A Few Days with Romans

Well, it’s me and Romans, which meant I was very happy… but after visiting Mr Gladstone, the Otter and I trundled over to Chester for a couple of days!

We walked the walls (several times), found the Rows, three charity shops, two jumpers and no books (I was a little worried about the book-loving Otter after that, but I think he got an overdose at Gladstone’s), ate fresh donuts and wandered round a Christmas market, dodged the drummers (loud enough to be heard two streets away, though) and sat by the river, and I got to squeak about the amphitheatre, walls, towers, gateways, street layout, armour, language, religion, invasion, Druids, Crazy Romans and general chaos that was classical Roman Britain. We also saw two centurions and a gaggle of small new recruits with foam swords in a very straggly line… and learned that the ‘orrible Celts used wee in their hair, urgh! (And that children are terrible at figuring out who’s in the front and back rows of said straggly lines.)

We did also ponder what Wild Beasts could have fought at the amphitheatre. Screw the lions, I’d bet on a really pissed-off badger winning against anyone…

 

We stayed at The Boathouse, which was lovely – the pub itself is right on the river with some lovely views, and the rooms are across the car park, so not noisy! We had a really nice evening on our first night; we found two cosy chairs (actually, the whole pub has a wonderfully cosy vibe) and the staff were quite happy for us to stay there for a few hours, reading and occasionally ordering new drinks or nibbles. Breakfast was also lovely, with sunny views over the river both days, and the chance to watch dogs and their owners on the other side of the stream.

We had a fantastic dinner at Hamayuu, which is tucked under the Rows on Watergate Street, and is absolutely recommended. (Also worth booking! – we got in as a walk-in by the skin of our teeth.) I can also highly recommend Melt Town on Music Hall Passage (just off Northgate St) – really good toasties, although you have to be a fan of cheese. The skunk plate above was some of the decoration…!

We got some glorious sunshine, some light drizzle, and a lot of really lovely walks. Chester itself wasn’t too busy and was lovely with the Christmas lights, and it was really good to be able to just wander – particularly after having four very sedentary days while reading/writing.

We headed home via a couple of days with the family (and I got to see some of a different side of Gloucestershire! – for despite the Otter actually growing up about 5 miles from The Pub, I’d never actually been to his area of the world. There’s some nice scenery and cute sheep, which is always a plus.) And then we got home to see a small grumpy lump, who promptly yelled. There was a List of Complaints, which seemed to feature “not enough biscuits” quite prominently… (he had actually had enough. Three people had been verifying that he had enough.) But he has forgiven us now, and everything is back to normal – with lots of purrs!

So a lovely week away, and – even better – when I logged back into my work this morning to 100+ emails… it was fine. No anxiety. No stress. I just trundled through everything, picked up all the threads, and everything carried on. Bliss!

Next up: Christmas! (Argh. How did we get to halfway through December?!)

A Few Days with Gladstone

The Otter and I have taken a blissful week off, and trundled our way through a storm across to Chester, where we are staying with…

A bust of William Gladstone, with a festive robin on his head

Mr Gladstone himself (and robin), at his Library.

Gladstone’s Library is a unique institution. It is Britain’s finest residential library and its only Prime Ministerial library. It was founded by the great Victorian statesman, William Ewart Gladstone and, following his death in 1898, became the nation’s tribute to his life and work…. A place for serious study or a relaxing retreat for booklovers, the longer you stay, the more you will enjoy Gladstone’s Library. ”

The accommodation is lovely; we’re on the top floor, with a fair-sized room and its own bathroom (and desk, if you feel like sole working!) and there’s a really nice restaurant with breakfast included every day. The common room is absolutely stuffed with books, cosy chairs and sofas, and they’ve been putting the fire on every night (I’m currently writing this curled up in a chair in the common room, with Otter reading a book on the sofa opposite!), but the reading room is also amazing; two quiet floors of academically-stuffed shelves and cosy writing nooks, and a plethora of armchairs in the main rooms in case you want to just read. It’s been fun treading up the spiral stairs and working out which nook to settle into!

