The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Simply Loving

It is summer and it is as hard to sit down and write as it is to sit still and read. So, from time to time, I will just share the things that make my heart beat just a little bit faster. And I will try to keep it short. Try is the key word here because I do tend to ramble sometimes.

This month’s favourites:-

~ My hydrangea. When I bought the plant in May of last year, I was not sure it would survive our harsh summer. But I watered it. Everyday. And I kept it in a shady corner of our garden. It lived. Then winter came and it was reduced to a few leafless branches. I was ready to throw it away. Then March rolled around and the days got warmer. It grew a few leaves, then more and more. It had survived and this month, it flowered once more. The blooms are gorgeous but that is not the only reason why I love them. One day, I’ll tell you more.

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~ Instagram. What’s not to love? It’s the perfect way of keeping up with friends (both the real and the virtual ones) and family and it only takes an instant. Or maybe a little bit more. I’ve found out that it can get addictive. You can find me here if you’re interested.

~ Cool sea breezes – until they last.

~ Lazy weekend afternoons spent reading or browsing through my stack of Pottery Barn books and magazines. I admit, I am a a bit of a Pottery Barn addict.

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~ Longer daylight hours.

~ Streets lined with oleanders bushes in full bloom. While every other plant that is not watered regularly has long given up the fight, these hardened veterans flower in full drought and provide some welcome colour to our otherwise rather drab landscape.

July

~ A new blog I’ve discovered via Jeanne called Close Ups And Wide Angles. The photos are just divine.

~ The poems of Pablo Neruda. You may read some here.

~ Swimming in water that is still so cool that it literally takes your breath away.

~ The music of Melody Gardot – perfect for balmy summer evenings under the stars.

Wishing you all many happy summer memories. Until next time …

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stories In The Stones

The year is hurtling towards midsummer and I am being dragged along – reluctantly – like an obstinate mule, digging my heels into the earth and uselessly hoping that it will grind to a halt. Slow down, slow down, I whisper to no one in particular, this ride is way too fast. The coachman does not heed my fretful call. I am not in command. I feel giddy, unsafe, trapped in a vortex that is madly spiralling out of control. But through the chaos, a voice bids me to calm down. There is time, it says, time to breathe, time to learn, time to write about the permanence of this transient life. But surely, I thought, that is an oxymoron. Then I reflected; and finally, I understood - that we are all invited to leave an indelible mark. We can write our stories in sand and let the tide wash them away or we can carve them painfully, but permanently, in stone.

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And I looked around me and saw an island whose history is etched in the limestone blocks of our buildings. The stories of our fathers are intricately bound to the stone walls that surround us. Almost reverently, I reach out to touch their golden faces, gently caressing the marks left by the winds; left by time. I lean forward, let my forehead rest on their pock-marked surface and shut out the world.

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Then I hear it, the hum as of a thousand muffled voices, telling me their stories, their triumphs, their tragedies. There were tales of love and despair; of hatred and death; war and disease; of pirate raids and a fervent Faith. It seemed that I had finally understood. This, then, was my calling, to give a voice to the voiceless and a history to the nameless. It was up to me to discover the patina of ages; to unravel the mystery of doors that led nowhere and to tell a tale that would have been lost in the mists of time – were it not for the stones.

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I smiled. The spinning had stopped. The coachman had finally come to a halt.

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Location: Mdina - April 2013

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Sun Always Shines Above The Clouds

Sometimes life takes you to places where you never expected to go. Last week, work took me to Sofia. I wish I could say that the experience enriched me, as travelling usually does. But all I got to see of Sofia was the view of the mountains from the office and a view of the office from my hotel window.

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Other than that my impression was limited to the short drive from and to the airport: a city ringed by mountains, with ugly, run-down apartment blocks badly in need of a coat of paint interspersed between Art-deco buildings that have seen better days. Graffiti is common, as are the roses that spill their blooms into the roundabouts and centre-strips in which they are planted. And trees – lots and lots and lots of trees.

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Never in all my life have I had so little to say about a city I visited. But perhaps it was  meant to be that way. Travelling solo can be lonely but I never fail to pack a trusted companion. For this trip it was Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. Perhaps it was fitting that on a trip loaded with work I chose a book about chasing your personal dream. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that  on both of my flights back home the plane had to break through dark storm clouds into the sun. Perhaps, as the book suggests, omens are all around us – we just have to know how to read them. Perhaps life teaches us lessons even when we are several thousand feet above the ground.

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Location: Sofia, Bulgaria – May 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Soul-searching – An Insight Into Why I Write

Soul searching, I thought when I received Heather’s invitation to participate in this blog-hop, this is going to take a whole lotta soul-searching. I was thrilled to be asked and I’ve spent the better part of the free time I had last week wondering what to say. Because this invitation was for writers – and I have never really thought of myself as a writer. I am not a writer by profession but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that writing is not something someone can teach you (well, they can but you know what I mean). Like painting, it is an inherent expression of the soul. So here, in as concise a manner as possible, is my writing story.

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When my son was little, I would sit by his cot until  he fell asleep. Sometimes this would take a while, so in the feeble light of his little lamp, I would listen to all the thoughts going through my head and I finally found the courage to write them down. A little while after that I joined an online community of aspiring writers. It was called The Secret Attic. Not long after I signed up, they had a writing competition going on: ten stories would get published in the Christmas edition of their  magazine. Maybe it was just beginners luck but my story ended up being one of the ten that were chosen. I suppose it gave me the little push that I needed to carry on. I was quite active in The Secret Attic. Each week we could participate in challenges and then we would comment about each other’s work. Round about this time, I started this blog and continued to participate in writing competitions. My first success was never repeated and, as time passed, I found that I had no time to write stories for competitions. That, coupled with the fact that literally overnight The Secret Attic website was taken down without explanation, made me decide to concentrate solely on Stories and Scribbles and on my other blog Snapshots of an Island (which I set up solely with the aim of writing about this island’s history. Lately, this has become too factual for me and,  sadly, I have neglected this blog for quite some time). That is where I am today. Now on to the standard questions that I an required to answer.

What am I working on?

I would love to say that I am working on a book or writing an article for some famous magazine. But I am not doing anything that grand. Although I have have come a long way since I first started writing, there is still a lot to learn. So I am currently concerned with finding my voice and developing my style. I have taken up journaling again which is proving to be a very creative outlet. On a different note, I am also venturing into the field of manual photography because my photos have become an integral part of my writing process. At the back of my mind I am toying with the idea of taking an online creative writing course. But whether that happens or not depends on a lot of things.

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How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?

I believe that every writer has a unique story to tell based on their life experiences, the people they have met, the places they have lived in or travelled to, their likes and dislikes. Two writers may have a similar outlook, indeed they may have lived the exact same experience simultaneously, yet if they both had to write about it, their style and perspective would be totally different. If nothing else, this is what my short experience with the aspiring writers at The Secret Attic taught me. My writing is passionate when it comes from deep within, from those secret places that, even I, am still on the brink of discovering. Even if I admire another writer’s style, I make sure to stay true to self, using photos that I have taken to guide and inspire me and using my own words. There are times when I have used a famous poem to help me along, to illustrate my point better. But I try to keep those instances few and far between.

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Why do I write what I do?

This is where a lot of my soul-searching took place. The simplest answer I could come up with is this: because there are places and people with a story to tell and not everyone is able or willing to take the time to tell it. In the very public world that is the internet it is easy to lose sight of who you are in the pursuit of becoming ‘popular’. I find that the bloggers writers whose work I enjoy the most are those who are true to their inner selves; who write out of the pure joy of writing without worrying whether their style will add ten or a hundred followers to their blog.

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How does my writing process work?

Well, sometimes my writing flows and sometimes I end up biting the  tip of my pencil or pulling at the ends of my hair in an effort to come up with something coherent. I’ve found that what works best for me is to write a draft, sleep over it, then go back to re-read and edit it. After that I hit the Publish button before I over-think things too much. I often use my photos as a starting point for my inspiration. Other times I read something which triggers a memory that I have to share or else I might come across a quote that will take me on a quite unexpected journey.

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So there you have it – an insight into why I feel compelled to write; and now I will introduce you to the two women who will be sharing their own writing story next week. Saying that these two women are very different is, definitely, a cliché – but they have one thing in common and that is the bare-faced honesty with which they speak about themselves. Josefa is following her childhood dream of becoming a writer and I think she is making serious progress towards achieving her goal. Kayni, who is currently recovering from a very serious health condition, is an avid traveller and I have visited many countries vicariously through her writing.

Josefa Pete_Kidspot

Josefa is a working mum juggling one husband, two boys, two bunnies and a ream of to-do lists. She battles through life with false eyelashes and a non-stop supply of coffee. Her big-extended family and boisterous boys give her many reasons to find sanity through her words. Working in science for the past fifteen years, she now spends most of her time writing.

Josefa believes that a community’s voice is a powerful one. Her blog, always Josefa, is a place where the power of storytelling is what matters the most. It is a place where she writes passionately about all facets of life, society, spirituality and the diversity of community. Life is about listening to that voice inside, the one that beckons and begs you to follow your dreams at all costs. How can I teach my boys to follow their dreams, if I am not following mine?

One day, Josefa aspires to be jumping on Oprah’s couch to celebrate the launch of her latest novel. Perhaps a chick-lit, or even a modern take on parenting survival guide, either way you can be certain that where there is coffee you will find her and her words.

http://www.alwaysjosefa.com/

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Karen Dacoco, known by her friends as Kayni, is a Filipina-American who’s passionate about travel and chocolates.  She was born in the Philippines, spent her late teen years in Hawaii, worked in Alaska in her early twenties, and studied history in the District of Columbia and Rome (Italy). She resides in Maryland with her husband, Jeff, and their cat, Dizzy. They’re thinking of adopting a dog this year. In the spring of 2008, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called Aplastic Anemia. After a failed clinical trial and numerous blood transfusions, she went through a bone-marrow transplant on January 11, 2014. After two months in the hospital, she’s now recovering at home and dealing with a mild skin graft-vs-host disease. While recovering at home, she spends her time running her online shop, Kayni’s Kreations, and learning how to bake cookies and pastries. In her blogs, she shares her travel and life experiences through stories and photography.

kayni’s corner café – http://www.kayniscornercafe.blogspot.com

kayni’s bone marrow - http://kaynisbonemarrow.blogspot.com

kayni’s kreations - http://www.etsy.com/shop/kayniskreations

And finally I would like to introduce the sweet lady who passed this on to me. Heather, who writes at Lost In Arles, is a professional writer who has had articles published in various magazines. Receiving this nomination from her makes it doubly sweet. I will refrain from saying much more as you can read about Heather below.

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Heather Robinson is a travel writer, blogger and amateur photographer currently living in Arles with her companion and their two Golden Retrievers. She never dreamed of living in Provence, it just happened that way. Initially, she received an MFA in acting from the Yale School of Drama and was prepared to spend her life swooning dramatically for Mr. Shakespeare in the rough jungle of the Big Apple. But, then she met Remi, a handsome professional photographer and moved to Paris instead. Together, they formed a journalist-photographer team and started traveling far and wide for such French magazines as Grands Reportages, Figaro Magazine and Le Monde des Religions. Her travel articles have since been published in magazines in Europe, Africa and Asia. Drawn by a fascination for les vielles pierres (the old stones), the couple made the move south in 2005 and since October 2010, Heather has focused her efforts on writing and  photographing the blog Lost in Arles, where she has gathered a truly fantastic community of loyal readers and friends. And while she may have been somewhat of an accidental inhabitant of la belle Provence, the region has been a welcoming host and has quietly claimed Heather's nomadic heart.

http://lostinarles.blogspot.com/

Thanks again  Heather!

With that I will conclude this very long post. I hope that next week you will find the time to read about the two amazing women that I have nominated. I wish you all, wherever you may be, a most wonderful week.

Location: Ghar Lapsi, April 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Potter’s Wheel

He had a kind face, the potter, a gentle demeanor and an easy smile. HIs shop was down a flight of rock-hewn steps that led into what, to me, seemed to be a cave. The British tourists that visited his curious set-up nicknamed him Peter the Potter. But we knew him by his real name: Ninu. It was my dad who would take me to visit. I would follow him cautiously down those time-worn steps with an eager anticipation of entering a world which was totally different to what I knew. I could not have been more than six or seven years old at the time.

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Although Ninu was of the same generation as my grandparents, he and my dad always fell into an easy conversation. What they talked about, I could not tell you. Maybe they talked about the weather or about world politics. I cannot remember because I was mesmerized by the potter’s wheel. Unlike his sons, with their electrically-powered contraptions, he used his legs to turn his wheel. Round and round it spun and under his experienced hands, the shapeless clay slowly took shape. The muddy mixture oozed from between his fingers and flecks of it stuck to his work apron as he skillfully shaped it into a vase, or a flower-pot. To an impressionable seven-year old, the simple act of a turning wheel, a lump of wet clay and a pair of hands took on an almost mystical quality.

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I did not know it at the time, but what I was witnessing was one of the oldest skills known to  mankind. The potter’s wares were everyday objects in the ancient world. From giant urns,to oil lamps, cups and plates, ancient potters must have been very busy. But like the potter’s wheel keeps turning, so too does the wheel of life, and with the passage of time come many changes. Ninu the potter is long gone. His wheel turns no more. Three and a half decades later, the irony of the fact that as a child I had witnessed the end of things as they had been for thousands of years is not lost on me. In many ways, I mourn the passing of that simpler life, of that unhurried pace, that seemed to turn to the rhythm of one lone potter’s wheel.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

I Shut My Eyes

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

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The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

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I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

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God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

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I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

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I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

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All words above from “A Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath.

Why? I hear you ask. Why a love song with these photos? It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because I fear that in our rush to renovate and renew we will wipe away the stories of our yesterdays. Maybe it’s because only a mad girl will go around chronicling the memories of an all-but-forgotten generation. Or it could be because I insanely wonder whether I will blink and it will all be gone.

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Or it could be, just could be, that I was born with an old, old soul.

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Maybe you, my friends, can help me find an answer.

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Location: the streets of Valletta, April 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Of Fading Beauty And Summer Reads

It’s fading. The beauty of spring will soon be just a memory. Notwithstanding last week’s rain, the beautiful wildflowers are wilting, slowly relinquishing their glory. They are wise – before the burning breath of summer reaches these shores, they will be just a hazy, if colourful, memory of what was and what will be. I think I could learn to like summer if the wild flowers bloomed. But in the face of such extreme odds, they return to the earth from which they sprung and nurture the seed of life till the rains return once more.Salib tal-Gholja, Delimara, Marsaxlokk (30)

And I, I am a bit like the spring flowers for, unlike the rest of my countrymen (and women) who seem to spend their lives outdoors during the summer months, I tend to hibernate, cocooning myself in the relative coolness of our home and only venturing outdoors in the sunlight if I absolutely have to. With time to kill, I pick up my books and call them friends.Salib tal-Gholja, Delimara, Marsaxlokk (102)

Despite the longish into, I suppose you can say that my post picks up where this one by Suze left off. It is funny, sometimes, how the subconscious of one person seems to be in line with that of another during the same period of time. Or maybe it’s because we are all preoccupied with the same things. I have long wondered what it is that makes us pick one author over another; one blog over another. Of course, most times it is the story that draws me in. But I find that it is usually the style of writing that hooks me. Good plots and storytellers aside, I think I am most drawn to those authors who bleed their hearts out on the page; whose prose rips them asunder. Writers whose words transcend time; whose passion captures the imagination of generations.

This summer I plan to delve into the works of some writers that I have never read before. I have the following line-up in mind: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sylvia Plath, Paulo Coelho. I would love your thoughts, if any, on these writers. Are they worth the many summer hours I will spend poring over them? Or should I just go outside and battle the pesky mosquitoes?Bingemma, Gnejna & Dwejra (101)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Little Big Things

They say that life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take but by the moments that take our  breath away.

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We are bombarded, on a daily basis, by images flashing through our senses like strobe lights – there one minute and gone the next. Hooked to our TV screens, our computer monitors, our iPads and iPhones and all shapes and sizes of gadgets that I cannot even name, we sometimes forget that real life is ‘out there’ and that we are the protagonists of our own destinies and, no matter how vicariously we live through the lives of others, we only get one shot at living our own.

