Friday 31 July 2020

The Taste Test

I've grown two different varieties of potatoes in containers this year, not that I set out to do this. I chose a second early, Charlotte, to grow, however, a potato from the batch I grew last year started to grow in the old compost I'd kept in the greenhouse, and rather than discard it, I repotted it into fresh compost and allowed it to grow on. The variety of this one is Jazzy. I've now harvested potatoes from both varieties so I thought I'd do a bit of a taste test.

The first to be ready was Jazzy, probably because already being in compost, it had started growing first. I was a little disappointed in the yield of Jazzy last year, but it's fared better this time round. This haul is from just one tuber, considerably better than it did last year.

The first lot of Charlotte potatoes were harvested just a couple of days later and this is the amount we got from two tubers, not nearly so good as the Jazzy.

So what about taste. I know Charlotte is many people's potato of choice but, for me, Jazzy wins the taste test hands down. I'm not the only one who thinks this either, both Mick and Eleanor agree with me.

Whichever variety you grow, I think home grown always tastes superior to those you buy in the supermarket.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Sheila's Perfume

It's hard to believe that I've had A Year Without My Mum. It was actually a year back in March and I remembered reading a comment on a post I wrote last year, A Final Goodbye, in which my lovely friend, Mitzi from Lazy Days & Sundays, mentioned she planted roses in memory of the people she'd lost. I thought at the time what a lovely idea that was and so I decided that I would do this for my mum.

I didn't want to plant just any old rose though, I went in search of one with a meaning and I came across Sheila's Perfume. Sheila was my mum's name and so I thought it would be perfect, though a little ironic as my mum lost her sense of smell many years ago after an illness. She couldn't smell perfume but liked to wear it so always asked my opinion.

Sheila's Perfume is a floribunda which produces clusters of flowers, or it should do once it gets going. Its first bloom opened after my dad died whilst we were having to isolate. It was a bright spell amongst the gloomy days of bereavement. There's more buds just waiting to open and it should go on flowering all summer.

It's such a pretty rose, yellow with a crimson pink edge, quite unusual. I think my mum would like it.

We were in lockdown when it arrived so it was a while until I could get to a garden centre to buy some compost but as you can see in the photo above, I'd picked out a nice pot to grow it in and I've since bought the compost I needed and it's been potted up.

Hopefully, it will be happy with the care and attention I provide and flower for many years to come in memory of my lovely mum.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Saying Goodbye

On Tuesday we returned to the crematorium to scatter my dad's ashes. There were just four of us, me and Mick, Eleanor and my brother. We were lucky with the weather, it was a nice day and the sun shone for us.

We have a natural rock stone at the crematorium and though the ashes aren't interred, we've scattered my sister's, my mum's and now my dad's ashes there. There's memorial plaques for my sister and my mum attached to the stone and we're in the process of having one added for my dad. We visit the crematorium often to take flowers, it's so tranquil there in the beautiful grounds whilst we're lost in our thoughts.

I knew that the grieving for my dad wouldn't start properly until the funeral was over, what I didn't really expect was that the grief for my mum would play such a big part too, though thinking it over, I suppose my mum's death was such a short time ago that I'm still grieving for her as well as my dad now. A close family friend told me, in the days after my dad's death, that she had felt so strange after her second parent died, and I'm feeling some of that too. It's such a peculiar feeling, one I can't articulate very well, but, well, I suppose I feel alone. Looking back at times I shared with my parents when I was growing up are my memories alone, there's only me here now to remember them. Even in the short space of time it's been since my dad's death there have been things from the past that I've wanted to know, or wanted some clarification on, and there's no one there now to ask.

We've been clearing out my dad's flat. We can't sell it until probate comes through so there's no rush, we're just doing an hour here and there, that's all we can manage at one time as that throws up so many emotions too. It's terrible walking into an empty home where my parents once lived and remembering them so full of life there. It also feels as though the family has lost its anchor point now.

The memories I have of my parents, and my sister who died twenty one years ago, will never be lost, they'll be with me always. I don't expect my grief to just disappear overnight, it's early days and I'm sure many more tears are yet to fall, but in time I want to be able to remember them all with a smile. We were a happy family, we had wonderful times together and I don't want to look back on them with sadness in my heart, that would be doing them a disservice. I know they'd want me to be happy remembering the good times we shared.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Crafting Mojo

I've done very little crafting for weeks now. When my dad first went into hospital, we were unable to visit him because of the restrictions surrounding coronavirus. It was such a worrying time and crafting was the last thing on my mind. There was an odd time when I wanted something to do with my hands and I found adding a square to my scrappy blanket was the perfect thing.

It doesn't take too long and one small square was just the outlet I needed without picking up something bigger. My blanket is still in the beginning stages but it's growing slowly and I'm loving the mix of colours. I'm not too precious about what colours are placed next to each other, if I get a bit of a clash it just adds to the scrappy concept.

I've had two pairs of socks on the needles for a while now, they haven't had much added to them, there's been just a row knit here and there. It's quite some time since I've used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern so I decided it was high time I pulled it out of the pattern pile, I've substituted the heels in each of the patterns I'm knitting with it. I had to refresh my mind with the details again as I'd completely forgotten how to knit it but each of these socks have had the heels added now.

I came to a halt on the wedding sampler I'm cross stitching for my niece after A Change Of Date. I'm just at the very last bit now but I shall stitch that nearer the time. It was time to start something new and in the days after my dad's death I picked up my needle and started He's a Flake by Little House Needleworks. It's only a small chart but I haven't managed to get much done yet. There's no rush though.

