We bought our house back in 2018 and although we didn’t move in until October we were regularly peeking from the kerbside from the time of our first viewing in early summer right up until the move. During that whole time the tiny little bit of front garden was a mass of gorgeously sweet smelling, yellow Roses. On reflection I think the Roses may have been the reason I missed the fact that the windows could do with replacing and the garden wall is probably going to collapse in the next five years but hey ho. Roses though! Despite naming one of my daughters Rose, I have never actually grown any. I remember being a bit obsessed with Roses on fabric at around the time she was born and made her a cot quilt and patchwork cushion with some Kaffe Fassett Forget Me Not Rose, but it never occurred to me to plant a Rose! Probably just as well because we have moved three times since she was born, so unless it was potted it would have been left behind anyway.

My first instinct was to keep the Roses in the front garden. There were a couple in the back too but they had to come out so I could hang out the washing without it snagging on thorns. The two at the front of the house are still awaiting a decision on their fate. They are beautiful and largely self sufficient. Every year the other half hacks them right back with a view to us digging them out, we never get round to it and they grow back and flower so fiercely it’s like they’re trying to justify their right to stay. And I would be happy for them to stay if it wasn’t for the fact that the whole of the front needs a complete overhaul. Unfortunately I can’t see a way of getting on top of the weeds and clearing everything else without the Roses coming out or getting damaged if they stay in. I don’t use chemicals as a rule but this little strip of garden has been neglected for over a decade according to one neighbour so the weeds are well established and the ground compacted. I fear a dose of weed killer may be my only chance with this patch especially since I no longer have the strength or stamina for gardening that I once had.

It’s a job I don’t think I can put off much longer. Our house now has the scruffiest garden on the street and because it’s a mess people seem to think it’s okay to dump their crisp packets, coffee cups, face masks and so on in there. Last week someone decided it was the ideal place to offload a child’s scooter and skateboard so now they’re just sat out there because it feels wrong to get rid of them just in case the rightful owner is looking for them. It’s all a bit daunting and I cannot believe I used to manage a fairly large garden, with a thriving vegetable plot most years. Admittedly I was starting to find it a struggle towards the end which is why we opted for a house with only a small strip of garden at the front and back, but having no growing space at all would have been going a little too far and my mental health would not have thanked us for it.

So the front. What to do? Well whatever ‘we’ do it’s going to have to be me that does it because the other half is a bit rubbish at gardening. He’ll hack stuff down and take it to the green waste skip at the tip but for anything else I find he needs too much instruction and he has an obsession with using loppers for everything when a pair of secateurs would suffice. Best just to leave him inside watching Doctor Who while I play ‘avoid talking to the neighbours’ by crouching behind the wall. Does anyone else dread having to have a conversation with a neighbour or a passer by while they’re gardening? I’m sure this is the main reason why my front gardens have always looked more unkempt than my back gardens, every house I’ve ever lived in, no exception! I’m an unsociable sod, I know, but if they knew how much energy I have to spend interacting with them then I’m sure they’d leave me alone to use that energy on making my garden less of an eyesore. Honestly, talk to me while gardening and I will go in for a cup of tea to recover from the social interaction and never come back out again, well only after dark to sneakily tidy the tools away!

The only way I am ever going to get my frontage looking dapper is to devise a plan, stick to it and then hope nobody approaches me! So here’s my plan:

  • Clear the rubbish! This is not something I am comfortable with. There are discarded face masks, wipes and goodness knows what else in there. It’s a job for thick rubber gloves and maybe one of those litter picker pincer thingys.
  • Kill off the vegetation. Weed killer I’m afraid. I can’t get down on my hands and knees to tease out by hand and some of those weeds are well established perennials who think they own the place. I don’t have the patience to wait another year while they suffocate under a layer of plastic or old carpet.
  • Tidy up the edging stones. One or two have been completely removed but are still lying around. They just need putting back.
  • Remove dead vegetation (assuming the chemicals have worked!)
  • Level the soil and remove some if necessary.
  • Put down membrane and cover with stone chippings.
  • Pop a few low maintenance pots and planters on the stone chippings.
  • Stand back and say job done!
So we made a start!

