Decluttering for my sanity

I had a really uneasy feeling when we got home from our trip to Malta.

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(I mentioned it, so I’m showing it!)

Anyway, uneasy, as if I’d forgotten to pay a bill, or missed a really important meeting, but I hadn’t forgotten anything so I couldn’t work out why I felt that way, or more importantly, how to stop it.

I still don’t know for certain what the problem was, but I think it’s to do with work. I was in my previous role for sixteen years so to say I was in my comfort zone is somewhat of an understatement. I could pick it up after a holiday without skipping a beat, and I could let myself linger in the holiday blues without it affecting my performance, but things are different now. I now have a lot more autonomy and a lot more responsibility and I can’t rest on my laurels. I’m still somewhere near the bottom of a steep learning curve, and I guess, when I’m away from it, subconsciously my brain worries about my return in case I’m revealed as an imposter Account Manager!

I’m back in the game now and had a good week, but my head was feeling cluttered. My Dad’s good friend has a saying which perfectly illustrates this feeling. She says that her shelves are full. Well, my shelves were bowing under the weight this week so I took action! I decluttered!

Yesterday I worked from home and I spent some time organising my email. I had a couple of furry helpers.

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I created sub folders and filed loads of emails away, I read all the unread items in my inbox and took any action required, and I cleared my deleted mails down. I get lots of emails relevant to my old role that I no longer need and lots of mails that just say ‘thanks’ or ‘ok’ that I preview in the reading pane and then delete without opening. This had led to a big blue ‘643’ next to the deleted folder which was just adding to the weight on my shelves. It was like those little blue dots you get under apps that you’ve updated – I can’t leave those there either, they just bother me. I went through and deleted my unread deleted.

After work I continued the decluttering. I was on a roll, and with every item of clothing I added to the charity shop bag and every piece of rubbish I put in the bin I felt lighter. I now have a black bag of clothes, shoes and bags and two piles of books to go to the charity shop and we took an entire boot full of rubbish to the tip.

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I went through pretty much every cupboard and drawer in the house and cleaned out all of our belongings which were surplus to requirements. I was pretty ruthless – I felt the need to be.

I have an empty washing basket, a non existent ironing pile, a rearranged kitchen which looks much neater and I’ve finally hung up the quilt that my Mum made us for Christmas.

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Isn’t it amazing!

And I have space on my bookcase for my patiently waiting Little Boxes of Crochet.

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Speaking of crochet, I have finished the baby blanket that I’ve been working on for my new baby niece, Emmeline, and just in the nick of time because we’re meeting her for the first time tomorrow afternoon.

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I’m taking a chance that the recipient’s parents will be too busy taking care of their new bundle of joy to read this before tomorrow afternoon. This is one more thing ticked off my to do list.

As well as work, my head is full of half-evolved ideas of garden projects so I popped out there (after four thirty pm and it was still light – whoop) to try and evolve my plans so I can put them into action and cross them off my list – more on that later – and while I was out there I had to have a look at my wakening plants.

My daffs are yawning and stretching and are moments away from waking up and showing us their beautiful flowers, and, remember I couldn’t remember what I’d planted in front of the daffs? Well look! They’re crocuses! Isn’t nature clever?

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My rose ‘Hot Chocolate’ is happily growing some new leaves …

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… and the bluebells continue to push up round the edges of our gravelled bistro.

Spring is most definitely springing and it makes me happy. Can’t wait to get out there and continue with the grand master plan!

Marvellous Malta

We have just got home from a fantastic break in Malta. Regular readers will know that this was something of a last minute trip designed to chase away the new year blues, and it really did, while we were there at least. I’m feeling somewhat dazed to be back actually. Why is it that travelling makes you so tired? This morning we were picked up by a taxi right outside our front door for a twenty minute journey to Luqa airport, then we sat on a plane for three and a bit hours to Birmingham where we were whisked home by my Dad. Doesn’t sound overly taxing, does it, but gosh my eyelids are feeling heavy. It’s all worth it though.

Where do I start? At the beginning I guess. It doesn’t seem like it was only Wednesday that we headed off up the M42 to East Midlands airport, but I’ve checked and double checked, and it was! The flight out, considering it was Ryanair (you can read about my opinion of Ryanair here) was actually very relaxing. Hubby and I were sat twenty two rows apart because of said airline’s policy of trying to force you to pay to sit together. We even boarded at different ends of the plane! I took this photo from the top of the front steps, of hubby waiting to board at the back!

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Once on board, we both had three seats to ourselves. We could have moved, but it made a pleasant change to have plenty of room and meant we both got a window seat, so we didn’t bother. I was quite content with my crochet and episodes of the Crown that I’d downloaded from Netflix. The time flew by (pun entirely intended!)

We arrived a few minutes early and got straight through customs and met our pre-arranged taxi driver who took us to our little studio apartment. It actually rained most of the way there, but had stopped by the time we arrived and we didn’t see more than a couple of specks of rain for the rest of our trip.

We booked our accommodation through Airbnb and it didn’t disappoint. It was, I assume, a house converted into separate apartments and we were on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the road. We had a decent sized kitchen, a very modern bathroom and a living room with the sleeping section off it.

The tiled floor was amazing.

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We did partake of a few alcoholic beverages (well we were on our holibobs!) but I wouldn’t want to tackle the stairs up to the apartment after too many!

On day one of our holiday we broadly followed a walking tour of Valletta that was in our guide book.

We strolled past the Triton Fountain to enter Valletta …

… and started to wander down Republic Street.

Our first port of call was the National Museum of Archeology. This was really interesting and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Valletta. It really put the island into context. The oldest artefacts displayed date back to 4000BC! That’s really REALLY old.

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I’m always amazed that ancient civilisations created items such as this that are more decorative than essential to staying alive (although I guess they may have felt they were essential in keeping them safe from external forces). In the words of Dr. Ross Geller they had concerns such as ‘gee that glacier’s getting close’. That’s not the right time period, but you get my point. I love the fact that there’s proof that humankind has always been creative.

After this we went into St. John’s Co-Cathedral. I’m not sure what a co-cathedral is – I’ll have to google it – but blimey this one’s impressive! It’s full of gold!

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The floor is completely covered by three hundred and seventy five tombstones, underneath which the Knights of Saint John (rulers of Malta from the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century) are buried.

We took the opportunity to go up some circular stairs to a viewing gallery where we got a stunning view of the ceiling of the Co-Cathedral.

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We carried on away from the main touristy parts of Valletta taking our time and wandering down what looked like residential streets. Everywhere in Valletta is beautiful. I’d describe it as dilapidated chic. There’s paint peeling off walls, weeds sprouting up between cracked paving stones and rusty balconies, but it all adds to the charm.

Eventually we ended up on what I guess is a peninsular. There were fabulous views of Vittoriosa, one of the Three Cities, over the sea.

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We watched the Malta Experience here, which is advertised as a light show, but it’s actually a series of photos on a big screen. It was a really interesting whistlestop tour of Malta’s history and I’m really glad we watched it. We got a combined ticket for this and the War Museum. I don’t think we did the War Museum justice – we were a bit museumed out by this point, and I was starting to get hangry! I don’t think we missed out because the exhibits basically told the same story that we’d just watched in the Malta Experience.

On day two, after an epic sleep, we caught a local bus to Mdina, the old Capital. First we went to St. Paul’s Catacombs, a network of underground tombs dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries.

If anywhere’s going to be haunted, this place is it! It’s quite eerie down there, especially as, being out of season, we were often the only ones down there (or were we?!)

You can see how much smaller people were by the size of each resting place, and it was very sad to see how many baby sized plots there were. Indicative of the time, I guess.

We strolled over to Mdina Gate after this and entered the city. It’s very atmospheric and very beautiful. The King’s Landing scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed here, and as fans of the show, we could really imagine Cersei or Tyrian appearing round every corner. I was so busy looking at everything that I completely forgot to take photos around the streets!

We went for lunch at Fontanella Tea Garden which has a roof terrace with stunning views.

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This was complemented by the most amazing cocktail called a Bric Royale.

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I’m not a hundred percent sure what was in it, but I think it was some combination of pomegranate liqueur and rose wine and I’m fully intending to acquire both and do some experimenting!

Unfortunately I made a poor choice for lunch and was still hungry so I took this as a perfect opportunity to find another lovely cafe to have some cake and an Aperol Spritz!

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On our last day we decided to make use of the hop on hop off bus. There are two routes you can take, north or south, and we chose south.

On our way down to the Valletta Waterfront to catch the bus, we happened upon this little fella who seemed reasonably happy to pose for photos.

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The bus went through Vittoriosa which looked really pretty …

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… but we continued on the bus until we arrived at Marsaxlokk. This is a really pretty fishing village and we loved it! There’s not a lot to do here, but we really enjoyed  having some lunch gazing out to sea and then strolling along the front in the sun, looking at the little boats.

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We carried on round the route on the bus until we got to the Blue Grotto. There’s a series of caves here which you can get a boat into and the water is very blue and crystal clear. Unfortunately we arrived too late to catch a boat, we didn’t realise they stop earlier in winter, but we got to see the grotto from above and it gives us an excuse to go back!

It was really beautiful.

On the way back we got to meet this little Miss.

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So, that’s our little mini break. We had a brilliant time and will definitely go back some time because there’s a lot that we didn’t get chance to see/do. It was soul restoring to get a little bit of winter sun. It wasn’t really hot, but it was warm enough at times for short sleeves and to feel the warmth on our arms was just what we needed. Maybe we’ll go back in the early summer or autumn so we can experience some of the beautiful beaches and maybe even do some diving off Gozo. I would recommend Malta to anyone.

A bit of catching up

I really hate that life keeps getting in the way of things I want to do. Of course, it’s a well known fact that I am the queen of procrastination, so I probably could shoehorn more in if I spent less time on social media and playing candy crush, but, you know, we all have our vices!

This morning I’m also being thwarted by this little lady who seems particularly in need of cuddles.

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Who am I to say no to a snuggle with my Olive?

She may be feeling in need of some reassurance today because I was away for two days this week. Off I went on the epic journey to Gijon in northern Spain again. You may recall that I did this journey in November just after our holiday to Mexico, and it took only slightly less time to get to Gijon than it did to get to Mexico! Eighteen hours it took this time for the round trip for a meeting which lasted three and a half hours. It was an important, necessary and, as it turns out, positive meeting, but I do wish there was a direct flight from somewhere nearer.

As it is, I have to drive to Heathrow to catch a flight to Madrid for a connection to Asturias. I do love Heathrow. London airports generally mean an exciting long haul flight for an exotic holiday. A work trip couldn’t be further removed from exciting, but still the airport evokes those feelings. There’s also a Harry Potter shop! Slightly inappropriate since Harry and his chums would be the last people to need an airport being in possession, as they usually are, of a Nimbus 2000 broomstick and floo powder. I guess Mr Weasley would love learning about our primitive muggle modes of transport though.

I couldn’t resist, and unfortunately these I can’t claim on expenses!

There was a slight panic with my last flight when I got a message to say it was cancelled! Turns out they’d put two flights together, I think because of the bad weather expected in the UK. I ended up with a little delay (much preferable to a cancelled flight!) and a huge plane. An A330 to be precise. It was nice after all that travelling to be on a luxurious plane rather than crammed into an A320. I even got a seat back telly, and look what was showing …..

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Poor Julie Andrews got cut off in her prime halfway through Feed the Birds, but still it was just what I needed when I was feeling somewhat jaded and in need of some creature comforts.

Being away for two days means I’m now even further behind on my attic24 Sweetpea blanket CAL. Lucy published part five on her blog yesterday and I’m only a couple of stripes into part three.

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Little puddy paws love it already, even if it is smaller than it should be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but I am feeling the pressure when I see other people posting that they’re not only keeping up, but are managing to fit in other projects whilst they’re waiting for the next instalment. My excuse is that I have to go to work and the gym, and I have to eat and sleep. I’m also hard at work on a gift for a very special little lady who will be exactly a month old tomorrow.

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Perfect use of the seatback pocket!

I shivered my way out into the garden this morning, still in my dressing gown, to have a look at what’s going on out there. Blimey it was chilly! There are signs of life though, which is encouraging.

On the left you can see my giant alliums coming through the cyclamen and heather. They’re the pointy, leafy bits. These are, if nature does its thing, going to be a couple of feet tall with giant purple Pom Pom heads. On the right are my trusty daffs which I planted when we moved here five years ago and they turn up every year, regular as clockwork to signal that winter’s on its way out.

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All the bulbs that I planted in front of my planter are coming through nicely. I can’t remember exactly what I planted now, but I think the row closest to the planter are various varieties of daffodil, but there may be some tulips in there. I definitely planted some tulips, just can’t remember where!

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The second row, in front of the daffs/tulips, which you can’t see that clearly are, I think, snowdrops, but they could also be crocuses.

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I’m glad I’ve forgotten what I planted where, because it’s quite exciting waiting to see what will appear (so if you can tell, please don’t ruin my own surprise that I’ve created!)

When I created our little bistro area …….

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…… the one sadness was that I’d covered up a lot of bluebells which we inherited with the house, so imagine my glee when I went out this morning and spotted this ….

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It would appear that the indomitable bluebell won’t be quashed! They’ve pushed aside the weed control fabric and are popping up all along the edge of the bistro! Yay! Not what I planned at all, but a very happy accident. I’m learning not to plan or be too meticulous in the garden because nature seems to find a way, and I prefer, in a lot of cases, to let it do its thing. It knows better than me!

Finally I looked at my Eupatorium. It was so beautiful at the end of the summer and into autumn, but it’s looked very dead for a while.

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I was almost too scared to investigate too closely, but I decided to be brave, for its sake. I gently scratched at one of its main stems hoping and praying to find some green. I did! It’s alive! Just sleeping hopefully. I can’t find much info on t’internet but my Mum managed to find a site that instructs to cut back at the beginning of spring. I’m going to wait until it’s warmed up a bit and then I’ll get the secateurs out and then keep everything firmly crossed!

Right, I’m off out for a bottomless lunch later so I’d better dash and get ready.  Wishing you all a great weekend!