A Mindful Morning

bread

Waking up on a Saturday feels different to the other six mornings. Monday feels slightly daunting – even if you’re not working, as it’s the start of something new. By Tuesday you’re settling into it but there’s a long way to go until the weekend. Wednesday is a solid day: slap bang in the middle. Thursday is creeping, daringly and delightfully, into the weekend. Friday is the weekend (but not quite) and Saturday is: YES. It’s sunshine, reggae, BBQs, brunch and dunch: mid morning meal, then mid afternoon meal – and a late night. (Sunday, if I imagine it visually, is black. Personified, it’s feeble and drooping at the shoulders; as a sound it’s white noise.)

So today I woke up feeling good. Rich is working so it’s just me and Joni this morning. I fed her a big bowl of porridge with berries and banana then we set off on our morning run (me running, her kicking back in the buggy: cushioned by sheep’s wool, wrapped in blankets, drinking milk). We stopped off at the poshest Spar in the world in Walthamstow village and picked up two loaves of freshly-baked sourdough. The smell reminded me of mornings in the south of France with my family, popping into the boulangerie for croissants and strawberry tarts and hot chocolate and a stick of French bread. I also treated myself to some organic body wash made with orange and cinnamon. It’s more expensive than your average shower gel but smells so delicious and helps me to be mindful in the shower.

We bought a newspaper from the friendly newsagent across the road and I tried to pay with an odd foreign coin that looked curiously similar to a 20p but was of a lesser value: 2 (something). Friendly he may be – stupid he is not, so he didn’t accept it. I rummaged in my bag for more change, while the man behind me patiently waited. I was grateful for his patience; so often people grow fidgety and start tutting if you’re slow. I left the shop and ran about five metres with a now quite heavy buggy across the newly-paved part-pedestrianised strip of Orford Road then swung down a side road, narrowly missing a builder and his scaffolding pole. It was about 8am so the only people on the streets were me, builders, old people with dogs and men (not being sexist – they were all men) changing bin bags in the park.
wisteria

On another residential road, a house was decorated in the most beautiful climbing wisteria. I ran past it and then stopped and walked back. I decided to enjoy it for longer than a passing moment. I decided that today I should be mindful. I stood there for a few moments, took a photo then ran on. I saw some bluebells on the next street and contemplated the seasons. Spring is full of hope, blossom petals swirling through the streets; like confetti, bluebells blooming everywhere, the sun becoming warmer – teasing us; beckoning us into summer. I wondered if perhaps it’s easier to be mindful in the spring and summer, with so many flowers in bloom and bare skin being warmed by the sun and painted toe nails and sweet fruits to eat. But winter can be lovely when your cheeks are bitten by the cold air and then toasted by a roaring fire and you can drink hot chocolate and toast marshmallows. And autumn leaves are enough to make autumn exceptional.

bluebells

We carried on roaming the streets, flying past irises and tulips, and stopped to peer into a sweet ‘free books’ box that lots of people around London are putting on their front garden walls. You can take a book to read but you’re asked to return it or replace it, if you can. I just took a photo:

Books

We got home and I realised how cold our fingers were from the early morning chill, so we rubbed them together to warm up then sat on the rug in the sitting room and I put on some music for Joni. She loves to bop her head when there’s a good beat so i’m compiling a Spotify playlist for her. Bedouin Soundclash ‘When the night feels my song’ is a firm favourite, as are ‘Roxanne’ by The Police and ‘Bamboleo’ by the Gypsy Kings. I slipped in Blackstreet’s No Diggidy as an experiment but she’s not sure about R&B yet. No worry, she’ll grow into it.

