Monday, 13 July 2020

A New Normal

First of all I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has left comments on my recent posts, sent emails and messages, and beautiful cards, they've all been so very much appreciated. I've been overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends here in Blogland, some of whom I've met in the past and others who I've never met in person but I count as very special friends nonetheless. New friends and old friends, you've all been so very kind.

Dad (bent down behind the wicket) playing cricket with his brother, George.
I can't believe that in a little over a year I'm here again with the death of another parent. This time it's been quite different to how it was when my mum died. For a start, there's the coronavirus in our midst and although it hasn't made things harder,  it has definitely changed the way things have to be done. It was quite easy to make an appointment at the register office when my mum died and we could take the death certificate away with us there and then but at the moment, the death has to be registered over the phone and the certificate posted out, so it was over a week until we received my dad's death certificate which has held us up with other admin jobs. When my mum died we had my dad to look after and I realise now just how much time we were devoting to him. It gave us a focus in those early days, and the weeks and months beyond. We've spent a lot of time caring for both my parents over the last few years. Although we dealt with the admin for my mum, it was nothing compared to everything we need to do now with money and property involved. It's going to be a long job.

Dad did his National Service in the Royal Marines.
We had the funeral on Friday. Unfortunately, because of coronavirus restrictions, we were only allowed ten people in the chapel at the crematorium and a further ten people were able to listen to the service through speakers outside. I was hoping that with the easing of Lockdown Daniel and Jasmine would be able to make it but they're being extra cautious as Jasmine is in a high-risk group, and I don't blame them one bit. It wasn't as though we could have a gathering after the funeral, we'll do that at a later date, so it would have been a case of them travelling home just for the service and it didn't seem right asking them to put Jasmine at risk for that. I know my dad would understand. The service was lovely though, we chose some music which I know my dad would have approved of, and although intimate, the service was a fitting tribute to him. The only thing which really spoilt it was how the ten chairs were laid out in the chapel, each and every one of those chairs were spaced at a distance so even people from the same household weren't allowed to sit together. Eleanor was so upset the whole way through the service and there was no one by her side to comfort her, how awful is that.

Me and my dad at Appletreewick. My love of the Yorkshire Dales started early.
We've received some beautiful cards and touching phone calls from family and friends who knew my dad well. I always enjoy hearing their memories of him and anecdotes. It's comforting to know he was so well thought of.

On holiday in Skegness. My dad loved his holidays.
It hasn't been easy for my dad over the past year and a bit since my mum died. As well as suffering from ill health, my mum's death hit him so hard. They'd been married for sixty three years and I doubt he'd have ever got over losing her even if he'd lived another sixty three years. It was so sad to see how much he missed the wife he was devoted to. It was very hard seeing my dad suffer in his final days, his death was not the one I would wish for anyone, he suffered so much pain. I'm thankful that I got to see him before he was totally out of it though and I was able to tell him that I loved him.The hospital were very kind. There's so many restrictions around visiting in place because of coronavirus but they were very accommodating. We were worried that we wouldn't get to see him before he died but we were able to spend quite a lot of time with him in his final days, and though it was distressing for us to see how much he was suffering, I was glad that we could be there.

Posing with one of the many crown green bowling trophies he won over the years.
My dad was 87, he lived a long and happy life but the only thing I can think about at the moment is the terrible death he had. I know this is something I'm going to have to get past but it's so fresh in my mind that it's very hard at the moment. It's also difficult dealing with the fact that I've now lost both my parents. I know I've been very lucky having them for the time I have, they both got to a good age and they had the pleasure of not only seeing how their children's lives panned out but they also got to watch their grandchildren grow up, I know some people aren't so fortunate.

Mum and Dad celebrating 50 years of marriage back in 2006. They were married for a total of 63 years.
Mick has been working from home since the start of the coronavirus pandemic so he's been here to help and support me these last few weeks. His work, yet again, have been brilliant allowing him all the time he needs to take, but he's been working in between. It makes it so much easier him working from home. Although there's still so many things to do, clearing my dad's flat and still so much admin to take care of, it's time to start getting back to some kind of normal, though it's going to be a very different normal to the one I know. We spent such a lot of time looking after my dad, especially since my mum died, life is going to be a far cry from the one I've been used to over the last few years.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Pearl Anniversary

I'm still on a break from blogging, we haven't yet had my dad's funeral, but I couldn't let the day pass without mentioning our pearl anniversary.

Thirty years of marriage is quite an achievement these days with the high divorce rate, people choosing to marry later in life than they did years ago, and some people opting not to marry at all.

