A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

Throughout the month of June, the Wildlife Trusts are encouraging people to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and I wanted to share a little photo round-up of one of the ways that I’ve been participating in the 30 Days Wild Challenge¬†this year.

Near my workplace, there’s a park where I like to eat my lunch and stretch my legs whenever the weather permits. My lunch-break walks are a welcome interval during busy work days, providing an opportunity to slow down and gather my thoughts, and at this time of year, I particularly enjoy watching the damselflies flit around the pond.

These photos were taken on my phone, and required a combination of patience, stealth and speed, but I’ve relished the challenge of trying to capture some of the little details I notice on my wanders. Have a lovely week. X

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Making an Entrance

Making an Entrance

After such a long and cold winter, the warmth and sunshine of spring took us by surprise and we’ve been rushing to catch up in the garden. Our garden is very much a work in progress, and we always seem to have a mix of short and long term plans on the go at once, but over the last few weeks we’ve been focusing our efforts on improving the front garden.

We inherited four roses planted by a previous owner in the front garden: a yellow with pink edges, a sultry red, and two different pinks, one pale and modest, the other bold and slightly disheveled. At some point, I’d like to add another red and a peach coloured rose too.

It’s fair to say that the front garden has been fairly neglected since we moved in and probably for some time before judging by the weeds that have flourished with only the roses as competition, by far the worst of the weeds is horsetail. I’m loathe to use weedkillers, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their effectiveness against horsetail anyway, but I’m hoping that I can weaken it by vigorous weeding and planting a selection of other plants that will hopefully be tough enough to compete with the horsetail.

A few weeks ago, we took my grandmother to a garden center near where she lives and spent a lovely afternoon catching up over lunch, helping her choose birthday cards for relatives and friends, and buying a few new plants for our front garden, including a hardy fuschia, a thistle and a tiny Kilmarnock willow. We’ve also added a perennial cornflower (Amethyst in the Snow), Rudbeckia Goldstrum, Geranium Ann Folkard and two Japanese anemones (September Charm and Honorine Jobert).¬†It doesn’t look like much yet, but I look forward to seeing this part of the garden develop and hopefully thrive in the years to come. Have a lovely week. X

Spring Wanderings

We’ve been enjoying a prolonged spell of good weather in our part of the country, and a few weeks ago¬†we took advantage of the sunshine and warmth to have a little day trip to Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden.

15 Cramond Island Causeway2

Cramond Island sits about a mile off the coast of Cramond village in the Firth of Forth. At low tide, it’s possible to walk the causeway that connects the island with the mainland, and Queensferry Lifeboat Association helpfully provide¬†safe crossing times¬†for every day of the year.

Cramond Island was part of the defences during both world wars and the abandoned gun batteries and searchlight stations are still standing today. It’s a small island and it took us about an hour and a half to meander around the buildings and along the beach at a leisurely pace.

Back on the mainland, we visited the nearby Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden set in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. Spring is my favourite time of year to visit the Japanese-inspired garden as the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

15 Kyoto Friendship Garden415 Kyoto Friendship Garden3

My husband and I wandered around the gardens reminiscing about the places we visited in Kyoto on our honeymoon, chatting about adding a few Japanese plants to our own garden and simply enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.

15 Kyoto Friendship Garden2

Both Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Gardens are a little off the beaten path and as a result weren’t overly crowded when we visited, and it was lovely to enjoy a leisurely wander in the spring sunshine. Have a lovely week. X

Review of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of a woman in her thirties who has managed to drift through life without forming any close connections, and describes what happens when she develops a crush on an aspiring musician, and when she and a colleague help a stranger in need. It’s hard to describe the plot without giving too much away, but this is an engaging story of loneliness, resilience, friendship and how the smallest acts of kindness can have the most profound impact.

Written in the first person, we see the world through Eleanor’s eyes, her awkward social interactions, the weight of her sinister mother’s influence, and little by little the mystery of her past is revealed.¬†Eleanor is so peculiar at times, yet most readers will be able to relate to the themes of loneliness, rejection and the feeling of not fitting in, and I quickly found myself rooting for Eleanor.

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Loneliness is often considered to be a problem for the older generations, yet this novel shows just how easy it is for someone to muddle through life without making any close or lasting connections, and why someone might even choose solitude to avoid difficult personal questions, the risk of rejection or the fear of the past repeating itself.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine tackles some pretty heavy topics from child abuse to domestic violence, depression and social isolation, yet it also shows how people can survive the most traumatic events and blossom when shown kindness and understanding. I found this story to be poignant, funny, uplifting and thoroughly engaging. Have a lovely week. X

On the road around Iceland

Over the years my husband and I have had some wonderful holidays together from our first city-break to Budapest a few months into our courtship to our honeymoon in Japan, but this year we decided to return to Iceland for a second time. We first visited Iceland in September 2014 and though we spent most of our time in and around Reykjavik we fell in love with the vast, volcanic landscape, and this time we hired a car to explore the ring road.

