The Garden of Birdly Delights

The sparrows like to eat my Swiss rainbow chard so much, in the end I decided to leave out their own special supply. It did have beautifully lush green leaves and colourful stalks, but now it’s just… stalks.

Chard is a cut-and-come-again veg, but I think I’m going to have to hide it for a bit to give it a fighting chance of coming again at all. At this rate though, we’re going to have the healthiest sparrows in the land.

It was only a few days ago that the chard still had leaves…

While I had my telephoto zoom lens out, catching them in the act no less, instead of having lunch some of the flock decided it was bath time. I’ve seen this behaviour before but until now I didn’t have my camera handy.

One juvenile starling will start having a good ole splash about, then everyone wants a bit of the action.

Our garden birds are healthy and clean.

Going back to chard, last week I was able to really start munching on my own produce. I started growing chard simply because it’s easy and generally problem free (unless you have clean eating sparrows), but I didn’t have any particular desire to eat it. But eat it I did, and it’s rather nice. A similar taste to spinach.

I also tried my first bit of homegrown kale, which wasn’t much (it’s very popular with the caterpillars) but was absolutely delicious. I’ll really try to ramp up my supply next year as it’s something I generally eat a lot of.

On this occasion I very narrowly avoided eating the worlds’ smallest omelette.

Last week’s most exciting development though was the potatoes! I have no idea when I actually planted a few old potatoes that were growing eyes in the cupboard, so I had no idea when they would be ready to harvest. Not much to do rather than dig around and have a look, then. This is what I found.

I haven’t a clue what variety they are, because I hadn’t decided to label anything at the time. More recently I started labelling and dating everything, so I shouldn’t have the same problem in future.

A friend pointed out they look like they came straight from a Tesco bag, which was surprisingly on the money.

If I remember rightly I did indeed get this hessian bag from Tesco’s.

They were really tasty taters, despite me taking my eye off the pan and boiling them to within an inch of their lives. This week I will plant Charlotte potatoes that should be ready to harvest around Christmas.

Despite having a great start (this shows them from the beginning of April to last week) my squash seems to have stalled. I’ve had buds for ages but no flowers, so I’m thinking they grew too much foliage instead of the energy going into fruiting.

I’ll be patient and see what transpires though – at the end of the day they were grown from seeds I took from a squash I ate, so I’m not losing anything if they all fail. In any case, I just love them as a plant. Check out this gorgeous tendril in the evening light.

Best of all though, oh yes definitely best of all… this week MY TOMATOES HAVE TOMATOES!!!

I started noticing them yesterday and I could not be happier. I planted them much later than is advised, so I was happy enough just to get flowers. To see the fruit though! I had a count up and I have a total of 46 tomato plants that have flowered, so even if I only get one tomato from each plant, that alone would be ace. As things stand, it’s a good job I bloody love tomatoes!

Again, I’m not sure about the varieties. I think I grew five different kinds, 2 from bought seeds and 3 kinds that came from supermarket tomatoes. It’ll be lots of fun finding out, whilst in the meantime every week I buy different tomatoes to eat and put aside some seeds for next year. Until I get my first harvest that is.

Although I’ve already learned so much about gardening, now I’m learning to be patient. It’s not something I’ve had much success with in the past, however yesterday I sowed some seeds that are going to really put me to the test.

They’re Japanese maple (acer) seeds, and first of all you have to soak them for 24 hours. Normally even that would put me off.

Anyway, stage one is complete. Next, they go in the fridge for 2-4 months, to make them think it’s been winter. It might work, it might not. If not, back in the fridge they go.

It could be a full TWO YEARS before they germinate. Please, don’t hold your breath for updates on this one!

Whilst I could go on about the garden indefinitely , there’s stuff to be done. Including gardening stuff.

Who would have guessed?

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Sacrificial Kale

One thing I’ve been absolutely itching to do for months is go to the beach. I’m not one for sunbathing or even swimming in the sea (too many fascinating yet terrifying things in there) but I do love to find ‘stuff’. Even though going to the beach has been ‘allowed’ for a while, I still won’t go unless I personally deem it safe. There’s a lot that is now permitted that I still won’t do, but let’s not get me started on that because once I start ranting I may not stop.

My brother dislikes crowds as much as I do so he’s the best at finding quiet spots. He found this particular beach, at Dunwich, a couple of years ago. Because there’s not much there in the way of touristy stuff, there aren’t many people there either (advice: take snacks). If you’re gonna beach comb, this is the way to do it.

Getting there at 6am, like we did, means you’re even less likely to cross paths with anyone. We sure do like an early start.

Top of my list was to find some sea glass, and although it’s not the kind of beach where this is at all likely, we did indeed find a couple of tiny pieces. I suppose it must come down to the lack of littering so that’s no bad thing.

One thing I didn’t take home though, was this:

We found two of these, the first one of which I just managed to give a gentle poke before a wave reclaimed it. From that little poke, I gathered that it was organic, but I couldn’t see any actual… well, organs. When we found another and had a closer look, we could just about see that there was something inside, but we couldn’t tell what.

Once home, Google informed me that it is in fact a sea gooseberry, a tiny comb jelly that has tentacles it can retract into itself. Of course we returned it to the sea, but it was definitely the find of the day.

