Sunday, 8 April 2012

An updated day in the life of...

I wake up.  The light is streaming in because we never shut our curtains up here.  It is half past six and I turn over and drift back to sleep.  After years and years of dawn starts with small children and work and commuting, is there a greater luxury?

As usual Ian must have got up without waking me because when I wake again it is a quarter to eight and he is not in the bed.  From downstairs I hear the sound of him in the kitchen.  He will have already made tea and porridge for his father and now the kettle is boiling again and he is making a cup of tea for me.  Double luxury!

It is quiet here.  On a school morning faintly from the farm next door will come the sound of mothers calling and car doors slamming.  The cockerel might be heard crowing from the kitchen garden.  But there is no traffic, there are no trains or planes, just birds squabbling on the feeders and the cat calling meekly yet insistently for more food (not birds!).

Breakfast is pretty much always eggs.  I love eggs and we have so many of our own it would be foolish not to take advantage: boiled, poached or scrambled, with deep yellow yolks and so fresh they poach perfectly every time.  I can't start the day without three cups of incredibly weak tea.  You might ask whether I could manage with one cup of tea with some colour in it but I like my weedy tea, drunk from an Emma Bridgewater mug.  Why does a particular mug matter I wonder?  The shape of these and the colours are so satisfying.

The day whizzes by in a blur of jobs.  In spring I start by going down to the greenhouse, checking which seeds are showing, watering, taking lids off propagators, just looking at my plants.  I never used to be able to raise things from seed and have only been at all successful in the last year or so.  I didn't  realise how closely you need to watch your seeds.  Every day visits are good, twice is ideal.

Then there is the ordinary domestic round: bread to be made, washing to be done, laundry to be sorted.  At this time of year the garden keeps shouting at you when you go inside.  Weed me, it calls, you know you want to.  If I don't spend a couple of days a week in the garden in spring everything disappears under a tide of dandelions, creeping buttercup and Good King Henry.

By mid morning I might go down to our local village to buy my father in law a newspaper and put some letters in the post.  It is only a mile and a half away but it is a very steep three quarters of a mile down our hill and just as steep up on the other side.  On the rare days when we feel we have time to walk, it will take two hours to do the round trip, including the shopping time.  Jumping in the car, the whole trip takes about twenty five minutes.  One of the things I love about having my children's dogs to stay (and this week we have my son's black labrador for the week) is that it makes me more inclined to walk and, by combining walking the dog with going shopping, slows me down, puts the rhythm of life back to the rhythm of walking feet.  There are bluebells just coming into flower now by the paths and stitchwort showing its white simple stars.

Lunch.  Earlier than I would choose to suit the earlier rising of Ian and his father.  Lunch usually involves home made bread and ham from our local shop, or cheese, or, if you are me and trying to eat less cheese in the hope of losing a bit of weight, hummus.  We eat our meals at the table now to suit my father in law but sometimes I take mine outside.  If it is warm enough I sit on a bench in the sun.  If the sun is shining and a breeze is blowing I take my lunch and a book to the cedar greenhouse and sit in the surprising warmth all by myself.

What happens in the afternoon? It is a mystery: emails, work things, organising and family things, more gardening.  If it is a Monday or a Thursday we take my father in law down to the village for his meetings with  his new friends where he plays Bingo and tells his stories.  They have been very welcoming.  How many people are making new friends at ninety three?

The afternoon rushes to a close.  We eat early again.  I am learning how to extend the limited repertoire of what I can cook for my father in law.  For quite a while I tried to make only food I knew he would like.  He loves his food and meal times are the highlight of his day so presenting him with strange, foreign food seemed unkind.  Eventually the relentlessness of meat and two veg cooking began to drive me nuts.  I love cooking.  I love recipe books and making something interesting and thinking about it and stirring and tasting and adjusting.  Very recently I have started to try to produce a day or so in a fortnight when I cook something which is a pleasure to cook.  Sometimes I give it to him too and he eats it without complaint (but then he would!).  Sometimes I make him something different.  Food is such a big part of our lives, ours and his.  How hard to get it right.  When Ian and I first married and brought two families together I remember very vividly that cooking a roast dinner was one of the ways you could make everyone happy when interests and history and family traditions would all conspire to set people running along different lines of expectation.

Evening.  My father in law watches his own television.  We perhaps watch more than we used to.  I am not sure.  Mostly we read and blog and read blogs if you are me, and do other forms of computer based things if you are Ian.  The phone rings often with parents and children and siblings on the other end.  There is yoga and Welsh class.  Now that the evenings are longer there is the delight of walking up the hill and along the ridge.  This week there is a black dog sleeping on her bean bag and sourdough bread coming out of the oven, smelling wonderful and tasting better.

Night.  The fire is burning.  The lamps would be low if they could be but they are not oil lamps, they are low energy  bulbs.  I am thinking about daffodils for next year and what to feed my family and friends who are coming over the next days and weeks.   It should be time for bed but I am likely to get my second wind.  I am reading Beth Chatto and gardening with bob dylan.    I am on my second glass of wine.  I must go to bed.  Tomorrow there is weeding to be done.


