Friday, 16 April 2021

The Distancing Diairies - 15th & 16th April, 2021


The lids were frosted over when I wheeled them bins out on Thursday morning and the lads were soon back in the house and snuggled up next to Jon, anxious to escape the chill. I did my Wii Fit workout, topped up the bird feeders and, after breakfast, we layered up and ventured into the garden.


Stephen had other ideas.

Jon's plan was to fit some vintage spotlights to Gilbert, a job he'd been putting off for ages as it involved removing the front grille and the dashboard. Anticipating lots of swearing, I grabbed a brush and sat on the patio moving the terracotta pots, cleaning them and stacking them according to size. The sun was deliciously warm and within minutes I'd stripped down to my bare arms. I moved a couple of plants in the borders and planted a few more sempervivums into tiny pots.

In normal times we were always busy shopping for stock, doing vintage fairs most weekends and preparing for the festival season and never had much time to think about the mundane day-to-day tasks. During lockdown, we've had time to reconsider our routines. One of the things that irked me is having to walk across the lawn to get to the compost bins when I empty the kitchen waste caddy, unless it's the height of summer I invariably end up with soggy slippers. A wander around the garden led to a flash of inspiration. Between the laurel bush & the Kinky Shed there's a neglected section where Jon piles up old wood, cardboard & broken car parts (awaiting trips to the tip) along with the endless sacks of bamboo roots we're slowly cramming into the garden waste bin for fortnightly collection. Amongst the rubbish, there are huge clumps of bamboo and brambles. I decided that f I cleared the area I could move the compost bin and access it from the path. As Jon was distracted by Gilbert I got stuck in straight away.

After a break for noodles, we both continued with our respective tasks. By 4pm Gilbert had working spotlights and the dashboard and grill were back in place. 

Meanwhile, I shifted all but a set of spare tyres (which is on Jon's Friday to-do list), moved the bagged garden waste further down the path, cut back the laurel, pulled up the brambles and hacked down half the bamboo. 


Tea was veggie non-meatballs with spaghetti and Jon's homemade tomato sauce. Later we watched more of Waking the Dead.

Friday got off to another bitterly cold, frosty start. I booked next week's National Trust visit and wrapped my eBay sales before my last Wii Fit workout of the week. After breakfast, Jon did the post office and supermarket run. I did a load of washing, pegged it out on the line and continued with my garden clearing.

No bare arms today, I kept my camo jacket on all day. Underneath I'm wearing a vintage 1960s Van Allen printed cotton maxi dress bought from eBay 20 years ago (I've also got it in blue).


Once Jon was back he wheeled the tyres further up the garden and did the heavier clearing.



 After a break for a Roquefort & salad sandwich I pulled the bamboo up from the cracks between the pavers and Jon trimmed the bamboo down to ground level before completing another Gilbert-related task, attaching the stickers he'd bought from eBay. 


I moved the compost bin and the water butt into the cleared area and did a happy dance. No more soggy slippers!

After I'd cleared up I had another look at the family tree. The main reason for starting it was to find out more about my Dad's parents, who I never knew. I find it amazing to think that they were Victorians! My grandfather, John Brearley (1889- 1966) died three days after I was born and was, like generations of his family before him, a Staffordshire coal miner. I've traced his side of the tree back to my 7 x great-grandfather, Thomas Brearley (b. 20th December 1560), from Oldham in Lancashire (I've always assumed my surname hailed from the North, I was right!) The family were living in Rochdale until the mid-1700s and had moved to Staffordshire by the end of the century. Dad's mother, Ethel (1894 - 1962) was also from a Staffordshire coal-mining family. According to the 1901 census she and her two siblings (Albert, 8 and Edith, 5) were living in Great Wyrley in Staffordshire with her father, Josiah Dawkins (1869 - 1911) and her parental grandparents. Josiah was listed as a widower and I've tried and failed to find any record of his wife (my great-grandmother). 

Great Wyrley Colliery


Attached to his details on Ancestry.com was this entry taken from the UK Coal Mining & Deaths Index, in December 1911. Josiah was 43 years old. 

Deceased, when turning over a piece of rock, pinched the little finger of his right hand between the rock and the side of a tub he was filling. He continued his shift, and worked two more shifts, but his finger became worse, and on the 15th December he was sent to the hospital where he died the same day from blood-poisoning. 