When I got Pea I started putting the odd feather in glass bottles for display, and after all this time my collection of bits and bobs is just starting to take off. My little selection of Dunwich Beach finds has now been added to the tooth of some sort of sea creature from Dungeness, wool I found in the Peak District and the Lake District, some bits I found whilst digging the pond and one of Newton’s puppy teeth.

I’m only just now learning how to balance my love of things without said things overwhelming me. There’s a potential hoarder in me and I’m always trying to keep her at bay. Keeping things in these little bottles is a great way to satisfy those urges without filling the whole house with stuff. So says the woman who cannot see any surface in her room because there are over 50 plant pots containing seedlings covering most available space…

Life hasn’t all been checking out lovely beaches though. I’ve now been back at work for two weeks. Kinda. The first week I did a total of about 12 hours, the second week I did 16. I’m building up shall we say. Either fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t decide which, there isn’t much to do there so I’m using some of the annual leave that’s been sitting waiting for me during lockdown. I’m keeping a very open mind with regards to the future of my employment, but I absolutely refuse to worry about it. No more overthinking for me, thank you very much.

I think it’s gardening that has enabled me to turn my brain off when it goes into overdrive (see, you must have known I’d get back to gardening sooner or later) because it keeps me literally grounded. It’s the only time I more often than not have a simple tune in my head and don’t think about the past or the future at all. Unless, of course, I’m making future gardening plans. Most of the time I’m just relishing the smell of the soil, the neighbours’ roses, listening to the humming of bees, laughing at the drama going on between the birds and generally just having a lovely time. It’s also an investment in the future. When you plant something, you’re saying ‘I intend to be around to see this bloom’, even if it’s something that will take years to mature. As someone who hated waking up for another day, because it meant another day of feeling awful, this is a massive deal. Depression is a bitch.

Our garden was already sparrow central, but since I finally had a bird bath delivered it’s become the place to be. Although, the sparrows do prefer to bathe in the dust for some reason…

I think as the garden evolves I’m going to have to leave a patch of dirt especially for these guys. I don’t think I have the heart to take it away, especially as they bring me so much joy every single day.

I also didn’t have the heart to remove a caterpillar from my kale (at least I finally found out what’s been munching it) so next year I will grow a special sacrificial kale. That way, when I find a caterpillar on the eating kale, I can transfer it to the special caterpillar kale. It makes sense to me anyway!

My favourite garden development since I last wrote is my garden table display. I drilled holes in the bottom of teapots for drainage and planted them up with any young plants I had handy. There’s a Nasturtium ‘Ladybird Rose’ (can’t wait for that to flower and see the petals against the blue of the teapot), a mystery seedling (I forgot to label it when I planted it) and an Ipomoea ‘Black Knight’. Again, that one should be pretty special once it blooms.

Looking at the teapot lids strewn across the ground, I needed something to do with them too. Then it came to me – cane toppers! My mum warned me to put on cane toppers when I first started staking the tomatoes, but I didn’t get around to adding any until I stabbed myself in the face with a bamboo cane. At least I didn’t poke myself in the eye.

That reminds me – THE TOMATOES HAVE FLOWERED! I planted them really late, from seeds I took from tomatoes bought from the supermarket. I wondered if they’d grow quickly enough to flower at all, and now I’m one step closer to having fruit. It’s so bloody exciting.

Straight after work one morning I went on a lovely walk where apart from getting some exercise and fresh air, I took home inspiration for the garden. I never really looked closely at wild carrots before, but they’re actually beautiful.

When I got home I ordered a pack which provided me with a mere 2000 seeds. They have so many different stages and different colours, I can’t wait to have them at home and study in detail every moment from spring to autumn.

Right, it’s bedtime now so I’ll leave it there. I’m off to dream about gardens (no really, I dream about gardening most nights). I’ve got it bad!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Too Happy

It’s been two very strange months since I last went walking just for the fun of it. Individually the days have flown by, but when I think back on that last walk on the 16th of March (with Newton, ah those were the days), it feels like a whole other life. It was an age ago, surely?

I’m still loving our garden, which is getting better every single day, but if it’s going to keep evolving I need outside input. This morning I got loads of inspiration after visiting the nature reserve.

First of all I drove for 20 minutes to a park where it would be much easier to social distance, but when I got there it was closed. After the recent easing of certain lockdown rules, it never occurred to me that a public park would still be shut. Of course I could have just climbed over the fence, who would stop me? But I’m too scared of getting told off! I drove all the way home again, but it was good for the car which has mostly been rusting on the driveway of late.

Despite having to faff a bit first thing, I still got to the nature reserve before 5:30am. Not bad going eh?

It seems I had the place to myself right up until the end of my walk, and feeling like you’re completely alone like that is a little bit magical.

How amazing is that? Wildflowers as far as the eye can see. This is just one field where the wildflowers have been left to grow – I can’t even imagine how many thousands upon thousands of plants there must be altogether. Beautiful.

I haven’t been out since I started learning the names of things, but because of my indoor researches today I was able to identify (to a reasonable degree of certainty) herb robert, yellow archangel, cow parsley, red campion, bluebells, greater stitchwort, iris, dog rose, honesty, speedwell, vetch, wood avens, yellow rattle, azalea and, best of all, what I think is an early purple orchid. It’s definitely an orchid of some kind in any case.

