15 April 2017

For when it's not sunny

Much warm. Very outdoors.

I'm enjoying spending time in the garden, clearing the jungle, apologising like a maniac to all the plants and insects as I go. I have to wheel my barrow through the favoured patch of the mining bees in order to reach the compost heap/dump, so every ten minutes I'm all,"Coming through, bees! Sorry, bees! Watch out! Thanks bees!".

My media consumption hasn't noticeably dropped, nor did I intend that it should so that's good. I wanted to share a podcast I listened to this week and thought I'd try to gather a few other good things so I could share here. 

This is a new podcast that popped up in a Facebook group for The Work That Reconnects. This first episode is called 'And the bees were calling me' (are we seeing a theme emerge?). I really enjoyed this one and I'm hoping subsequent episodes are as good.

I've been a big fan of Rich Roll since 2013 and I've listened to every one of his podcasts. For me, he's the king of the long form podcast conversation and damn it, I just like him. It felt like worlds colliding when I saw he was interviewing Danielle LaPorte this week. I'm not a dedicated follower of hers but some of her stuff has touched home for me. Or should I say 'resonated'? Heh. Anyway, I liked her in this conversation about being your own guru, although they both wax lyrical about the currently omnipresent Guru Singh so I'm not sure how that works. The fact he's the current spiritual hot ticket in certain circles sets all my alarm bells ringing, but that's how I am. This is an enjoyable listen.

We're all reading these, right? 'Kay, good.

Fighting dog fighters
Charlie is on the board of trustees at the League Against Cruel Sports so I get to keep up to speed with all their good work. This campaign is very close to my heart, and not just because this love looks just like a certain someone. Dog fighting is truly evil and I'm glad we have the League working on this here in the UK. I thought I knew about it but I didn't. I had no idea how big it is.

Dogs On The Streets
More angels. This is a new volunteer-led initiative - which sounds very posh for something that was launched by one woman's dedication and is only a handful of people - that I became aware of just recently through the wonder that is Instagram. I love their work and hope they go from strength to strength. Truly inspiring.

TV love
I have largely predictable tastes in television and it tends to sway in the same direction as my Audible library. Among recent favourites have been:
Preacher : Insane but strangely wonderful. Deeply American tale but, despite never having seen him in anything before, I took one episode to say of Dominic Cooper,"I've no idea why but I know he's British. There's just something really English about him." and I was right. The other two leads - American and Irish in the show - are Irish and English respectively and bring our peculiar type of peculiar to the purely American TV horror/comedy that is Preacher. Bring on Season 2.
Patriot : More weird and wonderful. Beautiful performances. Surreal. Love. YouTube trailer.
Extant : We chose this one because we'd run out of stuff that we both like to watch. Season 1 was a bit meh and we ended up skipping the last few episodes and jumping straight to Season 2. Not gonna lie, that was mostly down to Jeffrey Dean Morgan being in Season 2, showing us where Jason went when he left Alicia Florrick's wig in Chicago. He pretty much plays the same character, right down to the wardrobe, but I happen to love that character. It became quite gripping in the second season and we enjoyed it. I have to admit I was constantly thinking,"Halle Berry IS FIFTY YEARS OLD" and shaking my head.
The Crown : Wild card. Put it on one afternoon when I was recovering from a migraine because Matt Smith. Became obsessed! Began writing messages to people in Queenspeak, using phrases like,"They're an ebsolute shar" and "Really Phillip, how is One expected to menege? Winston is coming for afternoon tea end you've given the starf en arfternoon orf.", much to the confusion of my family. No vampires.

I still have an account for the dogs and I've recently renamed it. I do enjoy dogs on Instagram, especially rescue and welfare accounts. Some of my faves are:
Craig Fields, or Cee Legit as he's known in our house (Evie and I both follow him), owns/founded/heads up the New York Bully Crew but this account focuses on his outreach work and the adorable gang of pits who live with him. Marshall is my Spirit Animal.
Rebecca Corry is a comedian/actress/writer who founded the Stand Up For Pits Foundation along with her beloved pibble, Angel. Angel passed a year ago but continues to save lives through the Foundation and its work in rescue and in combatting dogfighting.
Roofus and Kilo Too much love. Can't make words.

