Sunday 28 January 2024

A winter's walk by the sea

I’ve been getting in a terrible tizz about my future – to move or not to move, whether it’s OK to sell some of Frog’s stuff (do I want to keep it as a memento or is it better to move on?), how long will it be before I’m too old to manage on my own and what will I do then, ?

So yesterday, the dog and I took off for a walk by the sea.

During the walk I met a lovely woman and we had a long talk that started with our dogs - what else? -  and went on to range from reincarnation to quantum mechanics, stopping off on the way at Tolkien and Philip Pullman. As Bilbo Baggins used to say, you never know what's going to happen when you step outside your front door.

The weather was perfect – bright but not too sunny, a light wind, moderate temperatures – and there weren’t many other people about. All my worries blew away and I wanted to keep going all day but I realised that I’d come out without any money and no map and had left my water bottle in the car. 

So after a couple of hours I took the sensible option and walked back to the car along a filthy farm track, my feet squelching in a mixture of animal excrement and mud. I was glad of my hefty boots and knee-high waterproof socks.

Next time, I'll go better prepared.


It's hard when the way ahead is so unclear.

Friday 12 January 2024

June to January - a round-up

I haven’t been blogging much recently, mostly because Frog’s death (2 years ago) has made me less confident and more negative (What’s the use? Etc etc.). Also, I have twice as much to do as before and I don’t know how to do half of it.

Recently however, as I feel stronger and more capable of dealing with my new life, I’ve been looking for something extra. Or, rather, I’ve been scratching around frantically, trying to fill the emptiness left by Frog’s departure.

Two days ago, two things happened. First, a cousin heaped praise on my pictures and my writing (I think she was talking about my blog). Thank you, A. Then, a friend sent me a link to a scheme in which each day different writers and artists suggest creative things people can do. That day’s piece was by Michael Rosen, former Children’s Laureate, and I found it inspiring. Thank you, C.

I took that conjunction as a nudge from the universe. I had been thinking about writing. Like being out in nature, it takes me to another world, it gives me faith, and I’m a dead loss at 'good works' - things voluntary and for the community which are the usual solution for people in my situation. I have been keeping a sort of diary for the last 2 years but that's definitely not for public consumption and I wanted readers. The first line of a novel did come into my head and I already had a vague plan for one but I became overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Blogging seemed to be the answer.

So here goes - a round-up in pictures of the last 7 months.


June and a heatwave. Ellie takes advantage of the garden's shade-sail. 

                 October and a muddy, misty dawn. I’m up early these days and it has its advantages.


November and autumn colours. (Spot the dog.)


The ever-photogenic canal in early December, where I bumped into a friend who made me coffee beside the water with his wind-up machine that ground the beans and frothed the milk. Frog would have loved it.

Mid-December. Sunset, with crows in my wild cherry tree. I once freed three crows that I found trapped in a crate for some nefarious purpose, and I believe that crows now look out for me because it has become imprinted in their lore that I'm a friend of their species.

Dusk on Christmas Eve and a walk with my family in Kent’s beautiful North Downs.

New Year. I have a cold and C brings me a jar of her home-made onion pickles, which she says are good for infection. I put some on my wintry salad of red cabbage, toasted pumpkin seeds and raisins. It is a new taste sensation.

By the sea last week. People are swimming, some in wet-suits and some in nothing but bathing costumes. Brr. But I’m sort of envious.

Saturday 22 July 2023

Wild Norway

I made it to Norway eventually and swept into a round of parties, meeting cousins of all shapes and sizes (my maternal grandmother having been Norwegian). The weather was atrocious – even worse than in the UK – but here are some pictures of the beautiful landscape.


On the first day I walked with my brother and sister-in-law and two English friends of my aunt to this lake, which Frog and I had found near the hotel five years earlier. In spite of non-stop rain, I thought the lake was prettier this time. Perhaps the heatwave on my previous visit had withered the greenery.

 Lake, jetty and granite

The jetty is for swimming. The Norwegians are very hearty and, even though the temperature was about 14, as we walked back two boys were leaping in and out of the water.

The rock in the foreground is not broken concrete but granite, which comes to the surface everywhere.


Here is the hotel garden on my last day, when of course the sun came out, and here is another lump of granite. How the trees manage to grow on it, I have no idea.


Hotel garden

As children, we spent our summer holidays by the sea in Norway and clambered over the rocks in bare feet, as this was the best way we found to grip them.

Also on my last day, I found this enticing path signed ‘Kyststien’ which I guessed meant coast path. I wished I’d found it earlier.