As if that were not enough excitement to be getting on with, I have a few things filed away that I’ll hopefully be able to identify at a later date. When I got home I ordered some of seeds of the flowers I saw that I want in the garden, so this time next year we’re going to have a riot of colour out there.

When I got home, I immediately noticed that the first icelandic poppy of the year had flowered while I’d been gone. That’s the first time I’ve ever wanted (or tried) to pinpoint when it flowered. The thing is almost the size of a bloody plate!

We have these along with Welsh poppies in the garden, but another plan for next year is to have loads of different varieties of them flowering at the same time in all different colours. Go big or go home, as they say.

Since I last wrote, I had my final counselling session. I have been discharged, because simply put, I am now too happy to qualify for their services. Well I ain’t complaining! I have discovered that I find therapy extremely useful and I fully intend to get private help by the end of the year. Yes, I’m fine now, but I think it would be helpful to have ongoing advice. For one I’d like to come off the anti-depressants at some point, but I especially struggle in the winter so it would be nice to have someone to help keep things on track. That’s the idea, anyhoo.

It’s so nice to allow myself to be happy and enjoy the moment without replaying the past or obsessing about the future. It makes simple tasks so much more fun. Yesterday I spent the afternoon putting stones in the ground around the cherry tree, which next year will be a huge circle of wildflowers. Some bird’s foot trefoil already made itself at home there, so I figure why not get it some company?

I can’t even begin to find the words to describe the pleasure I’m taking from such simple little things right now.

I did have a call from work this morning, and I’m officially due back in on the 15th of June, so there will be a new dynamic to get my head around. As long as I have the garden though, I have no doubt I’ll be fine.

Right, time to get outside I reckon!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Manual Labour

Another day, another opportunity to get out there and enjoy the garden. Yesterday it was raining most of the time, and I can’t even remember why I went out at all to be honest. What I ended up doing was weeding a little section of the garden and transplanting some wildflowers that were spreading over the grass. It’s nice to just do whatever I feel like doing at the time.

I don’t know if the transplants will work, but I thought it was a much better idea than just mowing over them. Hopefully they’ll stay healthy. I’ve also created some space to put out the plant babies when they’re ready, though I don’t think they’re quite there yet. Even so, my hand may soon be forced as I have way too many per pot and nowhere to put them. It’s fun not knowing what the hell you’re doing!

I didn’t take a before picture, and since it was in such a terrible state it’s one area I tend to avoid when I have my camera out. Once I had started I was in my happy place and forgot all about it. Here’s the after picture anyway:

After I took this picture and went indoors for a nice shower, we only went and had a poxy hail storm. I timed that just right, because although I stayed out when it was raining I draw the line at hail. Luckily it didn’t seem to harm the plants.

My task for today was to give the pampas grass a haircut, but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. The garden has just been going wild for the last few years without any intervention from us apart from cutting the grass from time to time when absolutely necessary, and the last time I even went near the pampas was to photograph a fly five years ago.

There are a couple of viable options with a pampas grass. You can cut it right back till it’s just a stump, but now is the wrong time to do that. Or, you can set it on fire. I decided to give that one a miss. Before I started it looked like this:

I thought it would be a case of pulling out the old stalky bits from the top (technical term) and yanking out a few of the dead… leaves? The dangly bits, anyway. But when I got right into it, I saw that were a lot more dead dangly bits than I thought.

The pampas grass should be renamed the Tardis grass.

That’s not even all of it! It’s also razor sharp and the seeds are all fluffy so I’ve been sneezing like mad since I stopped. Now I’m learning about these things, it should never get that bad again. So that’s something. When it’s the proper time, it’s not just getting a haircut, it’s getting shaved.

There have been some developments as far as the wildlife cam goes. You can get up to ten different hedgehogs visiting your garden every night, but I now know for sure the little chap/chapette visiting us every night is the same one. I suspected our little friend has a leg missing, but I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just hidden in his underfluffies. After reviewing around 3 hours of footage (so far) I can now say for sure he (I’m also around 60% sure it’s a boy) only has the three legs.

A friend of mine suggested a great name for him, so henceforth he shall be known as Tripod. He seems really well adapted and he’s obviously getting along just fine, but yesterday night he had an itch that he just couldn’t scratch. If I didn’t think it would be scary and stressful for him I’d be tempted to catch him, but since he’s seems happy and healthy enough I’ll just leave him be.

I almost forgot to feed him last night but remembered just before going to bed. When I checked the camera in the morning it showed he had appeared a mere four minutes after I put the kibble out. He must have been waiting!

We’ve so far had an appearance two nights running from what I believe to be a field mouse, but on the second night it came too late and there was nothing left. It’s name is Dangermouse.

Last night we had what is possibly a house mouse, but I don’t know enough about these things to be sure. The field mouse has longer legs, and is much more nervous. And fast, too! This one, as yet unnamed, seemed much more relaxed.

The final species was our neighbour’s cat. I’m so glad it didn’t eat any of my new friends, both of which visited again after it had gone. Nothing will come between them and Hoggy Crunch, it seems.

Yesterday I found a wildflower which I think may be a common vetch. Or perhaps a spring vetch. Either way it’s delicate and pretty. Once I spotted that one I found three others, and avoided doing any more gardening around that spot. I’ll keep an eye out for when the seed pods are ready and we’ll hopefully have loads more next year.

