An Urban Jungle

The weather has been unpredictable in our part of the country this summer, we’ve had days of scorching sunshine and clear, blue skies, but almost as many days of torrential rain and rumbling thunder.

TheJungle

The back border has turned into a bit of a jungle as the clumping bamboo we planted has started to fill out, and the Cirsium Rivulare and perennial mallow have also become a bit thuggish, and I had to relocate our little Buddha statue to a less overgrown corner with the Heuchera and Japanese forest grass lest we lose him in the jungle!

Buddha

Heavy rain flattened the cornflowers and they never bounced back so I reluctantly pulled them out, which unfortunately left the flower border looking a bit patchy; we’re gradually trying to fill it up with perennials but I hope we’ll always have a little bit of space for my favourite annuals.

Have a lovely week! X

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On Your Marks, Get Set, Grow!

Flower Border

July is probably my favourite month in the garden, as it’s when everything seems to burst into action all at once. The flower border is overflowing with annuals as the cornflowers, calendula, poppies and lavatera are all flowering. Every year I tell myself that I’ll broadcast the cornflower seeds sparingly and every year we end up with masses of them.

Meanwhile in the vegetable beds, we’ve harvested some potatoes (Pentland Javelin) and rat-tail radishes, which can be eaten fresh from the plant or fried whole and sprinkled with salt as a side or snack. The sprouts, carrots and winter onions are all still growing, but the kale is ready to harvest and there should be enough to freeze to see us through the winter months.

There is just so much colour and vigour in the garden at this time of year, and it seems to change everyday as one flower dies back and another opens. Have a lovely week! X

21 Miles by Jessica Hepburn

21 Miles

At the age of 43, after ten years and eleven cycles of IVF, Jessica Hepburn decides it’s time to give up on her dream of motherhood and get on with her life. Hepburn remembers an old childhood ambition and starts investigating whether or not she can actually achieve it. At first her dream of swimming across the English Channel seems as impossible and out of reach as motherhood, but Jessica turns the same dogged tenacity she put into a decade of fertility treatments into swimming. In terms of difficulty, she points out, more people have climbed Mount Everest than swam across the Channel.

One unexpected benefit of her ambition is that following the example set by Captain Matthew Webb in 1875, she won’t be able to wear a wet-suit and is encouraged by her swimming coaches to put on body fat to help her keep warm in the water. In order to help her put on weight, Jessica decides to have lunch with a list of 21 inspirational women (only some of whom are mothers) from neuroscientists and polar explorers to the founder of Mumsnet, an MP and a ballerina to discuss whether motherhood makes women happy.

21 Miles2

Over the course of her training, Jessica has to overcome her doubters and her own self-doubt, as well as her aversion to cold water and fear of jellyfish. Working her way slowly from swimming in the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park to open water, and finally her solo voyage across the Channel, I found myself rooting for Jessica and welling up during the description of her crossing.

Written with self-deprecating humour that had me chuckling out loud, this is also a thought-provoking and poignant book as Jessica doesn’t shy away from describing her disappointment and grief at not being able to have children, the shame and isolation of infertility, and the strain it put on her relationship. Unlike a lot of other books written about infertility, 21 Miles doesn’t end with Jessica having a baby, and yet it is life-affirming and inspiring. Throughout this book, Jessica considers the complex relationship women have with food, as well as the difficulties in her relationship with her partner, her relationship with her own parents, the social pressure to have children and the tension that sometimes exists between mothers and childfree or childless women, and in many ways, 21 Miles is as much about the modern experience of being a woman as it is about swimming or motherhood. Have a lovely week! X

A Day Trip to Jupiter

JupiterArtland

Summer has been a bit stop-start in our part of the country but we recently took advantage of a very sunny day with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-20s (hot by our standards!) for a little day trip.

Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park set across 100 acres of forest and meadows near Edinburgh. There’s a lot to see but I thought I’d share a few photos of our favourite exhibits.

In a clearing in the forest, there are statues of five little girls in various stages of a tantrum, it is a little bit creepy but Laura Ford’s Weeping Girl sculptures capture so much emotion and movement.