39 comments:

  1. Elizabeth -your days have such a completely different rhythm from mine and I can feel myself slowing down even as I read. Wherever we have lived, one of my favorite times of day has been early morning(especially in the Spring), walking around my little suburban yard (garden) with the dog and my coffee and seeing what has been happening to my plants and trees since last I looked at them. (In the evenings after work, I would drag MrL around to show him what had bloomed/budded/unfurled/emerged since the day before.)Thanks for sharing your day with us, and I'm glad you have a dog for company this week!

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    1. I identify with dragging someone round! I have just done this with younger son who is very patient considering he is not terribly interested!

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  2. What a joyous read. The peace that such daily rhythms bring and the small trials that pepper even the best of days all so beautifully described. And how I envy you that plentiful supply of eggs from your own hens!

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    1. We have loads of eggs just now. I am contemplating an egg based lunch following my boiled eggs for breakfast!

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  3. How lovely to share the rhythm of your day - your meals, your common chores, your garden, your chickens.....you accomplish a lot and yet it seems to flow so well. Thanks for sharing. (From a farm in Virginia, USA)

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    1. What a nice comment! On good days the accomplishing things does seem to flow just as you say. On bad ones we can feel a bit overwhelmed!

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  4. Late on this Easter Sunday in New York,let me first offer to you and all that family of yours wishes for a Happy Easter.

    Elizabeth, I so loved reading every word of your post. You really did paint a vivid picture of what is happening as spring arrives in those Welsh Hills.

    This time last week I was in London, looking forward to visiting Gretel and Andy. I had just a grand visit, feeding my country dreams, now looking forward to the next trip.

    xo

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    1. Oh Frances, come here on your next trip! I could gather a group of bloggers from Wales and the borders to meet you. That would be fabulous!

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  5. I so enjoyed reading this. Wishing a joyous start to a new week in early spring!

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    1. It is amazing to think of you reading about my day up here from your life in Italy. Blogging is a good thing!

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  6. Oh I am jealous. I am still at the stage of shoehorning everything into the weekend or evenings. Though it is slowly changing and more time is stolen here ans there for the garden and allotment. As the cat gets me up early I am ofte at the allotment by 8am, leaving 2 hrs later when other arrive. I think it is important to find time for yourself and your interests but I still feel guilty.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon

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    1. I spent so long with no time for anything but work and the children that it feels like another life to be able to do this. It is financially a bit precarious I suppose! That is what happens when you swap a salary for self employment, of a sort!

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  7. HI, just loved to hear of your day. Did you grow the purple sprouting? I just love it. Early morning used to be.... up at 5.30 when my husband got up to milk (or to make sure the herdsman arrived) First thing was.. always make sure you could hear the hum of the milking machine. Then I would go for a holiday and wake with a start 'cos I couldn't hear the machine...what was wrong! Used to say to people 'just stand outside my door and hum ..would you so I can sleep in!'
    You seem to use the distant sounds of busy..ness (spelt like that on purpose) to re-enforce the wellbeing and relaxed pace of your life! Sorry...gone on too long...it all just all spilled out..that's the problem with blogging!! Joan

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    1. We did grow the purple sprouting broccoli. We have the best crop ever this year, in fact for the first time in memory I have put some in the freezer. Love the idea of your needing the hum of the milking machine to sleep!

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  8. A lovely read. It's interesting to catalogue your day like this. I'm always saying I don't know where time goes and there aren't enough hours in the day but if I sat down and thought about it I would probably realise that I'm always doing something. I'm always striving for a balance of quality of life, eating good home cooked food, looking after home and garden and giving hubby the time and space to fit his OU degree in around a hectic job, whilst indulging in some of my own interests. I think I manage to achieve this, most of the time!!

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    1. As others have commented, it is that balance which we all look for. I am having to work hard at it now as there are various family things needing my time. I think I am in a better place now than I was a month or so ago. It is never done, always changing. It sounds as though you do yours very well!

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  9. Another fabulously lovely blog, Elizabeth - which should really find its way beyond the ephemeral and into some sort of posterity because it so perfectly captures the spirit and aspiration of a certain time of life, and indeed of a certain time. My first thought was that it could be ageless: haven't people always done so? But our present life - almost regardless of station - is rather easier than that of our parents and grandparents. I am sure there are many, allowing for variations of geography and gardening ability and general pressures this way and that, that would feel a-tune with this stream of consciousness - though you will permit me just one smile over your mention of daffodil bulbs followed by what to feed the family. Maybe the blog is just a lure and even now you are making daffodil bulb stew to feed to those that are gulled over your threshold. (The bulbs as of course you know are highly poisonous. At the greengrocer's the almost blind 80 year old father of a friend of mine mistook some once for a handful for shallots and that, sadly, was the end of him. Quite true).

