Saturday 28 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #28: Tits

Hello.  Thank you for calling in.  Here we are on the last day of February 2015 and every single day of this month I have found something which has made me happy.  Every Single Day.  That's pretty good for a month which lots of people find dreary.
I do love a Saturday with nothing in the diary.  We turn off the alarm and wake when we are ready.  We drink tea in bed and read the paper.  There is usually some sort of cooked breakfast but as I have given up eating bread for Lent, mine was less indulgent today.  It's very leisurely and one of the pleasures is looking out of our bedroom window.  Allow me to explain...
About twenty feet away from our bedroom window there is a tree, a hawthorn, not a large tree by tree standards but large for our garden.  It marks the seasons for us: in early spring the bright green leaves unfurl followed in May by voluptuous clouds of heady, creamy blossom; later in the year there is a feast of red berries for the visiting birds, then the leaves turn from green to brown and fall, leaving the skeleton of bare branches.  I never seem to tire of looking at this tree. And ah, yes, the aforementioned visiting birds. Sparrows, blackbirds, robins, starlings, dunnocks, blue tits and great tits all love this tree and we love them - although we were not so keen on the collared doves which nested there one summer and woke us up at 4.10am every morning.  We used to feed the birds but now that we have younger, agile, carnivorous cats it seems cruel to lure them to possible death so we don't feed them any more, but still they come because this native tree is home for so many insects (more than 300 species according to the Woodland Trust).  In particular, we always have a lot of great tits and I am sure that I once read somewhere that they are very fond of a particular insect which lives on hawthorns, but I can't remember what that insect was.  Grrr!  Two years ago we had a very noisy greenfinch for a few weeks.

As I looked out at the tree this morning we had two very welcome and unusual visitors, only the third time I have seen them here in 27 years: long-tailed tits.  I couldn't photograph them so I shall show you an illustration instead -

And here is what the book says about these birds -

Do you see that?  "You are not likely to see a Long-Tailed Tit in your garden."  I was ridiculously excited when I first read that!  It was written by Len Fullerton, who wrote and illustrated this book which has been a dear companion of mine for more than forty years -

This book is so well-loved that at some point, the spine fell apart and I repaired it with parcel tape.  What a vandal!  It was my first port of call for many years with sections including  wild flowers, mammals, fish and amphibians as well as birds, butterflies


and the seashore.

Even the back cover of this book carries a gorgeous picture -

Seeing those two special little birds in the tree this morning made me feel very happy, as did getting this book off the shelf again and having another look through it.  I think it might stay out for a while.
So, I have done it, I have blogged every day for a month!  I plan to be back tomorrow to review these posts, to see what I have learned and maybe to work out how to use what I have learned to go forward.  I hope you will join me.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 27 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #27: Only Love...

Hello, thank you for calling in.  It's Friday - hooray!  I do love Friday evenings.  I haven't always loved them - I didn't love them when I had to spend them at work, or when I had to work on Saturdays, but now that we live a more conventional Monday-Friday kind of life, I do love them again. 
I spend one Friday evening each month volunteering with a family group which meets locally.  I welcome people at the door, (try to) remember their names, let them know how pleased we are to see them and how special each and every one of them is.  We spend a couple of hours together having fun and eat a meal together.  I love the fact that tired parents can come to us after a week at work and be cared for and fed.  The atmosphere is lively, exciting and happy and I enjoy it very much. We have a "birthday hat" and at the end of the meal, everyone who has a birthday during the current month comes forward and takes it in turns to wear the hat while the assembled company sings "Happy Birthday To You".   That's what I was expecting this evening.
BUT they surprised me...with this -
Isn't it amazing?  They turned the tables and made me feel very special.  And happy.  And so the cake was cut and shared between 42 of us, with parcels for some to take home.  If you were there tonight, thank you.  If you made this cake (and I know you read, Sally), THANK YOU.
The title of this post is from Frozen: only love can thaw a frozen heart.  My heart is not frozen.
See you tomorrow for the last post of  this Positivity Month.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Thursday 26 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #26: Nice

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It poured with rain here this morning but this afternoon, the sun came out and I went off out for a spot of knitting and nattering.  I was introduced to this group almost two years ago - I was knitting a blanket of squares and wanted to join them as I went along, rather than knit them all separately and then be faced with a huge sewing task.  I didn't know how to do it so a friend, already a member of the group, suggested that I go along with her one day because "someone will know how to do it", and she was right.  I have been joining them whenever I can ever since. 
They are a very nice group of mostly women.  When I was at school I was taught not to use the word "nice" because it is an insipid word and there is always a stronger, more precise word which can be used instead, and certainly the word "nice" is sometimes used in a derogatory way, as if "merely" has been inserted in front of it, or as if the subject has no better qualities.  However, these women ARE nice and I think that is a very positive thing to say.  It is gentle and kind and careful not to offend.  We sit and we knit (or crochet, we do not discriminate!) and we chat.  Nobody is judgmental, people are very willing to share their skills and experience and help others, some people tell funny stories, celebrations are shared and support is gently given.  Yarn is squooshed and completed works are cooed over.  It feels like a refuge from the vicissitudes of the world.  For the best part of two hours I sat in the sunshine and knitted and relaxed.
In case you are wondering, I am knitting little jackets for cheap Christmas baubles.  I fancy a jolly non-Yuletide garland to cheer up the front room - I'd like to show you when it's finished.  The pattern is from Mollie Makes issue 46, the wool is left over from knitting some muffatees and the needles were bought in a charity shop for 50p. 
See you tomorrow.  I have a very busy day lined up and already the dreaded anxiety is creeping over me.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #25: An Unexpected Visit

Hello, thank you for bearing with me.  I am hanging on in there.  Today the temperature rose to a mahoosive...12.4 degrees Celsius.  Wow!  I didn't feel cold - hooray!  And it's still winter!
Today something wonderful happened: The Mathematician has unexpectedly come home for a long weekend.  Double Hooray!!  Here she is when she was 7 years old: good toes, naughty toes -

See you tomorrow.  Only three days of positivity posts to go.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #24: Grumpy 'Til I've Had...

Hello.  Thank you for sticking with me.  I wasn't exactly Little Miss Sunshine yesterday, was I?  Today has been better, not good, but better.  I had a decent night's sleep, the sun has shone today and I have stretched my legs (and my cardiovascular whatnots) on the old bicycle.
So the first 22 days of this month of positivity were a breeze, I had no trouble at all finding something which made me happy every day.  Yesterday was bloomin' difficult, as you know.  And although today has been a better day, I was struggling to think of something which has made me think happy thoughts.  Struggling, that is, until just now, when the Best Beloved popped his head round the door and asked if I would like a cup of tea.  Now then, I rarely refuse a cup of tea, and Earl Grey is my preferred tipple, taken with a little skimmed milk if you please.  My children say that my name means "Grumpy 'Til I've Had A Cup Of Tea" and certainly the Best Beloved brings me a large mug of tea every morning before I get out of bed - in fact, when The Teacher was at university and I went to stay with her for a night (I know, I know, reliving my youth...) she brought me a cup of tea in bed in the morning, obviously scared of the alternative consequences!
So now I am on the sofa looking at a cushion which The Mathematician bought me for my birthday a few years ago on which is borne the legend
Hope always lifts my spirits and makes life brighter.  And so does tea.
See you tomorrow.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 23 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #23: Sometimes It's Hard...

