Back to Normal

I’ve committed to finding something to be grateful for every single day of 2017. I’ve experienced bouts of depression over the last few years and, as I worked my way through it, I noticed that I have a tendency to dwell on the negative and completely overlook the good things. This is my way of restoring some balance.

This morning, I found it immensely satisfying to remove the tree and all my decorations and get my house back to normal. And it was all done before 9am!

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Friends

This photo was last night’s table. My friends Jon and Simon came over and cooked a lovely meal for Phil and I. And then served it on this lovely table.

I don’t think it’s cheating to post this photo as my first of the year because this morning I was still basking in the afterglow of a lovely warm evening.

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A Yorkshire Thanksgiving

I lived in the US and Canada for 22 years, and never had a proper Thanksgiving – one where I cooked all day and had to get bedrooms ready for guests.

We didn’t have any family there, and the few friends we had were busy with their own parties (oh sure, someone would always ask if we wanted to come to their Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s a bit awkward to go to a celebration with other peoples’ family and friends, so – after the first year – we always said no, and anyway, that’s not the same as hosting your own meal).

So, fast-forward to the present day, here in the wilds of the Yorkshire hills (and it IS wild at the moment), and I finally hosted a Thanksgiving bash – albeit with a British twist.

Some of our oldest friends came to join us – sadly we didn’t have room for everyone – and I spent two days getting ready. I loved every minute.

After soliciting recipes from my American friends, I decided I just like British roast meals better than American ones. I can’t imagine having Mac n’ Cheese with a roast turkey, or adding sugar and marshmallows to sweet potatoes and then actually eating the result!! So I decided to make a traditional British roast dinner – crispy roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, mashed parsnips, roasted sprouts, peas, gravy, homemade sage and onion stuffing, and I replaced the turkey with my nut roast in puff pastry. It was all delicious even though I do say so myself.

Then we went American for desserts – and had a trio of them! Pumpkin pie with whipped cream, cheesecake, and brownie with ice cream. My friend Mark made the pumpkin pie and the cheesecake, and apparently was up until midnight the night before so he could finish them, which was super kind.

Lots of alcohol was consumed, lots of food was eaten, and lots of laughs were had. Here’s me and my old friend Ruth (she’s the one in the hat and scarf).

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And here’s the beautiful table that my best friend Jon decorated.

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I only wish we had the space to invite more people because we had such a wonderful time.

I have a feeling Yorkshire Thanksgiving might become a regular occasion!

 

 

Gratitude

I haven’t written anything on this blog for 2 years now and I thought I was done for good, but things change and here I am.

There are two things to say upfront:

  1. Moving back home has been, without a doubt, the right decision for me.
  2. That doesn’t mean life is without its problems.

These two ideas came together for me today when I read an article about how gratitude may be the most important emotion we ever feel. It seems to affect our brain chemistry in amazingly positive ways, and it got me thinking.

Thinking about how, when we first moved back, I was filled with gratitude every day, but how, as time went on, the strength of that feeling faded and just became part of my mental furniture. Other issues and problems emerged and moved to the forefront. Some longstanding, some new (like almost daily migraines) but all jostling for attention and pushing happiness out of the way in order to get it.

But being here in England is a joy. Every day. And if that joy has faded into the background and become just another aspect of who I am, I want to grab it back. Paying conscious attention to the good things seems to be the way to do this. As the article says:

[gratitude] boosts our wellbeing, and even our health. In one experiment, three sets of participants were told to write either about their problems, things they were grateful for, or neutral events, once each week for 10 weeks. Subjects in the second group felt better about their lives as a whole and reported greater optimism. Extraordinarily, they also had fewer physical complaints and spent more time exercising than members of the other two groups.

So I’m reviving the blog for selfish reasons: I want to remind myself of those things – big and small – that make living back home such a joy. But I also want to share this amazing place with others – and maybe to help a few ex-pats to make the decision to move home. I truly believe there’s no place like it 🙂

So, as a start, today I’m grateful for the walk I took in the late afternoon sunshine, and especially for these sheep who all came to greet me (thinking maybe I might have some food). Look at their lovely faces!