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    1. Thank you Fennie. I agree about the ease of our lives compared with our parents and grandparents. My grandparents worked until they dropped, in common with most of their generation.

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  10. This is a lovely post, Elizabeth. The words that come across to me loud and clear, both from your words and those of your readers comments, are rhythm and balance. There is certainly a timeless rhythm about it, people have always got up, eaten, done the chores of cleaning, providing (cooking, growing, shopping, hunting(!) ), and caring. Then there is the need to fit in socialising and caring and times of solitude, which is where the balance comes in - important to balance all the different areas of our lives, not letting one take over, to the detriment of others. Your life sounds as if it has a very good balance. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. On a good day my life has balance, on a bad one I am just a skittering whirl of conflicting claims on my time. I must have written this on a good day!

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  11. What a lovely post, Elizabeth. And how nice to have an insight into your day.

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    1. I would love the same insight into others' days!

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  12. Hi Elisabeth, thanks so much for the mention. And I too enjoyed reading about your day, especially the stuff about the cooking for the elderly, something that always causes me anxiety when I do my pathetic one weekend in 5 eldercare. It's as bad having your delicious healthy little somethings rejected by a speechless semi-paralysed mother and a crotchety old Dad as it was when the children wouldn't eat what I put in front of them! Perhaps worse! Plus ca change.

    Anyway, lovely to know more about you and indeed you bring it all alive so beautifully and comfortingly. Much enjoyed.

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    1. I am very lucky in that my father in law would never reject what you give him, indeed he would eat everything on his plate even if it nearly killed him! Sort of gives you a responsibility to make sure he doesn't have to!

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  13. Wonderful post as always. So very evocative! I have a cupboard full of mugs, but only ever use one. Am dreading the day it breaks!
    How is Henry with the lab? Has he improved or gone on holiday?

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    1. Hi! Henry has stayed home and I would say has improved a bit although we have had one flying attack. This lab is quite frightened of him and is as about as unthreatening as you can be while still being large and black. I think Henry must have had a bad experience in his youth!

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  14. Our days are similar in lots of ways - especially the 'calling weeds!'
    Lovely post.

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    1. I wonder if everyone suffers from calling weeds or only some of us?

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  15. How strange, Elizabeth. I wonder if you had ever in your bestest dreams imagined such a fine life with doing mostly things you want to do. I haven't. I find myself in exactly the same slow rhythm in tune with nature, the garden and the animals and wonderful home grown eggs. How lucky we are. How absolutely blessed.

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    1. I absolutely agree that we are lucky! It must be something which shifts about because if you had asked me ten years ago whether I could be happy without my job, which I loved and put most of myself into, I would have thought not. Yet here I am having done my downsizing often thinking this is the best bit of my life so far!

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  16. Beautifully written. Sounds like a lovely life.

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    1. In many ways it is Isabelle and I tend not to write about the bits that are really hard as the stories are often not mine to tell! Don't think it is all like this though, nobody's life is!

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  17. This post reminds me of the Elspeth Thompson book I just finished... you have a very pleasant way of making the reader feel like they're part of your family, not an intruder peeking through the window. And I think it's probably good for your father-in-law to try new things every once in a while. Keep his spirit elastic and hopeful, with new things to enjoy around the corner! Wish I could share a slice of your sourdough bread with butter and honey and a mug of tea.

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    1. I like the phrase "elastic and hopeful"! Well one day maybe you will get here to Wales and share some new bread!

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  18. As days go, that's not a bad one!

    I'm sure you are right about food and your father in law. A very good home for elderly people near where I live serves the kind of food children had at parties in the sixties - tinned fruit in jelly, paste sandwiches etc. It seems an excellent idea. The sixties were roughly when the elderly people living there were bringing up their children so these foods are the kinds they associate with making special occasions for people you love. The main meals are beautifully conventional - as you say . . . meat and two veg. When we are old, I hope people will provide us with the kinds of food we like, just as you do for your father in law. (With a few 'new' ideas introduced from time to time for the sake of variety or conversation - just as you do.)Being old puts one so much in the hands of others. If we had to eat food we didn't like, we we'd feel even more vulnerable, even more out of control.

    Thanks for this glimpse into your day.

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    1. You are so right! My father in law loves tinned fruit in jelly and I must confess that it is not me that makes it for him but my husband. I would hate to be fed food I don't like so it seems important to me too!

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  19. We're lucky, aren't we to live in this beautiful part of the world. There's a lot that's familiar to me about your day except that I don't have an Aged P on site, as it were. It's a good and kind thing you are doing to care for him so.

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  20. Hi Liz
    I love your blog - what did make me laugh was 'mothers calling' - perhaps what you should've said was 'mothers squawking and issuing ultimatums' ha! Ally xx

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I really love to know what you think and to have the chance to start a conversation. I always try to respond (although sometimes it might take me a day or two to get to you) either here or by visiting you.