Last night, a friend asked me if I’d ever managed to find the house that I was looking for and it took me until about ten minutes ago to realize where they meant.  A couple of years ago, when I first moved back to my hometown but was working regularly up in Manchester, I became obsessed with a cottage that I passed by on the train (the one in the photograph).  Eventually, I decided to locate the cottage on an OS map & discovered that it was part of the Shugborough estate in Staffordshire.  I had a very jolly day out with my parents visiting ‘my’ cottage; ‘house stalking’ is the phrase I like to use, although it sounds somewhat sinister when written down – I promise that it is undertaken in a friendly & light-hearted manner, purely with the aim of looking at homes that I think are lovely and would like to live in.

Recalling my visit to Shugborough got me thinking about all of my ‘dream’ homes.  They are all small; either terraces or a little cottage.  None are fancy, nor are my fantasy plans for any of them particularly grand or elaborate.  The same goes for my ‘dream’ car – I’ve already owned it, an old Mini.  Maybe I’ll own another one day, or maybe I’ll go for something else.  Even the other cars that make me go ‘Yes please’ aren’t particularly expensive or exclusive; recently I’ve become fixated with an old red Renault Clio that I’ve seen around – I can so clearly imagine myself tootling around in that, a la Nicole in the classic ads.

It seems a bit funny to pause and reflect upon my dreams in such a self-conscious manner; normally they are more nebulous ideas, floating round in a general ‘Hmm, I like that…’ kind of way.  But I feel happy for realizing that my dreams are so achievable – admittedly it’s unlikely that I’ll like in a tied cottage on the Shugborough estate, but once I’m in a position where I want to buy somewhere, then I should be able to afford the kind of home that I desire.  Ditto the cars that I like.  Ditto my ideal holidays.  Ditto my ultimate wardrobe.  

Finishing the thesis in the next few weeks marks the realization of one long-held dream; the next steps afterwards begin the realization of others.  And I’ll sleep well on that thought, with sweet dreams indeed. 

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Since my last post, I have been humming ‘Look for signs that summer’s done’ over & over to myself and I think that this has subconsciously been encouraging me to actively look for such signs.  Here’s my list so far:

1) I’ve had my desk lamp on for most of today as the weather’s been so dull.

2) I’m eating a lot of beautiful fruit & veg bought from the harvest sale – made a tomato salsa for lunch & had a medley of roasted veg for dinner.

3) I’ve bought some fab boots & a cosy pair of thick merino wool socks to wear with them (please get a bit colder, please get a bit colder, please get a bit colder).

4) I’m eating sturdy, solid, traditional biscuits – digestives & shortbread.  Highly recommend Daylesford Organics stem ginger shortbread.  It’s enough to make you want to hibernate & live off nothing else for four months.

5) We’re getting some crazy moons.  Unfortunately the photograph that I’ve uploaded doesn’t quite capture the eeriness of this particular moon rising, but it was spectacular.  I’m captivated by the lunar cycle & it never fails to amaze me how this time of year always brings with it some stunning sights.

6) I’ve swapped to my a/w pyjamas.  Brushed cotton with a proper tie so I can tuck the top a la old men’s pjs.  It’s not quite cold enough to get the cashmere bed socks on, but it won’t be long.

7) I really, really want to cosy up in bed with a cup of tea & some good reading material – tonight I have Making, a beautiful new craft magazine.  I know one of the writers in it, a fact that I’m so proud about that I had to share it with the girl who served me in WHSmith.  She looked pretty impressed, which is good as she could have just looked at me like I’m a nutcase.  And it’s to Making that I turn now, for a bit of seasonal indulgence.  Goodnight!   

Well, autumn certainly seems to be upon us now.  Being a big fan of knitwear, I always welcome the onset of the colder months but part of me still feels a little mournful for the passing of another summer – and with it, the passing of the time of year that promises so much excitement and escapism: holidays; summer romances; long, lazy evenings; breakfast al fresco; picnics; bare feet; sun, sand and… (add your own ending as preferred!  I’ll plump for ice cream).  So while I’m looking forward to all that the new season will bring, it cheers me to see nature’s last stand against the inevitable.  These photos, taken within the last hour, show the final signs of summer, making me think of a wonderfully melancholic song…

Look for signs that summer’s done,

Winter’s drawing near.

