Sunday, 16 July 2017

Jumping June

Well, not really jumping. Just lots happening.

June

June jumped away from me. It is now half way through July. Oh dear.

June began with a wonderful visit from Jonny and Adele and Matthew and family. Cooking for eight! Lovely to have a houseful.

We slept in the motorhome – it seemed the easiest option before putting up our tent in the garden. #nexttime 

Jonny hung out with Tom in a kayak, gaining an impressive sunburn. Beautiful Adele plugged diligently away at reports. My nephews, Henry and Gabriel, were good fun and delightfully well—behaved.

I went back to school after a long weekend.  #nohalfterm #butwedobreakuptwoweeksearly 

School, of course, is fairly manic in June: writing and finishing reports; INSET; creating with the children, an inaugural ‘World War II museum’ showcasing all the children’s work this term; and a clash with my senior manager. She has been VERY difficult, culminating in a week off for me with work-related stress and abnormally high blood pressure. All very ‘interesting’, but the blood pressure is now under control and I’m now on holiday, anyway.

There were some bright spots, one of which was possibly THE best afternoon of my teaching career. A ‘transition afternoon’ had been arranged for the Year 6 boys to meet their prospective Year 7 tutors: out on a fifty foot pilot cutter.

Wow. Down at St Peter Port harbour, three vintage pilot cutters motored up to the quay and we embarked. SUCH fun. It was a gloriously sunny afternoon as we sat on deck, a small jib gently moving us along. Could have done with a little more wind, quite honestly, but it was a new experience for most of the children so at least we avoided sea sickness. It was just beautiful sailing peaceably to and fro beneath the cliffs outside the harbour.

I also managed to host an almost monthly breakfast. I’m never too sure who, out of the thirty women on my email list, will manage to attend but it is always the right number of people and a wonderful, encouraging atmosphere.  I always feel as if I’ve been on a mini-retreat after just an hour and a half of chatter and laughter over a relaxed meal.

Other news in June: revelling in the flowers emerging in the garden: the hydrangeas have gone bonkers, lilies appearing from almost nowhere, a myriad of tiny wild flowers dotted among the grass on the lawn.  A blitz on hawkweed, of course, which tends to take over; and much trimming of hedges and bushes, which seem to sprout tendrils as soon as you look away from them. Not to mention the weeds... #wildflowersbyanothername.

Vegetable –wise, the potatoes have done well, the broad beans thriving, rocket providing many a meal – wilted rocket has been a particular favourite; and pumpkins and butternut squash beginning to spread across the garden.

By the back door, the herbs were thriving and lettuce had grown large enough to be picked. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of the clematis Nellie Moser in all its glory – getting on for a hundred deep purple flowers climbing up the wall and all over the tree branches which hang over the wall. Hostas had sprung up overnight, growing so thickly that the patio is unrecognisable from its winter self.

We have been intent on clearing up in preparation for going away at the beginning of July, ready for visitors in our absence. I slowly removed ornaments, packed away precious china, acquired and organised bedlinen and towels. It took us quite some time to think through all the paperwork, writing instructions and organising someone for grass cutting and cleaning. A lot of work, but once we have done it one time, it should be easier in the future.


Phew. I thought June had gone in a blur...

Monday, 29 May 2017

Maybe May...

April turned cold, in the end, despite its promising start. Back to winter woollies and boots for the first few days of May. Richard's birthday: a surprise gift of a curry subscription from a daughter who knows her father well...
Birthday boy!

Cat gave this little vase to me several years ago: she painted it on a visit to the pottery in the Isle of Wight...
The pace at school eased temporarily with a Labour Day bank holiday and then, on May 9th, a public holiday to celebrate the Liberation of Guernsey in 1945.

It is an important occasion for islanders, with celebrations around the island, a cavalcade of military vehicles and classic cars, concerts and performances. This year's was a little subdued as it is only 72 years, rather than a 70 or 75. We didn't go into town, in the end: the sun was shining but the strong wind - Force 5 at least - was bitterly cold. Instead, we found a sunny warm sheltered spot outside the front door...

...and Garth and Karyn came round for tea...and we enjoyed renewed friendship. We have known each other for over twelve years now: inbetween, Garth and Karyn moved back to South Africa, and now have come back here. I was remembering how breathless with excitement I was when I heard the news that they would return.