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The Moors and Pinhaw Beacon

One thing that is amazing about where we live is the variety of scenery. Here around our little house, it’s all rolling hills and greenery.

But if we walk less than a mile from here – and about 900 feet up – we can be up on the moors, where all you hear are curlews and all you see is cotton grass, heather, and the occasional rabbit.

I have always loved the moors, so my favorite walk is a 4-mile circuit up to Pinhaw Beacon. This is so-named because it was one of the designated beacons during the Napoleonic wars, when Brits were scared that Napolean might actually invade. If he did, fires were to be set at the sites of each beacon as a warning.

Now it’s just a stone with the immortal word “Dre” carved on it (presumably not done in Napolean’s time unless the rapper Dr. Dre is much older than we think).

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The view from up here is amazing on all sides

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And it’s quite a climb, so I always feel proud when I make the peak.

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The walk back down is much easier (of course) and you start to get views of the green hills and the trees that are missing up on the moors.
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A Day Out in Manchester

After so much blogging about the countryside, I’m pleased to have something different to show you. Last weekend was Phil’s birthday and he decided he wanted to spend it in his home city of Manchester, so off we went to meet some of his oldest and closest friends for lunch and a walk round town.

I don’t have their permission to post their photos, so I’ll just say that we had a lovely lunch (thanks again Dave and Deb!) and enjoyed a good walk round the city.

Here’s me next to the poster for Kenneth Branagh in Macbeth (did I mention I have tickets?!!)

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And here are a series of shots I took as we walked round town.

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Manchester is an amazing and vibrant mix of old and new, commercial and residential, trendy and traditional. There are vast shops the size of a city block that sit shoulder to shoulder with old libraries, theatres and pubs. We walked by the canal, strolled through the hushed vaults of an old library, and enjoyed a drink outside a lovely pub in the sunshine. And most important of all, Phil got to enjoy his birthday with a few of his very best friends.

We thoroughly enjoyed the day and, although we were glad to get back to the peace and quiet of the countryside, we both agreed that a trip back for shopping is in our near future.

Sick!

I vanished recently.

That’s because I got sick.

If you move back home, you soon learn about illness.

You get every bug that ever existed and then some because you have no defences.

So when a friend comes to stay for the weekend and happens to mention over morning coffee ‘I have a sore throat for some reason,’ you are filled with a sense of dread. You can already picture the sore throat and then the cough and the stuffy nose and the aches and pains and finally the exhaustion that takes over every part of your body and makes you think “maybe this is it for me. Maybe my time has come…”

But then slowly you start to feel a little bit better for an hour here and there, and then for a few hours and eventually, after almost two weeks, you manage to walk a little way up the lane and you finally feel like a human again.

(And then your friend redeems himself by giving you the heads up about extra tickets for a production of Macbeth in a small theatre starring Kenneth Branagh, and you get the tickets, and you think ‘well that wasn’t such a bad cold after all’. Love you Dave!)

We went for over a week without going for a walk, and it really sucked, because I hadn’t realized how much those walks meant to me. Finally a few days ago, I was able to get out and walk for a few miles. HEAVEN!

The countryside has changed so much just in the few days since I last got out and walked. Wildflowers are everywhere and they are sublime.

These photos were all taken in the village or on the lane outside our house.

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But if you walk a mile uphill from where we are, you come to a truly breathtaking sight. The fields turn into moorlands up there and at the moment there are just acres and acres of cotton grass. Close up it looks like this:

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To touch, it is soft and fuzzy, a little like the fur on a soft toy.

But as you stand on the moor, this is how it looks:

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I don’t think those photos begin to do justice to it. All I can say is that I stood in the field, all alone, hearing no sounds other than the cry of the curlews, and thought “I will remember this moment for the rest of my life and if my life ended tomorrow, I would feel like the luckiest person who ever lived.”

A truly remarkable experience.