Watching the changing colours come,

turning of the year.

See the flower’s final blaze,

in the morning’s misty haze.

Sing a song of thankful praise,

as the year grows old.

Action 17

During my ‘tatting’ trip to Weedon on Tuesday, I picked up the book Change the World for a Fiver (pictured) by the community group ‘We are what we do’ – the people behind the Sainsbury’s / Anya Hindmarch ‘I am not a plastic bag’ phenomenon.

The book is basically a collection of fifty ‘actions’ – ideas for things to do to make the world a better place, with an environmental/social slant and costing very little money.  It’s a lovely book – beautiful illustrations, witty, thought-provoking.  

Action 17: Try watching less TV seems particularly appropriate this evening as I have begun my boycott of X Factor (see last Sunday’s post for details as to why!).  Change the World for a Fiver provides suggestions what to do with the time created by watching less TV, but here is my list so far…

1) Finished edging a baby’s blanket that I’m making.  Blanket is now complete after months in gestation.  Yay!

2) Emptied out the bag I use for ‘current’ craft projects.  This tends to accumulate lots of bits & pieces, & having a sort out gave me a feeling of immense satisfaction, totally disproportionate to the task itself.

3) Listening to Saturday evening shows on BBC Radio5 Live.  I used to listen to these programmes regularly but haven’t done for a while.  It feels like I’ve met up with an old friend, plus I’ve got to hear an hilarious snippet of a Swiss minister in giggles while giving a speech about cured meats.

4) Blogging!  I am writing this post in the time that I would normally be watching TV.  I love the fact that I’m plugging Change the World for a Fiver while implementing one of its actions!  I am, however, going to watch Michael Macintyre’s Comedy Roadshow at 9.25.  After all, it’s only watch less, not give up TV altogether.  My X Factor boycott seems to be a happy coincidence.   

Dilemmas, dilemmas

Well, it’s still only Thursday evening but already this week has transpired to be a week of dilemmas.  Every day has thrown up the need to make a decision that has caused some angst on my part, from the seemingly trivial to more important moral choices…

* Whether to continue watching X Factor since my discomfort on Sunday.  The revealing article by a music journalist – also posted earlier in the week – has added to my concerns in this area. 

* To go to an aqua-aerobics class or not – was it genuine tiredness or just laziness masquerading under a more acceptable excuse?!  Not being sure whether my swimsuit actually fitted or not was another factor.

* What toiletries to buy – needed a few bits and pieces but trying to save some money.  Also trying to be a more ‘green’ consumer and health & beauty is a real minefield in that respect – packaging, chemicals, animal testing, exploitation of natural resources, the list goes on…

* Spying some lovely shoes on a vintage clothing stall.  I’d only gone along to show support to the friend who’s started the stall & – as mentioned in previous point – am trying to save the pennies at the mo.  Added pressure: being vintage, I knew they were the only available pair.

* Attending a political meeting.  It’s a cause that I feel strongly about but it’s a bad time for me in terms of work – can I take on another commitment?  Taking a stand in this particular case could also pose a risk to my personal safety.  How far am I prepared to go?  What risk is reasonable?  When does concern for safety become cowardice? 

* How to restructure my timetable for the next few weeks of work.  Sometimes trying to judge how long a task might take is like playing ‘Spin the tail on the donkey’ – however hard you try, you’re stabbing a pin in the dark.

* What to take to a harvest festival on Sunday.  Something seasonal?  Something unusual?  Something that I’m particularly keen to buy back at the produce sale on Monday?!

Some dilemmas have been easy to resolve.  With regards to the toiletries, I had a bit left over from a sum of money that I’d put aside for something else, so used that as my budget.  The items I picked were not from my usual brands, but they’re perfectly reputable and I might even prefer them in the end (I’m more than happy to admit that brand heritage & good packaging usually persuade me more than performance).  The environmental/ethical concerns were harder to judge & I decided that I need to get the Rough Guide To Ethical Consumerism out the library again – their guide to cosmetics etc was really helpful, & I need to photocopy it for continued reference. The shoes won me over in the end – I knew that I’d wear them lots & they weren’t expensive, so juggled a few other things around & came up with the money.

Other dilemmas were more challenging.  What to do about the political meeting has particularly troubled me.  I decided, after much soul-searching, to listen my instinct & not get involved this time.  However, my dilemma has led me to think more about this issue & I’ve contacted someone about getting involved in a different way – one that I’m more comfortable with – so at least it has led to some positive action.  I’ve moved forward because of this angst.  And that can only be a good thing. 

Day of Decadence

Today I have had a day of decadence.  Having had a busy week working towards a deadline yesterday, with the prospect of a busy few weeks of work ahead, I’ve decided to make the most of bit of a lull and have today and tomorrow off. 

I’ve often found myself getting frustrated when I have random days off, as I can never achieve in that one day all of things that I would like to do.  As a result, I’ve started to think a bit more carefully about each day off that I have: what do I really want to do?  What kind of day do I want?  Is it about relaxing, getting chores done, catching up with someone, going somewhere?  This doesn’t really work as well with weekends, when I tend to have stuff planned or things happen spontaneously, but it seems to be effective when I have an odd day, particularly when most other people are at work.

So today was my decadent day.  By decadent, what I suppose I really mean is to please myself & not even bother pretending that I’m going to do anything productive or useful.  And it has been immensely satisfying!  By simply deciding that this is what my goal was, I have felt no guilt or qualms about whether I should be doing other stuff.  Nor have I got to the end of the day feeling that I’ve somehow wasted my day or not achieved what I wanted.  I wanted self-indulgence, pure and simple, and that is what I got.

I didn’t have an intinerary, but this is how it worked out:

A lie-in.  Stayed in bed til 11am!  I can’t remember the last time I got up that late.  I don’t actually like lying-in too long on a weekend, but today it felt good.  Have to admit I was awake for much of that time, daydreaming & listening to the radio. 

A long, hot shower.  Not the usual hair – wash – out.  Used my Chanel No5 shower gel, a regular feature in my decadent days. 

Afternoon spent tatting.  To tat: verb, to look for tat – ie old stuff, some which may class as ‘collectables’, much of which no-one else seems to want. It’s not an expensive hobby – my personal limit for any one items tends to be a fiver, anything higher and it has to be something really special – but it requires a certain discipline to not just buy everything and an eye for wading through lots of stuff.  I love to go tatting.  There are certain places which are my regular haunts for tatting.  My favourite tatting, though, is a family affair: my dad (who seems to know everywhere in Britain) will name a random place that has suitable tatting venues (markets, antique emporiums, charity shops, junk shops – all can be hidden gems for tat) and him, my mum and I will head off there.  Today was one of those days, so off we went to Weedon, a small place near Daventry in Northamptonshire.  I came back with eight pieces of treasure for less than fifteen pounds.  The decadence lies not in the financial outlay but the indulgence of being able to go & do something like this on a random Tuesday afternoon.  It’s a luxury that I’m lucky to have. 

Chicken and chips for tea.  From the twenty-first best chip shop in the UK.  What more can I say?!

Badminton with some lovely friends this evening, then went back to theirs for a coffee (actually we all had tea, but it sounds weird saying ‘Do you want to come back for a tea?’).  We’ve been playing doubles badminton regularly for a little while now, which is fun in itself, but we don’t always socialise after – the working week can get so busy.  It’s funny really that I decided to have a decadent day & the others seemed to be sharing that vibe, with us just sitting round chatting & laughing.  A lovely way to end a lovely day!

So, nothing hugely wild or hedonistic, but my idea of blissful decadence – pleasing myself, adding bits to some of my collections, time with friends and family.  Tomorrow is my ‘good jobs done’ day, where I try to do some of those little tasks & chores that life requires in order to run smoothly – but am sure I will try to mix in a bit more decadence too.  As someone who finds joy in sticking stamps onto envelopes, this won’t be hard.

Further to my X Factor rant…

Further to my X Factor rant in my previous post, a friend drew my attention to this article (click on the banner in the post’s title to follow the link).  V interesting & adds another angle to my concerns about exploitation and the media.  Additional point of interest: the person who alerted me to this article is also the person who decided to try the ‘angel train’ concept!

Further to my X Factor rant…