As I look back at the month, it is hard to believe how hectic it has been. I have heard others share the same, wherever in the northern hemisphere they might be living. It is as if, after winter and a slow start to spring, everything suddenly speeds up: we want to get ready for summer at such a rate that reason flies out the window.  Spring cleaning must be done: yesterday. School events must happen: now now now, whether or not they are actually occurring this month or planned for later on in the term. Holidays planned: quickly. Light mornings, the sun rising earlier and earlier, streaming in through the windows; late evenings, dusk reluctant to creep in. All means that every ounce of daylight must be used in the Recipe of Life.

Phew.

Not that I slowed down, of course, except for the first weekend in May when I hosted a breakfast for a few friends. What a pleasure, to be able to sit and catch up on each others' lives, hearing about some amazing answers to prayer.


Add in to the mix: a VERY challenging situation at school; special 'off-curriculum' days; report writing; parents' evening;  training; extra gardening; Guernsey's annual New Wine weekend; friends to supper, to lunch, out to all kinds of events from cocktail parties to a traditionally Anglican Ascension Day service at St Peter's Parish Church...

Now it is Bank Holiday Monday. Typical weather: from a beautiful summer's day last Friday to fog and rain and mist and drizzle...

And a chance to enjoy peace, catch my breath, reflect...and enjoy flowers.
Blooming on the patio...

Pennywort (?) on our daily dog walk

Mallows: geranium family, growing on the bank along the road from the house
Pink campion by the wayside

Foxgloves at the entrance to Wendy's field, overlooking the sea at the edge of the cliffs opposite our house


Orchids
Orchid field
Yellow orchid!

Orchid

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

April arrives

April suddenly leapt out at us. We had endured the winter so long, but suddenly - with the change in clocks to British Summer Time - the days were longer, lighter, warmer...

Not that I noticed much. The school day is so intense that some days I barely venture outside, unless on duty, for more than a few minutes. We were in the midst of preparing for the school production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, such a wonderful opportunity to share the Bible story with children and staff alike. A fascinating glimpse into another culture, too. So days were packed with rehearsals and costume preparation. All went well, the children sang, acted and danced magnificently, everyone was happy... and three days later, the end of term. What's not to like?

And with the end of term - glorious, glorious sunshiney weather. The first day of the holidays was like summer: think sunburn, think too hot to sit in the sunny garden; think taking shelter in the shade; think long warm evenings; think GARDENING. Fun.

Phil and Judy (lovely Adele's lovely parents) arrived a day later. They had had a dreadfully circuitous journey, thanks to the vagaries and inefficiences of Flybe. They should have arrived at 9.30 am - instead, it was more like 7.30pm. They were taken to Exeter where, thankfully, they could go into the city and enjoy the sunshine - one of the warmest days of the year so far. But the onward flight to Guernsey was then delayed by another couple of hours... oh well.  They arrived safely and we had a lovely Sunday with them, cycling to church, then via Le Gouffre by the cliffs for a coffee before returning home for a leisurely lunch.

A day later, and we were off to France, leaving them to enjoy the peace of Morningstar.  All the rest of our travels are chronicled in www.travelswithpickle.blogspot.com....

Meanwhile, back at Morningstar, Kareena, Chris and Howie the Boston Terrier (Pickle's best friend) moved in after Phil and Judy had left.They have bravely struggled with renovations but when it came to finishing the floor, there was no way they could continue to live in the house and so stayed with us for around ten days or so.  What fun. It was like having flatmates: casual suppers, some shared, some not; evening chats; a late night glass of wine; putting the world to rights; sharing lives.  Delightful to see how easy it is to have guests, too, as our guest room and ensuite is in a private part of the house on the other side of the main entrance.

It was good to have a friend to share with, too, when I got back to school: this term is incredibly hectic and it started with a bang: the first staff meeting of the term introduced, among other things, two new innovative extra-curricular days with quite a bit of preparation to do for them... more than a little demotivating when there are so many other things going on. For me, it is introducing a 'time travelling' trip to investigate the German legacy from the Occupation, including a spy story resulting from the discovery of a rucksack left at the beach by a British spy on the run... but that is for May. I staggered to the end of a month which had turned rather chilly....

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Mad March

March began wild and blustery. On the 3rd, I cycled home through FOUR different thunderstorm showers. Lightning, a deluge of water and flooded roads. It's hilarious on a bike - you're so wet, wet through to the underwear, that it ends up not mattering. And this was despite my wonderful 'Rainlegs' which cover my thighs and normally do an amazing job of keeping the top of my legs dry. That day, they seemed to give up: the water was splashing up UNDERNEATH them.  There were still a couple of inches near the top of my legs where I was still dry by the time I got home....