I think I should stop there because Doctor Who's back on in a bit and I need to shout,"It'd better be Kris Marshall" at the telly. And prepare for the last Last Episode of Broadchurch on Monday. Gulp.


4 April 2017


Sunshine, at last.  We've had a couple of days, me and the child, of making a herb garden - hedgewitchery 101, in home school - which led her to ask that as she's 11, she has a toy owl she takes most places, and I'm a hedgewitch, should she be looking out for her Hogwarts letter? I'm only going to let her go if Digby can be her familiar.

The better weather always means a better mood, even if we get two good days/three bad days. At least we get to be outside. I'm not sleeping much at all which is having a horrible effect as I'm not one of those people who can sail through 48 hours with no sleep. Charlie is, and I so envy that ability. I guess the fact that my sleep has been disturbed since November 13, 2005 probably has something to do with it. Not that I'd change a thing.

I'm a morning person - the other two are most definitely not - and although getting out of bed can feel like a monumental task on no sleep, I can't stay in it past 7.30 at the very latest. I long dreamt of using my morning time for some dreamy ritual involving some stretches, meditation, tea served beautifully out-of-a-pot-and-everything instead of a hastily flung teabag. Some Reiki, incense, an oracle card, an affirmation or know the thing. I just as long harboured a little grumpiness around the fact that life isn't like that and there are Things That Must Be Done.

However...that changed.

Because I saw that my morning Things That Must Be Done are ritual, and I love them.

The first thing I do once I'm downstairs, is walk through the living room and open the curtains. Our view is into trees, gardens and the 'fish pond' (actually a moat) next door; birds everywhere. Next it's the curtains in my little office, opening onto the front garden full of spring flowers and tree blossom at this time of year. Then it's downstairs again to the kitchen to be met by the dogs who act as if I've been away for a hundred billionty years. (My days of dogs on the bed ended when Charlie took their place and anyway, Dooley is the worst bed dog ever who insists on lying on top of me, digging in his elbows and fidgeting all night. He weighs a solid and compact 55lbs/25kg and it's no joke.)

We head out - often just to the garden as Dooley won't go further while the crow-scaring guns are in operation - and spend sometime listening to the birds and checking the sky for the day's weather. Bare feet on grass if it's not too freezing. I feed them, then they each have some carrot as a treat, and then a little biscuit. Next I fill the bird feeders and kid myself that I can call in the birds by making a funny noise with my teeth. I make myself a cup of redbush tea and then set about cleaning and tidying the kitchen, ready for school. In the winter, I light a fire and a candle. Some days the essential oil diffuser goes on.

I do these things in the same order, every day. Seven days a week, even when we don't have school. Seeing to the dogs and the birds gives me so much satisfaction, I can't explain. It just gives me peace.

While I'm doing these things I can think about the day ahead, what needs to be done, what time I can claim to do something of my own, all the usual stuff we think about. It is my morning ritual.

Shortly thereafter - or, heaven forbid, before I'm done (beware my wrath) - the other humans will surface for tea, food and conversation. I experience the emotional equivalent of 'needle scratching across vinyl' because I'm a grumpy old woman very introverted introvert and have yet to find a way to transition smoothly from alone to company, but I will.

I want to try adding some things in, although I'm aware it might just not work if it's forced. I know the best way for me to create a new habit is to attach it to something I already habitually do. So, as I want to reinstate my morning juice, I'm going to grab all the veg out of the fridge when I go to get the dogs' carrots. They will never let me not do this - if I should forget, they sit by the door to the understairs cupboard where the fridge is, and do Scooby Doo impersonations.

The other thing I want to try is more of an experiment and involves me taking myself away from the kitchen and into my office. I need to find something to attach this to. I can't do it pre-dogs because they hear me getting up and will howl if I don't get to them sharpish. I need fifteen minutes peace and quiet so I'm thinking, dogs, birds and humans must be fed and settled's the tough bit, for me...I'm going to have to ask to be left alone for fifteen minutes. No 'Can I have some more toast?', 'Where's my socks?' or 'Whatcha doin'?'. There will be resistance. There will be exasperation. But there may also be actual change. Cross your fingers for me.