There have been many hard times during the last thirty years but our marriage has remained strong throughout, having each other is the thing which has helped us through. Of course, there have been many happy times too, so many memories stored away, and lots of laughs along the way.

We're not one for grand gestures but we shall celebrate in some small way today.

Here's to the next thirty!

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

My Dad

My dad died on Sunday, it came as a relief for us all at the end as he'd suffered so much. It was so hard to watch him go through all the pain he was in and we just wanted him out of his agony for his own sake.

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments on my last few posts, knowing you were all thinking of us at this difficult time really helped. He had been in hospital for just over a fortnight and he deteriorated so quickly in that time. I'm not sure he even knew we were there with him by the end.

I'm going to take some time away from the blog for a while, I'm sure you understand. It's so very sad losing my dad in such a short space of time after my mum and it's hitting me hard. My mum died just three days before Mother's Day last year and here we are again with Father's Day coming up on Sunday. There's all the practical things which need doing at the moment too and these are being hampered by the coronavirus, there's so many changes to procedures because of places, including official buildings, being closed. On top of that we're all having to isolate for a fortnight as my dad came into contact with someone on the ward who later tested positive for the virus, and though my dad never showed any symptoms and wasn't tested, we've been told we have to take precautions. My dad was a huge part of our lives, we all loved him very much and he'll be greatly missed.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

A Change Of Date

My niece was supposed to be getting married in September so I made my mind up at the start of the year that I'd like to cross stitch a wedding sampler for her. I had a look online and found quite a few different designs. I liked the look of To Have and To Hold by Country Cottage Needleworks, and it looked easy enough for me as a novice cross stitcher.

The wedding was supposed to be held at the beginning of September but with all the uncertainty around Coronavirus and what gatherings would be allowed to happen, the happy couple made the difficult decision to postpone their wedding until next year.

It hasn't put me off my stitching though, I've very nearly got this sampler finished now, there's just the date at the bottom which is yet to be stitched but I'm holding off on that until nearer the time. I know things are starting to open up again, more things are being allowed, and getting back to normal is on the agenda but I don't want to stitch the date just to have to unpick it again if the wedding has to be postponed a second time so the date will be stitched nearer the time.

Time for a new start. Next on the stitching pile is He's a Flake by Little House Needleworks.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

At The End

Thank you for all your thoughtful and kind comments on my last post. Things haven't got any better, in fact, they're a whole lot worse. We got called into the hospital on Tuesday to see the consultant who basically told us that my dad isn't going to get better. They've now referred him to the palliative care team in the hospital and are keeping him as comfortable as they can with pain relief. We're allowed to visit for as long as we want and as often as we want, though only one person at his bedside at any one time. His deterioration since his hospital admission on the 30th of May is drastic. He was unable to speak when I visited yesterday and I'm not even sure he's fully aware. It's such a very sad time.

It was back in 2015 when I started my Agatha Christie challenge. I wrote about my 2015 Challenges, one of which was to read all sixty six of Agatha Christie's murder/mystery novels in chronological order.

I started with the very first novel Christie had published, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which she wrote in the middle of the First World War in 1916, and which was first published in the United States in October 1920. Quite fitting that I've come to the end of my challenge exactly one hundred years after that first book was published. I decided that I'd read one book each month, in between reading other authors. I'm pleased to say that I kept on track with this, sometimes reading more than one each calendar month, but then I might go a month or two without reading any, but I've just read her last published novel, Sleeping Murder, so I've averaged exactly one book each month. At this rate, sixty six titles equals five and a half years, which is quite a long challenge, but one I've enjoyed.

Although Sleeping Murder was Christie's last published novel, it wasn't the last one she wrote. It was set in the 1930's, written during the Second World War and published posthumously after her death.

Looking now at the list of titles of all sixty six books, some are definitely more memorable than others. There were a couple of real duds in my opinion, Endless Night particularly springs to mind, and some which I definitely enjoyed more than others. Particular favourites are And Then There Were None and Evil Under The Sun. I really enjoyed the one I've just finished too, Sleeping Murder, though I did guess the murderer very near the start. I must have found a knack to solving these crimes after reading all sixty six books.

Christie created some fabulous characters. She had three particular collections, those featuring Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective with the egg-shaped head, Miss Jane Marple, the elderly spinster who lives in the village of St.Mary Mead, and Tommy and Tuppence, the 'Young Adventurers' who appeared in four novels and a short story collection. Of course, there were many other characters who appeared regularly throughout her books, Hastings, Ariadne Oliver, Inspector Japp and Superindendent Battle to name just a few. You often find that people who have read a number of her books have a particular favourite from Poirot and Miss Marple, I have to say that I do enjoy the Miss Marple stories, but Poirot is my favourite.