Finally, I saw my first ever brimstone moth today after my bright gloves confused it.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I FLIPPING LOVE OUR GARDEN! I love the physical work, which completely takes me out of myself while I’m doing it, almost like meditation.

Simply marvellous.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Monty Says

It’s been a surprisingly busy week for me so far. Back in October I had an assessment and was referred to see a therapist through the NHS. I was told to expect about a 3 month wait but it would more likely be sooner as they would try to offer me a cancellation. I got a letter when they accidentally discharged me last year because I ‘hadn’t replied to their messages’ (there were none) then didn’t hear another peep until Tuesday afternoon.

I was offered my first telephone appointment the very next morning. The idea of therapy seems awkward and emotionally taxing to me, which I guess it is, and I very nearly told them I didn’t need them anymore. Which would have been an outright lie. So I did a very adult thing and accepted the appointment. At least I had less than 24 hours to sit and stew over it.

I didn’t have very high hopes, but my first session was surprisingly helpful. I looked into getting a private therapist not so long ago and the advice is to shop around until you find one that clicks with you, but I have been lucky enough to get one I think I like and can open up to. Because services are so in demand I’m pretty sure if I didn’t like this person there’d be very little opportunity to try someone else.

After that I was feeling brave so phoned the doctors to try and sort out my prescription. I tried getting it delivered to me so I wouldn’t have to go to the actual chemist, but the only pharmacy still taking on new clients for delivery were Well who are notoriously incompetent. I thought I’d try the doctor’s first, but when the receptionist put me on hold to speak to someone else, she forgot I was on hold for twenty minutes. She answered the phone as if I was a new caller and was very confused, but eventually I got my answer – we don’t know, speak to the pharmacy. I tried calling them, couldn’t get through, so went back to the normal way of requesting a prescription. Which was also impossible because they wouldn’t let me get a repeat of the higher dose I’m now on.

Then, I get an email from Well saying my GP approved my prescription and now I have to pay. So I paid and I’ll hope for the best… Who even knows what I’ll get and when, but as long as I get enough to tide me over while I get everything sorted that’s the main thing. I’m sure it’ll all work out.

Yesterday morning I got a delivery – a bench with storage for the garden. The storage is a happy bonus, I mainly wanted the bench so me and the old dear (mother) can spend some time together in the garden. Turns out she knows a lot about plants ‘n’ stuff too, but I had to be quite stern with her this week.

I started watching Gardener’s World, and it’s bloody brilliant. As such I demanded to know why she hadn’t made me watch it before but she claims it isn’t her fault. It’s highly irresponsible parenting if you ask me.

Anyway, since I first started watching most of my sentences have started with ‘Monty says…’, because Monty Don is one of the presenters and he’s awesome. Even just watching the show is so relaxing, and it ties in with everything I’ve been thinking about lately – slowing down, noticing things more, making a home for nature, the positive effect nature has on mental health…

I actually got a bit choked up at one point, but then I was laughing again at a guy who is working towards being self-sustaining. He grows a certain plant specifically to wipe his butt with, and although that episode was aired last year it’s rather on point what with current events, don’t you think? We don’t need loo roll, we need more plants!

My own personal plant journey is going really well. My sunflower seeds should have been sown in 2017 at the latest, and although I planted about twenty only two have sprouted so far. I think because they were so old the outer casing of the seeds got stuck on so the first one to pop out is a bit deformed. It’s getting there though.

I reckon by next week most of them will be ready to be planted outside, which is a bit scary because I don’t want anything to die. On the plus side I must have a good 100 saplings so something’s bound to survive. I hope.

Pea will be pleased in any case. She’s not so keen on all these new things in her room.

I also bought a chilli plant as a gift for someone but never got around to passing it on, so I kept it for myself (terrible, I know) and it just started showing some green yesterday.

When the chillies grow they are supposed to look like penises, but whether they will or not remains to be seen.

Whether or not I’m doing any specific jobs, I’ve been out in the garden taking pictures almost every day. The sunshine is glorious and there’s something new peeping its petals out every time I look.

I wish you could experience how glorious that rose smells.

Just a week or two ago I found out that a bee fly is a thing (a fly that looks like a bee) then yesterday I only went and saw one! What’s more, it landed on some blossom right near me and stayed for ages. I was able to get a nice clear shot.

Everything is still scary and so much is wrong with the world, yet I’ve never, ever been as grateful for what I already have as I am now. I hope I manage to keep hold of this feeling for the rest of my life.

Now it’s time to get on with my next job of the day – starting work on this little corner. I can’t wait to show you what the plans are for this little area!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

This is the Life

Is anyone else already feeling massively changed by recent events? I think it’s impossible to not reevaluate what’s important to you in these circumstances, and although I suspect once this is over we’ll all fall back into our usual routines quite easily, I sincerely hope I don’t.

I think I’m a person who’s quite easily influenced by those around her, I’m a bit of a sponge in that respect, but since I’ve mostly been in my room alone (except for little Pea of course) I’ve been thinking about what I really like and what I really want. How often in life are we given the opportunity to stop and think about such things, without expectations from family, friends, partners, employers, society in general…

One thing I’ve been thinking about (which will come as a surprise to absolutely no one) is my weight. When I first started losing weight, it really was out of necessity. Life was hard. The world is not made for morbidly obese people. Our bodies aren’t made to be able to handle it. My joints hurt, bits of me rubbed till they bled, I was tired, I was miserable. Everything from using public transport to trying to get clothes that fit was a massive ordeal. Life was definitely put on hold at that time.

Now, although I’m almost four stone heavier than I was at my lowest weight in November 2018, apart from fitting into smaller clothes I can do everything now that I could do then. What’s more, I feel so much better now in every way imaginable.

I’m happier, more confident, almost as fit as I was, and more aware of who I am. This is in the middle of a global crisis. What does it say about my previous life that I’m happier now in the midst of all this terror?

When I think of my motivations to lose more weight right now, it all comes down to what other people think of me. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason. Apart from that? I feel sad about all the nice clothes I have that no longer fit me and buying new clothes is marginally less fun. That’s it.

So, I’m trying something new. My only goal between now and when I may possibly be free again at the end of June (all being well) is to be the same weight I was when we went into lockdown. As it happens, this week I’ve had an enormous gain and my clothes have again become tight, so I do want to get that off so I can feel comfortable again, then I’m just going to concentrate on enjoying my life.

I’ve spoken before about building the life I want, but everything I want is already right here. My life goals have changed from wanting the things I think I should want, to something a lot more simple. I want (NEED) to get enough sleep, and I want to enjoy doing things just for the sake of them. That really is the crux of it.

I’ve been feeling the call (or is it a shout?) to slow down for such a long time, and oh my word I’m doing pretty good at listening to that voice. I always felt such an enormous sense of urgency. Even reading a book made me feel a bit panicky, like I should be reading it quicker, as if the main reason for reading it in the first place was to tick an ‘achievement’ off a list. I never planted anything, because I was afraid it wouldn’t grow. I found it hard to draw and paint, because I was afraid it would be crap.

It was so hard for me to remember that just doing these things is fun, no matter what the end result.

I felt like I had to be skinny now, before I could enjoy the rest of life, and would put my body through all kinds of abuse to make that happen. In 2018, I was barely getting 6 hours sleep a day and mostly living off of conflict and adrenaline.

It wasn’t worth it.

I want a life that has family meals and red wine and cake and hugs and biscuits and long walks and wildflowers and birds and hedgehogs and mountains and trees, dogs, cats, friends, ice cream, beaches, good coffee, the fresh page of a journal, the smell of an old book… These are the things that are really important to me, and I can get a huge chunk of them without even leaving my back garden.

I couldn’t slow down enough to enjoy these things till now, because I always felt there wasn’t enough time. I needed to use as much of my spare time as possible on exercising, because if I didn’t exercise enough then I’d never be skinny enough. Yes, I did do most of my exercising outside, but I never allowed myself enough time to stop and take notice of things. Not properly.

This week I found out that a weed I’ve been seeing for all of my life has flowers like tiny little orchids or pitcher plants. I found a plant in the garden that has such tiny petals I couldn’t count them with the naked eye, then discovered it’s a hairy bittercress. A plant I took a picture of in a field in 2018 is a spotted orchid. These things have all made me happier than being skinny ever did.

I’m not saying things are perfect. I think I’ve had a massive breakthrough, but I have to consider the fact I might change my mind halfway through next week and decide I can’t be happy unless I fit into a size 14. There’s also the fact that my mind is naturally quite morbid. As soon as I felt I had stuff ‘figured out’, my brain said great, now you’ve got your act together you’ll probably die before you get the chance to enjoy it.

Maybe I will, but I won’t let it stop me trying.

I wasn’t intending this post to be that deep, but it just kind of… came out of me. It happens like that sometimes! I do have a few other updates, but I’ll put them in a separate post tomorrow. For now, I’m just content. Nuff said.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Virtual Reality

Day 5 of isolation, and madness is beginning to set in. On Thursday, for a short while I forgot that I don’t speak French. You see, I watched an entire season of a French show on Netflix. When I watch something foreign I always watch with subtitles-I cannot stand it when it’s dubbed. After 10 hours or so of watching, partway into season 2, I looked away from the screen and thought ‘what the bloody hell are they saying?’

Oh yeah. They’re speaking French! And I do not… It’s happened before when I was watching the German series, Dark. Tell me it’s not just me?

Now for a disclaimer: I’m no therapist. But I just wanted to give you my thoughts on some things. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. None of us have ever been in anything like this situation before, so don’t for a second feel like you should be finding or even looking for silver linings, if that’s not something that helps you.

I’m someone who has been dipping in and out of things. I have so many projects I could be getting on with, but when I get into something I momentarily forget what’s going on in the outside world. That’s great, until I suddenly remember and I get a jolt of panic surge through my body. Then I lose all interest in what I was doing, I stare into the distance for an indeterminate amount of time, then later on find something else to do.

At least, that’s during the day. Night time is spent trying, and failing, to get a good sleep. I’m not going to stress over this though. Normally it’s a problem because it’s important for me to be on the ball at work, but I’m not working so it doesn’t matter if I’m zoned out during waking hours.

We’re all just finding our ‘new normal’, and I think beating ourselves up over not being ‘positive enough’ is the last thing we need to be doing. Feelings demand to be felt, and if we bury them, they’ll never go away. The only way out is through.

Over the course of this week, I’ve been terrified, but also happy. On Monday Newton did an audible fart in the forest which was quite possibly the funniest thing in the world ever. I laughed more than was probably necessary at my wonky nipples (I have no idea how to explain in words what that was about or why it was so funny) and I had a silent disco in my room.

I was listening to classic 80’s tracks which are oh so danceable. In this instance I was listening to ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by the Communards, which I think we can all agree is a belter.

Other things that have helped me are getting dressed every day and, from time to time, putting make up on. This getting ready time is one of my favourite weekday activities, as I put my AirPods in and bust out some choons while I’m at it. Normally it’s to get me gee’d up for work, but in this instance it was a great mood—booster.

Then I spent several hours de-sequining some things for a craft project I meant to start two years ago, whilst watching an interesting series on Netflix about myths and legends.

Today I made Pea’s healthy food for the next month, which is sweet potato, broccoli, pepper, carrot and kale chopped and frozen into ice cube trays. This supplements her every day organic bird pellets and a couple of sunflower seeds or millet as a treat when she comes out to play.

It’s no big thing, but that was my task for the day and it felt good to be able to say ‘I said I was going to do this thing, and I did it’. I then told Pea that if we run out of food she better figure out how to start laying eggs, but I don’t think she was listening.

How long do you reckon it would take her to lay enough for an omelette?

Since I’m lucky enough to have a garden and the sun came out, I went outside to get some fresh air and take a few snaps.

Then came the news from my old consultant that her group is going to be one of the first in the country to start running virtual Image Therapy. Slimming World are going to charge roughly £2.50 per session, but you can attend as many or as few as you like without having to pay back fees. I told my consultant that if there’s space for me in one of her sessions to count me in, and I’ll also join my regular group in theirs. I’m still not paying any more than I would ordinarily, and I get to support more than one consultant.

Plus it would be REALLY NICE to see some different faces!

I’ve been staying on track with my eating not because of any particular willpower, but mainly through being sensible about using up what food I have. By the time I’m able to go out for supplies myself again, I have no idea what will be available. Another disclaimer: THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION TO PANIC BUY. THERE IS NOOOOOOOO FOOD SHORTAGE. IT IS OUR GREED THAT IS CAUSING THIS SITUATION!

There’s also the fact that I’ve almost completely lost my appetite, and I’m only eating once I feel a bit light-headed, or my tummy rumbles particularly loudly. Then I know it’s time to get some grub.

My only task for the rest of the day is to decide what I’m going to make tomorrow. I have a block of air-drying clay, so I want to decide what I’m doing with it before I open it. I’ll have to work quite quickly to stop it from drying out, so it’s best to be prepared. I’ll update you on that in the next post.

Stay safe, stay home if you can, and don’t buy all the things!

Hayley x

Tough Times Ahead

For someone who is normally a great big ball of anxiety, I’m strangely calm. I’ve been worrying about this coronavirus for about a month now, and finally spoke up to my family just before the ‘delay’ phase was introduced. They thought I was overreacting, though even then I wasn’t panicking.

When covid-19 started hitting the news the very thought scared me, so I decided to look into it further to allay my fears. I figured it was just scaremongering, but what I found was the opposite. I found plenty of evidence to suggest this is a very real threat that’s going to hit us hard (not just one of those things that happens in ‘other’ countries) but the thing that caused me the most stress was that no one in the UK seemed to be taking it seriously.

They still don’t. I don’t know what it’s like in other areas, but here in Essex it seems to be complete disbelief. We have the panic-buyers going crazy, but it doesn’t seem to be because they’re scared of the virus, just that they are scared they’re going to be left behind when everyone else has taken all the food.

I am worried that there won’t be anything left when the greedy people have had their fill, but I’m much more worried of the increased risk being in a packed supermarket would bring. In our house we have an online shop ordered (same as we do every week) and what we get, we get. We aren’t going to starve! I know I’m not setting foot in a supermarket unless I absolutely have to.

There’s so much selfishness. I couldn’t give two hoots whether I catch the virus or not, but I’m painfully aware I could pass it on to other more vulnerable people. Boris has only just suggested we start our social distancing (see this great resource about that) and it’s baffled me that it’s taken this long.

This is a flipping disaster, but we as individuals have the chance to alter the course of this thing. If we slow the spread (see flattening the curve) we can make sure the NHS isn’t too overwhelmed and the mortality rate could be much, much lower.

We aren’t being asked to do much – just wash our damn hands and stay the hell at home! WE CAN LITERALLY SAVE LIVES BY DOING THAT!

Yet, there are some idiots who still go to work with symptoms. I get it – if you’re self-employed it’s an impossible situation, but I know people who get FULL SICK PAY, doing non-essential jobs, who are going to work sick. If you CAN do something to help then please, DAMN WELL DO IT, whether you believe it’s real or not.

Ok, rant over. As I say, I’m surprisingly relaxed about all this. I think it’s because I’m simply doing all I can as a responsible member of society, and also that I’m a total home bod who was made for this very situation.

I took Newton for a walk today, which I figure is practically risk free. We didn’t see many other humans, and those we did encounter were from a distance.