23 March 2017

Magic-making, wave-riding and other stuff

Thank you. Thank you for all your thoughts on Instagram. I solved my little unproblem by removing two thirds of the account's followers, keeping the ones I know and/or trust, and then set it to private. It feels much better. Less like I've thrown open the doors and windows of my house and invited randoms to set up cameras where they like. Now I can start to think about a public, project-based account.

It's March, isn't it? And for me that always means a touch of the mad hare. I can easily leap from Winter's dreamy, contemplative ways to 'OMIGOD I have the best 25 ideas EVER!'. If I look back through my blogs to posts I've written at this time, firstly, many of them will be written on a relatively new blog, and secondly, they will be all about how I've found The Thing and I'm dedicating the rest of my life to it. For realz tho. For ever. Then by about June, as Summer's lazy #Can'tBeArsed to do anything but relax and enjoy the outdoors feeling hits, I'm over it and feeling a) guilty, b) ashamed and c) another step down into the pit of worthlessness that comes with repeatedly failure.

Happy days. But at least I'm aware, right?!

So I'm going to attempt to avoid long posts about what I'm [not actually] doing. I'm going to try to direct my March crazy towards staying on the path I've been slowly exploring since the beginning of the year. I'm going to try to make some magic that's grounded. Yes dear Reader, I'm going to attempt self-discipline. Hey, stop sniggering at the back. 

I've no doubt that I will spin off now and then. Sorry. My sensitivity to these energies has long been something with which I have a love/hate relationship; to the point of medication. But that's gone. Time to learn how to ride the wave.


14 March 2017

Pretty pictures


Because I haven't been able to choose between two post topics, I haven't written anything. 'Write both and save one', ya say? Pah. Far too simple.

Anyway, I've mused on the subject of bringing your body - not just your mind - back into the moment, because it's becoming my favourite, most effective way to get past random anxiety. Mused. Not written. Yet. Instead I being you...Instagram!

Instagram is 'my favourite and my best'. The micro-blogging aspect with longer captions...great. The new 'like a comment' feature and it. Stories...not really got to grips with that yet but I watch other people's. A simple picture with a couple of words...yes.

I follow about 600 people and although, thanks to the backworkery, I don't get to see all of them all the time, I do see most. I follow friends, acquaintances, a couple of family members, lots of dogs and their people, rescue organisations, plant-based people, podcasters, artists, bloggers and even a couple of 'influencers'. And Alan Cumming because it feels as if he's all those things in one person. I see pictures that range from my nephew with his underpants on his head (he's two) to swoon-inducing, perfectly curated galleries.

I do not follow people who use Instagram to lie, using smoke and mirrors. If you lie to me on something as trivial as Instagram, my experience is that you lie about more important things too and I don't have time for that nonsense. But even though we might fall for this stuff at first, I think over time it becomes apparent that something is just a bit 'off'.

My irritation with that used to make me over-reactive to anything that wasn't just 'messy 'n' real', lovely photography, or a good caption. Then I started to appreciate the work going into curating a good gallery. At first it was with the dog accounts I follow. Some are so beautifully shot, matched with good captions and maintain a really high standard. Much better than my higgledy piggledy mix of good and bad photos (HE MOVED!) with hastily tapped in captions.

I hated real hashtags used to gain likes and follows. But why? Instagram is a social platform built on connection. Why would you use it and hide, unless you're keeping your account private? It's like writing a book, sealing it, and then putting an entirely blank cover on it.

Somewhere along the line I came across Sara Tasker at Me and Orla. Her Instagram is not only stylish and beautiful, but she's also a very likeable person who's great at passing on her expertise. I read her blog, downloaded her free resources and now I listen to her podcast. It's fun and inspiring, not just for would-be influencers but for anyone wanting to create something beautiful.