Today has been a very difficult day.  I slept intermittently and very poorly last night and eventually got up at 5.35am because I couldn't bear to lie in bed trying to get back to sleep for any longer.   When this happens, I feel rotten all day: too tired and miserable and totally lacking in energy.  The weight of the world seems to bear down on me, all the difficult things in my life loom up and overwhelm me and I can't make them go away.   Also, it makes me a bit scared because as a teenager I had a neurological condition which began to rear its ugly head again a few years ago and the symptoms were traced to an irregular and poor sleeping pattern, so I gave up working night shifts and try to look after my sleep.  Fortunately, I had kept my diary clear today, as I always try to on Mondays, so I could go back to bed when I really needed to, which was shortly after midday.  Today's weather hasn't been good enough to engender any feeling of wellbeing, just cold and, later on, wet. 
So today it has been hard to find anything positive.  I have been tired, miserable and guilty because I haven't been able to get enough chores done - having said that, I have just realised that I have cooked dinner, washed up, sorted the recycling and run a load of laundry, so perhaps I shouldn't feel as guilty as I do, but I have a busy week ahead and I like to get ahead of myself on Mondays, which I haven't.  I am trying to catch up with "Meet the Ukippers" on the BBCiplayer and as usual, it is virtually unwatchable as it keeps pausing every few seconds.  I really want to watch "Broadchurch" but I can't because the Best Beloved has gone out and we are recording it so that we can watch it together later.  My birthday flowers are starting to go over.  I am likely to dissolve into tears at any moment and the Best Beloved isn't here to look after me.
So it's really important to find something positive today. SOMETHING. And as I look up, I can see a large clam shell which I picked up on the beach on Saturday.  My children will be amazed to hear that I only brought one shell home as I can't resist shells and usually bring home a pocketful, but Saturday was such a perfect day that I only needed one perfect shell.  I am sorry that there is no photo, perhaps when February is over I shall do a whole post about my shells, I have had some of them for more than forty years.  But sitting here now, looking at this shell, I am transported back to that beach, to the blue sky and the yellow sand and the dunes and the light on the sea and the sound of the waves and the temporary absence of anxiety and the happiness.  That's why I need to bring shells home. 
I am off now for a bit of a cry.  I'll see you tomorrow, I hope.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday 22 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #22: I Get By With A Little Help...

Hello.  It's Sunday evening and we are all busy getting ready for Monday morning - so thank you for taking a minute to call in here. 
A very dear friend of mine has been away on the other side of the world for the last five weeks and I have missed her very much.  She has just got home and the Best Beloved and I have spent a couple of hours with her today, which has made me very happy.  Even on the days when I don't see her the knowledge that I can if I need to gives me confidence and keeps me on the level - there are a couple of friends like this in my life and I am grateful for their love and support and anxious when they are away "in the foreign".  Thank goodness she is home.
(I have borrowed this picture from the Royal Horticultural Society.)
Back to the real world tomorrow.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 21 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #21: Oh I Do Like To Be Beside...

Hello.  I am SO excited!  I have had an amazing day and I am bursting to share it with you!!  Thank you for calling in - I hope you will be pleased that you did.  I should say that if you click on the photos they will enlarge, and I think you might want to do that today.  And thank you to Chel, Jean and Jan for their lovely comments on yesterday's post.  They write good blogs with lovely pics which you might want to pop over and look at.
So, I'm not really sure how to start...OK, I LOVE to be by the sea, although I have never lived by the sea and in fact I now live almost as far from the sea as it is possible to be in this country.  The Mathematician once asked me why we don't live by the sea considering how much I love it and I was a bit stumped for an answer.  Eventually I said that I think it might be because when I was young, the seaside was a place to go to for holidays and it never occurred to me that I could live there.  Doh!  When I was young and the world was my oyster, why on earth didn't I go to the coast?  Mind you, if I had done that, I may never have discovered my beloved Shropshire.  So, to get my coastal fix, we try to go to the sea for a day during almost every school holiday, and today was the day this time.
My favourite place to go is...Anglesey.  I don't really like "resorts", I like a more natural environment and Anglesey ticks all my boxes: sandy beaches, fields, forests and views to the mountains of Snowdonia, although it is a long drive away.  My heart lifts as soon as we get within sight of the Great Orme at Llandudno as I know we are almost there.  So this morning we were up and out early with a plan: before we hit the beach, we had something else to find.
We drove to Llyn Parc Mawr and parked the car - this was free.  I had done my research and we set off on this walk -
That's right, the Red Squirrel Walk: we were looking for Squirrel Nutkin.  The walk was beautiful: the sky was blue above the pines, it was warm and sheltered and the air was full of the music of birdsong.  The woodland felt airy, very different from the mixed, deciduous woods we are used to walking in at home.  We  saw great tits, chaffinches, blackbirds, robins, long-tailed tits and a great spotted woodpecker.  We had decided that if we didn't see any red squirrels, we wouldn't be disappointed, and we weren't because it really was a beautiful, gentle walk.
The lichens growing on the trees at the edge of the forest were amazing, long and shaggy, unlike any I have ever seen before.
We reached the end of the circular walk and were within sight of the car when I looked up and spotted this -
Can you see Squirrel Nutkin sitting there?  This is the first time I have EVER seen a red squirrel.  We walked over to sit at the picnic benches in the car park which are close to two squirrel feeders and we stayed there for about half an hour watching this adorable creature and THREE OF HIS FRIENDS!  It felt very special indeed. 

I sat very still and one of them came towards me, stopping when he was about five feet away.  Lucky me.
Sorry it's a bit blurry - he wouldn't sit still and pose.  We sat there until all four of them had scampered away and then we got in the car and drove to Llanddwyn Beach.  It costs £3 to park in the beach car park but we think it's worth it.  It is well-kept and there are decent toilets there.  We arrived at about 2.30pm and walked out to the beach -
The tide was out a long way.  So here we are, sea, sand, dunes and, across the Menai Straits, snow on the mountains!  Why would I want to be anywhere else today?  Let me show you some more -
As we walked down to the sea, saw these oystercatchers feasting on the mussels which had been revealed by the very low tide.  Their long, orange bills are unmistakeable, even the Best Beloved recognised them.  Sorry we couldn't get any closer, we did try but they flew away  -
So we are home now, tired after a long drive but ecstatically happy.  I shall leave you with a parting shot of the beach.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 20 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #20: My Birthday Present...To The Foodbank

Hello, here we are almost at the end of half term.  Thank you for calling in, I am very grateful for every single one of you. 
During the lead-up to my birthday party, now almost a fortnight ago, I became very uneasy about the fact that we were going to be feasting in a room warmed not just by a gas heater but also by family love while other people living nearby would be hungry, cold and lonely.  So, a few days before the party I contacted my guests and asked the adults if they would each bring a tin or packet with them which we could give to the local foodbank.  I gave them the link to the foodbank's website so that they could see which items were on the current "shopping list" and told them that one tin makes a difference.  There were 28 adults on the list so I thought I would have about 30 items, a lovely boxful.
Today I sorted out those tins and packets.  Here they are -
There are more than 90 items here.  I am absolutely bowled over.  We have boxed them up and taken them to the foodbank today.  I can't afford to buy this much myself and donate it, but together, as a family, we have done this and I feel proud of everyone who responded to my request as well as very happy.  My family is wonderful.
So, here is my challenge to you: how can you make a difference?  My income is very low and I worked out that I could afford to buy three tins for this gift, but I used an opportunity to ask other people to get involved and my gift increased thirtyfold.  I am currently working on my next plan...
See you tomorrow.  I am hoping for sunshine as I have a final half term outing planned.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #19: Cosy

Hello, thank you for popping in.  We had a lovely outing planned for today but rain stopped play so we have postponed it until Saturday, hopefully.  Instead, we decided to hunker down indoors for an indulgent day together.
The Best Beloved lit the fire just after lunch - we NEVER light it that early so it was a real treat - and we settled down with mugs of tea and the last of the Christmas chocolate to watch a film.  It felt naughty to be doing that during the afternoon (blame my puritan upbringing and the instilling of the Protestant Work Ethic) but it was very, very nice.  I was going to say that we were completely chilled but of course, with the fire, we were completely warmed!
Adding to my heightened feelings of cosiness were these -

my new sheepskin slippers.  The Teacher bought them for me for my birthday and I really can't imagine how I managed without them.  I have had slippers before but never any as warm and totally cosy as these.  I LOVE them.  (If you fancy some for yourself, have a look HERE where they are currently reduced in price.) 
So, a quiet afternoon spent watching films with a fire, mugs of tea, chocolate, my slippers and the Best Beloved made me very happy.  I really am a simple soul, aren't I?   
See you tomorrow.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #18: No Jacket Required