Being in nature was so grounding. Newton was happily sniffing all the things, and got dew drops from sticking his snoot in the long grass.

If it gets to the point where we aren’t recommended to visit the park, then I’ve been gradually getting the garden tidy. Newton absolutely loves it out there, but planting flowers may be problematic.

He loves to run around and rip up chunks of stuff (he’s particularly taken with the primroses right now) so I guess investing time in planting stuff directly into the soil is inadvisable. I have some little seed bullet things I was going to scatter in the garden next month, but since he would probably eat them I figure it’s safer to start them off in doors.

That brings me nicely to the fact I have a load of fun things planned to occupy my time indoors, which I’ll share in the next few posts. Cultivating the plant lady aspect of my personality is one of them, now that I’m emboldened by managing to keep a cactus alive for several months. One is even growing!

This was a round cactus that is gradually getting long. The lighter green at the top is all new growth. This really is an achievement, coming from the girl who managed to kill an air plant.

I’ve decided not to go back to my Slimming World group for the time being. I do feel bad, because I know my consultant’s income will be affected, yet I simply cannot take the risk. Hopefully Slimming World’s head office will help their franchisees through this time, and I’d happily get an online subscription if I knew it was going to help consultants.

The last time I weighed in I lost 5 pounds and I’m still absolutely smashing it! I’ll now weigh in from home every Tuesday morning instead, and I reckon I’ve had a good loss this week too. My clothes feel a lot more comfortable, with 1 stone 3 lbs gone in only three weeks. I thought my ability to do this well was long gone, yet I’ve proven myself wrong.

Now I just need to keep my motivation up without the help of group. It’s going to be difficult, but not impossible, and I’ve resisted the urge to by junk food ‘just in case’. If I’m quarantined at any point, I’d rather not come out of it feeling worse than at the beginning. I’m optimistic for the future, and have no intention of throwing the towel in now.

Hang in there everyone, we’re gonna get through this.

Hayley x

Five Years

It’s been a bit longer than I intended between blog posts. While things have been quite wonderful, I’ve also had a bit of writer’s block. Things have really shifted for me over the last couple of weeks, however on the face of things not much has really happened. It’s hard to put into words.

Last week I really started getting my energy back. Whilst my medication makes me pretty much unconscious as soon as I take it, when I am awake, I’m really awake. I hadn’t realised how much of a monumental effort it was taking me just to exist until things started getting better.

Somehow I managed to stay on top of things as far as work goes (although I have lost a significant amount of money in unpaid leave in order to not lose the plot entirely) and have had a good enough performance to hit my targets and stay out of trouble.

But now… I’m actually smashing it! Last week I was top driver on the department. Everything is just kind of flowing, and it feels good having a spring in my step again as I jump (not quite literally) on and off of the forklift truck a hundred or so times a shift.

When I had to transfer stock over by hand to an empty pallet, I’d inwardly groan if I saw that it was particularly heavy. Now when I see I’ve got to haul a load of 20kg boxes, I’m glad for the opportunity to flex my muscles. It feels good to feel good to move, if that makes sense.

I feel like I’ve spent most of the year so far horizontal, which probably isn’t far from the truth. During February I barely moved at all in fact. Now I’m coming out of hibernation.

On Monday I walked into town for the first time since I don’t even remember when. Apart from to exercise, I had one single other objective- to pick up a free paper from Wilkinson’s. I use them to line Pea’s cage and catch the poops you see. Of course that is the one thing I came home without. Typical.

I did however see some lovely signs of spring, even if it was a grey old day.

The next day Newton came out on a nice long walk with me. It’s the first time we’ve been out walking together, just the two of us, and it was lovely to have a furry companion. He had a great time too, even if he was thoroughly disappointed that I wouldn’t let him eat goose poo. He loves the stuff. He was also not impressed that I wouldn’t let him eat used chewing gum, poop from other dogs and a jelly baby. It’s a hard life, being a dog.

After that my medication got adjusted, so although I’ve maintained my energy levels for work, I’m absolutely zonked as soon as I get in. I’m not worried though- I know there will just be a short adjustment period and I’ll have a good balance going again.

It does feel as if I’m entering a new season of life now. Five years ago, I’d just got my first DSLR and was starting to venture outdoors in search of things to photograph. I made a lot of headway in those five years. I figured out what I really like doing. I started to tackle my weight. I started to get a life.

In recent years I let myself get distracted and wasn’t really thinking about my future. It’s not surprising, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. Since leaving school, it’s been a case of ‘this will do’ in an absence of knowing what I really wanted my life to look like. All this time I’ve just been getting by.

So, five years later, and I’m finally starting to think about what I’d like my next five years to look like. I’ve always been terrible with money, and over the years I’ve said countless times that this is the moment I get on top of things once and for all. But it’s really happening! Last month I stayed within my means for the first time in living memory, without having to play catch up at all. I tracked all of my outgoings and I spent £500 on food, £200 of which was on takeaways, and nearly £400 on non-essentials. Before you start thinking I’m minted, I’m not. I just had extra money that month from working over the Christmas period.

Since pay day at the end of February however, I have spend zero pounds on takeaways. My non-essential spending currently stands at about 20 quid. I have a couple of really short months coming up, because of the unpaid leave, but even then I can still live within my means. Just about. When I’m back earning my full wage, I can start to pay off all of my credit, put aside some savings for the first time ever, and stop buying things to distract myself when I’m feeling bad.