OntheroadaroundIceland

We travelled clockwise around the ring road, taking it in turns to drive, mixing our favourite songs with a few Icelandic artists like Bjork, Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Ros, and watching the landscape change through the windscreen. Iceland is sparsely inhabited, beautiful and full of contrasts from crashing waterfalls, winding roads, snowy mountains and frozen lakes to moss covered lava fields, craters, bubbling mud pits, black sand beaches, colourful houses and quirky churches.

It was such a memorable adventure that it’s hard to pick my favourite moments ‚Äď some of which weren’t even captured on camera. In Akureyri, we had the option of pony trekking or whale watching and my husband chose the former as he pointed out there was no guarantee we’d see a whale but 100% chance of seeing a pony while trekking. I was a little nervous as I hadn’t been riding since I was a child, but it was a lot of fun and the ponies were full of character.

We visited the fairly new Into the Arctic museum in Akureyri and as we had the place almost to ourselves, the curator gave us a guided tour. Both times we’ve visited Iceland, we’ve really enjoyed chatting to the locals, as most people speak English and they’re polite, friendly and funny, and it’s a great way of learning about the country.

We also spent a couple of blissful hours soaking in the Myvatn nature baths and we emerged feeling relaxed, refreshed and wrinkly as prunes.

Svartifoss

The first time we visited Iceland, we were lucky enough to see rainbows in the waterspray at Skogafoss, and this time the sun hit the spray in front of Svartifoss creating a perfect rainbow just for a moment.

We ended up spending longer than we expected at Jokulsarlon as we were fascinated by the contrast of the blue icebergs washed ashore on the black sand beach. It is truly one of the strangest and most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.

The Icelandic diet is heavy on meat and fish, but we didn’t have any trouble finding tasty vegetarian food, and the highlights were vegan curry-wurst from a little farm cafe called Havari near Breiddalsvik and tomato soup from Fridheimar, a farm where they use geothermal energy to grow fresh tomatoes.

It was an incredible adventure and although we saw almost everything we wanted to on this trip, there is still so much more to see and do that I hope we will visit Iceland at least once more. Have a lovely week. X

Review of ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by Yuri Herrera

Review of ‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by Yuri Herrera

Inspired by Ann Morgan’s TED talk¬†My Year Reading a Book from Every Country in the World, I’ve been trying to read more translated fiction over the last few years, and I picked up Signs Preceding the End of the World on a cold day while day-dreaming about¬†sunnier climes.

Signs Preceding the End of the World is the tale of a young Mexican woman called Makina who embarks on a quest to deliver a message to her brother who crossed the border to make a new life for himself in the United States.

In some ways,¬†this is a modern retelling of the hero’s quest, reminiscent of Orpheus’ journey through the underworld, except Makina’s underworld is one full of crimelords, thugs, border patrols, police officers and illegal immigrants. The writing is sparse and poetic,¬†and at times the plot trots along so quickly that whole chapters pass in a blur adding to the¬†surreal and sometimes nightmarish quality of the story.

YuriHerrera2

Makina is quite literally a messenger, working at a telephone exchange connecting people from ‚ÄúLittle Town‚ÄĚ where she lives to ‚Äúthe Big Chilango‚ÄĚ (Mexico city) and beyond;¬†Makina is resourceful, capable of crossing borders and languages, and able to defend herself in a machismo culture.

Signs Preceding the End of the World is a topical story concerning someone crossing the Mexico-US border illegally, describing how dangerous the crossing itself is as she relies on crimelords and smugglers to help her, evading border patrols and police along the way. Reaching the U.S.A she finds immigrants everywhere, and notices their influence on the culture from food to music and language, as well witnessing the daily prejudice and discrimination they face.

This is a short book ‚Äď barely more than 100 pages ‚Äď it ends almost as abruptly as it starts,¬†but¬†leaves the reader with much to ponder. Have a lovely week. X

A Little Spring in My Step

A Little Spring in My Step

We’re just home¬†from¬†a wonderful holiday in Iceland (which deserves a separate post)¬†feeling thoroughly refreshed and inspired,¬†and enjoying a few days at home before we return to work.

This weekend it was warm enough to sit outside sipping our morning coffee for the first time this year, and it was lovely to notice all the changes that have occurred in the garden while we’ve been away.

Before we left the tulips were still green with only the tips hinting at the colours hidden within, and just a week later the first petals are starting to unfurl. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a haphazard gardener so I forgot to write down the varieties of bulbs I planted, and the only tulip I can identify with any certainty is ‘red riding hood’ because of its distinctive leaves.

Elsewhere in the garden, the primroses are appearing, and I’ve cut some of the hyacinths that were toppling under their own weight and put them in a vase on the mantelpiece.

Of course, the best part of coming home is being reunited with our cat, Mara, who stays with my dad whenever we go on holiday. As much as we love travelling, Mara is such a big part of our little family and so many of our daily routines revolve around her that we miss her terribly while we’re away. For her part, Mara is very much a family cat who loves nothing more than the three of us being snuggled up on the couch or in bed together. Luckily, Mara is such a sweetheart that she never holds a grudge and is always full of purrs and affection when we return.

It’s good to be home again after a¬†lovely holiday, enjoying the sunshine and preparing for the week ahead with a little spring in¬†my step. Have a lovely week. X