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Last night I felt compelled to write a note to my son, to tell him to find joy in each day; to look at the world with wide, curious eyes; to stop and smell not only the roses but the poppies and chamomile too. But above all I told him to smile; smile, smile and smile some more. Because life is about the little things. The things t hat money cannot buy.

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In some ways, it was a lesson to myself, because I do tend to let circumstances drag me down. I confess that I get angry more quickly than I should and I let obnoxious people spoil my day. But only because I let them. So I am looking at life with a magnifying glass and I’ve discovered that even nature has a sense of humour. That the most detestable (to me) vegetable is innately beautiful. I’ve learnt that carrying a notebook wherever I go is a must and that although a camera can capture a moment, it is the heart that experiences and treasures it.

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There are days when the smallness of this island gets to me. When I wish I had wings to be able to soar above the clouds and discover the wide open sky. But all it takes to bring me back down is a forgotten chapel, overgrown with weeds or the caress of sunshine on centuries-old stone. They are such little things. Such tiny, insignificant things and yet, against all odds, they keep me grounded; they keep me sane.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (9)

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Photographed in various locations around Malta, March & April 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Spring Enchantment

The sign for a Dead End stood sentinel at the entrance to a bumpy road that sliced through fields of still-leafless vines. But we decided to ignore it and drive on anyway. The thrill of the unknown was more enticing than the possible inconvenience of ending up in a field or in front of a rubble wall and having to reverse all the way back.

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The countryside was lush and the grass as green as polished emeralds. On either side of us, the silent vines are contemplating their re-awakening. Instead of getting narrower, the road widened to a little clearing and there we were in front of two gaily-painted lilac walls that seemed to form an entrance to another, much narrower, bumpier path.

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We stopped the car and got out (well, two of us did – the Mischief Maker preferred to continue reading his beloved airplane books from which he is quite inseparable). The air was soft and warm, almost too warm, and carried on it the scent of spring. I looked at the lilac gate-way and my mind took off. Before too long I was in my own magical realm.

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I was sure that somewhere at the end of this path, a princess slept - because, surely, those gnarled trees with their knobby trunks that seemed as old as the island itself, were once young knights in search of true love. But their quest had failed when an evil old witch turned them into mighty trees with their arms all askew.

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My feet itched to explore some more, to see where the path led and what I would find at its end. But empty stomachs were clamouring for food. I would have to come back some other day.  I would have to come and explore and break the magic spell. Or maybe I would come back and fall victim to the enchantment myself.

I turned my back, reluctantly, leaving behind me a dusty path lined with brooding trees and the promise of adventure and enchantment beyond an incongruous lilac gateway.

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Photographed at Fiddien Valley, March 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wasted Time

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Since I have taken this quote very much to heart, I fear that instead of sitting down to write, I have wasted my time scouring the Internet for inspiration for my travel scrapbook and for photos of hairstyles that might suit me (just in case I decide to go for a bit of a change). I have been productive in other ways though, as my scribbling on notebooks never ceases – nor does my photo-taking.

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A plethora of wild flowers including giant fennel, asphodel and greater snapdragon

We had a national holiday last Wednesday and went exploring – as we are wont to do. We never expect to find anything new, but, somehow, we always do. Perhaps it’s because we tend to look at the world around us with wide-open eyes and find the unexpected in the mundane and ordinary. Because in reality, none of it is – ordinary, I  mean. When you don’t expect much, you are given a lot in return. Spring is definitely hard at work and she gives ungrudgingly. It’s a bit late to start writing about all the little big things but I definitely have enough material for a number of future posts. I’ll keep my fingers and toes crossed over that one.

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Giant fennel umbel - opening up

And while we are on the subject of wasted time, here’s another of my all-time favourites:

Finally … I have recently joined Instagram. If any of you are on this other ‘time waster’, drop me a line, I would love to see what you are up to. My Instagram profile is here and my name is storiesandscribbles ( no surprise there).

Have a wonderful weekend and apologies if this post seems a bit all-over-the-place: I had a Nerf-gun war going on around me while I was writing it.  Thanks heavens for little boys and for big ones too.

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