Albert Ernest Dawkins, Ethel's older brother, served as a private in the South Staffordshire Regiment and was killed in action on 25th September 1915 at the age of 22. He is commemorated at Loos Memorial at the Dud Corner Cemetery, Loos-en-Gohelle, Departement du Pas-de-Calais in France, one of over 20,000 officers and men who have no known grave, who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay. Coal mining was a scheduled occupation during WWI and workers were exempt from enlisting. Ethel's brother is listed in the 1911 census as being a coal miner horse driver so he must have volunteered to fight for his country, no doubt influenced by his father's untimely death. 

I'd never heard of my great-uncle, the young man who fell in the Great War. My Dad was christened Norman Ernest but called Ernie since childhood, I wonder if my great uncle was also known as Ernie and that Dad was named after him?

I'd never seen a photo of my grandmother but after Dad died I found this photo amongst his many albums and can only assume it was her. What a sad start to her life, growing up without a mother, losing her Dad in an industrial accident at 17 and her brother to The Great War at 21. I hope marriage to John in 1919 and her four children brought her some happiness. 

The Brearley children: Edgar (1920 - ?), Iris (1924 - 1980), Martha, known as Betty, (1925 - ?) and my dad, Ernie (1929 - 2015)


Tea was a nut roast with mushy peas and jacket wedges accompanied by a glass of wine. We'll be cracking open the rum in a bit and watching Gardeners' World. 

See you soon!

61 comments:

  1. The pandemic sure is a time to look at each aspect of life to make it better - by moving your bin to where it works better is such an example. Hubby spray painted our old furniture set (the original one, not the one we bought last summer) to get rid of the rust and fading and it looks like new set up next to our new one. Next up: flower planting! Your flowers are already looking so lovely

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    1. It really had been a period of reconsidering and reassessing, from careers (several friends) to me moving the bin to stop my feet getting wet when I empty it!
      Isn't it amazing how much difference a lick of paint can make to garden furniture? xxx

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  2. Hi there Vix, long time no comment!! I've been following your blog posts with much pleasure as usual, just haven't got round to posting a comment. We're loving living outside the city, getting back to my roots. My sister sadly passed away in February, she'd had a very aggressive form of leukaemia for the past year. It has been a very sad time and reading your wonderful posts has helped me get through these dark days. She had such a love for life that I know she would want us to make the most of ours. I love following your research into your ancestry, it's amazing what you find when you go back a few generations! Sending you lots of love from nearby Barcelona, hope you have a lovely weekend!! xxx

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    1. Hello Diana. I was only thinking of you the other day and up pops a comment. I'm so very sorry to hear about your sister, its very hard to pick yourself up after such a sad loss. I hope living outside the city and getting back to your roots is giving you some solace.
      I was watching a travel programme where the presenter visited Barcelona and Sitges at the weekend and I was thinking it had been far too long since I'd visited - maybe when all this craziness has gone away we can. Sending lots of love. xxx

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  3. You two sure are productive, and the garden is really coming along beautifully. Love the new stickers Jon got lol. Of course you look beautiful as always. Have a fantastic weekend Vix! XXX

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  4. I tend to put my extra free time from not commuting and working form home into working more hours for my paid job-not the best but someday I'll write more about what I actually do and people might understand why during the pandemic I worked so many hours. What I need to do is be more productive in time that would have been out having fun instead of too much TV streaming. I really have your terracotta pot envy! Searching for interesting or clay pots is on my ever present to do, but now that I think winter has to be behind us, that is job one this weekend. The family ancestry is so interesting. To think, some day we will be part of someone else's historical search.

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    1. You are so dedicated to your job, Sam. I sincerely hope all this harde work is appreciated.
      I love my TV but limit it to a few hours in the evening. Nothing gives me more joy that being outside in the warmth and getting filthy digging up things! xxx

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  5. Wow, hugely impressed with your compiost bin relocation. Next time someone says I do too much in the garden I will send them to yours and point out that you do it all whilst looking beautiful and stylish whereas I look like I have been dressed in castoffs from Steptoe & Sons!