After some deep breathing and pilates (with Joni using me as a climbing frame and trying to put her very small socks onto my comparatively very large feet), I put Joni down for a nap, showered (using my lovely new shower gel) and drank a decaf coffee with almond milk, ate a slice of the delicious fresh sourdough bread, toasted, with almond and vanilla butter and sliced banana, and begin writing this. Now Joni is cooing for me to collect her from her cot. The end of my mindful morning alone with my daughter, as soon we’ll be off to meet a friend for lunch. So good to enjoy the simple things sometimes: flowers in bloom, upbeat music, smells, spring time, fresh bread – and to just enjoy being alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wonders of autumn

On a wet, drizzly, grey, miserable day – like today – it’s easy to forget the beauty of autumn. So i’ve been reminding myself of the blue skies, crunchy pink and auburn leaves, late afternoon sunshine and dancing flames of the wood-burner that are just around the corner…

autumn leaves

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winter sun 004

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winter sun 003

With the school year starting in autumn, this part of the year is similar to spring: a beginning, of sorts. A second chance to renew and refresh and reflect.

Last night my wonderful friend Jane Howard took me on the most magical (double) date ever. We went to eat delicious dinner on Emma Freemantle’s narrowboat, moored in Lisson Grove…

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It felt like we were in the countryside. Such a beautiful evening. I wrote a poem about it, which I’ll post separately…

This was the delicious, typed-on-a-typewriter personalised menu (click on the image to enlarge):

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menu

Dreamy… xxxx

When I moved to Somerset, a couple of years ago, I’d often sit in the garden and watch birds fly down on to the lawn, or circle the pear tree. It dawned on me that growing up in London had deprived me of a real connection to nature. Though we spent our childhood summers in Somerset, mum making vain attempts to introduce us to nature, we weren’t interested. We were excited by Roces roller-skates, playing knock-down-ginger and throwing wet toilet-paper bombs out of the highest windows in the house – aiming for passers-by.

So perhaps it wasn’t London that deprived me – it just wasn’t what my peers were interested in. We did go blackberry picking, late summer, down an alley at the end of the road. But supplies were scant and usually coated in dog piss.

Anyway. I noticed, when discussing nature – particularly trees and birds – with Rich, that his knowledge was vast compared to mine. He grew up on a farm in Somerset so he was clearly going to be a little ahead of me but when he started testing how much I knew (or didn’t) – he was quite surprised.

And so I decided to teach myself a bit about birds. We went to a car boot sale and I picked up this book:

birds of britain

Every so often I flick the pages, admiring the illustrations and trying to fix the images in my head for the next time I spot a bird that isn’t a pigeon.

To some people (namely countryside dwellers) these will be oh-so familiar. But to all the other people who spent their childhoods eating sweets and skating around city streets – here’s a short education in British birds…

Merlin. This is the smallest British bird of prey:

merlin

Goldfinches:

goldfinches

Brambling. They tend to hover over bramble bushes. Only joking. They like beach woodland and farmland near woods (and sometimes gardens in winter):

brambling

Black-necked Grebe. They like to eat insects, crustaceans and small fish:

black-necked grebe

Green woodpecker:

green woodpecker

Gannets:

gannets

Coal tit:

coal tit

And, best for last – the GOLDEN EAGLE…. ooooh!

golden eagle

The illustrations are mostly from the 18th century so apols if some of these birds are now extinct.

We did some bird-watching in India and I picked out eagles, crows (obvs – they’re distinctly horrific), bats (not birds, I know, but someone less bird-wise than I might have mistaken them for a black bird – or something – so just clarifying that I do know the difference). Also swallows, and possibly some finches. But as my ornithology skills now supersede Rich’s – he couldn’t confirm this. Because he didn’t know.

Hope you’ve learned something from this short lesson on British birds.

Autumn Leaves

Every year, as summer draws to an end, I focus on the temperature lowering and the rain falling: forgetting how incredible autumn can be – with clear blue skies and crisp, sunny mornings. But, best of all, are the autumn leaves. Running around Hackney Downs each morning, I notice the trees slowly turning from green to burnt orange and mustard, fluorescent pink and auburn.

Here are some amazing autumn leaves I found on a bridge over the railway tracks; turning the rusty chicken wire fence into a beautiful autumnal wall: