Strange Things on the Shelf

Twas the night before Glastonbury, and all through the house… people are gone.  The cat lies mournfully with an entire bedroom to herself and my phone is alive with stressed messages from family, friends and colleagues. They are all preparing to dance in the fields of excess, with crowds, heatstroke, mud fever, cocktails, and far too much fun. It’s quiet and sensible here. What to do with all that ‘not going to Glastonbury’ free time?  Step out and admire the flowers? No, better than that. Let’s clean the cupboard under the sink.

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How Chickens Kill Time

Sitting out in the sun and ‘Doing Nothing’ is a bit like yoga, filing a tax return, or defrosting a freezer, because you have to commit time, and stick at it. Don’t bring your list of things to do, because you might forget you are forcing yourself to do nothing and start doing the things. Slow down, maybe read a bit, watch clouds and notice whatever is around. Here it might be swallows skimming the sky for flies, the cat stalking a moth, or the chickens chasing a butterfly. Those chickens. What do they actually do all day?

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What Happens when Covid gets into the House

It is like a degree course. Over two years we have studied: transmission and prevention, inequality and infection rates, compared lock down models worldwide, debated the politics of PPE and parties, considered mutations, T cells and antivirals, taken modules on mental health, isolation, mass grief, and changing attitudes to work. Finally, it was our turn for the third year practical assignment. ‘ A moderate dose for everyone in the house.’  Phew. Lucky to get the moderate one.

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When Wine is NOT a Present

Daffodils, a symbol of new beginnings, and a reminder of the first spring lockdown. Key workers carried on while some of us got to clap helpfully, and maybe volunteer, or just panic buy wine to fuel our anxiety. Supermarket deliveries were fully booked, so that meant subscribing to wine companies. If that was you, read this and learn.

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When Hoarding is Not a Bad Thing

Dear ancestors, Why did you hoard all this stuff? Bunch of sneaks. How did you squirrel it away upstairs? The letters, diaries, and tiny brown photos of strangers whimper when you open a drawer. ‘Don’t throw us out, we made it this far, we might be special’. The scrapbook at the back is silent. Who put it there? What’s in it?

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How to Ask the Right Questions about Decluttering

Snowdrops symbolise innocence, the quality that lets you declare a grand plan that will never happen. Announcing you will Feng Shui one corner a week for example. One year later you will discover that you didn’t do it. Now what? Have a word with the clutter, ask the right questions, and work out why it is still here. 

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Jobs to do in the Garden in Winter

The relentless grey skies are lighter this week. Time to step outside and watch the cat get stuck up a tree, maybe waste hours trying to get her down with ladders and treats. Or, leave her up there, and follow this list of exciting things to do.

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How to Enjoy January

According to Wiccan beliefs, a geranium near your front door is useful for warning you when strangers are approaching. Oh, the wonders of Google. Is the geranium going to bark like a dog?

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The Hidden Dangers of Board Games

It is not a good idea to lock a large family of adults in together for several days over the holidays. Especially when the weather is bad, daylight is minimal, alcohol is plentiful, and everybody is nursing their own version of whatever mental illness they got from 2 years of the pandemic. That is why you need board games. They help to channel behaviour by forcing people to do things, and they are Fun until they are not.

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How to make a Christmas Crib

The Ancestors were keen on Cribs. A special birth was re-created in a new setting every Christmas, and the decoration box here is littered with scratched and dented remnants of those scenes. It was kind of them to leave us with all this stuff.

It is easy to make a crib if you have a few basic things, feel free to improvise and add in your favourite items.

Cow in a Crib

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Jobs for December. Get the Decorations out.

Suddenly it is dark by 4pm. This happens every December, but is always a shock. Every afternoon we say interesting things like ‘It’s dark already,’ before checking the news about Omicrom, with anxiety fuelled by grey skies and vitamin D deficiency. Stop it. You can’t change the outside world but you can mess about with your home. Go to the Christmas decorations, and see what’s there.

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The Best Kinds of Foraging

Advent Sunday. A day to light a candle, and think about shopping. Exeter this week was full of city noise, bus fumes, and Black Friday frenzy. I went there to meet someone, not shop, so it was easy to despise everybody else for being too consumerist, but then I had to hang around waiting, and that changed.

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Autumn Jobs in the Garden are not What you Think

Don’t bother looking for garden jobs now. Let everything die back, and trust the worms and insects to mulch it all down. They are better gardeners than you will ever be. Go for a walk, admire the colours and, when you get back, get busy with lost chickens, wild rats and too many pumpkins.

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Village Life and Social Media

Sedum, like many succulents, symbolises tranquillity, and we have plenty of that down here.  This village is so quiet, you can walk around it and wonder if everyone has gone on holiday. But it has a population of several thousand, and last week we managed to annoy most of them in just 20 minutes.

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A Year in the Life of a Call Companion

Autumn creeps in under the cover of sunflowers. Yellow flowers symbolise friendship, the perfect antidote to loneliness. Loneliness is a Bad Thing and last year I decided to help get rid of it. It hasn’t exactly ended well.

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How to Cure Seasonal Affective Disorder with Apple Sauce

The Japanese Anemone glowing in the shadows. It is a symbol of anticipation, which can be a cause of SAD. Nobody needs that back-to-school, winter-is-coming gloom but, if you are sensitive to seasons, the first ripe blackberry is enough to set it off. Time to stop looking ahead and do something about now.

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