I've got a couple of short story collections by Agatha Christie which are sitting on my bookshelf so I shall read these at some point, but my challenge has now come to an end. I've enjoyed this little venture so much that I'd like set myself another reading challenge but what that will be, I've no idea just yet.

Agatha Christie is such a popular author, she began writing during the First World War. Postern of Fate was the last book she wrote before her death in 1976, but Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, which was written in the 1940s, was published in 1975 before her death, and as mentioned previously, Sleeping Murder was published posthumously in 1976. Her books have sold over a billion copies in English with another billion in 100 foreign countries. Her books are outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. As well as her crime novels and short story collections, she also wrote nineteen plays, and six novels under the name of Mary Westmacott.

How about you? Have you read any Agatha Christie books? Which ones have you read and did you enjoy them? Do you have any particular favourites?

Monday, 8 June 2020

A Study In Scarlet

Thank you for all your get well wishes for my dad and Jasmine on my last post. I'm happy to say that Jasmine is recovering well and her coronavirus test came back negative, so that's one less thing to worry about.

Unfortunately, things aren't so good for my dad. We were called into the hospital on Friday to speak to the consultant. My dad's kidney function is now at just 9% and they've been treating him for a severe kidney infection since his admission over a week ago. Although he doesn't seem to be getting any worse at the moment, he isn't getting better either and reading between the lines, I don't think they expect him to. Because of this prognosis, he's allowed one visitor each day for a period of half an hour, so at least both my brother and I have got to see him over the weekend. He really is very poorly and there's nothing at all we can do now but wait and see what the outcome will be.

My first poppies opened on the 28th of May. There's been a continual supply since then, with at least one or two new flowers opening daily, which is good as the blooms don't last long at all, especially in the rain we've had over the weekend. The plant is heaving with buds, still lots more colour to come. They're such a happy, blousy plant, the show-off of the border. I can't resist getting my camera out, though the colour is never really replicated in a photograph. Nevertheless, here's a few I took when those first buds opened.

This is poppy Brilliant. I love the purple coloured poppies, Patty's Plum and Plum Pudding, I'd love one of those next.

Friday, 5 June 2020

The Wish List

I haven't been reading a great deal just lately, we've had, and are still having, a very worrying time. My dad is back in hospital again, he's been in since last Saturday, but for a week or two prior to being admitted he went downhill very fast. It's doubtful that he'll be allowed home any time soon. He's very unwell at present and they're now talking of him going into community rehabilitation if and when the time comes for him to be discharged. It's all about making sure that he's safe, and he wouldn't be at home at the present time. The sad part about it all is that we're unable to visit him and he's very confused, he doesn't know where he is or why he's there.

On Monday, Jasmine, Daniel's girlfriend, was admitted to hospital. She's diabetic and was unable to stop being sick, sending her insulin levels out of control. She was kept in until yesterday, but I'm pleased to say that she's finally been discharged. She had a coronavirus test while she was in hospital as the doctor told her that he'd seen similar symptoms in other diabetic patients who had the virus but they never said the test had come back positive so I suppose it was negative. She hasn't had any other symptoms.

Needless to say, with all this going on and the worry and stress I'm under at present, reading and crafting have been on the back burner, I haven't felt like doing much at all, and I'm tired out too as I'm not sleeping very well. However, prior to all this happening, running out of books during lockdown has had me reaching for my Kindle and actively seeking out books to download. There's quite a few I've read recently which, ordinarily, wouldn't have made it onto my Kindle, and that would have been such a shame as I've discovered some really wonderful books from some new to me authors. The Wish List by Ruby Hummingbird is one of them, and you can see a list of what else I've been reading in my sidebar.

I really loved this book, it's full of interesting and likeable characters, it was such a pleasant read.

"Sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you can float to the top.

Maria Birch is seventy years old and, for her, every week is the same.

On Monday, she does her weekly shop. On Tuesday, she goes for a blow-dry. On Wednesday, she visits the laundrette. But Thursday is her favourite day of all - everything hurts less on a Thursday.

Every Thursday Maria walks to her local cafe. Waiting for her at one of the red gingham-topped tables is Albie Young, a charming man with a twinkle in his eye and an impressive collection of tweed flat caps. Every week, the pair share a slice of marble cake and a pot of tea.

Except, one week, Albie doesn't turn up.

