One of the great things about blogging is that it gives me a window on my life. I realised that I have been blogging over ten years so I went back and found this blog, a day in my life in January 2008. So much that I recognise and so much which has changed! Here is 2008 when I was still working:
22nd January 2008
My strangely split life is probably best represented by a Thursday, when, although I am not in London, I am working at home in the morning so here goes:
I wake at about 7.30. If there is any sun at all the light will be flooding in through the window as we never close the curtains - there is nobody to overlook or to be overlooked by. The sun rises behind the hill at the far side of the valley and the sky this morning was palest blue, streaked with pink and gold. Perhaps because I am away from home a couple of times a week, I love waking here in my own bed on our quiet hillside. Ian will be on the verge of leaving for work or may have already gone, really early, without waking me. If he is still at home, he will bring me a cup of tea before he goes. I drink it slowly, cocooned in my warm bed, watching the sky change as the sun rises.
The first commitment of the day is a regular nine o' clock conference call. I get up and pull my jeans and fleece on and go outside to let the chickens out. Whoever thinks videophones are a good idea needs their head testing. Without them I can put my work voice on and nobody knows that there is straw in my hair. I did once have a client who clearly thought I was at my desk in a glass tower in Canary Wharf and who said a few minutes into a call, mystified "There's something wrong with this line. I keep thinking I can hear a cock crowing."
I eat eggs from our own hens for breakfast, boiled or scrambled, with toast and the first of countless cups of weedy tea. The black and white cat tries to get on my lap while I am eating. Sometimes I humour her; sometimes I don't. If it is warm enough I will take my breakfast outside and sit at the table under the yew tree. The house is tucked down behind a rocky wall and is sheltered so even a mild winter sun might be enough warmth, with my fleece on and rigger boots on my feet, to make it OK to sit outside.
Then it is into work mode for the call, followed by emails and more calls and documents to review and people to chase. I work at a big desk, too big for the room really, in my study. It is right by the window, the window sill two foot deep because of the thickness of the stone walls. Above my desk are two plant photos taken by my daughter and framed as a birthday present. On the opposite wall is a black and white photograph of Virginia Woolf, the greatest proponent of a room of one's own.
Every time I lift my head I look out of the window. At this time of year the hills are an apple green, dotted with sheep, the trees bare. The two farms on the far side of the valley are more visible now than in summer, emerging from their protecting trees. When the leaves come again they will retreat back into their green seclusion. In nearer view, right opposite my window, is the end wall of the bakehouse, stone with a slate roof, with an outdoor clock mounted at the top which was a present from my parents. I try to stop as soon as it reads twelve. If I am really disciplined I switch off my blackberry and turn my mobile phone to silent. Otherwise I leave them on but close the door. I will check for work messages again at about five o' clock.
Lunch is cheese on toast or soup. Ian might ring and I will walk up the drive for the post. A North or a West wind, prevailing here, will catch at my hair or buffet me with its strength. Today in the sheltered front of the house snowdrops are in flower and the snouts of daffodils pushing up. Before I get started on the afternoon I will have a wander around the garden and the field, deadheading and inspecting crops in the summer, at this time of year looking for signs of life: the drooping heads of hellebores coming into flower, fruit trees determinedly bare, one or two brave wallflowers throwing up a yellow flower against the green.
My afternoon is entirely dictated by season, and to a lesser extent, by weather. Soon I will be sowing broad beans outside, peas in lengths of guttering in the greenhouse and then the mad scramble which is April and May when no matter how the days lengthen there are not enough hours to be outside and to do what needs to be done. There is weeding and thinning and deadheading, cutting back and mulching and in autumn bulbs to be planted. There are never enough snowdrops and daffodils and tulips. Last year I also planted bluebells around the new hazels. In my head this is a shady corner, a little copse. In reality it is a collection of four foot high twigs grouped around a lovely little witch hazel. Still part of the glory of gardening is the garden of the imagination.
In January I will be ordering seed, crazily ambitious about both time and room; or planning the crop rotation. I might manage to sneak a plant order in. Last week I ordered thirty cyclamen, both coum and hederifolium. It sounds a lot but it won't be. Thursday evening is Welsh class so in winter I might sit by the woodburner and do an hour or so catching up. The class runs for two evening a week but I can only go to one so I am always running to catch up, hanging on by the skin of my teeth.
I need to go out at a quarter to seven to Welsh so our evening meal will be rushed. I fall through the door of the cafe where the class is held, not the last but never the first. There will be about twelve of us there, some of them related to each other. There will be much joshing and laughing, and taking the mick out of the tutor, a retired policeman, who is an exceptional teacher, quick and funny and with a deep passion for his country and his language. After the class there is a trip over to the pub. I like to go but it can be, if we have both been busy, that Ian and I will have hardly seen each other since the weekend. If it is one of those weeks I will come back home up the hill as soon as we finish. Our nearest village is not much lower than we are but people clearly think we are living in the heavens: "How are you finding it, up on the hill?" is quite a common question.
Winter or summer, when I get home we will open a bottle of wine and sit by the fire or wander around the garden. Sometimes we talk and plan, sometimes we both sit with laptops on our knees. Ian might be on Ebay or researching something, while I will be blogging, or reading blogs. Our grown up and away children seem to have some strange shared time clock so it is likely that if one rings, the others will too, so some evenings are full of the sound of the phone and catching up conversation.
