Reasons to be Grateful: Croydon Trams

My son was born not long before the first lock down in 2020, and his early life has been dominated by the pandemic, a time in which the menu of things to do with a small person has been more limited than it may have been before COVID. However, we were lucky in that we had a garden, and we live near several parks and other things that turn out to be intriguing to a toddler. While the pandemic was really raging I liked to let him watch the YouTube vidoes of Geoff Marshall about the UK rail network, because he talks to camera a lot and I was worried that my son wasn’t getting to see people talk. Geoff probably taught my son some of his first words.

I think perhaps this may have influenced his choices in what he really likes to do now, which involves quite a lot of watching trains and trams. One of the things my son really likes to do is to go and watch the trams that run on some old railway lines not far from our house. Sometimes we take him on a trip on a tram when they are not particularly crowded, but he seems to enjoy watching them pass far more than he does riding them. Recently I have noticed that when my son and I are standing, watching the trams pass, some of the drivers will wave, or ring the bell for him. I really appreaciate this gesture, and I think he gets a kick out of it too.

Thank you Croydon Tram drivers.

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Reasons to be grateful: A quiet moment in misty London

It’s not often that I get time to myself these days. I started back at work after my maternity leave at the beginning of 2021 and things had changed quite a lot while I had been away. In response to the pandemic most of our work has gone online, so I rarely go into the office now. It will confess that the adjustment to online working hasn’t been smooth, and I still feel that a lot of my best work has happened in a face to face environment. My days are frequently filled with zoom calls, which I find awkward to navigate if there is a group, and in the absense of travel time to break up the day it seems like the number of meetings has multiplied. The end of the day often finds me exhausted.

I think home working has had a second consequence that is difficult to really quantify. My world feels smaller some how. I go out less often, and when I do go out, I do not travel as far.

So it was quite a treat a few weeks ago to actually get on a train and go into the office. When I arrived in central london the sky was heavy with mist and the top of some of the buildings were shrouded in fog. I really love this kind of weather. There is something about the suggested mystery of a building rising up into the cloud, it’s upper levels unseen, that provokes creative thoughts in me.

My train got in early enough for me to take a few minutes to stop and look around a bit, to take some photographs and have a moment of contemplation before I started my work day. Moments like these are precious now. To still be able to have them, and to appreciate them, is a reason to be grateful.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: Cold mornings and sunrise over South London

Before I had my son I think it would be fair to say that I was not a morning person in any sense of the word. In fact I would like nothing better, after initially getting up at around nine, than to retreat back into bed with a pot of coffee and an armful of books or the newspaper. I can year the faint laughter of anyone who has ever looked after a small child as I type this. Those days are long gone.

My son is an early riser, which means that by default I have become one too. This is a struggle, and I do not think my physiology has caught up. Over the last few months, as the mornings have grown darker and winter has fully established herself, I have found a consolation. In some of our recent crisp cold winter mornings I have been treated to some wonderful sunrises. If I had not been forced up early to take my son to nursery, I would have missed out on seeing the sky turn golden over South London. For these mornings, I am grateful.

The image of a sunrise has been used in many cultures and across the ages to invoke ideas of new beginnings and fresh starts. On this Bank Holiday Monday, I hope that this new year will give you many reasons to be grateful, too.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: an overgrown garden lawn

It’s now November in the UK, and Autumn has really settled in. I really love this time of year, as the leaves turn red and fall to the ground, and we begin to experience some of the more atmospheric weather that I find inspiring. The other morning we were treated to a dense mist as I walked my son to his nursery. He had not really seen mist before, and spent a good portion of the journey pointing into the air and squeaking. It was a nice reminder that for him, many of life’s more normal experiences are completely new.

I planned to write this post several months ago, but somehow couldn’t get it together to write it. I had the idea for it when I was really struggling with some work related anxiety, but hadn’t yet felt ill enough to take any time off work. Since that time I did take a few days off work, before rushing back in again to do something that felt important at the time. A week later my son came home with a fairly common childhood disease, and not long after that I was really ill with it for a couple of weeks. I think my immune system was left struggling after I rushed back to work too soon, a mistake that I will try not to make again.