When Maria finds out what has happened, her perfectly ordered life is ripped apart at the seams. Suddenly, she is very lonely. Without her Thursday friend - her only friend - she no longer has the energy to circle the weekly TV listings, she has no reason to leave her apartment, no reason to laugh.

Then she discovers that Albie isn't who she thought he was, and she's left wondering if she knew her friend at all. But Albie has left behind a legacy - a handwritten list of wishes he never got the chance to complete.

Maria is resigned to facing the rest of her days heartbroken and alone. But fulfilling Albie's wishes could hold the key to her happiness - if only she's able to look past his secret..."

I will be honest, I found the beginning a little slow to get going, but totally worth persevering with. I think anyone who has enjoyed books such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Other Half of Augusta Hope (I'd recommend all three) would really enjoy this book too.

This is another book I'd thoroughly recommend.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Planting Up The Hanging Baskets

I managed to pick up some bedding plants in Home Bargains and I thought they'd be ideal for my hanging baskets.

This tray of twenty four Busy Lizzies only cost £3.99. The plants are quite small but it's still early in the season so there's plenty of time for them to put on lots of growth. Busy Lizzies go on flowering throughout summer so there's the potential there for lots and lots of colour.

I've got a couple of baskets which have been used before, they're just cheap ones from one of the discount stores, but they last more than one season so they're good enough for me.

Ta da! Okay, they're not the most stunning hanging baskets I've ever planted up, I do like trailing plants in them usually, but they'll look better once the plants have grown a bit and they'll add some very welcome colour to the front of the house.

Whilst I was planting up the hanging baskets, I filled a couple of plant pots with compost and transplanted some sunflowers which had self seeded, one in a pot containing geraniums and the other in the pot housing my little fig tree. They could have gone straight into the ground but sunflowers seem to be a gourmet meal for slugs so I thought I'd give them a little extra protection and let them put on a bit more growth before I set them free. More mature plants don't seem to be quite as tasty to slugs.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

An Unexpected Gift

How lovely is it when you receive an unexpected parcel in the mail, I love it. Especially when that parcel contains a gift, and even more so when it's a 'just because' gift, no birthday or Christmas in sight. All wrapped up beautifully too.

I was reading my lovely friend Maggie's blog, she writes at Blackcountry Wench. In her Fully Finished post she showed some gorgeous cross stitch project envelopes that she'd made, I never dreamt for one moment that one of them was for me.

Cross stitch is quite a new hobby for me, I'd dabbled in the past but I'm really getting into it just recently. I have lots of notions and knitting accessories, but very few things for cross stitch and I'll admit, I've actually been looking at project envelopes to buy. Well, a new hobby, let's face it, I'll need all the bits and bobs to go with it.

To say I was over the moon when I opened the parcel is an understatement. I'm absolutely thrilled with my beautiful project envelope, but that wasn't all, Maggie had also sent the second one she'd made for Eleanor, who has only just taken up cross stitch but is loving it. How kind is that.

Inside each bag is a matching lavender pouch, they smell gorgeous, and there was such a cute card too.

Thank you so much, Maggie. We're both thrilled to bits and the bags were put into use as soon as they were received.

Don't you think that having lovely accessories for your hobby is such a treat, I do.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Bank Holiday Monday

Thank you for all your comments on my last post. It's interesting to see how the lockdown is affecting us all financially. I'm pleased to hear that most of us are faring well in these troubled times, and my heart goes out to those who are having a tough time of it. I think we'll all be paying for it in the future though, one way or another. We prepare for so many things through life but I don't think anyone could have predicted what 2020 would have in store for us.

It was Spring Bank Holiday on Monday. We'd had some blustery weather over the weekend but it brightened up again and it was much warmer so we took ourselves off for a walk through Parlington Woods down The Flyline.

You can read my post about Nellie's Tree where I touched on the history of The Flyline, and also the romantic story of Vic Stead, his Sweetheart and the tree which was voted Woodland Trust's 2018 tree of the year for England.

This is usually a quiet walk but there were lots of people out walking on Monday, as well as numerous cyclists and a jogger or two.

Even local walks get much busier when the weather's nice, especially on a bank holiday.

It's been good that the weather has been so nice through lockdown, I don't know what we'd have done had we been confined to the house for the duration.

As the restrictions surrounding exercise are relaxed, it seems that some people's concerns about the virus are lessened too. There were too many people not observing social distancing to count. Groups of people, who it was obvious were not from the same household, out together and walking side by side.

It makes me wonder if I'm in the minority when it comes to observing the rules. It certainly seems that way when I'm out and about.

