Our Colourful Cottage

Welcome to our cottage! It felt like home pretty quickly, but we’ve been steadily putting our stamp on it and it’s really feeling like our nest now. As you’ll gather, if you hadn’t already realised, we’re both big fans of bright colours and pretty things. We mainly use the back door which leads into the sunroom, so that’s where we’ll start our tour.

sunroom

Our little cottage is a bit topsy-turvey, with the sunroom that houses our dining table and white goods (and the dog crate), a tiny toilet off that room which doesn’t have a sink so is being used as our coat room and storage, then a little galley kitchen. It has a window through into the sunroom which is an extension, so there’s lots of light.

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Home Sweet Pocket-Sized Home

I’ve been living in my lovely new flat for two months now and it seemed like time to do a photo tour! I’m quite pleased with how much storage I have compared to the old flat, which was about half the size of this one, and the fact that everything has somewhere to live means that it’s a lot easier to keep it tidy. I’ll admit that I did a quick whip round to tidy a few odds and ends before taking the photos, but it took no more than five minutes – it really does look like this most of the time, mum! My fifteen minutes of daily housework habit has helped a lot in this respect.

Several friends have commented on their first visit that they would love to have a flat like this, I feel very lucky to live here. It gets a lot of light as the skylight faces east and the windows face west (there is also a window in the bathroom and the top half isn’t frosted so I can watch the clouds from the shower – far nicer than the cave-like room in my old place). I’m on the top floor of my building so there’s not a lot of noise and because it’s so compact, it warms up quickly and the windows provide a great through-draft on hot days.

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Procrastination Organisation

What I ought to be doing today is grappling with the complexities of International law. However, my brain seems to have gone on strike, so what I have actually decided to do is tidy out my wardrobe!

That might not sound like a particularly good use of my time… until you see my wardrobe.

A very messy wardrobe
"A bit messy" would be an understatement

I’ve been meaning to tackle this particular disaster zone for quite a while, because it’s totally unuseable in that state. I can’t get anything out without the scarves falling on my head. I can’t see what dresses I’ve got hung in there because the coats are in the way. And goodness me, the base of the wardrobe. Let’s take a closer look at that really painful bit, shall we?

outrageously messy wardrobe
Even I can't tell what's in there!

So I put on a CD (Shirley Bassey’s Finest Collection, disc 2, if anyone is interested) and dragged everything except the clothes out onto the floor.

I hadn’t quite realised how many pairs of shoes I own until I saw them all in rows on my floor. The worst part is that there are more pairs scattered around my parents’ houses. Oh dear.

sixteen pairs of shoes
Enough shoes for four spiders! Assuming spiders can ice skate and clog dance, that is.

I’m very fond of some of those shoes, especially the six inch gingham stilettoes, but it isn’t much use if I have to don a hard hat to delve in and find them every time I want to wear a pair. Most of the time I just wear the same pair over and over.

Once the shoes were out, it was looking a lot clearer. The big pink hat took a bit of reshaping, and I stuffed it with brown packing paper to keep its shape before stashing it safely on top of my wardrobe. I also slid the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper up there, to avoid any further squashing. There were lots of bits of ribbon, paper and odd items like spare bike lights and carrier bags still lying around which I wanted to get up off the floor – clutter attracts clutter when you aren’t looking.

This useful storage hanger seemed wasted

I couldn’t in good conscience say that this was a good use of my storage hanger. The bubble wrap and padded envelopes are very useful for packing fragile objects into, but I won’t be packing up my room and moving again for another six months. In the interim that storage could be a lot more useful! So I moved the packing material into one of the plastic storage boxes which live on top of my wardrobe, ready for when I move out again.

Now that I had somewhere to put things, I could sift through the pile of remaining items and store them away. Bike-related things like waterproof trousers, a padded seat cover and spare lights went into the top section, with the helmet hung beside it. My suit hanger and umbrellas went into the middle, where I can easily get at them on a wet day. And the bottom compartment now houses my fancy summer scarves, a clutch bag and my belts. The two winter scarves  are looped around the hanger of the coat I normally wear them with, to make it easier to remember to put them on. Carrier bags went into the home I already had for them (why weren’t they there to start with? How did they get out?) and bits of ribbon and paper went either in the bin, or in the storage boxes.

A tidy, accessible wardrobe!

With all that clutter out of the bottom, my shoes could go back in! Summer sandals and spare black heels are in the little plastic boxes. The three pairs of shoes I wear most often are now tucked neatly under the end of my bed, where I can get at them quickly without falling over them all the time. Eventually I’m going to get one of those fancy shoe storage units, or maybe a shoe hanging bag, but for now they are marshalled neatly and I can see at a glance what I’ve got. Much better.

Next time I need a break from work, I’ve got another two areas I want to tackle: my bureau, and my cupboard.