It is too cold to stand out on the grass in my bare feet now. But this summer I was enormously grateful that when I was feeling stressed I could walk down the stairs and out to my garden, where we are lucky enough to keep a rather untidy lawn. I like to feel the cool grass under my feet when I am feeling anxious. For me there is something about putting my feet in direct contact with the earth that is grounding. Things to not feel quite so bad after a few minutes standing quietly and looking at the flowers.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: our neighbour’s friendly relationship with my son

When we moved into our house a few years ago we didn’t really know the area very well at all. We had all sorts of plans to get out and get to know the place, and meet some new people. But nothing ever turns out quite as planned, does it?

We weren’t here that long before I gave birth to our son, and not long after that a series of national and international lock downs began. As a consequence, for quite some time our explorations were limited to our back garden, and the only new people we met were our immediate neighbours.

They are an elderly couple who have lived on our the road for a long time and they have taken great delight in building a relationship with our son. The husband in particular looks out for my toddler most days, and makes a point of smiling, waving, and saying a loud hello to him in an excited tone of voice.

When this began in the spring this year, I am not sure if Baby Magpie knew what to do with this kind of attention, but now it has become one of the highlights of his day. He will often look out of the window for our neighbour, and give a little wave to the space where he expects to see him, irrespective of whether he is there or not. When they are ‘talking’ face to face over the garden fence, Baby Magpie is a little more shy, but our neighbour stands and waits patiently for my son to give his little wave back.

I think as the last couple of years have been difficult because of the pandemic, and I feel grateful for simple moments of connection like these, that have become particularly precious.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful: My heroically stubborn cat is teaching my son to be gentle

We have two black cats in the Magpie ‘s Nest that we adopted several years ago. They were already middle age by the time we adopted them, understandably nervous, and had fully embraced some eccentric habits. When we first bought them home to our flat we did not expect to be soon bringing a baby home as well, and thought that they may have a long time to get used to us in relative peace.

However, fate had other plans, and in that year the cats moved home three times. Once from their original home into a cat refuge, then to our flat in Central London, and then finally out of central London with us as we moved further afield to be able to afford a house. Not long after that final move we bought home a baby, and they have learned to live alongside him as he has grown into busy toddler.

Recently my son has developed a deep and enthusiastic love for our cats, which unfortunately is not returned in kind. As he has become more and more mobile, one of my cats, who was the more anxious of the two, has decided that his best strategy is to remove himself from the situation, and to hide if he feels necessary. This was the kind of reaction I expected.

Our other cat, however, has decided on a different approach. Over the last year as he has got used to us he has decided that he really liked to hang out with us, and will endure quite a lot of unwanted heavy handed patting from my son if it means a good chin scratch a few moments later. One of his favourite things is to lie on the window sill and watch people or birds through the window. My son takes advantage of these moments to practice stroking him, but excitement will soon over take him and there are more than few occasions on which a tail has been firmly grasped. My beautiful stubborn cat clings to his spot on the window anyway, refusing to be moved on, never batting him away and waiting for a parental intervention. In do so he allows myself and Mr Magpie to try to teach my son about what it means to be ‘gentle’.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful: fresh new potatoes from the garden

Earlier this year I stumbled across a YouTube channel called Erica’s little Welsh garden which I like to dip in and out of on a semi consistent basis. My own attempts a gardening tend to be sporadic and poorly planned, but I have also gained great pleasure over the last few years as I have learned to grow a little bit of food. On her channel around Christmas time she spoke about having bought a bag of potatoes from bargain shelf at the local shop, and was planning to see how many potatoes she could grow in pots. At the end of the video she set a challenge for other people to join in, which became known as the #potatogrowingchallenge2021.

I didn’t exactly go out and buy a bag of potatoes, but as we accumulated a number of potatoes that were ‘on the turn’ in our potato basket I thought I would have a go myself. We had a number of large pots left over from our attempts the previous year to grow other things, and some peat free compost so popped a couple of potatoes in each pot with a generous amount of compost, and then put them outside. This was around February time, and the start of a long wait.

