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

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

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

Increments

Every day, I wake up feeling just a little bit better. Things still aren’t perfect – my inner voice tried everything in its power to stop me weighing in yesterday.You see, I haven’t been entirely sensible. Since I’ve caught the reading bug lately, once I start a book I find it really hard to stop reading until it’s finished. Will I ever learn moderation? With ANYTHING? I really hope so!

Over the weekend I finished one book then read a further two entire novels, going to sleep at 4am one day and 5am the next. On the plus side I stayed in a nights pattern (handy for work), but on the downside when I had to get up earlier than usual to go to my Slimming World group, I most certainly did not want to.

Reading is a very worthwhile pursuit, but as a result of my current habits I’ve barely moved. As such I was also worried about not having a great first week as far as the diet goes.

As usual I needn’t have worried – I only went and lost 8.5 pounds! I’ve been saying every year since 2017 that the current year I’m in will be the one I get to target, but I honestly think this is the one.

What’s different this time? Well, I’ve made so many mistakes over those years, which have turned into a lot of valuable lessons. I know that I can’t stick to plan when I feel especially down, and I know that I can’t prevent myself feeling that way without help. I always feel a twinge of guilt when the antidepressants kick in, like I don’t deserve to feel better because I didn’t ‘earn’ it by myself. Which is so dumb. I’d never think that about another person in the same situation in a million years. It’s about acceptance now. This is how it is, and this is what’s going to help me move forward.

If I lose an average of 1.25 pounds per week, then I’ll be at target in time for the beginning of December. If I lose more than that (which I know I can do and expect I will) I may even by at target in time for my birthday in October, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself as far as that goes.

I’m now aiming for a nice and steady 2 pounds off per week. Sometimes it’ll be more, sometimes it’ll be less. But that’s what I’m working towards anyway.

Despite not being as active as I like, last week was nicely productive. I slept for an average of about 9 hours a day, I stayed on top of my chores, and I even got some art done.

Staying on top of the chores has been instrumental. As soon as I feel down, after food that’s the next thing to go. Stuff ends up everywhere until I can’t see the floor, so I’ve been determined to stop that from happening. Small changes have really helped, such as making sure the bed is made every day and laying out my work clothes before I go to bed.

Because I didn’t have a wreck to sort through once the weekend arrived, I was able to do some fun stuff.

For Christmas I bought my sister (an art teacher) a really cool sketch book. It comes from the states, and once you’ve filled it, you send it back and it ends up on permanent display in a gallery in Brooklyn. I liked the idea so much, that I bought one for myself, too.

What I didn’t consider at the time, is how difficult it would be to fill in the first page. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with anxiety because everyone else’s would be better than mine. It therefore took until last Monday for me to even make a mark inside it.

Now I’ve started though, I’m loving it! Nothing I’ve done is perfect (in particular I did a sketch of Newton which has much too small a snoot) but it. Does. Not. Matter.

I’ve had some materials to play around with making stamps and doing some printing for months, but hadn’t touched it for the exact same reason – fear of failure. But this weekend I got it all out and had a damn try.

I had fun, AND I liked the results. Plus there’s one print to go in the sketch book. It’s also an extremely satisfying craft to play around with.

Back at work last night, I was doing a particularly physical job with a lot of walking, pushing and lifting. I’ve stopped drinking evil energy drinks (I’ve been trying to cut those out for a while now) but despite moving more in that shift than I had done in the last three weeks combined, I struggled to get to sleep this morning.

It felt good, and I know I need to start building my activity up again. Now the weather is less apocalyptic, it should be a lot easier to get myself outside. Not today though. Today I ache.

As such, it’s time to go back to bed for my pre-work nap.

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