Hello, thank you for dropping by.  I am really enjoying this half term, we seem to have managed to plan a good balance of chores, appointments and outings.  Today has been a full day but the thing which has made me happiest is this -

The Teacher and Flashman have bought their first house and they moved in last month.  Following a very hectic (and scary) few weeks, they invited us round for dinner this evening to "christen the dining room" and they did a bloomin' good job.  We sat around the table relaxing, eating, drinking and chatting and it was lovely.  They entirely understood when I took the camera out and said that I needed to photograph the table.  They are so grown up - how did that happen?! 
See you tomorrow.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #17: No Pancakes!

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I have seen SO MUCH today which has made me happy: when we got home there were 108 photos on the camera.  108!  Don't worry, I am not going to show you all of them, just a judicious selection. 
When we opened the curtains this morning, the sky was blue.  AT LAST.  So, we headed off to Shipton in the Corvedale to visit St James' Church.  It's a very quiet place, I think that only about one hundred people live in the parish, but there are extra visitors at this time of year - a chap with a camera was leaving as we arrived but other than that, we didn't see anyone.  Can you guess why they come here in February? -

SNOWDROPS.  Lots and lots of snowdrops, all over the churchyard.  It was absolutely stunning in the sunshine.  But the Fair Maids of February are not alone, they have friends here -

ACONITES.  Most of these hadn't yet opened up their yellow petals to bask in the sunshine, but there are lots of them there.

Would you like to have a look inside the church?  It was built in the 11th century and restored in the 16th century -

The font is thought to be Norman -

The church stands next to Shipton Hall, the present building being Elizabethan - can you see it through the willow tree?  And the dovecote to the right?  It is open to the public on Thursday afternoons from Easter to September.

Like many grand houses in this area, it was built on the wealth of wool, so I think you know what's coming next -

It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful there today.  There are several lovely places to see snowdrops in Shropshire, but this one is free (we left a donation in the church, but far less than the £11.80 it would have cost for the two of us to visit the National Trust property here.)

We then drove back towards Much Wenlock and stopped on Wenlock Edge to visit a bird hide, another free visit.  The National Trust looks after the woodland here and maintains a feeding station, and we sat in the hide very happily for forty minutes watching our feathered friends including blackbirds, a siskin, a dunnock, great tits, blue tits, robins, chaffinches, a nuthatch and something rather special as well as a couple of mice and a squirrel.  Here are some of them -

a robin - there were three of them
Mr Chaffinch - there were several misters there with their wives
four great tits on this feeder, we saw lots of them
and who's this?  Do you know?  Shall I show you some more? -
Do you know yet?  Need to see more? -
Great Spotted Woodpecker!  Care to come in a bit closer? -
Can you see the blue tit flying in on the left of the feeder?
So there you go, 17 of today's 108 photos.  It has taken me HOURS to choose them and write up this post.  This blogging-every-day lark can be tough.  And now the Best Beloved has just told me that he could crop some of the photos so you could get a closer view of the birdies - grrr!  I wish I had waited! 
And now shall I let you in on a secret?  I only took 2 of these photos.  The Best Beloved took the other 15.  He was a keen photographer until his work took over his life but he says that my getting a new camera has renewed his interest.  So that's another thing which has made me happy today!
See you tomorrow for another dose of February happiness.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 16 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #16: Developments

 Hello, thank you for popping in.  There has been an exciting development today...the sun came out!  Sadly, not till just before 4pm so it was too late to go out and make the most of it.  However, at least I have seen a bit of blue and it has cheered my soul.