    Thank you for a wonderful laugh . . . I was scrolling down, admiring Gilbert, when I realised he was a Devon. So is Bill - but Gilbert is a "proper" Devon made in Sidmouth, whereas mine is a young pretender. Anyway, that first sticker is a joy and I am off to eBay where I hope I can find one just as nice. Bill can actually be quite speedy when she wants to, but I much prefer to pootle along at a more sedate pace.

    That nut roast looks a bit tasty. Morrisons again?

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    1. Compared to your amazing productivity I'm a sloth in comparison!
      Bill looks very snazzy despite him being a young pretender. I bet he's all self-contained, too unlike Gilbert so we can't use him for overnight stays until restrictions are lifted - boo! xxx
      PS Yes, that was a Mozza's nut roast, their veggie selection is fab.

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  6. Oh my fancy your family coming from Rochdale where I was born. I went to school with a Christine Brearley. Sadly she died a few years ago. I wonder if she was related to you. I went down to Rochdale for the first time in well over a year and I won’t be going again. Well at least not to the old shopping area. It’s absolutely horrible. So many shops closed down, a full centre closed and as for the people. All I can say is I couldn’t get out quick enough. I’m afraid for the traditional Rochdalians it’s had its day. What a bloody mess the planning and council have made of it. It’ll be Todmorden and Bacup from now on for us.
    Like you we are arranging the garden so that we utilise it better. The house is getting the same treatment.
    I chuckled at Jon’s signs for Gilbert. The new lights look great.
    Have a lovely weekend.xxx

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    1. I thought you'd like the Rochdale connection. When I was growing up we were the only Brearleys in the phone book and we'd always get prank phonecalls asking for Amos! I remember visiting a friend when she was at Leeds Uni and being amazed at all the Brearleys in their phone book!
      I think Rochdale and Walsall are very similar. Over the years the big names have moved to the out of town shopping centres leaving the town centre virtually derelict and since the pandemic started all the ne-er do wells have taken it over. I'm already dreading going to the hairdresser on Friday! xx

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  7. Love the maxi dress and the garden looks so good.

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  8. Well done on improving and moving your recycling station, Vix! We have to take our compostables out to the bin in the rear of our building, so still a trek (and yes, I've done it in my slippers!). Love that glorious Van Allen dress! The cats are so sweet - getting whatever sun they can, right?

    Bravo, Jon, on Gilbert's very spiffy spots, and LOL at your bumper stickers!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. It's those little things that make life that bit better! xxx

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  9. Gilbert's looking fine and I like the inscriptions on him- wait until we get up hill and if it was supposed to be quick, it wouldn't be shaped like a brick. Funny :) You've been busy yourself, great you cleared up your path to the recycling station. Back when I had a garden, I remember that I made a pathway out of stones so that I wouldn't have to get dirt on my slippers when I would take the laundry to dry.

    That vintage maxi Val Allen dress is fabulous (so cool you have it in another colour) and I like the camo jacket you wore with it. The lads are fabulous as always.

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    1. There's nothing worse that gribby slippers! xxx

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  10. It's nice you managed to find more about your father's side of the family. The lives our grandparents and great grandparents had were not easy with the WW1 and WW2. I met both of grandmothers so I heard a lot of family history from them, but I only knew one grandfather and he died when I was still a kid too. A large part of my family were and are still immigrants so I have never known many of my relatives.

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    1. You were lucky to hear some family history first hand - my grandma used to speak of her childhood a lot, if only I'd written it down! xxx

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  11. Vix, I am a newcomer to your blog, so I still haven't figured out what kind of noodles you and your husband normally eat for lunch. Thai noodles? Ramen noodles? Spaghetti noodles? Did you begin eating them daily as a way to forestall decision fatigue when it comes to meal planning? Inquiring minds, etc.! I'm truly enjoying your blog and your and Jon's industry. You get more done in a day than some of us manage in a week!