Not gonna lie, it's made me really want to try out building a curated gallery on Instagram. As a creative project. I've been in love with blogging for so long - right down to the techy side - that this feels like a natural extension. And it gets me really excited which is also a sign.

Over the last couple of months I tried setting up separate accounts for trying this out but neither really grabbed me (I already have an account for endless pics of my dogs but that's different). There's a school of thought that says, if you want to up your Instagram game, stay with your existing account and show the evolution. Also, who scrolls that far back on other people's accounts? ( actually, but that's not the point) But that doesn't sit well with me.

I stepped back and tool a mental look at my feed (sorry Mel) and suddenly I was wondering why exactly I even do it! A handful of friends aside, why do I feel the need to show pictures of my daily life to complete strangers? It's bizarre! I started to feel a bit icky about it. Not because of privacy issues but just because who cares? Who cares what my garden looks like or the inside of a tattoo studio I'm sitting in on a random Tuesday? (See: the screen grab above.) Who cares what I'm doing day in, day out? And why?

I'm still sitting with that one. I'm open to either shutting it down, going private (as can be with 500+ people already in) or even just carrying on as I am. I just need to think it through and decide. I might even keep a 'record of my days' account that's uncurated and just 'here's today..what are you up to?' but only send invites to people I think of as friends. I like taking photos on my phone. I like sharing them. I love to see what my friends are up to each day, how their kids and dogs and cats are, what they've just seen that made them go ,'OH!'. It's the sharing. I just need to dial in on with whom I am sharing. Does that makes sense?

Meanwhile, I fully intend to start a curated gallery to play with. I'm fascinated by the thought of tones and feel and aesthetic. By choosing things that fit and not throwing everything into the soup. With telling a story, not throwing mud at a wall. I believe there's a lot of skill involved and I want to learn. Most of all it's fun. I'm building secret Pinterest inspiration boards and giving some serious time each day to exploring Instagram beyond my usual circles.

So that's my Instagram story for today. Ha. It just hit me that I could stick with the one I have but develop it in a new direction, then start another day-today, personal one and just invite the people I feel safe having there. Yeah. I think that's it.

Do you use Instagram? I think most of you do. How do you feel about curated feeds? Do you have any favourites? I might do a post listing mine.


21 February 2017


When I hit publish on that last post, magic happened. Ha. But no, something special did happen. First, I felt an immediate opening. A falling into place of something I'd shut out. In fact I almost came back and rewrote it before deciding that no, it was a good marker for me. Next, I got private messages, emails, and the wonderful comments left here and on Instagram. Some of them surprising.

I wrote that post in a hurry. It was a tentative step into exploring something but obviously it was trivial. I mean, I've never actually believed that witches are like Willow or Piper, I was writing about popular culture's take on the subject and how it served to bring witches back into the open for my generation.

Fictional witches are often all about the magic. Then and now. Magic that conjures and changes, makes miracles in a puff of smoke. Wands, cauldrons, spells. For me, real witches are something else. Something that changes with geography but holds within it earth medicine. A sister to shamanism.

I've received emails from friends and acquaintances who have family witches in living memory. I don't. Although, it occurred to me, I do have an uncle on one side (no longer earthside) who was a "wolf-loving pagan" (his words), and another on the other side who by his 60s (he's now 80) was, to the absolute amazement of all who had ever met younger him, a Reiki Master who imported crystals for a living! Interesting that it should be the men who were open about this stuff. But not surprising.

As for the women, I know very little about them. My dear sister-aunt is of course a very spiritual, earth-loving plantswoman like her mother before her. Green fingers, thumbs and toes, both of them. But I've no known blood claim to wise women or healers.

That said, I'm the product of these islands and I'm very aware of the earth that built me, physically and spiritually. It's been a life-long love affair with Nature, my true comfort zone, that has got me to this place where I can confidently build my home in Witchery.

It's the land, the plants, the other animals, the weather, the spirits, the intuition, the fixing, the healing, the feminism, the wholeness, the ritual, the 'superstition', the edges and the ways. And there's so much more to say but I had to come and keep this moving. More soon.