I’m not sure I even want to show you what my bureau looks like. When I first moved into this room I was really pleased with the idea that I could use the bureau as an alternative work-space. I could have a table, and a desk! I could write letters on its folding top, and pretend to be a Victorian!

Erm, not so much.

Not a lot of organisation going on in here

Somehow, despite all my best intentions, my bureau has become the home for everything that doesn’t have anywhere else to go – and quite often a fair number of things that do. I just open it up a couple of inches and drop things into the mess, not ever brave enough to fold out the top fully until now. It’s worse than I thought! So that’s the next task.

And once that’s sorted, I’ll tackle my food cupboard… again. I’ve organised it over and over, but no matter how I shift things around, I still discover forgotten, rotten vegetables squashed at the back, and I still get attacked by falling plastic boxes when I open the door too quickly.

It might look innocent, but it bombards me with missiles on a daily basis

There is a spare shelf in there, but no brackets to hold it up. So it’s currently just a piece of wood, sitting on the bottom of my cupboard. I’m not keen on the idea of buying some brackets myself but if the college hasn’t got any spare, I might have to. Then I can move the crockery onto its own little shelf and make better use of the space at the top. I’ve ordered some more kitchen implements and storage boxes so it’s about to get even worse… And before anyone asks why I don’t use my kitchen cupboard to store them, I do. Two of them (a kind neighbour who doesn’t cook offered me the use of hers as well). I have an embarassing quantity of kitchen appliances. I have five chopping boards. It’s probably excessive. I can’t help it, it’s an illness.

And now that all that is done, it’s time to get back to work. Sigh.

Of Jobs and Swallows

I realised that I didn’t write anything about my job interview at a National Trust house! It all happened quite quickly; the closing date for the application was Thursday 23rd and they rang me on Friday, asking me to come in on Tuesday morning.

I might as well say now that I didn’t get the job (I was second on the list, apparently, from a shortlist of nine). I was very disappointed because it was a really great job, but it would have meant giving up all three of the weeks I’m meant to be away this summer, so there is a small positive.

It’s the first time that I’ve actively enjoyed a job interview! Not so much the interview itself, although the two people interviewing me were friendly and pleasant, but once the interview was over they gave me a free ticket to the house and got me booked onto the first tour of the day. Tickets cost about £10 usually so it more than made up for the cost of getting there.

The house was great! And the gardens and grounds were nice too, although not the best ones I’ve seen. I was there before the place was officially open, so I wandered around outside chatting to the staff who were working – gardeners, grooms, tour guides and volunteers, and they were all happy to chat. I would really love to work for the National Trust, but it seems that now is not the time to start.

I took some photos while I was outside, and one inside, but there is no electrical light inside so there wasn’t a lot of point taking more.

There was a nest of baby swallows in the barn roof
One of the beautiful old cars
This red Rover had been rebuilt, I think
The last two owners of the house both rowed for their Cambridge colleges

I also heard back from the cleaning agency again, after the interview a couple of weeks ago. They had found a client for me, but unfortunately when I told them that I’d be returning to uni at the end of September (I’d told them that before but it hadn’t been passed on) they decided not to give me that client after all, but to put me down for holiday cover and one-off cleans. So I might not get any work at all from that. I’m trying to be Zen about it all.

My Fail-Proof Exercise Plan

There are several reasons why I should exercise more.

One reason is that although I’m only about a centimetre taller than I was four years ago, I’m several inches away from fitting into my Leavers’ Prom dress. And it was a very nice dress. The prom itself was rather a mixed bag of drunken friends, embarassing dances and painful goodbyes, but the dress was and still is lovely. Pity I can’t fasten the zip any more.

This is the best my hair has ever looked, before or since

Another reason is that I have a faint memory of maybe, at some point, possibly quite enjoying exercising. I’ve got the glimmer of a memory of getting up before dawn in the depths of winter to trek across town and exhaust myself skating around in the freezing cold air, and then running three million times around an 800m track while other, sylph-like, greyhound people whizzed past me. Even now, my traitorous legs sometimes start to twitch with an increasing insistency and will only be satisfied when I shut down the laptop or turn off the TV or close the book, and walk out of the house.

This is definitely not the best my hair has ever looked

But the main reason that I brave the unpredictable elements and staggeringly steep hills is this:

"Are you busy? You don't look very busy..."

Somehow the thought of a pink dress or the memory of my team isn’t as effective as those chocolate eyes and the quivery anticipation in his tail when I look like I might be thinking of going out, and the sheer exhilaration when he realises that YES we ARE going OUT right NOW in the GARDEN for a WALK is much better than another ten minutes on Facebook. Even if Facebook doesn’t come with flies and hills.

There’s a Weird Green Bug on the Window

He obligingly stayed on the window until I'd taken the photo, then left

I’m still trying to find work, without much progress, although I did get a response from the cleaning agency when I emailed to ask what was happening: she’s been on holiday and I should have an interview very soon. So that’s good!