Nevertheless, Archie was unconcerned and relished a bit of freedom running around and enjoying his walk, though he was ready for home eventually, he does tire much quicker these days.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Money Makes The World Go Round

Mick found a five pound note last week. He was taking Archie for his last walk of the day just before bedtime when he saw it lying there on the pavement. It reminds me of the time, many years ago now, when he came into the house and told me he'd found a five pound note on the drive. It was half an hour later, when looking for some money he had in his pocket, that he realised he was a fiver down. The five pound note he'd picked up on the drive was his own!

Whenever I find any money in the street it always makes me wonder who dropped it. Was it a child who has lost their pocket money, or an elderly person who has lost part of their pension. Will someone have to go without something now because losing that money means they can't afford to buy it.

How are you managing your finances in lockdown? We're very lucky, Mick is able to work from home so he's still been earning his normal salary but I know many people are having to take wage cuts, or worse still, have lost their job.

Are you finding that you're spending more or less in lockdown? These days, many people shop around for the best prices but I suppose lockdown is preventing that somewhat. People don't want to be going in lots of different shops for their groceries, they want to be in and out of that one supermarket in the shortest time possible. The one way systems in the shops also make it difficult to head in different directions once you're inside the shop too, so you can't backtrack to an item once you realise it's a better offer than something that's ahead of you. I would have thought that having Mick at home all day, we'd spend more on food but in actual fact we seem to be spending less. I think that's because we're not doing all those top up shops during the week when 'extras' seem to jump into the basket.

Another area where we're spending less is petrol, though it's not actually saving us any money as Mick can claim mileage for petrol he uses for work. Usually, he drives an average of eight hundred miles each week when he's at work, but he claims the amount that costs back. At the moment he's taking Eleanor to work and picking her up too every day so that she doesn't have to use public transport, it's ten miles each way so that's forty miles a day, and he drives to my dad's too, so he's still using the car and I'd say it's costing us about the same as it usually would.

You would think that the amount of gas and electricity we're using at the moment with Mick being at home would increase, but it's hard to work out how much extra that is. We change our supplier regularly to ensure we're on the best deal and the heating has been turned off for much of the time during lockdown as we've had such lovely weather.

One thing that's definitely gone up is the coffee bill. We have a Tassimo coffee machine, it's Mick's, there's only him in our house who drinks coffee. He usually has one cup before work each day, but being at home, he's helping himself to numerous cups each day, and those pods aren't cheap!

How about you? Which areas are you spending more on and where are you making savings? Have you realised that a change you've made during lockdown is saving you money and therefore, it's something you'll continue to do in the future? I'd love to know.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Enjoying The Rhododendrons

The sunshine returned on Tuesday after a cooler period, so we decided to head off to Temple Newsam to see the rhododendrons. It's the perfect time of year to visit as the gardens, filled with so much colour, are a delight to see. Previous posts I've written about the rhododendrons at Temple Newsam are Temple Newsam Rhododendron Walk and Temple Newsam Rhododendrons. I have to say that we won't be heading back to Temple Newsam in a hurry though, it was packed, and there wasn't a lot of social distancing happening. Different families were out together and many people didn't even try to step to the side as people passed by them. It's so different to the experience we've had at Lotherton since the lockdown has begun to ease, it's so much quieter there and every single person we've come into contact with has moved out of the way, as we've done too, as we've passed by.

This is the start of the Rhododendron Walk. The path snakes its way through the parkland with these beautiful shrubs grown as a hedge all the way along.

I shall let the flowers and colour do the talking for me today.

I'm pleased I got to see the rhododendrons at Temple Newsam this year, it's just a shame that people aren't sticking to the social distancing rules.

Monday, 18 May 2020

A Flower A Day

Eleanor's done a bit of cross stitching in the past but it's not really a hobby that's gripped her. Since I've been cross stitching myself however, she fancies giving it another go. I'm always pleased when she wants to do something creative, she enjoyed all the art type subjects at school but hasn't taken up any hobbies in this direction so I'm only too pleased to encourage her when she wants to give something a go.

I'd been looking at Carolyn Manning Designs website, she has some lovely cross stitch patterns, especially the Flower A Day Collection. There's projects all across the colour spectrum and when I showed Eleanor, she picked out the pattern with yellow flowers framed with a floral border. These patterns are supposed to encourage a bit of stitching every day.

She's been a bit fed up of late, it's ten weeks now since she's seen her boyfriend due to the lockdown so I wanted to cheer her up a bit. I've treated her to the fabric, floss, hoop, bobbins and scissors, so she's all ready to go. There is something in it for me too, it'll be fun having a stitching buddy to share a hobby with.