Several years ago, we visited The Cosmic Garden of Speculation designed by Charles Jencks and the highlight was climbing the spiral mounds, although the Cosmic Garden of Speculation is only open to the public one day of the year (or by special arrangement), the Cells of Life provide a similar experience here.

There was much more to see but these were the exhibits I found most memorable. Jupiter Artland appears to be a little off the beaten path but it was a fun place to explore and offers a more interactive and multi-sensory experience than traditional art galleries. Have a lovely week! X

Keep Calm & Carry On Counting My Blessings

Coffee with Mara

I had to take a break from blogging earlier in the month due to a sudden and unexpected bout of ill-health. Earlier in June, I woke up with blurred vision in one eye, and it continued to deteriorate over the next 48 hours. After a quick call to NHS24, I was encouraged to go to A&E who were unable to find any sign of trauma or infection and made an urgent referral to ophthalmology for the next day. After a full visual test on both eyes, including scans and eye-drops, the ophthalmologist diagnosed me with optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve), and has made a referral to neurology as it can be the first symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. M.S isn’t hereditary, but I do have a slightly higher risk of developing it as my mum has it. The good news is that I don’t have any other symptoms, and the ophthalmologist expects my vision to return fully in the next couple of months.

It’s been hard not to worry about the worst case scenarios but we don’t know anything for certain yet, and I’m trying to keep calm and carry on counting my blessings. The NHS receives a lot of criticism but I’m incredibly grateful for it, my access to A&E and ophthalmology was quick and all the staff I saw were diligent and compassionate.

Tea in the Garden

Losing vision in one eye has been humbling, unable to drive or work for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been housebound and have been grateful for simple home comforts. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden, and I’ve been very grateful for Mara’s companionship. Cats have a reputation for being aloof, but Mara is such a sociable girl, and she’s relished all the extra cuddles and attention while I’ve been at home. Most of all, I’ve been grateful for my husband, who has taken this latest setback in his stride, and has been an unwavering source of support and reassurance.

My vision is slowly returning, and I’m very much trying to counteract my fears with gratitude, but these last few weeks have been a reminder not to take anything for granted because life can change in an instant. Be well, and have a lovely week. X

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet is set in our galaxy but far in the future, when other planets have been colonized and various other sentient species have invited humans to join the Galactic Commons.

The story follows the crew of a ship called the Wayfarer, who make their way in the galaxy by creating hyperspace tunnels that allow other ships to travel from one planet to another. Perpetually struggling to make ends meet, the crew accept a high-risk, high reward job to connect a planet inhabited by a belligerent race of aliens who have only recently ceased sending messengers and ambassadors from other planets home in bits and begun communicating and trading with the Galactic Commons instead.

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet is a slice-of-life space-opera, and it’s hard to describe the plot because not much actually happens yet is far from slow or boring. The Wayfarer’s crew is made up a multi-species cast, and the human, alien and A.I. characters are all vividly realised, and their relationships allow the story to explore the romances, taboos, prejudices and politics that would invariably exist between so many different species. The writing is also deliciously atmospheric, and right from the offset I felt like I was on board the Wayfarer, and could hear every clunk in the ship, the hum of the engine and imagine staring out of the viewport into endless space.

I don’t read much science-fiction but I’m so glad I took a chance on this, and I look forward to reading the rest in the series. Have a lovely week! X

The Ladybirds and the Bees

Bombus1

Although we live in an urban environment, we’ve tried to make our garden as wildlife friendly as possible by planting flowers that bloom at different times to ensure a steady supply of food for the insects from spring to autumn, and we’ve been rewarded with lots of winged visitors in the garden this month.

The cirsium rivulare (which is becoming a bit of the thug in the back border) is particularly popular attracting both bees seeking pollen and ladybirds that eat the aphids eating the plant.

May is typically a warm and sunny month in our part of the world, and it’s been lovely to sit outside enjoying the sunshine as the bees bumble and buzz around completely unperturbed by our presence. As always very grateful for our little garden and all the joy it brings us. Have a lovely week! X