An Otter in a chair, with tea in front and a Christmas tree behindThere’s some really nice walks around too, and we’re heading out this afternoon (during a slightly-less-windy-and-rainy period – this is Wales, after all) to visit Flint Castle and a beach. I’ve managed to get some writing done, caught up on book reviews and have some more writing planned for the next few days, so it’s been fairly productive. It’s definitely a lovely place to write, though, and because everyone’s here for the same thing, there’s a really nice atmosphere. The staff are wonderful, food is excellent, and it’s just a wonderfully relaxing place to read, write or just chill.

A bundle of black fluff with some back paws sticking out

We’re heading into Chester itself for a few days later in the week (Romans! Amphitheatres! Temples! Walls! Shopping! More Romans!) and then heading back towards a grumpy cat – who is being very well looked after, although I’m sure he will be complaining bitterly about his treatment and the instructions we left about biscuit dosages… (he does adore his temporary hot-water bottles; it’s just the dinner portion sizes that he doesn’t like!)

A Kate Update: Nov 2021

Where on earth is time going? And also has anyone seen my brain? I’m sure I had it here a moment ago…

Kate on a sofa with a black-and-white cat enjoying scritches on her lap
Mr George enjoying fuss

So what’s happening at the moment in the World of Kate?

Sad news first; my grandma, Molly Moody, passed away last week. I know a lot of my friends met her in Salisbury and as we lived with her while growing up, she was a huge presence in my life. But she’d reached 100 (!!) in August and saw my sister get married in October, and last week had lunch, had a nap, and just slipped away – so we don’t think that’s a bad way to go! The funeral is going to be hard for me (various reasons) but I’ve also been taking the time to just reflect and grieve, so it’s as easy as a loved one passing can ever be.

In more random cheerful news, Things:

  • I’m learning Ruby! Still in the stage of “wait no I’m thinking of CSS, and now I HAVE TO DO MATHS? WHAT EVEN IS THIS?” but I’m sure I’ll get there.
  • The cat is still cute, stinky and purry.
  • Our Kiwi neighbour is home, after almost a year away! We had a lovely burn-up with cake, and I made cinnamon rolls that turned out really well – may have to repeat those…
  • I’ve been ultra-organised and got my Christmas presents mostly sorted (it’s been a very productive coping mechanism) so that feels good!
  • Been seeing more friends, which has been lovely, and trying to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while.
  • Got some writing time coming up!! We’re going away in December and I will have a dedicated couple of days… so hoping to do more work on Greensky Book 1o, and get that finished!

I had a bit of a rant about my ex-job (aka. Rebellion) on Facebook the other week, and that felt productive – I think I’m slowly coming to terms with everything, and working my way through the emotions. It still hurts and is still hard to process, but I’m just trying to let it all be, and settle. (And also still staying away from social media and the book world, really, because that makes it all worse.)

Wytham Woods - the sun coming through beech trees

I found a new series! Another Victoria Goddard, the Greenwing & Dart series – they are wonderful, ridiculous adventures that start small, and end up chaotic! The next one in the series (book 6, Plum Duff) is out this December, so I’m looking forward to curling up with that over Christmas. I also got my hands on the second Scholomance (wheeeeee) and now NEED THE FINAL ONE because what even was that? (Review to come!)

We went for a lovely sunny walk in Wytham Woods – it was an absolutely glorious day! The leaves have started to turn now, and we need to go back.

Beyond that… still grey. Still struggling. Everything’s still just flat. The new medication (c. 4 months now) is working well, in that I have more consistent energy and I’m able to cope, but definitely still Down. But hey ho, we just keep going! I was able to cope well with the wedding (which was lovely, but weddings are Hard!), and I’m hoping the pills will get me through the funeral and Christmas (both very hard things for different reasons) and then we’ll see.

Have a gorgeous sunset, and be kind to yourselves!

Five Happy Things: July 2021

Happy things! Happy things! All of the happy things!

1.Sitting in our neighbour’s garden with a fire globe & wine & fish and chips

We were over near our definitely-not-local fish shop (there is a local one, which isn’t yet open… progress on that is a matter of fierce anticipation for everyone in the area!) and picked up some for our neighbour as well as ourselves – perfect social distancing food, as everyone can just eat out of their own boxes! We had old fence wood to get rid of, too, and so we got to use said neighbour’s fire globe… and the wine, well, you gotta have a glass of something. It was a nice, quiet evening, and was very much a balm to the soul – plus we got some cat company, which is always a pleasure. (The fish may have had something to do with that, I admit!)