 Coast path

Most of the interior of the country (below the treeline) is forested with pines but here, by the coast, were some broadleaved trees – oak, silver birch, rowan. Also scrumptious wild raspberries, another feature of my childhood.


This is the beach in front of the hotel, but I didn’t brave the sea.


Hotel beach

On my penultimate day, I went for lunch with one of my aunt’s daughters. She lives on the outskirts of Kristiansand.

Here is her view.

The view from my cousin's house


And here is the path from her garden to forest and mountain.

The path from my cousin's garden

On my last morning, I walked round Kristiansand with my brother and sister-in-law. 

Here is the harbour, not what you’d expect next to a city.

 Kristiansand harbour

People were picnicking and swimming.

As you can see, nowhere in Norway is far from nature, although according to a cousin that is changing as the population expands.

That breaks my heart, as (in my experience) Norway is one of the last wild places left in this part of the world.

Friday 21 July 2023

Return to Norway

Five years ago Frog and I went to Norway for the 75th birthday party of my aunt who lives there. (I wrote about it in this blog - see 'Seven Days in Norway' in the column on the right.) Last week I went on my own for her 80th birthday party. It was the first time I’d travelled abroad alone since my early twenties. I was petrified.

We took off from England in rain and wind, the sort of weather we seemed to have been having for weeks, and the plane juddered through the clouds.

For once I had a whole window to myself, not half a window, or a bit of wall, or a window over someone’s shoulder.

So when we came out of the clouds, I saw this and my brain took off. I left the normal world behind and felt as if I was in outer space.


In outer space

We landed at Amsterdam in more rain and taxied around the vast concourse.

As usual, in spite of the announcement asking people to remain seated until the plane had stopped and the fasten seatbelt signs had been switched off, people clicked open their seatbelts, stood up and began getting their luggage out of the overhead lockers.

I stayed sitting -- I was in no hurry as I had a four-hour wait for my plane to Kristiansand in Norway – and managed to snap this man in his cartographical jacket (and trousers to match).

Frog would have been proud of him. He didn’t approve of drabness for men.


Cartographical man

And this twin of our plane. I love the name ‘Cityhopper’.


And (from the terminal) this sign on a bus. All the buses were powered by either wind or sun, which I suppose meant they were electric. I applauded the airport’s environmental efforts.


Powered by Dutch windmills

In spite of that, however, hardly any of the many water fountains around the terminal that I remembered from my first visit, were still working.

Never mind. I had a long walk to my gate (24 minutes according to the board, which stretched in several volumes across a wall), so perhaps I’d find one en route from which I could refill my bottle.


A fragment of the board

Schipol airport was the same incomprehensible chaos that I remembered from before. Then I’d had Frog to find the way. Now I was on my own. I started walking.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

All will be well

I’ve mentioned before my guru Louise Hay and her book You Can Heal Your Life.


I’ve also mentioned my disinclination at the moment to get out of bed in the morning and face the world, and the bad back and leg that have crippled me since November.

Last night when I couldn’t sleep yet again because of the pain in my right calf, which paracetamol hadn’t touched, I decided to explore with the help of my beloved Notebook what was going on.

According to Louise, pain in the lower leg is caused by fear of the future and not wanting to move on. The affirmation (to counteract that) is:

I move forward with confidence and joy, knowing that all will be well in my future.

I said this to myself over and over and found myself sobbing so I knew she was right.

I’ve been through this process again and again recently and I keep forgetting, and falling into old ways, and believing what everyone else says instead of what I say deep inside me. For instance, out of fear I’ve been to see a physiotherapist, which is what my doctor recommended for my back and leg, even though I don't normally do conventional medicine, and all it’s done is make me feel worse. 

One day, I might manage to hold on to me.

And, of course, as I might also have said before, that is what this time since Frog’s death is all about. I have the idea that moving on will take me away from him, but actually it will take me towards him. 

Even though Frog and I had the deepest of connections, I couldn’t be myself when he was here because I was too preoccupied with being a good wife, with being what I thought he wanted. He removed himself in order to help me and now, in order to rejoin him, I have to face the world without him and learn to be me. It’s bloody terrifying.

Wish me luck.

And in case none of that makes sense, which is more than likely, here are some pictures from the last week or two. Isn’t the world beautiful? Why on earth should I fear it?


Shining Cranesbill, a tiny flower named for its shiny leaves (the small roundish ones)

The nearby Weeping Willow, waving its hair-like tresses

My Secret Wood, a fluff of greeny-brown about to burst into life

The buds of Holly flowers, another secret

Dandelions like suns and Dandelions with Speedwell, the colour of the sky. (Spot the dog.)