Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Pink Dahlias & Heidi Roses

It's been a busy old time.
Bank Holiday Monday was spent working on the farm which if course meant posing for photots for me and tending to the animals for my husband.
We took Frankie and he loved having a sniff around.

I settled on the Dahlia patch for my photo and coudn't resist plucking one for a buttonhole for the day and its now in a bud vase I got from the charity shop for £1.

When I am not posing for photos of crocheting granny squares I have been reading this latest book from Ed Balls.

I am enjoying the read but I wish there were more nostalgic photos from the 70s and 80s.

And whenever I can I have been enjoying vists with this little one.

Heidi Rose my gorgeous grandaughter is now two months old and getting smilier by the day.

So It's farewell to August and summer and hello to autumn.

See you on the other side.

Jane x

I wore:

Shoes - Stan Smiths

Skirt H & M

Tshirt - Reiss

Jacket - Asos

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Second Hand Stories


Today is the first day of an exciting new collaboration with Australian blogger, Sarah London, the mindful stylist. I met Sarah through Instagram and I have followed her posts for a while.

A few weeks ago I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for my 7 Secrets of my Style series on Instagram and even more delighted when she asked if I would like to share a monthly blog posts - writing a post on the same topic. And here we are.

Our first topic is the sroty behind our love of shopping second-hand.

For me shopping second-hand is very much like my yoga journey. I went into it expecting one thing and ended up with something very different. Bear with me. 

I started practising yoga in 1991 when I was six months pregnant with my eldest son and the gym owner had a quiet word to say I needed to adjust my current weight training regime. He was right but I didn't like the idea of doing no exercise. He suggested yoga.

I couldn't find any yoga classes for my area in those days but instead taught myself a pregnancy routine from a book. I was resistant at first but soon found the physical shapes fed by desire to move by body. At first it was a means to an end when I couldn't get to the gym. Four babies later I was still practising yoga and pleased with myself when I achieved a challenging new poses like Hanumanasana (the splits) or a headstand. It fed my need to push myself physically.

But then something happened. I realised the physical side was no longer that important. What I enjoyed about my yoga practice was the sense of peace and calm that I was able to carry into my everyday life. I had finally got the essence of yoga.

A similar thing happened with second-hand shopping. At first it was a means to an end when I was a student and had little money but a big passion for clothes. I could buy a whole outfit for not much money. Over the years as more money became available to feed  my fashion habit I strayed into fast fashion but somethign didn't feel right. I became more aware of the dire conditions of fast fashion workers, the impact on the environment and the cost to the planet. In 2008/2009 I did a year of buying no new clothes documented in my blog WorkthatWardrobe and I rediscovered the joys of secondhand shopping.

And then something happened. I realised something new to me was just as exciting as boxfresh clothes. What I loved about second-hand shopping was I could  get the same buzz without harming the planet. I still have a lot to learn as the book, Loved Clothes Last is telling me but I feel I am now finally getting the true essence of sustainable shopping.

It must have rubbed off as two of my sons run a successful second-hand designer clothing brand, Luxe Collective.

I still have a long way to go but I hope you join me on my journey to becoming a more sustainable shopper.

Have a great day.

Today I wore:

Shoes - Karen Millen via ebay

Skirt - Top Shop via Vinted

Jacket M&S via Oxfam

Top - Superdry via Oxfam

Bag - Mulberry via Luxe Collective

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Unto This Last


I last stood at this spot in John Ruskin's house in 1981.
I was 15 and on a camping trip with my school's Writers' Club.
We had visited many literary sites that didn't really connect with a 15-year-old schoolgirl from Manchester.
But John Ruskin's house was a place where I felt inspired.
I stood at that spot and decided I would become a writer.
The following year I won a short story competition run by Salford City Council and went on to study Ruskin at university during my English Literature (Literature of Ideas) degree.

10 years later I was employed as a journalist at The Liverpool Echo where I met a very good friend, Peter Grant who had studied at Ruskin College in Oxford.
Ruskin was born and lived in London and later, Oxford but moved to Brantwood by Coniston Water in 1871.

During his life he had been an artist, painter, writer, poet, political theorist and social reformer.
He took on Brantwood when it was a wreck and rebuilt the home and gardens.
He lived there until his death in 1900.

Unto This Last is a series of political essays which warns of the dangers of industrialization on nature.

Ruskin often enjoyed boating trips on the lake from here.

The gardens are amazing with a variety of areas which have been developed since Ruskin's death using his ideas.

I loved the ferns in The Professor's Garden.

If you ever get the chance to visit it is such an inspiring place and I am sure the spirit of the man lives on in the fabric of the building.