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, Tess. As I wrote in my more recent post , they're packets of spicy Chinese noodles, Jon occasioanlly has Thai chilli ones but as a Veggie I don't! xxx

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  12. Love those stickers! Jon did well fitting those lamps,Paul said they can be a nightmare to fit. The garden is looking good, ours gets started on in a couple of weeks, the guys were in again going over the plans . I have asked them not to move milos tree and the kids wormery as they is their pride and joy, and the pond has to stay were it is.
    So they mark the areas with big red crosses so they know not to touch them.
    I think covid has changed everyone’s mindset except the stubborn few! My mum didn’t want lockdown to end and she feels sad that it has now.
    Love that vintage dress. Take care and keep safe

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    1. Paul's right, those lamps were a bit of a mare - that's why I went and hid behind the shed all day!
      It's very exciting that you've got professionals in your garden. You definitely can't lose that wormery or Milo's favourite tree.
      You're right, Covid has caused most people to change their ways, from little tweaks to make life simplier to epic changes like packing in jobs and starting something new. A tiny positive out of all the tragedy. xxx

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  13. Poor Josia died young by our standards and of such a minor, avoidable thing - medicine must have been so limited in those days - I am surprised Ancestry has so much detail, you are gathering up a wonderful and colourful family history. The new compost area looks great, that must have been hard work and Jon's stickers should stop tailgaters :) I like the Van Allen dress, I used to shop at the Kingston branch as a teenager and bought my first coat there when I started working, they were affordable and quality :)

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    1. Isn't it a sad story? I bet he couldn't afford to take time off work to visit a hospital being the father of three motherless children and supporting his parents. What a miserable existence.
      Van Allen was such a cool shop. I used to spend my pocket money in their accesories department, Baggage & general. I still have a pair of mittens on a string i bought there! xxx

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  14. well done cleaning up that corner and making place for more comfort in the daily tasks!!
    our (open, pallet) compost is in the most far corner of the garden so i need to change shoes anyway........in snowy winters like the last to high boots.
    the sleeping boys are to cute for words <3
    we need such signs for our van too - but in german - i fear the wannabee racing driver here have not much clue of english ;-P
    how fascinating the family research is - and sad sometimes. we really live in good times compared to over 100 years ago were you died from a pinched finger or be one of 20 million (!) soldiers and civilists that died in the WWI........
    mankind should be wiser by now.

    i do envy your mild climate this month - it only started yesterday to s l i g h t l y warm up a little bit! wile waiting i do enjoy your flowers and bright dress!
    xxxxx

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    1. I keep suggesting to Jon that we build on eof those open pallet composting bins - I might start seraching through the wood pile and see if we've got anything suitabel - a strucure for leaf mould would be good, too!
      The boy racers don't have a lot of patience with Gilbert either.
      Life as a miner must have been very grim. I bet the great-uncle who died in the war felt more alive fighting in France than he ever did toiling in a coalmine. xxx

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  15. happy Sat. morning Vix, I know what you mean about frost the garden was white first thing this morning. I am scrolling through a certain blogger I know's posts to get ideas of what I want in the new garden (hmm who could that be) I like the look of several of your plants and love the Candy tuft from a few posts back. I love Jon's stickers they made me giggle and you as always look good gardening. I am loving your family tree. I had a great uncle who fell in WW1 my hubster and his mate went over to France on a day trip and found his grave. I have a photo I treasure of my great grandmother with her family. What that poor women went through losing sons in a war like many did. I am SO impressed with the clearing job you did - no more soggy slippers for you - well done. have a great week-end full of plants and sunshineShazxx

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    1. These days fly by, Shaz! I can't believe I'm answering this on Tuesday and it looks like another glorious start to the day. Candytuft is amazing, I can't even remember planting mine and it comes back year in and year out.
      That was a lovely thing to sdo, visiting your fallen Great Uncle's grave. xxx

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  16. You have a very fine terracotta pot collection Vix. I love those lovely old names Josiah (poor him to die of blood poisoning so young) and Ethel. You are very lucky to have so many old family photographs. I don't know who has them all in our sprawling family, if they indeed exist at all. Gilbert is looking very handsome with his new stickers. Lulu xXx

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    1. It's a ridiculously large terracotta pot collection but I'm hoping I'll be able to use a lot of them soon - gernamiums await!
      I ended up as custodian of the old family photos as there's only me and my brother (he had Dad's slides). I ended up being ruthless and just keeping the most interesting looking people! xxx

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  17. I love the relocated compost bin. Looks so neat!!! I wish I had taken the one with a hatch when I got our one. I like Gilbert's stickers.
    The Van Allen dress is really nice. I almost bought a vintage C&A dagger collar shirt in the charity shop this morning! Great to hear about the family update!