As well as weird bugs hanging out on the window, we’ve also got some new tenants in the field next to the house. For context, our house is a bit like those houses children draw: two windows on each floor and a door in the middle, although the porch stuck onto the front right-hand side usually doesn’t make it into toddler art. To the left of the house as you’re facing it is the road, and over the road is the orchard and vegetable patch which fills up most of my mum’s spare time and also fills the freezers. To the right is a field which comes with the house. It’s very, very steep and completely useless for crops (most of the farming in this area is livestock), so the farmer who rents the field uses it for sheep.

The one on the far right is my favourite

Our living room has French windows that look out onto the field, and when we’re sitting in there in the evenings watching TV, the sheep come to the fence and peer through at us. Sometimes they seem to be actually watching the television with us, which I suppose isn’t all that wild an idea – if all I had for entertainment was grass and a manky bath full of dirty water, I’d probably be snooping on other people’s TV as well. Last night I was looking at the sheep looking at us, and noticed that at the base of the fence a tiny frog was trying to climb over the gate. He was clinging to the bar with his front legs, and scrabbling with his back legs. I have no idea why he didn’t just go underneath the gate. In the end he just gave up and sat down on the step for a while.

I'm finally happy with this corner

All this free time has meant that my bedroom is the tidiest it has ever been (and probably ever will be again). I’ve sorted out the corner I wouldn’t photograph last time and moved some things from the other corner of the room onto my chest of drawers. My bluebird print by Tamara Garvey is up; I bought it to cheer up my room in Paris but it looks perfect in this room too, and hopefully it will look lovely wherever I end up next year as well. You can’t see it properly thanks to the reflection of the mirror but you can see it in her Etsy shop, and actually buy your own if you want to. The frame cost about five times what the print cost. Oh well.

That tiny pink blob that’s in front of the Joni Mitchell LP is a tiny paper lantern which the six year old in Paris bought and gave to me. It doesn’t really go anywhere but I like to keep it around. The ladybird card is from my dad’s partner and contained a train ticket to go and visit them next month 🙂

 

Natural Cheer

Whenever I get too angry or upset, I just look out of the window and instantly feel a little bit better.

This is the view from the window beside my desk
Across the garden
The front garden pond is home to frogs, newts and my stepdad's beloved goldfish
These tiny blue flowers just make me smile
The front of our house, with the office window almost obscured by the holly tree.
Beautiful big red poppies

I might not know the names of all the plants, and I’m not really interested in growing them myself, but I’m glad my mum and stepdad do because they just make me feel a bit better.

Delayed Photos

I have been looking at these photos on my computer screen for days but not actually getting round to resizing and adjusting the contrast on them. Now I have!

The bulk of them are from when I went skating. I was really impressed by the rink because not only was it free and pretty spacious, it was also good-quality ice and half way through the time I was there, the staff produced some cones and a sort of plastic high-jump kit and all the skaters were allowed to use them no matter how well they could skate.

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Those two with the children in hats are very cute examples of Daughters Two and Three having fun together. It was one of the days where I really felt I was finally getting the hang of this!

I have also added this post to include the photos I took when I was in Norway. Enjoy!

My favourite bit of Paris

A couple of days ago I went to Notre Dame. Typically, the day before it had been gloriously sunny and that day it was wet, cold and downright miserable – but the cathedral was beautiful anyway.

I took a lot of photos and I’m going to post most of them here because it’s so gorgeous. I’m trying a new thing with the gallery tool so if you can’t see them, let me know!

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The locks were the thing that most intrigued me – there are literally thousands of them, all along one side of a bridge over the Seine. It reminded me of the alleyway up to Juliet’s balcony in Verona, which is just covered with romance-themed graffiti stretching back centuries. I took some photos of my favourite padlocks but they were all fascinating and I’d have spent all day there if it hadn’t been so cold.

I just did a bit of quick Googling and it seems that all the locks have to be no older than eight months because last May, the Parisian authorities had a massive cull. I think that’s a shame.

The other thing that I took photos of is the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, with its amazing blackboard outside. Its proximity to Notre Dame and the Seine is the final reason that this is the place I love the most in Paris. It’s touristy, it’s busy, it’s overpriced, but the whole area is full of amazing shops and it’s just got so much life in it. I’ve been three times already.

As for today, not much of note really happened. I came down with stomach flu yesterday (along with most of the rest of the household) and I’m still not feeling great but I managed to work and also get to my French lesson. On Fridays it’s just me and a different teacher to the Monday and Thursday lessons – it was really hard! He was teaching me some pretty thorough grammar (naming the different parts and functions of a sentence, the kind of grammar they used to teach in schools before they decided we didn’t need to know how our own language works) and it was all in French. Every time I come out of the building where the lessons are held I feel like I’ve just done ten rounds with a dictionary and lost, but I always learn something.