Ah hello and welcome to a Bank Holiday Monday episode of my Weekly Blog series. I’m afraid that I decided to spend Easter Sunday pootling around the countryside on my motorbike, which meant my usual early evening writing slot was taken.
Ending the Wallowing
It’s been no secret that I’ve been feeling really quite low recently. I don’t know why really, but the fog has certainly been there. Maybe perpetual lockdown has finally got to me, maybe the enforced boredom found its way into my psyche, maybe that unidentified foot injury spiralled into something else, but whatever is causing it, it’s not been conducive to being motivated or inspired or productive.
After wallowing a little, for which I feel no shame, I’ve made an effort this week to do things that I know will help me feel a little more like me.
I started by joining another one of the Comms Unplugged drawing workshops, which never fail to lift my spirits. This time around the lovely Sally guided us through drawing a duckling and a lamb, a nod to it being Spring. I have to admit my drawings this time around were no patch on previous workshops, but even though my ducking looked angry and my lamb looked like it had been pumping iron at the gym, it was an hour very well spent indeed. I’ve shared a small snap of my duckling but my lamb is staying confined to my sketch pad… no-one needs to see that!
Church also reopened this week, just in time for the all-important Easter weekend. We aren’t allowed to sing yet, can’t take full communion, can’t shake hands, can’t even chat really, but there is something very calming and familiar about being inside that building. There are limited seats available, so we won’t go every week to allow others the opportunity, but it’s nice to have that back in our routine again.
The sunshine also helped. I mean, as I write my weekly blog this week it’s sleeting outside and I know some places further north have snow, but generally, the Spring sunshine has been shining. We hit 20 degrees here in the middle of the week, utterly glorious. I dried the washing on the line outside, the Spring blossom is out, I got back out walking around the local fields, met a friend for a very chatty dog walk (we were chatty, not the dog…), and just enjoyed having the big yellow orb in the sky on display.
Gifts to Cheer
I also received gifts in the mail from some lovely people who wanted to cheer me up. I am fortunate I don’t need gifts to know I am loved, but these certainly made me feel special, and I am grateful. I’ve said it before; receiving cards and random things (bought by me or sent as gifts) in the post this last year has made the pandemic restrictions much easier to deal with – it’s exciting every single time something arrives!
First to arrive was a cheese hamper from Snowdonia Cheese, containing three cheeses, some crackers and a chutney. I knew who this was from, because we visit the local Christmas market every year and always come away with some awesome cheese like this.
Next up was a new tea mug, which was sent to replace my old favourite Piggin mug I managed to break a few weeks ago. It’s a porcelain one from Boxfull of Britain on Etsy, and says: “a brew will see you through” – spot on. It’s just so perfectly formed, is very nice to drink from, and is ideal for my afternoon Earl Grey.
And finally, I received some of my favourite marshmallows from The Naked Marshmallow Co. Three boxes of delightfully squishy sweet cubes of gourmet goodness… in vanilla, salted caramel, and chocolate orange. I’m told that these marshmallows were sent with my fire pit in mind, and so I shall certainly be using this delivery as an excuse to light that.
As I say, I don’t need gifts to make me feel loved, but this week particularly these surprised packages did make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and I am very grateful to those who thought of me in this way. If you’ve got a friend who’s not coping with life particularly well at the moment, I highly recommend sending a note in the post – a postcard, bar of their favourite chocolate, something like that – let them know you are thinking of them and that you love them.
Exploring Two Cotswolds Villages
On Easter Saturday we took the opportunity of the slightly less strict travel rules here in England to visit two Cotswold villages that have been on our list since we moved here, but we’ve just never got around to visiting. Normally teeming with tourists, Chipping Norton and Burton are both traditional chocolate box villages well worth exploring.
While we didn’t have either village to ourselves, with no shops or museums being open, everyone was much more spread out than they can be. Both places offer free parking, the public toilets are open, and there were cafes offering takeaway sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks.
Both villages have real charm. I can totally see why lots of people visit; the traditional yellow stone buildings, higgledy-piggledy streets, views out into the countryside, and normally, the range of independent shops to mooch around.
At Chipping Norton we also did a short countryside walk which got us out of the built-up area and into the countryside to see the famous rolling hills of the Cotswolds. It was this short Step into the Cotswolds walk from Chipping Norton to Over Norton, and would be well worth your effort if you are visiting the Cotswolds any time.
And of course, because we drove from Chipping Norton to Burford, we also paid a visit to Diddly Squat Farm Shop… just to see what all the fuss is about. The range seemed pretty good, actually, shame we’d already had lunch as the sausage rolls looked very good indeed! I particularly enjoyed how visitors took turns to take a photo of their car in front of the farm shop sign. I’m afraid I didn’t get one of our Mazda.
First Ride of the Year
With “outdoor recreation” now permitted here in England, it was an opportunity for motorcyclists up and down the country to wipe the dust off (literally in my case) and head out for a ride-out. So I spent Easter Sunday pootling around the countryside on my GS.
We were out all day, riding 200-miles in the glorious (but very cold) Easter Sunday sunshine. We headed to Herefordshire and Shropshire on a loop derived from a couple of routes featured in Simon Weir’s Bikers’ Britain, which is a great route book if you’re looking for road trip inspiration.
We rode through Hereford, Wigmore, Clun (but didn’t stop at the Postcard Café this time around), Bishop’s Castle, Minsterley. We had our lunchtime pitstop in Shrewsbury where we found a takeaway café and bought a box of doughnuts from Planet Doughnut, which I then transported in my little top box for the rest of the day hoping they would survive (they did – thankfully)! From there we continued our loop through Ironbridge (which was super busy with people looking at the bridge), Bridgnorth, Cleobury, Ludlow, the Clee Hills (oh the views!), Knightwick, and Worcester.
It’s fair to say that while many drivers and riders out there need to get some serious practice in as they’ve clearly lost their skills over the last year of hardly been out, we found the roads we travelled along reasonably clear and mostly free from idiots. It was honestly so good to be out and about again, exploring the countryside; it really is the little things in life that make me happy.
Oh, and on the topic of motorcycle rides, we have booked a guided off-road ride with Moto Junkies, which we are very much looking forward to. I might be feeling less and less optimistic that our Iceland tour will go ahead this year, but I’m determined that if it does, I am ready for it.
In the world of what I’ve been watching and listening to, I finished two audio books this week which are worth a mention.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel was not entirely enjoyable. I mean, it was a good book, I did like it (I would have given up with it if not), but there were things that made it much harder going that I’d normally like. Part of this was because it is based in history, following the story of Thomas Cromwell, but is clearly fiction. And then there were the sheer number of characters to keep track of; SO many voices. It was worth the effort, the book is nicely rounded, very descriptive, and provided lots of interest. But as I say, a little hard going. Maybe I’m just not cut out for Man Booker Prize winning novels?
To follow on from that I took a recommendation from a friend and started the Redwall trilogy by Brian Jacques by listening to The Wall. This was much easier going, and a lot more fun to listen to. At just three hours it was the perfect listen over a couple of local walks in the sunshine this week. It tells the story of Redwall Abbey and its community of mice as they come across Cluny the evil one-eyed rat warlord. Yes, this is a children’s book, but I really enjoyed it, and have already downloaded the second book – The Quest – to follow the story on a little further.
As always, I would really love to hear from you in the comments below. Let me know what your favourite thing about the last seven days has been, and don’t forget to get your One Hour Outside today… whatever day you happen to be reading this on!
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