I wore:

Sandals: Birkenstock

Skort: Trespass

Top: Next

Glasses: Prada

Friday, 30 July 2021

Swallows, Amazons & Yogis


Everyone enjoys a Lake District adventure don't they?

Fed up of a January lockdown I booked myself on a Yoga & Walking Holiday in the Lake District.

After no alone time for what seemed like aeons I made sure I knew no-one else and could travel solo and decide how much time I wanted to spend with other people.

And last Monday that impulse summer booking finally arrived - at the same time as a heatwave.

Of course my adventure began in a charity shop - the Scope shop in Windermere which I had dicovered during our trip in May. 

This time I found a lovely Monsoon dress which I'm wearing in the grounds of the hotel where our yoga retreat took place.

I had come to Winderemer because I was picking up two fellow solo yogis from the train station.

 A Whatsapp group had been created for all attendees a couple of days before and as I knew the area well and was driving through Windermere to get to the retreat I offered to give lifts.

 It was also a useful way to get to know a couple of peopel first. 

Luckily, both Alison and Janie proved to be great company.

After unpacking and arranging my yoga vests in order we enjoyed our first yoga class in the studio.

It was Monday and the July heatwave hadn't quite reached its peak.

We were staying at Yewfield, a vegetarian country house hotel and after a lovely meak I retired to my room for an early night as the morning yoga started at 6.45am.

As the weather was warming up our group opted for the outdoor yoga classes on the lawn in front of the hotel. 

Imagine lying on the lawn in savasana, staring at the clouds and watching swallows swoop overhead while in the distance you can hear the rustling of wild deer.

It was fabulous and the time just flew.

After breakfast three walking guides came to lead our 20-strong group on a hike in the fells which included several stops at lakes for a cooling swim.

Around 4pm we returned to the hotel to prepare for our two hour evening yoga session and dinner.

The days took on this familiar rhythm.

Yoga, hike/swim, yoga, dinner, bed. Repeat.

It was a magical time and perfect timing with the weather.

The retreat ended on the Friday and we said our farewells before making our way home.

However, on the way home I made a detour to visit a special place near Coniston Water which I will post about next.

If you ever fancy a yoga retreat I would wholeheartedly recommend Michelle and her team at  Adventure Yogi who made this trip such a lovely, grown up adventure.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

A Prayer to St Anthony


Do you ever regret sending an item to the charity shop?
Its only happened once but how it hurts.
Why did I get rid of this skirt?
It was my favourite.
I even wrote a whole post about it here.
It had pockets, landed perfectly on my knee and I wore it any time of the year.
It was from Marks & Spencer and despite an ebay search it hasn't turned up.
I bought it in 2009 so the chances of one still being around are remote.
I have read on Instagram recently of praying to the charity shop gods in the hope of finding one.
I know when I lose my keys I always say a prayer to St Anthony, the patron saint of lost things and I am hoping that one day a miracle will happen.

Not everyone liked my skirt though as you can read here in the farewell letter from one of the men I worked with when I was a Writer in Residence at HMP Garth.

Still, my dress sense has never been a popularity contest!

Monday, 28 June 2021

The Name of The Rose

Welcome to our world, Heidi Rose Gallagher.

Here is a photo of our first meeting when she was a day old.

Heidi arrived on Saturday morning, June 26th at 7.36am weighing 8 pounds 3 ounces.

A true water baby, while her mum spent her labour in the water, Heidi arrived in her caul which apparently means she is in for some good luck throughout her life.

I started knitting this blanket in March and posted about it here,

I also gave a clue about her name here.

My son and his wife are both teachers and caring for little ones is second nature. They have taken to parenting like ducks to water. They are so chilled and happy.

This little girl has such a lovely mum and dad and doting grandparents on both sides of the family,

I had saved this special dress for this special occasion and every time I wear it, it will remind me of our gorgeous baby girl.

I wore:
Dress - Jigsaw
Trainers - Stan Smiths

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Walking the Anglesey Coastal Path or How NOT To Murder Your Husband!


In my last post my husband complained that my running replacement - hiking up hills - almost finished off him and his dicky ticker.

So for our second post-lockdown mini-break I sourced a scenic and less energetic route - the Anglesey Coastal Path.

I fell in love with Anglesey around the same time as I fell in love with my husband in 1985. 

I would run out from my hall of residence in Bangor to the Menai Bridge in Anglesey, touch the nearest lampost and return back along the same route to my hall before most of my friends got out of bed.

 I felt so smug with my overseas trip that took around 30 minutes.

It turns out that the man I met in my first week at Bangor University had a family holiday home on the island in Cemaes Bay and we would catch a bus and spend a few nights there during the off season. 

Sadly, the house was sold (we don't talk about that) but we did return to Cemaes Bay in 2008 with our four children and my story won first prize in The Guardian's travel competition.

 You can read it here.

Over the years we have been back many times walking parts of the 125 mile coastal path and I still enjoy those out and back routes - the view is so very different when you walk back.

Last weekend we went with our two friends, Kev and Denise (professional walkers who have almost completed the Camino de Santiago) to walk a few more sections. 

We walked on three days for around 10 miles a day.

The beauty of an out/back walk is that you can stop at any point and turn back to make it shorter or longer but you will be guaranteed stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and that sense of wellbeing that only walking by water can bring.

Come and join me.

Day One

As we were staying in an Airbnb rental in Benllech we used the beautiful sandy beach as our starting point. 

On our first day we chose to walk right and keep going.

We decided to walk for 6 miles along the coastal path and turn back. 
On the route we walked past the most amazing caravan park, a five star resort called St David's. 
The path crosses flat rocks and rises onto seacliffs overlooking the bay. The cliffs rise to 30m in places and as you progress you can see wave-cut platforms formed by wave erosion.
We kept walking along the path and past the Ship Inn where there are public toilets (a great relief!) and across an estuary to Red Wharf Bay.
Navigating a path past a bull was a bit of a challenge but we made it.

After six miles we stopped, ate our butties and turned around but instead of walking along the path we went on the beach, only leaving to cross the estuary. 

The final count as we arrived back in Benllech came to 10.6 miles as we had cut off some distance by walking across the beach.

Day Two

From Benllech we turned left.

 Always a good thing! 

This was the prettiest route. 

It was a much more undulating route along the coastal path but there were so many more beautiful bays to stop and gaze at. 

Our route took us as far as Lligwy Beach but we passed many beautiful bays and beaches. 

A sandy one and then a pebble beach and then shingle. 

There was always a surprise and the wild flowers were wonderful.

The next town after Benllech is Moelfre and there were lots of pretty
pubs and cafes in the village.
Continuing along the undulating path was a Lifeboat Station with a visitor centre where you can discover key events in the island's history including the sad story of the Royal Charter which hit rocks in October 1859 and over 400 people perished.

Our 6 mile stopping point brought us to a beautiful pebble beach where visitors had created little monuments with the stones. 
It was so calming to sit here and eat our butties.

The walk back was just as beautiful and a totally different perspective. It was a sunny day and the colours of blue in the sea were stunning. My husband, an avid bird watcher was mesmerised by the Fulmar flying in and out of the cliffs.

Our final mileage was just over 10 miles as we took a short cut on the road on the way back.

Day Three

We had to be out of our rental by 10am so we drove to Beaumaris and parked in the seafront carpark that cost £5 for the day. 
From here we were straight on the coastal path and after a walk up the hill through a field of friendly cows we got onto the beach. 
It was beautiful but and a big BUT - around two miles of pebbly beach to navigate.

 I didn't mind but some of our party did so we missed this out on the way back.

The views from this beach were worth the discomfort as we could see Snowdonia and the mighty Snowdon across the water.

We had chosen this walk as it was the closest point to Puffin Island where my husband, aka The Birdman, had wanted to see. 

Sadly we didn't see any puffins but he did spot some Eider which were just beautiful.
We had to leave the beach for a little way here to get to Penmon Priory and through the toll road (free for walkers) to the headland opposite Puffin Island.

We finally made the beautiful Trywn-du meaning Black Point and a beautiful beach opposite Puffin Island to eat our butties and watch the Eider. Sadly, we didn't see any puffins but it was the journey as always, that was the most enjoyable part.

The Lesser Spotted Husband

We turned back and retraced our route to the beach and as Kev (the professional walker), had a Garmin he managed to find a route alongside the road and off the pebble beach.
We made it back to our car around 5pm and we were all home by 7pm.

Three days of sun, sea and no stress was just what the doctor ordered.

For anyone living in the North West of England you can probably get to Anglesey in a little over two hours, enjoy a beautiful 4/5 hour walk and head home on the same day.
For anyone further afield, I would book for next year or air out your tent as the island seems to be pretty much booked up for the rest of this summer.

If you want to follow the official path I would recommend the book, "Waking the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path' by Carl Rogers. 
It's packed full of advice and information.
Next year we are planning to walk a few more routes around the other side of the island.
If you have any questions, please email me thesmallfabric@gmail.com and I will do my best to answer them.

Stay Safe.


Pink Dahlias & Heidi Roses

It's been a busy old time. Bank Holiday Monday was spent working on the farm which if course meant posing for photots for me and tending...