Fun. The dog, of course, hates thunderstorms and presses up closely against us while the thunder peals.  Usually, that is. Sometimes she just gets annoyed and goes round the house barking loudly, before she gives up in disgust and climbs back on to the sofa to curl into a small black ball.

Then, mid-month, suddenly SPRING CAME.  For a day, initially. The next was back to grey and mist and mizzle and drizzle. And more wind than was on the forecast.  But we had a glorious Monday of full sunshine.  The daffodils have already been shouting out their glory for several weeks, but now the odd crocus has appeared in the garden, with a shy cyclamen flower struggling up from underneath a stone.

So, now, daffodils have sprung up everywhere. I planted a bagful of bulbs I had brought with me from Barnsfield - by the time I got round to it, in December, the poor bulbs had become fed up with waiting for me and had put their roots out already, becoming hopelessly entangled with each other. It took much soaking in water and gentle pulling to disengage them from each other.

But the bulbs I planted - and which have bloomed so generously - seem like nothing when I see those which are already here. Clumps of green spikes and then yellow flowers have appeared everywhere: under bushes, in 'bare' patches, on top of the grassy hedge banks and even growing out of the vertical sides of the banks themselves. The garden blazes with yellow fire in the sunshine.

There are unusual varieties as well: fragrant narcissi perfume the air from the troughs outside the front door; creamy yellow lacy trumpets hide behind the nerines; on the banks, I see bright yellow outer calyxes with deep orange tubular centres: the aptly named and unusual Will Scarlet, perhaps. Other narcissi are the ubiquitous creamy pale thick clusters:
These grew, unsolicited, at Barnsfield. Their perfume was strong: so much so that, one morning early on in our stay there, I had gone out into the garden and picked a bunch which I displayed in the kitchen. I went out again, only to find them, on my return, lying disconsolately on the paving outside the kitchen. The scent - cloying, pungent, almost redolent of cow dung, at times - was too strong for Jonny. He had come downstairs, recoiled at the smell, located the offending blooms, opened the kitchen window and... simply plucked them from the vase and threw them out. I learned not to pick them again...

So the daffodils have been a welcome brightener in a month dogged by fog. I like it, myself: I love the silence, the deadening of sound, which the fog brings. Even the traffic sounds quiet and of course the planes do not fly... and there is something eerily beautiful about the mist:
Otherwise, my bike commute home is, for the most part, through tranquil lanes. The banks are studded with primroses, celandines  and the odd violet. Daffodils erupt on the field edges; Brussels sprouts, nearing the end of their season, still stand on stalks, slightly brown now. I near the house and see the sea... This is such a welcome change from my previous commute which wound its way among houses: ribbon development on Guernsey dominates, so I would see glimpses of fields between and behind the buildings, but now I travel through countryside....

Apart from the weather, the month seems to have been packed with meals with friends, here and away; and a fund-raising quiz one evening - mostly about TV programmes, which was amusing as only 2 out of our team of 6 had a television and one couple are South African and not familiar with British TV programmes. Then there was a breakfast - where we talked, non-stop, about deep things in our lives, gaining strength from one another. And school.... reports; a school musical (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat - it will be awesome); Saturday mornings of entrance assessments, a hockey festival, tag rugby tournament; encouraging 40Acts of kindness at school....

But the joy of the month has been the flowers....
Hyacinths in blue by the front door

Unusual daffodils from the garden in my tiny Kitengela glass jug


Unique daffodils from a friend chime in with my Mother's Day creamy white primula

And then there were the Amaryllis....


And finally....the warmth and the sun return, bringing bright mornings....

Saturday, 4 March 2017

February: well, where did that go?

Into spring, actually, although the dying gasp of the month put us firmly back into winter, ready for 'In like a lion and out like a lamb', as the saying goes about March. Or is it the other way round? I can be firmly convinced of either.

But February had its fair share of stormy weather, gales, high tides and fog. Lots and lots of fog, most of it over half term. We were all right - off on the boat to France, as documented in our motorhome adventures - but many weary travellers were delayed, sometimes for days. Ho hum - the price of living on paradise island, I suppose.

Inbetween the storms, the daffodils erupted - many growing in unexpected places, not only in our garden, but also along my daily commute to work. Most surprising were the single clumps, proudly perched high, on the grassy banks which do duty as walls or fences around the fields.