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    1. It's much better having the compost bin near the house, it always feels like a bit of a trial to empty it when it's cold and wet!
      Oh C&A! Their stuff was always decent quality! xxx

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  18. After a stressful week away involving a funeral and a long awaited care home visit, it's good to be home and reading of your calm and garden focused week is a tonic. You made a good job of your compost bin area and I love Gilbert's stickers.
    I've been looking through lots of old family photos and wondering who some people are. Its fascinating isn't it? You have a Northern branch of the family :) xxx

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    1. Oh dear, that sounds like a stressful week, Sally. Wonderful that you were able to finally visit the care home but the funeral, especially in these days of social distancing and restricted numbers, must have been very sad.
      This ancestry lark is utterly fascinated. I don't know where to start when I share Jon's family tree! xxx

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  19. As always, your industry is inspiring : ) Anyhow - not to make it weird - being extremely light on family myself, family history and photos fascinate me. in a spirit of completely normal curiosity, found out something about your surname that you probably already know: "Of all the Anglo-Saxon names to come from Britain, Brearley is one of the most ancient." https://www.houseofnames.com/brearley-family-crest#:~:text=Of%20all%20the%20Anglo-Saxon,Felkirk%2C%20West%20Riding%2C%20Yorkshire.

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    1. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that link, Elizabeth. I had no idea of our Ango-Saxon roots. xxx

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  20. Oh my, your collection of terracotta pots certainly beats mine. Most of mine were gifted to Jos by the lady who lived in the neighbouring house to his place of work many years ago. One day, he arrived home with a boot full of them. I don't think I've even used half of them, but it's good to know they are there. Also, I love to see them all stacked up!
    Well done on clearing that area to ensure there will be no more soggy slippers! Frank's choice of place for a nap made me giggle, as did Gilbert's stickers!
    Your family history continues to fascinate me, and fancy your family originating from Lynn's neck of the woods. I was lucky to have known both sets of grandparents, although my Mum's side of the family continues to mystify me to this day. I have boxes full of photographs but no way of knowing who, what or when. And there's no-one left to shed any light either! xxx

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    1. There's something so lovely and honest about terracotta pots. Mine came from an outbuilding at the parental home. The lady who originally owned The Cottage employed a number of gardeners back in the day and it must have been quite amazing.
      You ought to have a look at one of ancestry websites, I'm amazed how far I've gone back particularly on Jon's side where he didn't even know his parent's dates of birth - his family tree is starting to look like Wolf Hall! xxx

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  21. Those to do list, seems to be never ending. I rather be busy than not.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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    1. Me, too! I always have a to-do list on the go. x

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  22. I really enjoyed reading about your family history. There are miners on both sides of my family tree too and the record of Josiah's death is heartbreaking. Antibiotics were such a miracle discovery. I laughed out loud at your stickers. We have just bought a couple for our vintage caravan. Gilbert is wonderful!

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    1. Lovely to meet you! A couple of our friends have vintage caravans, I love them. xxx

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  23. I had to have a look for your Dawkins family. There on the marriage index is a possibility of marriage to either Ann Maria Firkin or Eliza Martin. Then on one of the birth records Staffordshire BMD 1837 - 2017 has just the surname Martin for the mother of Albert Ernest Dawkins in 1893. So it would seem Eliza Martin is your great grandmother

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    1. I can't believe you found my poor great-grandma. I'm so grateful to you, I felt so sad that she'd disapeared without a trace. xxx

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  24. There is an Eliza Dawkins buried 9 Aug 1899 at Wednesfield St Thomas. Last residence Wednesfield. Age 25. Edith's birth also has the surname Martin for the mother's name. Hope this helps

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    1. You are an absolute marvel, Amanda! xxx

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  25. You did a great job relocating your compost bin. Mine is at the bottom of the garden but with it being the size of a postage stamp, that doesn't really cause too much of a problem :)
    Love the stickers on Gilbert. X

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    1. I sometimnes wish our garden was the size of a postage stamp! xxx

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  26. Your absorption in your own world is lovely to share, Vix. I'm similarly just enjoying the things that make our own world at home go around. I feel that I've never been more aware (and self-aware) than I have during Covid. Much to feel blessed about.