I wanted to mention the knitted hearts that people have been knitting for hospitals throughout the UK. Knitters have been making matching pairs of hearts which hospitals are giving to families who are unable to visit their loved ones because of the coronavirus pandemic. One heart is given to the patient and one to their family to help them feel connected whilst separated at the worst possible time. We were unable to visit for the first week my dad was in hospital and we were given one of these hearts, my dad was given the matching one, such a lovely gesture. We were lucky, we were able to visit for the remainder of time he was there but I know so many people haven't had the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones, my heart goes out to them. I went to visit my dad at the chapel of rest prior to his funeral and he still had the heart with him there.

My crafting mojo seems to be returning slowly so I'm hoping to make some headway now with the projects I've got on the go and I'm even considering having a go at a new craft too, but more of that another time.

Sunday 19 July 2020

One Split Second

As you can imagine, I haven't been reading very much just lately. I find I've been picking up my Kindle, turning it on and just staring at the words in front of me. The mind is a very complicated thing and it will only allow so much in before it switches off. I've found it very hard to concentrate on anything and reading has required more effort than I've been able to manage so I haven't read very much for quite some time now.

I started One Split Second by Caroline Bond before my dad died and it's taken a long time for me to get it finished, not because I wasn't enjoying reading it, just for the reasons mentioned above. It was definitely worth the effort though.

"When a car carrying five friends home from a party crashes into a wall, the consequences are devastating - not just for the young people directly involved, but also for their families and the wider community.

No one escapes unscathed, but some are more deeply scarred than others. Those affected are left to question who was to blame for the accident, and what price they will pay.

This moving story of an accident and its aftermath explores our understanding of love and loyalty, grief and forgiveness."

I found this a moving and sad story, not least because our family has suffered such a similar tragedy. My cousin's daughter was killed in a very similar car crash when she was travelling in a car with friends on a night out. I've witnessed first hand what devastation an incident such as this can cause, how lives can be torn apart for ever, and I think the author has dealt with the subject matter well and with compassion. The book explores the effect of the crash on different characters and it's very believable.

The course of so many people's lives can change in just one split second. I'd definitely recommend this book.

Thursday 16 July 2020

In Isolation

It was very hard following my dad's death. The one thing I find can pick me up when I'm down is a trip outside the house. It doesn't have to be far, just a walk around the neighbourhood can make a difference. It may be a small difference but I'll take that when I'm very down. Before my dad died he'd come into contact with someone on the ward who had later tested positive for coronavirus. My dad had tested negative immediately after his admission but wasn't tested again and though he never displayed any symptoms, because we'd visited him, we were told to isolate for a period of fourteen days. It was extremely hard being cooped up in the house with my grief during this time when all I really wanted to do was have a trip out, anywhere would have done, just a change of scenery. I found myself wandering round the garden just to give myself that change of focus. Here are a few photos I found on my camera from that time.

Not a photo from the garden but a beautiful bouquet of flowers which were sent by Eleanor's work. They're the Rose & Seathistle Bouquet from Marks & Spencer. Such a thoughtful gesture, and beautiful words on a card accompanied it.

The first of the blueberries started to ripen.

I couldn't concentrate on much at this time but I could tackle small jobs like repotting the tomato plants. This is a bush variety named Maskotka, my favourite tomato and one my dad was very partial to too. The cherry sized fruit is sweet and tasty.

I've also grown a couple of cordon tomato plants this year too, Bloody Butcher. This is an heirloom variety and produces medium size fruit. The leaves of this plant are what is called Potato Leaf, you can see how different they look to regular tomato plant leaves, more akin to the leaves of potato plants, hence the name.

The potatoes started flowering. I'm growing Charlotte, a second early. I also had a volunteer, a potato from the batch I grew last year which I hadn't removed from the compost, it had started into growth so I repotted that into another container filled with fresh compost and that's growing well too. I grew Jazzy last year so it will be fun to see how well it does and do a bit of a taste test between that and Charlotte.

My small Stella cherry tree has produced its best harvest for many years. Unfortunately, as usually happens, the birds got to most of them before I did.

I did get the first few cherries to ripen though, they were delicious and sweet, and the first four blueberries too.

I don't know what's happened to the apples this year, there isn't a single fruit on either of the two trees. The only thing I can think is that the blossom succumbed to frost earlier in the year. I've never known it happen since I've had my two trees though. The plums are making up for it. I lost a lot of immature fruit in the June Drop but there's lots of plums still on the tree.

My poppies are now finished for another year but I like to leave the seedheads for a little while to enjoy them. They can be dried out and used in a dry flower arrangement but I've never done that.

My roses were very slow in blooming this year, I think it's because I left the pruning to Mick and he tends to cut things back to within an inch of their lives. I was pleased to see them get going though. I have four rose bushes now, Golden Wings, a beautiful almost single yellow rose which Mick bought me one Christmas, The Birthday Rose which is a creamy colour and grown as a half standard. I picked this up for half price when my local nursery was closing down some years ago. I've got an unnamed red rose which Daniel bought me one Mother's Day, and I've recently bought a floribunda rose called Sheila's Perfume in memory of my mum who died last year, but I'll show you that one another time.

I was very glad to get out of isolation after a fortnight, and the restrictions eased to coincide with some good weather. We had some business to take care of the first day, a visit to the funeral directors and the building society, and a trip to the vets for them to give Archie the once over and his annual booster, but then Mick took a couple of days holiday from work so that we could spend a bit of time out and about and get our breath back after the events of the previous three or four weeks. It was very much needed.

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!