2.The weight is lifting…

I’m not doing a whole bunch of stressful admin for an old house (it’s been handed over to a lovely agent, who will definitely be better than me at remembering when to get new certificates for everything, and trying to fix everything that’s gone wrong this month) and it just feels so much better. I’m a bit frustrated at myself that I didn’t ask for help earlier (to be fair, I didn’t realise that I could) but better late than never, I guess.

I also saw some ex-work friends for lunch (which was lovely – I really do miss the people!) and everything’s still generally on fire there, and IT IS NOT MY PROBLEM! It’s such a great feeling. I knew it was all heavy, but didn’t realise quite how much it had dragged me down until it wasn’t any more, and I’m in a job that doesn’t demand my heart&soul and spend every working hour reminding me that however much I do, it will never be enough. I’m still absolutely fucking angry about that whole thing, but I’m also aware that there’s nothing more I can do, and it’ll just drag me down again to be thinking about it – so I’m trying not to. But it is lovely to hear about the rolling chaos and know that I don’t have to give a single fuck any more.

3.Travel? (UK… and further?)

I’ve been booking bits for December – we’re going to Chester – and London in October, and it’s been very satisfying to be able to think about travel again… even if it does get cancelled, which is fine, and we have contingency, but it’s a nice possibility! We’re also thinking about Canada and Antwerp for next year, but that one’s a bit more of a “let’s just see how the next few months go…”

We’re also starting to do more in the local area, too – Otter & I have been trying to find things that are nicely distanced, so we’re going kayaking next week sometime, and hopefully trundling out for some walks that we’ve wanted to try for a bit. Wytham Woods is first on our agenda!

4.The Garden

Having spent the last year or so with zero energy and zero spoons and absolutely no desire to go into our garden (our neighbour’s garden has been the saving grace for getting outside, as they are a keen gardener and so if we wanted beautiful flowers, there’s always something there), I finally have more energy and a desire to do something, and we did a Garden!

We’ve taken out the over-enthusiastic goose grass, put in purple wisteria (not in the same quantities…), added two raised beds, cleared the path, encouraged the tomatoes, planted some more veg, got to the gooseberries before the birds (TAKE THAT, YOU THIEVING BASTARDS – we got TWO last year. TWO!) and some raspberries, took a bunch of old wood over to our neighbour for burning, added some trellis for various things, restrained some rather enthusiastic growers, and generally Tidied.

We’ve got a few more plans, too, which feels nice (and like they might actually get done!) – dig in the path, sort the patio, add some plants to the fence (we have some small flexible plant pots, so we want some climbers/smellies/herbs in the pallet holes), tidy the shed, and sort the compost. But it feels like a nicer area to be in, and that’s really satisfying.

The wild meadow in the centre is growing nicely, too – we put yellow rattle in last autumn to fight back against the grass and that’s flowered nicely this summer, plus there’s been a bunch of other odd things popping up from the wildflowers I scattered in October. The bees are definitely enjoying it!

5.WOE (and also WOE, and more WOE, and have some extra WOE)

There has been the standard amount of very vocal woe from a small black furry Woe Machine, but there have also been purrs – so many purrs! I picked him up the other day and he was just rumbling away in my arms. He’s been DEMANDING cuddles in the morning (me) and evening (my partner) and enjoying belly rubs (!!!!!! – only my partner is brave enough for this, I haven’t dared yet.) In short, he’s being absolutely spoiled rotten, and is enjoying it thoroughly – despite the ever-present wailing and claims that he is Starved and Neglected and How Very Dare We. Dare I say, he is actually quite happy (especially when there are biscuits.)

And generally…

As you can probably hear, I’m doing better; there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not on fire! I’m definitely still grey, and have occasional bad moments, but they’re nothing like as bad as they were. I’m slowly coming out of a pit of no-energy too, but it’s translating at the moment into something that feels almost manic; I’m keeping going and keeping going and somehow it doesn’t really feel like my brain’s involved in that! But if it means I can get out into the garden and not either immediately feel horribly overwhelmed or need to spend a day recovering from the small amount of work I do manage, then I’ll take it.