To my surprise they grew really well, despite being nobbled by some late frosts in April and May. My son and I finally turned out the pots a couple of weeks ago. I was delighted with the number of decent sized potatoes we got from this little experiment, and my son was delighted with running round the garden with handfuls of muddy potatoes and other beasties he found during the process. The final weigh in was 4 kilos of potatoes, which is pretty good for an experiment that didn’t cost us very much.

We have been eating boiled new potatoes with butter and sage from the garden this week as a family, and I am grateful to have been able to give this experiment at try.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be Grateful: People are nice to my son

I’m sorry to have been quiet for that last couple of months, I have started back at work and am experiencing the lockdown child care crunch that will be familiar to many parents.

This won’t be a long post, but I wanted to share this picture of my son. He likes to stand in on the window sill in our front room and bang on the window as people pass by. Obviously he is still too little to stand up there on his own so I am often sitting there with him, just behind the curtain. I don’t think passers by can see me, but they do see him and they frequently wave. This makes him very happy, and he bangs on the window a bit more and shouts.

Parenting a young child during lockdown hasn’t been easy. There aren’t many places I can take him at the moment and he seldom sees anyone other than me and my partner. Hopefully all this will change soon, and he can get on with making friends and meeting people outside. In the mean time I am really grateful to the people who wave at him. It makes his morning or his afternoon to get a wave.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful: 2020 wrap up

I’m already a couple of days late with this post but I figure given the year we’ve just had, that’s ok.

It’s been a strange old year and I know many people are glad to see the back of it. Given how tough it has been on many of us it would be insulting to start getting preachy about how everyone should be taking stock of their reasons to be grateful, but I do find it helpful to take stock of mine.

Here in the Magpie nest we have been some of the lucky ones. After a couple of years of fertility treatment, early this year our son came into the world. While we didn’t have the best time in the hospital, we all made it home unscathed and he continues to grow, and astonish, and amuse us every day.

We had been home with him for just a few weeks when the world went into lock down and all of the mum and baby groups that normally populate the lives of new mums shut down. While this sounds like we may have missed out, we are lucky enough to have a garden, and so we spent much of those early days with our new baby in the garden, quietly getting to know each other. I feel like this time, where it was just the three of us, was a bit of a gift now I am looking back on is from a cold December. We were able to get to know each other a bit before the outside world was able to intrude. In those heady, sleep deprived days it was possible for most of the lock down to drift past us, and it is only now that we are beginning to miss the bright lights of Central London.

On the creative side, while we may have missed out on many of the groups and visitors that are a normal feature in the life of a new born, I did have more time on my hands and was able to finish a draft of my novel, Feeding Jasmine Valentine. Since then I have been able to ask some friends to read it and get some feedback. In 2021 I will be working through it, my main aim for the year being to develop a draft that is good enough to send to agents.

While I do feel we have been very lucky this year, and have slipped through it mostly unscathed, I am very aware that there are many people who have not been as fortunate. I hope that 2021 is an all together kinder year to everyone, and wish everyone reading this good wishes for the year ahead.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful: surprise flowers in in garden

wp-15947408780321689890225541638854.jpg When we moved to our new house in December the garden was in hibernation mode and the most we could see was a series of twigs and branches in various parts of the garden, some of which we were not even sure were alive. Then spring arrived and the garden began to bloom. Given we have been living these last few months through a lock down, I have been especially grateful for these surprises. wp-15947501648844284013960930436245.jpg For example we have found that the previous occupants of the house have left all sorts of wonderful surprises, like this rose in a pot. wp-15947410109828874198310336218721.jpg And these Forget Me Nots, which feel a bit symbolic as they are the flower that the design for my engagement ring is based on. wp-15947500376754887138710586271147.jpg Perhaps the surprise I have enjoyed the most has been the discovery of the hibiscus bushes that line our fence. When we first moved in they looked to me as if they were a bunch of dead samplings that would need to be removed. But we didn’t get round to it. Now, well into this British summer, they have rewarded out inactivity by beginning to bloom. wp-15947408993682642372022060491397.jpg  

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.