The Best of the New Year

Beech tree leaves

Well, we have come out the other side of Christmas and Romjul. I love this point of hibernation in the year, curling up by the fire after getting wet and muddy outside, eating plenty of stollen, pancakes, roast potatoes and such. It feels so good to be quiet and still, to slowly assemble plans for the new year. We exchanged a lot of locally-made or Etsy-sourced gifts this year, so I’m busy searching silk knitting patterns and starting new scribbles in beautiful notebooks.

Etsy NY

For the third year, Tom and I are assembling an alphabet year, choosing for each letter something to do or remember. I’ll be adding a couple things I didn’t quite manage in 2015, like Run 20k (hello turned ankle on Christmas morning) or Wild Camp (how did that not happen?!) Both are things that I am most excited about for the new year. Tom gave me the most exciting gift: a weekend bushcraft course. I plan to full-on Grylls my weekend; make fires, build shelters and learn knife skills. No way will I be missing wild camping for a second year.

Looking down at Rolo in the woods

So, some repeat appearances due for Alphabet 16, with plenty of new ones, most jotted down on New Years Eve, but also some that I’ve been ruminating on for a while. I’ll share my Alphabet 16 list with you next week. Meanwhile, why not jot down your own?

A Little Weekend Read

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler book

I planned to take a photo of this book out in the forest today. But, as the dog is curled up with a poorly paw, I’ve had to settle for a coffee shop pose. Such hardships!

With a wet and windy weekend ahead of us, I wanted to share a little one-sitting read. One to read start to finish in your favourite chair, complete with fluffy blanket and hot chocolate. I’ve fallen in love with slim editions recently; perfectly proportioned, carefully crafted, saying so much with so few words.

A Whole Life is a perfect example: a story of one man’s life living in the mountains of Germany. The small but significant moments (lying next to his wife asleep, watching the snow) are given as much attention as the large (work or war).

I’m an easily distracted reader, so it was a strange treat to sit down and finish a book. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other little gems. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them over on twitter.


Puddle in the forest

Every year I brace myself for November. Always hectic, it’s the month to keep your head down and just get on with it, whatever your ‘it’ happens to be. I’ve been filling up plenty of notebooks this month. Pen and paper and a million lists. I’ve been finding my feet and plunging in to new business challenges. I’ve been doodling, talking and singing. All the typing done has been for reports, plans or miscellaneous paperwork.

Looking up at trees

So, Hello blog, quiet little corner that reminds me where my heart lies: in those swaying branches high above my head, standing deep in the forest, with the dog at my feet, amongst the wind and bundled leaves. When we take that sharp turn down the hill on our quick lunchtime route, I finally remember to breathe.

Yesterday we escaped in to the last of the day, right after the dark skies had swept through and left behind some late pink light. A few trees were felled in the storm, so we scrambled over the bark’s wet moss and ducked below smooth old twigs. As usual, the dog handled it far more gracefully than I.

Spider web

Holed up in my office, on these rainy days, I’ve become a ridiculous fan of white noise (wind/rain/chatter). I’m terrible at paying attention amidst any background distraction (unless in a coffee shop, of course). The white noise feels like focus over distraction and, more crucially, stops Rolo from barking at random happenings outside. When I’m not filling up on white noise, I’ve been listening toHighasakite, The Jezabels, and Beth Ditto.

Wednesdays have become the beginning of our ‘weekendlet’: a little break midweek. Tom now doesn’t teach on Thursdays, so we steal a lie-in and drink coffee over books like there’s no work round the corner. It’s funny how even a couple extra hours in the middle of the week feels like this beautiful, precious, elusive thing. Hard won, but worth the fight. So, here I am, grabbing a moment of calm in the storm that is November, just to remind myself how sweet it feels to take a moment and simply write.

Dew on grass

A is For: Always Show Kindness

Rusty with Rolo at a bird hide, Newtown Isle of Wight

We’re nearing the half-year point of living with Rolo, the rescue mutt. When I flippantly chose this ‘kindness’ phrase back in January, I had no idea of its pertinence. When Dog came along, inevitably acting like a lost abandoned pup, he was a bloody nightmare. And so many people suggested we be mean to him to fix it quick.

Whether bike, passerby, plastic bag or (God forbid) another dog, everything would send him in to apoplectic rage. I abandoned all previous pretensions of being a sweet, polite neighbour, as I wrestled my hell hound round the block. No wonder we retreated to the wild places.

Rolo the dog photo collage

I couldn’t believe one canine was causing such disruption. So I was happy to take advice, anything that might help us figure out our daily life together. I was surprised by the number of people who recommended choke chains, shock collars, or compressed air canisters. I can’t understand why any animal stressed enough to act inconveniently should be answered with fury.

Tom and Rolo playing at the beach

There seems a portion of everyday dog talk that still suggests cruelty as par for the course. It’s unnecessary, but god, the human patience required to get there without being mean feels like a far greater challenge.

Over the months we’ve seen our persistence pay off. I’m glad we were able to find a kinder way, particularly for such a crazy mutt, with plenty of thanks to Ian Dunbar, John Bradshaw and Zak George. Apparently there really is no magic recipe or quick fix. If you volunteer to take in a dog that has been abandoned somewhere down the line, you’re volunteering to take on a mystery challenge.

Rolo on the beach at sundown

It’s funny to welcome into your home someone whose history is completely unknowable. Likely not from a town and, judging by the scar on his head, hanging with a few tough canine associates. I’m sure he hadn’t experienced a lot of the things that he is now slowly, and sweetly, learning about. He’s become more puppyish as he settles in, letting down his guard and starting to trust that here with us is where he stays.

Now he’s sitting by my feet, only glancing as the school-run sound of scooter wheels and shouts drift up to our window. We’ve figured out how to celebrate our awesome ‘working-from-home’ days together. He’s a bad yoga buddy, but the best excuse for a midday run through the forest. I have appreciation for the effort he puts in. Now every time a van drives past without him lunging I silently whoop. He adds extra hilarity to every day and is never anything other than delighted to see us. The kindness is paying off. I think he’s a keeper.

Looking down at Rolo the dog

Summer Snaps

Summer holiday snapshots photo collage

It’s been a long luscious summer filled with very little screen time and plenty of fresh air. So many blog posts have popped in to my head, only to be discarded in favour of a walk in the last light. We’ve explored beaches in all kinds of weather, been mountain biking for the first time and walked almost every track in the forest. It’s been a summer close to home, appreciating our local landscape and keeping our eyes peeled for signs reading Land For Sale.

My electronic neglect has rekindled my love of paper and pencil. I’ve picked up old notebooks and bought new art materials, inspired by Jennie Maizel’s most marvellous Sketchbook Club. I love her achievable projects and am delighting in filling every page with shape and colour. I’m cooking up some more offscreen papery plans with Kate from A Playful Day, which I can’t wait to share with you next week.

With the recent rain I’ve got my run back on. Walking in the rain is just no fun, but splashing through puddles at top speed is a different matter. I’m excited about this change to the season. I know I’m not alone in relishing the first golden leaves and chill in the air, even if it means the return to busy schedules for many.

With this, the final week before school starts, we are back to it, making ready for the madness of a new term. It’s been an adjustment and I’ve struggled to get my work head on, still slipping in to August habits (lie-ins, long lunches and the odd afternoon nap.) One August habit I’m hoping to hold on to is my daily yoga. Somehow aiming for nothing more than to turn up at my mat has made it achievable. I think it fully justifies buying one of these.

This week is a gentle but firm nudge, tipping us headlong into the term as we glance back at snaps of this perfect lazy summer.