For every yan there’s a yin

A recent survey showed that people don’t need forests or even gardens to be happy because we can garden indoors too. It’s being surrounded by plants that makes us happy, particularly if we’ve nurtured those plants, especially from seed.

There are few council houses left with gardens that weren’t purchased by tenants during and after the Thatcher era. And it’s even more rare to have 2 gardens for a wee 1 bedroom granny house. But Highland towns have low density populations so why not? A front garden with a low fence to give you some distance from the neighbours opposite, and a back garden with a 5 foot fence that you can do what you want in.

When you absorb yourself in new life, the madness of human society affects your mood far less.

It’s not that I don’t care that Madeleine McCann and George Floyd were murdered. Or that the UK has the highest rate of corona virus deaths in Europe. Or that Boris Johnson relaxed the lockdown too early so the R number is now almost 1 in England now. Or that Trump is a sick, unstable man who threatens to plunge the USA into civil war.

I’m still paying attention.

I still care.

And I don’t take any of it personally.

Because I have gardens to refresh my mind.

A yin to the yan.

And a constantly refreshed mind doesn’t dwell on negativity.

Happy gardening and thanks for reading and looking at my work, below.

One chair is plenty

I redecorated the lounge this week, from dark grey and red to light grey and aubergine. You’ll notice from the photo I have only one chair.

Wouldn’t a corner sofa be lovely there? Yes but a great expense for just one person to sit on. So I’ll wait until I have a visitor.

It could be a long wait. This is only the first wave of one virus. Even if we find a vaccine for one strain of coronavirus, another strain or new virus could come along after it.

With the prospect of being in my minimalist cave all on my own, potentially for years, I bought something else. Something alive that my dog won’t feel threatened by. Something I’ve always wanted.

A bonsai tree. Will post a photo when it arrives.

So my house mates are a dog, a tree and a plant.

Don’t ease the lockdown

If the UK relaxes restrictions now, the R number will be over 1 within a matter of days.

It only took 4 days for that to happen in Germany.

I do appreciate the view that we do, at some point, have to expose ourselves to the virus to build up herd immunity. But it’s too early for that as we’re still building our testing capacity, still don’t have antibody tests available, and some people are still learning what 2 metres looks like.

So whatever anyone else is doing, I’ll be remaining in lockdown until June at the earliest.

What are your thoughts, from whatever country you’re in?

Bits n bobs

No major project this week but stayed occupied doing bits n bobs round home and garden.I coloured some rainbows and put them on the windows. If the kids can do it, I can too.After a month I’ve received all the decorating materials I need for the lounge so that’ll be next week’s project.The old rockery that was nothing more than a seagull nest is now gone. Before…And now…The grass is greener after feeding and raking. I put grass seeds in the bare soil circle and will see if they sprout.For now I’m just letting the gardens grow while I focus on indoor beautification for the rest of May.Having a sense of purpose is great and is as important as sleep in maintaining wellbeing.What’s your sense of purpose? Are you also doing home improvement?Please feel free to leave a comment.

Wonderful weekend

I rarely work hard but, when I do, it makes the weekend wonderful.

This week I swapped gardening for glossing doors and skirting boards. A lick of brilliant white over yellowy brown makes my home look new.

Gloss releases stinky toxic fumes so as well as feeling tired and unable to shower daily, the back door and windows have been open and the heating up full blast. Inhaling the fumes made me feel nauseous so I stopped glossing on Thursday to enjoy a relaxing fume free weekend.

I still have 3 door frames to paint and to emulsion the lounge but that’s a job for week after next. Next week I’ll get back to gardening and inhaling fresh air. It’s been a decade since I decorated and I forgot how much hard work is involved in living with paint fumes as well as the arm work and balancing on ladders.

I stick to working Monday to Friday afternoons and resting at weekends, not because I have to – my work is unpaid – but to maintain a balance of work, rest and play even while unemployed.