Speaking of "exciting developments", something else has cheered my soul today, too.  Have a look at this old sink in my back yard -

Yep, crocus and narcissus bulbs reaching for the sky.  I love these signs that spring is on its way, the vivid green tips breaking through the brown earth after months of dormancy and shooting up towards the light. The flower buds are developing well and it looks as if the golden heads will be nodding before long -

Happy, happy, happy.

See you tomorrow, I hope.

Lots of love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday 15 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #15: A Proper Weekend

Hello, thank you for dropping by.  Just a quick word today, and no photo (giving you a rest after yesterday!).  The thing which has made me happy today's half term!  No work on Monday makes for a lovely relaxing Sunday with no planning, no marking, no ironing and no tension and I LOVE it.  The Best Beloved and I have had two full days to give entirely to being with each other - very different now that there are no children in the house and this is the first time.  How different our life together is becoming...
See you tomorrow, I hope.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Saturday 14 February 2015

Positivity Month Post #14: A Staffordshire Patch

Hello, thank you for calling in.  Happy Valentine's Day.  The Best Beloved and I don't usually mark it, he has never been bothered so I had to give up years ago, and anyway, we have a wedding anniversary to celebrate our love for each other.  But I have had the most WONDERFUL day.  The temperature has shot up to 8 degrees Celsius here today and the sun was shining this morning but it didn't matter to us as we had planned a day out in the Peak District and when we got there, the sky was a dense blanket of grey cloud!  Grrr.
Now then, I must warn you that this post is photo-heavy because...the Best Beloved and The Mathematician bought me a new camera for my birthday.  It is one of these, which I chose because Jacquie over at Bunny Mummy uses one and I really like her photos.  So today I took it with me so that I could start getting to grips with it.
Our destination was Ilam in Staffordshire, very close to the Derbyshire border, and we were lured there by the promise of a "decadent afternoon tea" for £6.50 each at Dovedale House, which belongs to the Church of England and is used as a residential youth centre.  But first, we went for a walk.
This is the Church of the Holy Cross, originally Saxon, restored in the 17th century and clumsily added to in the 19th century.  Sir George Gilbert Scott, what were you thinking?!  It houses the tomb of St Bertram and we sat with him awhile as the church is open every day.  St Bertram is said to have described Ilam as "Eden" and frankly, I can see why, even on a grey day like today.

This is St Bertram's bridge over the River Manifold.  That's the Best Beloved photographing me photographing the bridge!

Standing in the same spot as the last photo I was able to zoom in on these stalactites growing on the underside of the bridge. 

This is Ilam Hall, owned by the National Trust and run as a Youth Hostel.  There is a tearoom here which we didn't visit.

The view from up here was stunning, looking down to the church and across to Bunster Hill and Thorpe Cloud.

The slopes are heavily wooded but as the trees are deciduous, they were bare.  On this grey day, there was little green to be seen, but I did find some.  The yew trees were vivid.

I loved the look of the lush green moss on the stone walls.  It looked so vibrant and alive.

It looked good on the logs, too.  Would you like a closer look?

The Best Beloved really doesn't understand why I took this so I hope you do!  There were other interesting things growing on the logs, too...

fungi!  Does anyone know what this is?
I do love the colours on this one.  Isn't Mother Nature clever?

There were plenty of these.  If you like snowdrops, take a look here where Julie has taken some stunning photos and put them together to make a lovely little film.
You know that I like sheep so I really couldn't leave these girls out, could I?  So after our walk we went back to Dovedale House, which is the old vicarage, for our decadent afternoon tea.
This is tea for two.  Anne-Marie baked all the goodies this morning and they were heavenly.  The tables and the room were decorated and the atmosphere was lovely.  There were families and groups of friends there.  I had the best hot chocolate I have EVER drunk.  Seriously.  Would you like to see it?
Lizzie and Mark and their team put this on as a community event and they did a wonderful job.  We are determined to visit Ilam again in the summer sunshine and take a picnic.  I wonder if we can persuade Dovedale House to do this again??
It's half term week here so the Best Beloved is off work and I am hoping to be out and about in Shropshire with the camera.
See you tomorrow.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x