while C sailed on Fairlop Water - June

Jam stash

It has been a very good year indeed.  Sending you all my very best wishes for a good year to come in 2012.


You can also see where I was in 2010, in 2009, in 2008 and in 2007.  I have been blogging for nearly five years!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wide winter skies

The skies over Epping Forest this afternoon were beautiful. 

Epping Forest skies

Epping skies

Epping skies

Epping skies

Epping skies

Oaks and skies

O and I walked.  C leaped over ditches and streams.  G ran.

Livvy's boot

Leaping over water

Slightly derranged after a fast run
Delighted that his wife is making him pose for a photo when he is sweaty and mad because he has just run A Very Long Way

Everybody happy.

Monday, 26 December 2011

10 Christmas things

On the tree
  • The decorations and tree were all packed away this morning.  I enjoy feeling Christmassy during Advent, but once it's over, it's over.  The house feels so spacious and tidy without the tree!  Every year it reminds me of this book - a favourite with C and O when they were little.
  • I have left the jugs of holly and ivy up on the mantelpiece.  They feel wintry rather than Christmassy.
  • A jug of holly and ivy
  • I like this week between Christmas and New Year very much indeed - there is a feeling of time being suspended; the pause button being on.  Rules are relaxed and things are more free-form.   
  • I made a wallet for my new Kindle.  It is padded with quilt wadding, so that I can drop the Kindle into my satchel without fear of it being scratched or turning itself on.
  • Kindle case
    Padded wallet for my Kindle
  • I love the juxtaposition of grey, functional, electronic gadgets and bright fabric cases.  My phone, my laptop, my camera and my iPod all live in padded sleeves like this.
  • There is good cooking to be done in this holiday week.  At lunchtime we had a glorious Boxing Day soup of leek and potato with some of the leftover roast chicken from yesterday.  I also used the leftover giblet stock and a slug of champagne that we somehow failed to finish yesterday.  There is no other time during the year when I would put champagne in soup.
  • Tomorrow's cooking will focus on the leftover sausagemeat stuffing.  I always make about twice what I think we will need so that we will have some spare.  I think this year it will end up in a spicy tomato and pepper stew.
  • As well as my Kindle I also received some actual books for Christmas - River Cottage Veg Everyday is as wonderful as I hoped it would be.  Once all the leftover chicken and stuffing is finished, I shall be turning my attention back to vegetable-based meals which is how we eat most of the time.
  • I love not getting up until the sun has risen - it feels incredibly decadent.
  • We're still eating (and baking) mince pies.  Everyone in this house loves mince pies.
Mince pies - nearly as good as my mother's

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The ghosts of Christmas

Yesterday, on a trip to spend time with my family in Oxford, I went back to the small village where I grew up.  The children wanted to visit this place that they have heard of but never seen.  I felt like it was a good time to reminisce.  It is twelve years since I was last a visitor there, and twenty-one years since I last lived there.

Durham Leys Farm

Pollarded willows on The Green

Around the village green

Cricket pitch on The Green


On the bridge in the middle of the Green

Graham and Cam outside the school

It was unchanged, English, rural, muddy, quiet, pretty, remote, emotional and a little bleak.  It took me approximately one minute and forty-five seconds to remember why I love living in London so much.

Today we are back home, the Christmas linen is on the table, the angel chimes are singing and I can hear someone playing Jingle Bells on her recorder. At 3pm this afternoon there is A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings on Radio 4, which I shall listen to while I make the mince pies.

Livvy plays the recorder

Christmas table

The Ghost of Christmas Present is a much more comfortable companion than the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Swedish angel chimes on the mantelpiece


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas wherever you are.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Crows in the sky by Snaresbrook Crown Court
Crows in the sky

Wide mid-morning skies
Mid morning in Epping Forest, at Leytonstone

Even at this time of year - just a few days shy of the shortest day - and when even at 11am it doesn't feel as though the sun has quite risen yet, there is still plenty of colour around if you take a moment to look for it.

Green broom
Vivid green broom

Yellow gorse

Golden grasses
Golden grasses

Red berries

But the brightest colours in Epping Forest this morning were on O, who darted from tree to tree creating flashes of colour like an oversized parrot. 

A flash of 9-year-old pink among the bare trees

She decided to wear red tights under her little shorts and huge pink coat. 


Her favourite pinky-purple hat which Granny knitted is really too small now, but she wears it anyway. 


And her silver and green walking boots, worn with purple socks, set everything off nicely.

Her walking boots