I’m expert at handling unemployment well because I’ve had to do it for a long time. The first few years were hard and I was often restless and depressed. I didn’t help myself by drinking to alleviate boredom. Actually, alcohol just increases the sense of boredom because when you’re not drinking you ask, ‘What now?’ Alcohol also diminishes your ability to find joy in simple things and can get you into a living for the weekend mentality. And the longer it goes on, the bigger your weekend becomes. You might only drink on Friday or Saturday nights but this can easily become Thursday to Sunday. So then you’re drinking for 4 days and feeling shit for the other 3. That’s a drink problem which, if established in habit over months and years, causes mental and relationship breakdowns. It can also lead to bipolar disorder, which happened in my case.

Am I not bipolar now that I rarely drink? No, because I’m now dependent on meds for my mood balance and reducing or stopping them is difficult and takes years.

I am now on a third of the dose I started on 2 years ago because I’m no longer in poverty or homelessness or alcoholism. Having a decent income allows you to do projects like gardening or decorating.

Those struggling on universal credit, especially for the first time, will be finding this situation very hard. Their mental health will be strongly challenged and it’s understandable that some will turn to drink to pass what feels like a long and unbearable time.

But drinking while unemployed is the prime example of the devil making work of idle hands. And you will suffer more in the long term.

So if you want to stay well during this crisis, which won’t be over until a vaccine is found, then find another hobby. Because long term unemployment plus drink leads to criminality, psychiatric services or early death. Not to mention a train wreck of a life.

Yes, I recovered, but I regret the lost relationships with my daughter and mum as a result of all that pain I drank in my 40s when life got harder. I had to lose everything but my life to learn to stop self harming through drink.

I still self harm through smoking despite the threat of a respiratory virus.

Because I’m still an idiot.

A contented idiot.

Thanks for reading. I’ll spare you the excitement of a glossed door photo.

A year of social distancing

It comes as no surprise that we’ll be social distancing to the end of the year. When wee Nicola, First Minister of Scotland, made the announcement I decided to broaden my horizons beyond gardening to include cooking, decorating and socialising with wine once a week with my neighbour over our garden fence, 2 metres apart.

The wine idea isn’t going to work out. I haven’t had a drink for a month and have felt well. After 3 glasses last night I woke up this morning feeling crap. So I’ve opted for colouring rainbows at weekends.

I’ve been eating ready meals for years but I now have a gas hob and a Monday delivery of pots etc. I made a start with making stock yesterday. Today I’m doing cauliflower cheese and on Monday I can make Delia’s potato, leek and onion soup. Next weekend I’ll do a Sunday roast to share with my neighbour.

I can’t get emulsion in the colours I want until Dulux return to work so the decorating project will start next week with glossing some doors.

The back garden is planted up so it’s just a case of tending to the plants now and focusing on the front garden.

The messy rockery out front is now weed free. Here it is before…

And after…

I fed the lawn with miracle grow 4 in 1 feed and weed/moss killer. I’m doubtful that this will get all the dandelions under control but we’ll see. I keep forgetting to not tread on the lawn with feet, or paws, so the front garden is now out of bounds for a week which means I won’t see anyone for a week.

I can always take a dog walk if I want to look at people. With fewer people around I take more notice of those who pass by. I consciously observe how everyone is so unique as individuals. So there’s no such thing as ‘strange’ any more.

What seemed a strange way of connecting a month ago when we began social distancing is now our new norm.

Our species came to dominate Earth owing to our capacity for adapting to changing circumstances. That dominion is now being challenged by invisible creatures who are just as good at adapting as we are.

The solution is to accept this challenge and adapt more. Those who struggle with acceptance of change and uncertainty will find this year painful and their mental health will suffer. Adaptation is a key skill in surviving and thriving.

Own it and hone it.

A month of lockdown

What have you achieved in this month of living differently?

I now have a nice decking area…

And have planted seeds in my raised bed…

… although it may not come to much as the bed faces north east and I’m still waiting on a poly tunnel to put over it. Planting out seeds in April is fine for most of the UK but I learned that Highland seed planting is best in May, if uncovered. Oh well, it’s an experiment. If nothing is forthcoming after a month I will try again. With any new garden everything is experimental.

I weeded the sides of the front garden so I now have borders. My next project is to remove the ugly rockery.

Which will leave an ugly hole in the lawn so I can’t start that until the lawn seed arrives.

I haven’t drank alcohol or coffee in a month. I tried to stop smoking and lasted 42 hours.

Indoors, I’ve been reading and watching TV. I need more things to do…

How are you getting on?

Week 3 of partial lockdown

While not in total lockdown, I’m only going for a walk once a week. If you’re out every day, you should consider today’s scientific predictions that the UK will experience the worst crisis in Europe and that South Koreans who’ve had the virus are getting sick again as the virus moves into second and third waves. I don’t think we’ll be out of the woods until 2021 at least.

The border is now restored in my front garden. The weed-strewn turf I dug up filled my garden bin, a half dozen black bags and the rest created a compost heap in my back garden. Apparently, if I leave this heap for a year, I’ll have John Innes style compost which is made of loam (a fancy word for soil).

I can’t do any more gardening until the bin is emptied and I’ve received supplies. I await compost, bark and climbing Clematis plants to start growing in my back garden. I wanted veg seeds but these are hard to come by, as many are already Digging for Britain.

If I want to fix my ugly lawn I’ll need a rake, lawn seed, lawn compost and a large watering can. I’m hesitant to spend money at this time but a rake and watering can are gardening essentials so I will stop hesitating and order them now.

Stay home, stay occupied, stay positive and if news makes you depressed stop watching it. I’m only watching Scottish news now and listening to Radio 4. I find news more palatable without heart wrenching images.

Week 2 of partial lockdown

While dog owners without gardens are in the unenviable position of having to walk their dog twice a day, the gardens at my new home allow me to limit dog walking to once a week.

On Monday we took a stroll to the beach. These photos were taken in January when I visited the house that is now my permanent home. There were more people on the beach on Monday than there was on that January day when I took the photo.

On Monday I counted 25 people along the whole stretch of the beach. But the path to the beach is narrow and I felt anxious about being only 2 metres from others who were passing.

I also feel anxious at the Co op where it’s not possible to stay 2 metres distance from staff stacking shelves. And there’s a lot of shelf stacking going on, except in the bog roll section which is always empty, as staff are keeping the loo roll in the back of the shop so that you have to ask for it.

Living in a small Highland town means it’s impossible to get a delivery slot now, so I wait until the fridge and cupboard is bare before I don my N95 face mask for a nervous and sweaty trip to the Co op. This mask is basically a dust protector. It won’t prevent me from contracting Covid-19 but it will protect others if I cough.

After 2 weeks of living here, I finally signed my tenancy agreement by email. It’ll likely take 2 months for the housing benefit application to arrive as I’m guessing that at least half of the population will be attempting to claim it.

The decorating plan has been shelved as Dulux, the only company who stock the emulsion colours I like, are closed. I’ve ordered gloss which may or may not be delivered next month. But there’s still plenty of weeding to be done in the overgrown garden.

Given the problems I’ve had getting anything delivered, I didn’t even bother to look for seed compost. I sifted the clumpy garden soil by hand to plant seeds I found in the shed. Whether the onion, parsley, dill or nasturtiums will sprout remains to be seen.

The floors are swept, kitchen disinfected and laundry done. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to hang laundry outdoors. I don’t want fabric conditioner as the wind irons out the creases and leaves my clothes smelling of my favourite scent – fresh air.

After a cold week we are into double temperature figures, so it’s time to continue weeding.

The neighbours have asked me to trim my bush which is protruding onto the communal path. I’ve no shears so they’ve offered me theirs.

Best get out of my jammies then and get on with it.

Hope everyone is keeping well.

Week 1 of partial lockdown

Moved home a week ago. Don’t want broadband. Using mobile data for a weekly post. Have plenty of gardening and decorating to stay occupied.

Tango is very happy to have a garden. I’m very happy in social isolation except for occasional visit to shop, only when necessary. We have all we need and more. My routine is relax morning and evening, and use afternoons to be active and creative. Don’t miss people. Grateful for the peace and quiet and for physical and emotional wellness.

Reading ‘Hings’ by Chris McQueer. Listening to Radio 3. Watching Scottish and Channel 4 News in evening.

Here’s some photos…