That’s the key word. Distraction. It’s at the root of all my troubles – my weight, my finances, my relationships. Everything I’ve done in my life so far has been focused on making myself feel better for the next five minutes, without a thought for the effect my choices would have on the next five years.

That changes now though, and do you know what? I’m thoroughly excited. The single spanner in the works is that I’m currently freaking out about coronavirus and envisaging something akin to the Walking Dead in my near future. Hayley’s anxious brain is braced for the entire breakdown of society, or, you know, being dead. But positive Hayley is preparing for the future where everything turns out ok. What will be will be.

So, my spending has improved. I’m not engaged in any destructive relationships. How about food then? As it happens, I’ve been smashing the weight loss too with another 3.5 pounds off this week, plus Slimmer of the Week.

I’ve also been super organised. Everything is clean and tidy, and I have grand yet frugal redecorating plans which will be carried out over the course of the year.

Yep, everything is pretty damn good. It’s nice to be able to say that.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

So Fresh

I’ve had this WordPress account since 2012, and various different blogging projects have come and gone. Last year I rather fancily upgraded to a premium account, but this year I’m being sensible (ish) with money, so the premium has to go.

This presents a problem, because I’ll lose out on storage and I’ve blogged a lot of photographs. They simply won’t fit when I get downgraded. So I decided to wipe the slate clean and start completely over.

This comes at an opportune time, because I’m doing other kinds of starting over too.

I took a complete break from Slimming World for a few weeks, and to be quite honest, spent a lot of time curled up in bed in the fetal position. It hasn’t been a great.

Last year was really tough, with lots of changes and lots of challenges. But when everything eventually calmed down, I realised there was still something seriously wrong. I didn’t have any destructive romantic interest in my life. My family was healthy. I had a roof over my head, enough money to live comfortably, friends I could talk to and rely on. Yet I felt worse than ever. How could that be?

I spent way too long looking for some elusive thing I could change in my life, in the belief that when I found it, everything else would magically fall into place.

I thought if I could find the exact right time to go to sleep and the exact right time to wake up, it would fix everything. If I could find the exact right things to eat, everything would be ok. If I exercised for the optimum amount of days per week, I’d be happy again.

Unsurprisingly, none of it helped. When I realised I could barely force myself to leave my bed and it became a battle to get through a single night at work, I figured it was time to see the doctor.

I was prescribed antidepressants, which take 2-3 weeks to build up in your system and start to making a difference. It’s now day 13, and right on cue, I can feel the darkness lifting.

While they were kicking in (they also make you feel worse before they make you feel better) I curled up under my duvet at every available opportunity and obsessed. My brain was telling me that the pills wouldn’t work, that there was no hope. It didn’t help that every time I had a reasonably good day, it was followed by a really bad one. I had to keep reminding myself, over and over, to just hang in there, to just keep going. I read to distract myself, and have demolished seven books so far this month. That’s a new personal record.

Then just like that, an ok day was followed by another one, then another one.

Until now, every time I made an attempt at anything, be it weight loss, getting my spending under control, exercise, keeping my room tidy… I’d have overwhelming thoughts of there being no point to it all, that I’d just fail anyway. It was all so tiring.

I knew deep down that it was nonsense, that I can do anything I put my mind to, but the depression wouldn’t let me hold those thoughts in my mind. It pushed everything positive right out of me.

Since I now have space in my brain for good things, last night I got my butt back to Slimming World. I rejoined a closer group, which is just around the corner from me. I stopped going there originally because it’s on a Tuesday and I have to work after, but I’ve realised with proper planning I can get a nice nap in before work and it should work out ok. I’ve actually learned how to clear my mind and relax myself enough to get to sleep quickly, which is a massive bonus.

As it happens, I’m the heaviest I’ve been since May 2017. Yet it’s not a complete disaster.

I got my mum to take a fresh ‘before’ picture of me, to go on this freshest of new posts along with this fresh new start. Looking at it now, I’ve been in complete denial at how much weight I’ve put on. I haven’t properly seen myself in months, yet here it is, clear as day.

I am quite pleased that I managed to squeeze into one of my favourite outfits, because I really didn’t think I’d manage to get it on at all. Thankfully we did not have to call the fire brigade to cut me out of it again, but it was a close call.

I hunted down some pictures that I thought I had deleted from May last year. Rather than being utterly dismayed at the difference, I am for once more excited and focused to get back to that point than I am disappointed and angry at myself.

I visited my sister on Monday and got her to take yet another comparison shot, but this time I wasn’t the main focus. Whilst I certainly am bigger in the second photo than I am in the first one (taken last October) the change is not quite as dramatic as in young Newton.

Look at how handsome and grown up he is!

I did manage to get out on one river walk with my little brother, between storms that is, and although it wasn’t the most inspiring of walks ever we are definitely going back later on in the year. We are going to hire a boat, and hopefully not drown. I bet the area will be transformed with a bit of sunshine.

Once the wind has died down and I can be reasonably certain that my woodland walks are not going to result in a tree falling on my head, I’ll start increasing my exercise again, too. Better days are undoubtedly just around the corner.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x