I managed a little more digging of our new vege patch: I'm creating more beds, digging up an old gravel path with some large rocks beneath it. #notenoughtimeathome

Otherwise, we managed to see many friends, both out and about and inviting them home. I had parents' evenings at school - all good, lovely to celebrate the children's progress with them.

And then it was half term, and we were off. To Brittany, this time.

In the midst of it all, there was much to pray for. Sick friends. Our children living in a war-torn country, serving the poor as best they can. Our children applying for new, exciting, adventures - and succeeding.  Pain and sorrow and anxiety and fear-that-trusts and rejoicing and excitement all rolled up into one intricate prayermat. God knows.

And the days grow longer, and lighter, and our spirits begin to lift...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

January

I survived.

Not quite the right attitude... and, indeed, it sounds worse than it was.  It is just that my stock answer, in January, to 'How are you?' is 'Surviving January'.  Because it always seems a little melancholy, and very very dark, after December. The Christmas decorations have disappeared, the days are still short and the weather is often just dark and dismal and damp-dreary.

But that is a gloomy picture which does not reflect reality.

In reality, in my house, the Christmas decorations stay up until, at least, January 25th - Cat and Jonny's birthday.  The fairy lights sprinkle in sparse corners, the Nativity set greets me at the front door and all serves to remind me of a twist on CS Lewis, whose description of Narnia in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe  is that it was 'always winter and never Christmas.'

Not in my house . Not in January, or ever. Because, for me, it is 'always Christmas and never winter.' Jesus is alive, whether rain or shine, summer or winter, Christmas or January.

And, indeed, remembering this, I did more than survive January over the last few weeks. I look back over the month and remember shared meals, sharing life with close friends in home group, breakfast with a group of women from church, lunch with my Supernatural School group.

I cycled to work on some incredibly (for Guernsey) cold and frosty mornings, where the hoar frost crickle-crackled under my feet as I hauled my unwilling bike from the shed.

The cold weather wasn't great for the sinuses, though. Catching a horrendous cold and cough made me feel bad enough to warrant a day or so off school. One day off, after a day of feeling really unwell; staggered back to school for a day and a half - never any suggestion from my superiors that I should take more time to recuperate -  and then managed a couple of extra hours at home before the weekend, which brought prayer for healing and a remarkable recovery. #healingrooms !!

Cat and Andy arrived in Iraq, starting their life with Medair, serving refugees.  #manychallengesahead  The 'lurkers' (as Jennifer Rees Larcombe calls those hidden worries in our lives) are still there in regard to their safety - particularly Cat's - but my brain is satisfied with and trusting of the security measures put in place for them. Cat has set up a 'WhatsApp' group for us and Jonny and Adele, which has been a lot of fun as we see and comment on the photos she and Andy have posted. And, of course, there is always Skype....

Still sorting out and unpacking boxes at home, after painting the office.  #nobookcasesyet #stillworkingonit  Richard is very busy with home improvements, necessitating much internet research. He is so capable and handy, enjoying learning new skills.

And the occasional foray into the garden -  preparatory digging for more vegetable beds; a little surfing; meeting up with dear Mags and Louis, over for 'Christmas' (thanks Condor for getting them here safely even though you cancelled the Christmas sailing so they couldn't come then); phoning and Skyping friends and making plans for visits from family in the spring.

Spring. The days are perceptibly longer and lighter already. Spring is on her way.

View on the way home

The sun on the ssea - 30 seconds from home

Cat sends me an apron, made with love by Lois, from Vanuatu

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Post-Christmas and into January... 2017!

I enjoyed drawing my gratitude for 2016 so much that, this year, I thought I might do a page a month, adding to it as I go along.  And that I'd also record particular photos here, so, starting today, some memories of the Christmas holidays. Which were, in fact, partly in December, but it still counts: it's post Annual Christmas News Letter, after all...
Surfing...

...good waves
L'Eree walk



Morningstar Christmas lights, at dusk
 Later, I put away my Jesse tree. Cat and I made it fourteen years ago: sadly, this year, it has succumbed to damp and the salt dough shapes are beginning to disintegrate. Gladly, the figures she handcrafted have not suffered, so I have packed them away lovingly, taking photos of the other Bible verses depicted so that I can recreate/renew the tree hangings...
Angel

One of the kings...






The first narcissus... #stillDecember   #30th

A bonfire on a still day... getting rid of the pile of hedge trimmings

sparks

cliff walk at sunset


stunning beauty

golden glow

just before the green flash... more of a lingering green glow...  #sofortunate