To go to bed in my own bed is as lovely as to wake in it. I am as likely to read a gardening book or a cookery book as a novel (novels are good for the train). This week I am rereading Christopher Lloyd's "The Well Tempered Garden" and dreaming of new flower beds.
So what is different in 2018:
Now that Ian and I have both stopped paid work everything starts a little more slowly and I rarely have those times when Ian is away and I have the house to myself. Ian still brings me a cup of tea (thank you love) and I am likely to get up about eight o' clock. I will write about a Thursday since the day ten years ago was a Thursday and on Thursday mornings I (pretty much always) and Ian (quite often) will go to Pilates. There wasn't a class in the village ten years ago and if there had been I would not have been able to go because I was working. It is one of the great pleasures of not being tied to work to be able to commit myself to other things, maybe too many!
I still eat our own eggs for breakfast and still drink endless cups of weedy tea! Then I dress in my Pilates clothes and head off down the hill. For years for yoga I have worn fairly elderly stretchy trousers and t shirts but a couple of weeks ago I treated myself to some new leggings and tops. I felt slightly self conscious in them the first time I wore them, as if my clothes were making claims for me which my body couldn't deliver on. I am not super flexible or super strong. But I have decided just to wear them and enjoy them. They are very comfortable and soft and rather more close fitting than my old style. But what the hell! I have been doing yoga for about nine years and Pilates now for six months or so. I deserve something nice to wear!
Pilates is fun. There are about sixteen of us, ranging in age from thirties to about seventy, and also ranging hugely in shape and ability. There are three or four men who come along and it is interesting to see that strength and flexibility often don't go hand in hand. The teacher is a retired nurse who must be mid to late fifties but looks at least ten years younger and is a great advert for her classes. We often have a laugh and we often go for a coffee afterwards in the cafe on the corner of the square. The cafe wasn't there ten years ago either and it is a great asset to the village to have somewhere to sit and chat and read the papers.
It will be about half past eleven when we come back home again. Just as it was ten years ago, what I do is hugely influenced by the seasons. In spring or summer I will probably go outside either to wander the garden or to do something practical. In winter I will rush inside to the warmth, out of the wind and the sleet. Today is very cold with handfuls of sleet scurrying down the windows. Inside it is warm and full of the smell of Ian's bread baking. Now that is a change in ten years: I have gone gluten free and the only time I really really mind is when the bread comes hot out of the oven. Sometimes I have a piece anyway while it is still warm, slathered with Welsh butter, and put up with the uncomfortable stomach the following morning. You pays your money and you takes your choice!
We eat lunch together, quite early, probably watching the television for half an hour. Often it will be home made soup or some of our eggs. Today was soup to chase the cold away. After lunch in winter I am likely to sit down at the laptop and do some Spanish or some Welsh. I was amused to discover that I have been trying to learn Welsh for more than ten years. When people ask me I tend to admit I have been going a while but I would have guessed at five or six years, not ten! It's a pity I am not any better at it for the sake of all this time. This coming Thursday we will be visited by our younger daughter and her toddler and new baby. Now that is a huge change in ten years. In 2008 we had one grandchild, who was coming up to two. Now he is nearly twelve and has been joined by another eight, one brother for him and another seven of his cousins, right down the age range with the youngest just one month old. Our daughter didn't live nearby ten years ago. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be near enough to see her and the grandchildren every week and we devote vast amounts of time which we didn't have when we were working to making sure we see all the other families who don't live so near, driving up and down the country, spending time, making relationships, making memories. In another ten years the oldest, Samuel, will be nearly twenty two and Joseph, the next one down, will be eighteen. It won't come back, this chance to be part of their childhoods. My parents did it too, spending time and money and effort on being part of their grandchildren's lives even though they lived miles away. I am glad I had that example and following it accounts for swathes of our time right now!
If I am doing Welsh or Spanish I will well and truly run of steam by about four o'clock. Even if I have worked for that long it will not have been without diversions and procrastinations, fitting in a quick chapter of my book, half an hour's knitting there, a facetime session with my older daughter or a quick whip through Instagram looking to see if any of my friends or family have posted. By half past three or four I will put the kettle on and Ian will come inside from the garden or the workshop.
Thursday is choir night so I will make something to eat early so that I can go out about half past six. In winter it is hard to tear myself away from the wood burning stove to drive down the dark hill and up to another nearby village for choir. It will always be worth it. Two hours of singing lifts me up and livens me up and makes me feel like singing still on the drive home. I burst in at about a quarter past nine. Ian will be reading or on the ipad or watching the television. I love this time and get edgy if he is on the computer in the other room. It seems daft because it is not as if we necessarily talk to each other in any great depth on these fire side evenings. I remember reading something from a recently widowed woman about the sadness of having lost the person with whom she did nothing and I really understand that. There is something very companionable about looking up and seeing your person there.
Bed around eleven, often still to read for a while. I sleep well and deeply.
How life changes - our parents gone, work given up, new babies and children - and how it doesn't. The snowdrops and cyclamen still flower. The people who matter to me still matter.