I have to admit, I’m actually worse with motivation now; I’m able to feel slightly enthusiastic about some things, so it’s making everything that I’m not enthusiastic about that much harder. I’m also still finding people hard; I don’t know what to say! I’m doing my best to keep going and also respond to people who have contacted me, and start to repair some of the missed communication threads, but it’s going to be a slow process. (As one of my ex-colleagues said: you send someone an email, and then they email back – and expect you to reply again?! I already did the email thing!!)

I’m also now having to deal with some Actual Feelings, and that has meant a few breakdowns – the nice thing about not caring is that, y’know, zero fucks, but now… but hey ho, I have coping mechanisms, and I just gotta get the practise in again! It does also mean that I’ve got to actually deal with/work through/get out a bunch of stuff, so that’s going to be fun – especially if this is only the start of everything lifting. But again, if it means I’m actually feeling instead of just being numb, then I’ll take that as progress.

So overall: doing better, and cats.

Death with a kitten. "Cats are nice."
Unfortunately via Pinterest, so no source

Five Happy Things: January 2021

I know it’s February – but have some posthumous January happy things! (I am considering that a very appropriate word, considering that getting through each month in 2020 was… well, a 2020 challenge. I’m bringing the same energy to 2021. Take that, January! We got through you!)

1.Animal Crossing

I had a bit of a frustrating start with Animal Crossing: New Horizons (the learning curve is far too steep for a game that’s meant to be fun) but Otter and Gem trundled along to the island too, and we’ve been planting flowers and catching fish and making snowmen. It’s felt productive and gives me a chance to turn my brain off, which is pretty much the perfect combination in a game at the moment.

Animal Crossing characters wallpaper

2.Therapy

I’ve started therapy sessions with BetterHelp, on the basis that I need to take some sort of productive step forward! (I can rant about TalkingSpace but that’s not a happy thing, so let’s just say that it’s been very much a tick-box exercise so far.) I also, after two sessions with the first assigned BetterHelp therapist, took what I felt was a scary but needed step and changed therapist (that’s another rant) to someone that I hope will suit me better. It was anxiety-inducing, but there’s no point talking to someone that doesn’t quite click… so I’m counting that as a win!

3.Website work

As you may have noticed, Writing&Coe has had a bit of a facelift! Nothing major, but I spent an afternoon updating the theme and hopefully making everything a bit cleaner & simpler. I’ve got some back-end work to do next, just updating SEO and sorting blog posts, but it felt good to be organising that.

4.Bobble-cat

A cat glaring while being scritched
Believe it or not, this is his happy face…

He has decided, over the last month or so, that he has a Schedule. Mornings are lap time (and he may allow me to get tea first, if I’m lucky) and then it’s a combination of yelling, napping on convenient humans, and glaring out of the window at the crows to make sure they’re not Up To Anything. It’s got to the stage where if I sit down on the sofa, he’s right there on my lap – and if I’m not available then he’ll reluctantly take other laps into consideration… or just snooze on his radiator bed, because at least that has the bonus of being a mere three steps from the sofa. It’s such a tough life when you’re sixteen.

(I should add that the yelling is less cute because he’s mostly wanting more food, and as he’d go through his daily biscuit allowance in thirty seconds if we didn’t ration them, the yelling is very rarely productive. This doesn’t seem to have sunk in yet, but then he is a Cat With Opinions… one of which is that he should have All The Biscuits. Debate is ongoing on the matter.)

5.Sending Presents

A picture of colourful iced biscuits in cake & bird shapesThere’s a couple of birthdays coming up, and I’ve also been taking the opportunity to send things out! My current (expensive, but so worth it) favourites are Biscuiteers, because both their biscuits and tins are fab, and they do letterbox-sized packages! There’s also Say It With Brownies, which are made on the Isle of Wight and are AMAZING, and my old favourite Bloom&Wild, who do beautiful flower arrangements and letterbox plants. It’s been a lot of fun choosing things for people, and I’m currently in the middle of arranging a surprise for an upcoming birthday, too – it’s been hard to track down what I want, but I think they’re going to like it!

We’ve also got a serious family discussion going on about getting my father a Horrible Cherub for his birthday. Apparently the last one sadly got given away, so obviously that means he needs another… (mostly joking, but I am tempted to find him one of those wonderfully awful plastic ones, just to see the face he makes!)

 

I’ve also managed to do some reading – review post coming soon!