I’m also toying with the idea of painting the wall. It is not the original wall and the brick used is an ugly orange sort of brick that is spalling all over the path so covering that up would instantly make things look better. But that would mean being out on the pavement while I painted! Almost certainly that would mean PEOPLE. Hmm. I’m going to have to think about that one carefully! Look! A Ladybird!

Things haven’t been going so well lately. You may have noticed the lack of posts, both here and on Instagram and the closed Etsy shop. The truth is my mental health has taken a bit of a beating from all the changes that pandemic life has brought with it. This third lockdown in particular has hit me like a brick. Being almost reclusive anyway, I naively thought that it wouldn’t affect me, especially as I seemed to thrive on the first lockdown, during which I had the whole family (except for my uni girl) safe under one roof, working and studying from home. We were safe and sustainable as despite not being able to book a supermarket delivery for weeks on end, I managed to use the internet to our advantage and sourced alternative food deliveries while using what vegetables and herbs we had growing in our little strip of earth in the backyard. I rekindled my love of dried wholefoods and we stocked up on lentils and a couple of sacks of flour since it had become impossible to source flour in anything other than 16kg sacks! We had seeds for sprouting so we got fresh nutrients and discovered that we’d been missing out on a trick by not growing our own pea shoots for salad!

But that was then. This lockdown is very different. My husband is unable to work from home this time and my eldest who has special needs decided to stay in their own home which means I am doing car journeys now that I wasn’t doing in the first lockdown and I am finding that all that extra time for cooking and baking from scratch, making yoghurt and setting seeds to grow etc, just isn’t there this time round. In addition to the lack of time I also feel physically and mentally worn down by the whole thing. I’m not as active and the pounds have piled on, adding to that heavy sluggish feeling that doesn’t exactly motivate one to get moving. Mentally I regularly hit the bottom. Sometimes I am crippled by anxiety, sometimes depression. If we’re really unlucky it’s both at the same time and I know I am just one of many thousands going through similar at the moment. I am grateful at least to have some financial stability and a roof over our heads during all this when too many people have nothing, and grateful too that so far we have escaped the literal impact of Covid and our loved ones have remained safe and well.

I really am finding it difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel but I’ve realised that if I don’t take action on my health now I could lose years off my life expectancy. I need to start making room for relaxing pastimes because being in a permanent state of fight or flight is not good for anyone and I need to start doing some form of regular movement, even on the days where my whole body just aches and protests!

So, I am planning to pick up some sewing again, maybe some embroidery or some hexie patchwork, I’m not sure yet. I was once a very able and prolific crafter but I don’t even recognise that person at the moment. I feel like a novice again and in some areas I have literally got to start again, like re-learning various embroidery stitches or how to purl when knitting. I find I lose skills easily if I don’t practice them regularly and my practical creative side has been dormant for too long thanks to the fog of mental health. I think the creativity is the easiest thing to address. Movement is a different game all together and it’s going to be a challenge. I am not a sporty person, never have been but I was a walker and many a happy time I have spent atop mountain and moor. Hip pain and a foot injury from 2015 were already having an impact on my hiking ability before the pandemic came along though so it’s a similar story to the crafts in that I’m going to be starting all over again and building myself up slowly.

I realise this is a somewhat glum post but I just wanted to explain why I’ve not really been present and why the shop is closed at the moment. I am going to share my progress to recovery here and on Instagram so I hope to be back soon with something to show you. Even something little like baking a cake or or stitching a couple of hexies together is going to feel like a huge step forward at the moment so forgive me if posts seem a little unexciting to begin with. If you managed to stick with this post, thank you for taking the time to read and I promise to be chirpier in my next post!