    In less spiritual news - I have tasked myself to do the ultimate wardrobe sort-out and am slowly trying on everything I own. Ye Gawds.

    I have discovered that I'm buying clothes that are too big. Some favourites HAVE become too big. If I want to keep them - then I'm going to have to step up my alteration skills or find someone to alter clothes for me. Conversely I also have clothes that are TINY (I lost a savage amount of weight in my late teens) - selected vintage highlights are going in a 'memory trunk' with my wedding dress!

    I need a set of Gilbert's stickers lol - I'm built for comfort - not for speed, and my wonky walking/fatigue issues often cause much tutting LMAO!!

    We recently unearthed two giant bags of CDs in the cellar (it's pump service time) and have spent the weekend both rediscovering old favourites and shuddering lol.

    My Mum is very slowy adjusting to being back at home - but it is hard - for her mostly, but for us too. We'll all get there in the end :)

    Thank you for sharing all of the good stuff Vix - take care all. Maryland - I'm still sending big love to you even if I don't make the comments as often xx





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    1. You're so right, Eliane. If nothing, this last year has taught us to apprciate what we have already and to take joy in every little thing we're able to do.
      I'm so impressed with your wardrobe discoveries, keeping a truck of your precious things and contemplating some serious tailoring. I bet, like us, you've got some good indie tailors and seamstresses in your town, I'm amazed at how reasonable the prices are and, when you love your clothes, I'd far rather pay for an alteration on something I treasure rather than just acquiring an unsatisfactory substitute.
      Brilliant news about you Mum being at home but, goodness me, it must be a upheaval and a big adjustment. It's easy to lose your confidence when you've been living in care and have to re-learn all those once simple tasks.
      I'm off to enjoy this glorious morning. Broken fingernails, bruises, scratches and ingrained dirt, I love gardening! xxx

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  27. Well done you for clearing out the space for the bin! Those are excellent stickers Jon got for Gilbert. Poor Josiah, dying from pinching his finger between a rock and the side of the tub - something that I assume would be easily prevented today.

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    1. The bad old days before a free health service and the prospect of losing your job by missing a shift to go to hospital, how glad I am to have been born when I was. xxx

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  28. I do enjoy these blogs. Love the photos. You certainly put some hard work into your garden. Nothing like having dry slippers. ❤️

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    1. Thanks, Sally! I hate soggy slippers! xxx

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  29. Lovely to see your gardening, and the fab pots and plants you're growing. And you're looking so fabulous in your bare-arms outfit in red color!, enjoying the sunshine. Also fab in your cotton dress and camo jacket, love some mixed prints!, rocking it!.
    Totally amazed by your family tree and all the search you've done. Really interesting ancestors, I think that these informations add some perspective on our own life, it opens the mind.
    besos

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  30. Everyone's remarks about identifying old photos has struck a nerve. May I heartily recommend anyone with elderly relatives invest an afternoon in sorting through albums and photo boxes together, archival pen at the ready. If all else fails, write where the image was found, your own information and the date: as facial recognition technology improves, miracles may occur. There's also the hope that a tree, building or even a dog, might be identified by a distant relative who owns the "other photos taken that day". Our local historical society has achieved results by inviting the public to examine orphaned photos.
    And if the family budget ran to oil paintings, do note the sitter's bio on the back. Ancestors without names tend to lend a "haunting" presence as their faces drift from over the mantel to the stair hall to the back hall to the thrift shoppe...

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  31. Brilliant job relocating the compost bin, you did work hard ... and yes no more soggy slippers will be your reward :-)

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  32. must admit this week has been a move the bins week , we have 4 big wheelie bins so i decided to move them to the top of the garden nearest the gate . Other half decided to chip his moaning comments in about it being further to walk , but he never ever recycles or puts anything in the bin because he cant walk on his crutches and carry stuff. However i can once ive finished put the bins out myself because they dont have to be dragged miles across the grass.....seems perfectly logical to me

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  33. You and Jon are so industrious!

    It's fascinating seeing those photos and getting little glimpses of people's lives. Dead from an injured finger, that 100 years later could be cured with antibiotics... it's a sobering thought.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix