Sunday, 25 January 2015

Seven years of January days

When I was a child I longed to live in New England.  I had a beloved aunt who lived in Rye in New Hampshire who visited us every year, bearing books and telling stories of snowy winters and hot summers.  I loved the idea of such different seasons.  They sang out for me vividly in comparison with the grey green summers and the grey black winters of home.  But one thing that we do have in the United Kingdom, and very much so here in Wales, is a real variety.  Summer can be hot, or not.  Winter can be snowy, or mild.  I have come to love that unpredictability so I thought I would look back on seven Januaries to see what it has been like up here.

Here is January 2009, the hills white and the snow drifted up against the hawthorn hedge in the kitchen garden.

More snow in 2010 with the outdoor furniture under the yew tree cushioned in snow.  Ian usually puts it away but the snow must have beaten him to it!  I love the dome of snow on the table.

No snow in 2011 but bright skies and a hard frost.  We often avoid frost here as it rolls down into the valley, leaving us sitting above it.  This must have been something special to have lingered in the shadows in such bright sunshine.

A cold and beautiful dawn in January 2012 with frost on the hillsides.

In January 2013 we had serious snow and were snowed in for a couple of days.  We don't mind that too much these days when we don't have to get out for work!  We hunker down by the stove with books and knitting although it does make life much harder work whenever we need to go outside to feed the hens or replenish the log baskets.

January 2014 was much milder with the faintest dusting of snow right on the top of the Clwydian hills.

And here we are in January 2015 with the hills still green.  There is plenty of time for hard winter to strike.  The deepest snow we have ever had was in March of 2013 when farmers all over North Wales lost thousands of lambs in drifts.  So there is still some winter to come, but today the sun shines and the snowdrops are up.  How is it where you are?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The pleasures and pains of intermittent fasting

Well I promised to let you know how I am getting on with my decision to lighten up by following the 5:2 diet.   So here after my first week is my first bulletin from the front.  I have lost a couple of pounds which I am pleased with.  Of course it would be great to lose weight really quickly but it didn't come on quickly so losing it steadily and slowly is all right by me.  I haven't found the fasting days, where I am restricting myself to 500 calories, too bad.  I have done three now, spaced apart by two to three days, and I am beginning to see a pattern emerging as to how to do it.

The morning after the first fast day I had a powerful headache, very unusual for me, and I am pretty sure I was dehydrated.  Since then I have made a big effort both to drink lots on fasting days and also to continue to take in a lot of liquid on the following day.  That seems to have done the trick as I haven't had any problem at all following the two subsequent days.  Fasting days themselves are fine.  I start with a couple of hard boiled eggs which I find fill me up for the morning.   That is not too much different from my normal breakfast.  Lunch might be another egg or a light homemade soup and this keeps me going through to around five o' clock.  This is about when it starts to get harder.  I find I need to have a cup of bouillon and some celery or cherry tomatoes before I start to prepare the evening meal or I am just so hungry the urge is to pick at anything and everything takes over.  Having a pause with the intention of taking in something to ward that off seems to work well.  For the evening meal I have a piece of fish or lean chicken with tomatoes and peppers.

All is then well until about half past eight when the munchies strike!  I need to keep myself busy until bedtime and to take in lots to drink in the way of sparkling water or fruit teas and to keep a few calories in reserve for celery sticks and tomatoes when I just need to have the sensation of eating!  I don't feel in any way unwell.  On the contrary I feel light and energetic, just with occasional bursts of hunger.  I think we have forgotten (or I certainly had) what it is like to feel hungry in our overfed world in the West.  I quite like the sense that I can feel a bit hungry and can get over it and carry on doing normal things and having a normal evening.  I admit as well that it is a huge help to know that this is only for a day at a time.  If I really fancy something I can always tell myself that I will be able to have it the next day.   I sleep well and wake up the following morning feeling pretty good.  It looked when I was researching this as though many people fell into one of the other of quite polarised camps: those who found fasting relatively easy for a twenty four period like this and felt well on it, and those who felt very unwell and gave up because they suffered from headaches and exhaustion and quite unmanageable hunger on fast days.  I think now I have realised quite how much I need to drink I will be ok and might even fall into the first camp of people who find that fasting suits them well enough.

On non fast days I am eating round about 1500 calories.  The Horizon programme on dieting which kicked off all this talked about eating normally on non fast days and not needing to calorie count.  There was also talk of "eating healthily" and "not bingeing" but I was more persuaded by the idea that even on non fast days you needed to be sure you were not taking in more calories than you could sensibly use up.  1500 doesn't feel like much restriction, in fact if I don't eat as much butter and cheese and drink as much wine as my normal diet contains I can do 1500 calories without altering the way I cook or the food that we normally eat.  I don't feel I am on a diet at all on those days and I know that if I really want something like a cheese scone or a bar of  chocolate I can have it.  Somehow that sense that nothing is actually off limits seems to have protected me from eating way too much on non fast days.  I have cut down on bread, which I love, mainly because I love bread and butter and if I am not eating much butter there is not much temptation to eat much bread!

And the important waist measurement?  The thing that really made me think I was ignoring  my health and my genes?  Well that has come down by half an inch so that is good too.

I think I will stick to this for a month or so and take stock again then.  I have a friend who lost a bit of weight on this diet a year or so ago and who tells me she continues to have  fast day a week and hasn't put any of that back on again.  It feels, she says, more like a way of life now.  So we will see how we go.  So far, so good!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

One of my longrunning favourite blogs is Croftgarden, the story of a garden sometimes battered by winds and storms and sometimes bathed in sunshine on the coast of South Uist in the Hebrides.  I was lucky enough to go a couple of years ago.  It's an amazing place and a testament to the extraordinary energy and commitment of Christine and her husband that there is a garden where the land meets the sea. Christine has just blogged her answers to eleven questions on her garden and has nominated another five blogs to respond to her own questions as part of the Liebster awards.  I am honoured to be asked.  Here are her questions and my answers:

1. How would you describe your gardening style?

Naturalistic would be kind.  Unkempt would be another way of putting it.  I am trying to garden in a high site surrounded by farmland and open moorland and to produce something which fits the place.

2. Who or what has influenced the design of your garden?

I hope that the strongest influence is the place itself.  In terms of people, there are gardeners I greatly admire such as Tom Stuart Smith and Anne Wareham but I don't think I would say they have influenced the design.  Actually that is not true.  Anne made a comment about the way some of the boundary trees cut off the view in a certain part of the garden and I have responded to that by reducing the height of some hollies and taking some branches off some of the larger trees.

3. Is this your first garden or just the latest in a long line?

This is the latest in a long line which has included small city gardens and medium sized suburban gardens.  I began being interested in gardens when my children were young so I have been gardening with varying degrees of intensity for about thirty years, depending on how much time I could spare from family and working.  This is the first garden I have attempted to make from scratch and very difficult it is too!

4. Do you fall into temptation every time a gardening catalogue lands on the mat?

No, I am not much affected by gardening catalogues these days.  Sadly I can't ascribe that to virtue or extraordinary willpower.   It is simply that a lot of things won't grow up here so there is little point in bringing in a lot of new and exotic plants and seeing them die!

5. Are you seduced by the glossy pictures in magazines or books and then despair at your own efforts?

I do sometimes despair and long for a garden with soil instead of stones,  less wind and some respite from the ravages of perennial weeds!  When I see gardens in magazines in the south and the south west it sometimes feels that I inhabit another gardening world altogether.   In fact I think that is probably true.  There is no point in comparing our garden to gardens in glossy magazines.  Until very recently it was a field and it is still a sloping site with a strong resemblance to a field although I hope the sense of a wildish, country garden is beginning to emerge.

6. Do you wear gardening gloves, carry a trug or wear designer wellies?

I always begin any time in the garden wearing gardening gloves and usually take them off at some stage and get my hands filthy.  I have a very beautiful trug which is sometimes used to bring in vegetables and otherwise lives on a shelf in the greenhouse.  I have two pairs of wellies, a cheap pair for gardening in and a less cheap pair for walking in.  Neither could be called designer.

7. What is your favourite gardening task, apart from sitting on the bench with a cuppa?

I love cutting back and the satisfying sense of letting things breathe.  Even though everything here is wild and often overgrown I love the things that bring some order - cut hedges, stacked wood, cut paths through long grass.

8. Do you have a “wish list” of plants  or just get carried away when you see something new?

I used to be much more susceptible to buying something new and beautiful when I had my last garden which had very good shelter and good soil.  Nowadays I don't buy anything without establishing that it won't mind my fastdraining, stony soil and even then I can do all the right research, think I have cracked it and find the plant turns up its toes anyway.

9. Do you propagate your own plants?

I do a lot of splitting up plants and taking cuttings.  This is partly because there is a lot of space to fill and partly because anything that is happy to grow here is worth having a lot of!  I am also much more taken by the repeated use of the same plant in large numbers than by lots of different plants so propagating to achieve that makes sense and is satisfying.

10. Do you try to grow something new each year?

Not really, I just try to keep things alive.

11. Why do you read gardening blogs?
I read lots of blogs, not just gardening ones, in fact the ones I enjoy most tend to range more widely than gardening alone.  I like to see what other people are doing, and I love people talking honestly about their successes and failures and explaining their ambitions.  That is something that is rarely done in gardening magazines which tend towards simple admiration.  A good gardening blog is like a good conversation.

I think that the idea of this award is to nominate others and ask your own questions.  I do hope that it is ok to answer without passing it on.  Many of my favourite blogs have already done this and some of my favourites are not blogging right now.  I have enjoyed answering Christine's questions and urge you to go and have a look at the other blogs she nominated and at her own, Croftgarden.

These are the others nominated by Christine:

The Hopeful Herbalist
The Garden Deli
Edinburgh Garden Diary

There are some great blogs out there and some great gardeners.  I am deep in winter hibernation here and, as those who read regularly will know, last year was not a gardening year as so much of our time went into family things.  Thinking about the questions and looking back at my photographs and diaries has almost made me feel like gardening again!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Lightening the load

If to feel more free is the aspiration, and getting rid of some of the accumulation of stuff is already underway, what else could I be thinking about shedding?  We come round again to weight, fat, excess.  I am not hugely overweight, probably about a stone or so (fourteen pounds to my American readers) but I have been carrying this extra weight for about eight years.  I have never been one of these people who are rake thin and can eat anything but for most of my adult life my weight has hovered between nine stone and nine stone seven, not slender for my height of five foot four but not heavy either.  I would only ever be able to eat what I liked if I was exercising a lot and I cheerfully accepted a sort of discipline which meant that when my weight started to approach nine and a half stone I would exercise more, eat a bit less until it nudged back down again.

All that changed when I became seriously ill with an ovarian growth nine years ago.  I lost a huge amount of weight, down to seven stone, and for the first time ever you could see my ribs, the bony edge of the clavicle, the curve of my hip bones.  I hated it.  It was part of the frailty and physical weakness of being ill.  I was off work for six months and most of that time , perhaps four months or so, was a slow and gentle recuperation and a return to myself.  During that time I ate quite deliberately to regain my weight.  It was great to watch the scales gently edging upward.  I got to nine stone, and then nine and a half and still kept on going with the extra portion, the lavishly buttered bread, the extra slice of cheese.  I seemed to settle at about ten stone five, heavier than I had ever been but not so heavy as to feel uncomfortable with myself.  And there I let it stay.  I was alive.  I was healthy again.  What did it matter?  It was a relief not to think about weight.  I was in my fifties and if I needed a size fourteen that didn't seem to me (still doesn't) anything unusual or excessive.

About eighteen months ago I decided that perhaps I would do something about my weight, noticing that things were edging up again and thinking that I didn't want to find myself very much heavier.  I lost about half a stone, using the calorie counting app on MyFitnesspal, and felt much better for it.  Then, out of the blue, my mother died.  I don't think I have ever been a comfort eater but I put all that weight back on.  I knew as I was doing it that the sad, emptiness I felt would not be filled by eating but we have always loved food in our family and somehow I found myself eating the extra sandwich, hearing my mother's voice from far away in my childhood saying "You will feel better for something to eat".  I didn't.  Only the slow passage of time does that.

And so we come to this year, 2015.  I can tell by my clothes that I have put a little bit more weight on and I begin to wonder whether I should try to lose it.  Things that were comfortable are not quite so comfortable.  A couple of skirts which were a bit tight are now so tight that I take them off again.  We were watching the recent Horizon programme which has been looking at the scientific evidence which indicates that different diets might suit different groups.  One group of guinea pigs was put on a diet involving intermittent fasting, where for two days a week you eat very few calories and for the rest of the week you eat normally.  "You could do that" said Ian.  "You're a self disciplined type."  Now I should make it clear that Ian has never commented on my extra weight other than to tell me jokingly that he doesn't like skinny birds.  I was interested in what we were watching and wondering aloud about whether any of these diets were of any use to me.

After the programme I went and weighed and measured myself.  And here was the shock, not so much the weight which was three pounds or so above the level it was last time I weighed myself but the measurements.  I knew I carried weight about my middle because I always have.  I know that the "apple" shape which that produces is associated with a number of health risks, particularly with regard to heart attack and stroke, but when I saw my waist measurement was thirty seven inches I could not believe it.  I don't look like a beer barrel, honestly, but a thirty seven inch waist means I barely go in at the waist at all.  My mother died of a heart attack.  My brother had a huge stroke four years ago which has left him seriously disabled.  It was not a vanity thing.  I was messing about with my health.

So time to do something about it.  I spent Monday evening researching intermittent fasting, or the five:two diet as it is often called to reflect the pattern of two days fasting and five days normal eating.  I found a website which supports it and ploughed my way through information and forums.  I found a waist to hip ratio calculator which told me my ratio was "extreme" and associated with increased health risks.  I read about fasting for two days a week and thought I could and would do it.  So yesterday was my first fasting day.

Fasting suggests no food at all and the 5:2 diet doesn't demand that.  Instead it suggests that you should restrict yourself to 500 calories and day for women and 600 for men on your fasting days.  The website offers you a way to calculate the calories you should consume on the non fasting days, based on your age, gender, height and levels of physical activity.  This is based on something called Total Daily Energy Expenditure.  It all seemed quite straightforward.  The forums were full of a whole range of responses to fasting from "I feel terrible, I can't do this, I can't sleep" to "I feel wonderful.  I feel so great on my fasting days that I look forward to them".  How would I find it?  There was only one way to find out.

Yesterday was my first fasting day.  I started with a breakfast of two hard boiled eggs.  That is an easy one for me.  I love eggs and usually have them for breakfast, generally a poached egg on toast.  My reading had suggested that protein kept you feeling fuller for longer than carbohydrate so I thought two eggs might work better than my usual egg on toast.  It seemed to be true.  I wasn't at all hungry over the course of the morning and arrived at lunchtime feeling I wanted a little bit of something but not even as hungry as I normally am.  I did drink quite a lot of fruit and herbal tea, having had two cups of my normal tea with milk to start the day.  For lunch I had a cup of Marigold Bouillon stock and another hard boiled egg.  That felt fine.  I was much less hungry than usual, had no headache or any of the downsides of fasting which I read about.  So far, so good.

I calculated I had used about two hundred and ten of my calories for the day.  It depends on how you categorise our home laid eggs!  For dinner I reckoned I could have a salmon fillet with tomatoes and peppers and that should be it.

By late afternoon I was starting to feel decidedly peckish, not starving or uncomfortable, just ready for something to eat.  I raided the fridge for a couple of cherry tomatoes and had another cup of bouillon.  There is something about the salty, savoury taste which makes you feel you are having something more substantial than it really is!  I had a bit of a wobble before dinner when Ian was eating black olives and bread cubes but I held out and made it through to meal time feeling quite proud of myself.  I cooked the salmon in the oven on a bed of tomatoes and chopped yellow pepper with some capers for sharpness and a little oil and black pepper.  It was delicious and Ian had the same but with roasted new potatoes as well.

I always knew that the evening would be the hardest time as this is when I normally get to around nine o' clock and have a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers.  No more calories left for this.  Strangely I was aware that I wasn't really hungry, it was more that I have a habit of rounding off the evening this way.  I had a couple of glasses of slimline tonic with ice and, without the wine to set off the munchies, didn't feel the need for anything else.  So I reached bedtime having achieved my aim of no more than five hundred calories and feeling pretty good.  I thought I might struggle to go to sleep which is a problem many people have complained of, particularly on their second fasting day of the week.  Perhaps because this was my first day I had no difficulty going off to sleep.  I woke this morning with a dry mouth but otherwise feeling fine.

Today I am keeping to 1500 calories, again using MyFitnesspal to track them.  I will decide tonight whether to fast again tomorrow or on Friday.  At the moment I am feeling hugely motivated.  Somehow deciding that the driver is my health rather than anything else has been very freeing.  It would be nice to fit into a size twelve again and to look slimmer but to be honest if that was that important to me it would have made me act about my weight before now.  I hope to look better out of my clothes and in them but what I really want to do is to achieve a waist measurement which is no more than half my height in inches.  That seems to be the rule of thumb which indicates that you are not carrying unhealthy levels of abdominal fat.  So we shall see.  I will give it a month of really having a serious go at intermittent fasting and keeping an eye on the calories on non fasting days.  I think this will have a by product of reducing my wine consumption which can't be a bad thing.  When Ian is completely recovered I will go back to walking our hills again.  And I will report back.  I hope this is not too personal and too boring but having the discipline of writing about what has happened when I have done my first week seems like a good idea.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

One word

Do I have a word for 2015?  No resolutions, although I have had fun with resolutions for years. Mind you, some do tend to recur rather: less food, more exercise, less wine.  Nothing too exciting there then and clearly they don't work or they wouldn't keep coming round again like a wooden horse on a roundabout at an old fashioned fair.

But a word.  I like the idea of a word.  I came across it first on Exmoorjane's blog.  Her word is "light".  Then it cropped up again on a new discovery for me, The linen cloud, where the word is "grow" and on another new to me blog, Mitenska, with her word "brave".  I like all of these.  I am living very much in the now.  My father's health casts a long shadow over 2015 so I had not intended to do anything which involved any sort of looking ahead.  What would be the point?  Be here, now.  But as I read the last of these blogs a word formed in my mind, suddenly, sweetly, like a bubble blown by a child: free.

I have been mulling about "free" for a day or so now.  It is an odd word for me with my many, beloved ties.  I do not wish in any way to be free of my ties to my husband, my children and stepchildren, my grandchildren, my father, my wider family and my friends.  My ties to these people, which I suppose do constrain me in many ways, make me the person I am.  They are the warp and weft which make up the fabric of my life.  They give my life shape and meaning and sense.  Yes, there are times when I feel all of my energy running outward to others and know that I need to pull back inside myself for a day or two but there are also times when their energy lifts and supports me and keeps me afloat.  I do not want to be free of my wonderful, sustaining ties.  So what is all this about "free"?

It has slowly grown on me that the wish to be free seems to be connected to two things: having less and doing more.  Having less, owning fewer things, living with less stuff, is an interesting one.  I don't think we are paid up members of the consumer society.   I could not truthfully say that we live frugally but I do think we live quite carefully, quite thoughtfully, trying not to waste, making food from scratch - our own bread, our own jams and preserves.  We don't shop as a recreation.  We mend and re-use.  We are not, I don't think, acquisitive.  Yet still our house and our outbuildings are full of stuff.  It washes in through the door.  Paper piles up on desks and in trays. Books accumulate in leaning towers by the bed.  CDs and videos which we rarely listen to or watch fill drawers and shelves.  Outside the outbuildings heave with tools and materials.  Clearly we have chosen to live a life where the responsibilities for things both outside and in require an armoury of equipment which we would never need in a two bedroomed flat in the city.  We can never return to our eighteen year old selves with possessions that fitted into a rucksack and a battered trunk.  But we have envelopes and notepads and biros you could open a stationery shop with, files of papers going back to the years before we moved here, seeds we never sow, clothes we never wear.

I need to be free of some of it.  Some is mine, some is Ian's, some is no-one -in-particular's.  I shall start by looking at my things and see if empty files and clutter free wardrobes give me more room to breathe.

Of course the problem with getting rid of stuff is that it takes time but I shall find some, even if only a little.  Perhaps a little every day will make a difference and still leave me with time for the other face of freedom.  Because some of being free is to do with doing more of the things I love and less of the things that weigh me down:

More walking.
More colour.
More drinking tea.
More laughing.
More reading with grandchildren.
More sitting on a hillside watching the sun come up.
More yoga.
More reading.
More singing.
More holding hands.
More freedom.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A pale dawn, a new year.

Well we survived 2014 and all that it threw at us and here we stand at the dawn of 2015.  Today I am not going to look back or look forward.  Let us just be in today.

It is cold and crisp, the sun is shining.  Now, approaching noon, those fields which face the sun have been  washed green.  Those in shadow still hang on to the grey frost which silvered all the landscape as the sun came up this morning in a wash of pink and grey.

Ian is in bed with the worst flu I have seen in a long time.  I take him a sweet tea and another blanket and go outside to check on the hens.

There is ice on the pond and I break the ice on the hens' water drinkers.  The hens are congregating on the roof of one of the houses to catch the sun.

This is the point of the year when I feel the need to poke around, searching for signs of new growth.  Yes, the yew tree is full of birds.  Yes, the holly shines and the ivy flowers catch the sun.  Yes, the Christmas wreath on the door still looks like a celebration.

But it is new growth I want and I find some first in the side garden, the marbled leaves of Arum Italicum.

I love this.  I bought this plant as a tiny spear in a three inch pot from Great Dixter on a visit in 2009.  It seems astonishing that it is so long ago but that is what my blog tells me.  The RHS site tells me the plant can grow to as much as eighteen inches across.  Mine is about nine inches now but it may never attain its greatest stature on my soil and at my height.

The snowdrops are beginning to push up amongst the twigs and debris at the bottom of the dry stone walls.

This will be our tenth spring here, when it comes, and I know now that the first daffodils will appear in the sunniest spots in the field, under the big apple tree or by the wild cherry.  I go to look and sure enough there are the first snouts amongst the leaf litter at the foot of the cherry tree.

The flowers are breaking on the bare branches of the hamamelis mollis.  I go back inside to make Ian another cup of sweetened tea and to light the fire.  Spring will come.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


How I would love to have a really beautiful singing voice.  Unfortunately that is just not going to happen.  I have however decided to settle for good enough and I have joined a choir.

At school I loved singing but I was never good enough for our really quite serious school choir.  I could hold a tune just about but couldn't get all the high notes with the sopranos and couldn't manage all the lower ones when I was sent to sit with the altos instead.  I could read music just about but I couldn't play any instrument (still can't) and struggled with sight reading.  So at around about seventeen years old I gently slipped out of the choir, following my teenage theory of "if you can't do it really well, don't do it at all".

What a totally stupid philosophy of life.  Yes it meant I held onto the things I could already do well and got better and better at them (writing about English Literature, cooking, baking, walking, writing poetry) but all sorts of things that I did not do very well or did positively badly (ice skating, drawing, understanding physics and yes, singing) just got put away and in the rush of life with the demands of work and children they somehow got put away for good.

So one of the things I want to do at this stage of my life is to look at whether there are things which I set aside which I would like to come back to.   I came back a couple of years ago to knitting which I abandoned as a teenager when my jumpers were always disappointingly not quite the right fit.  I have got quite good at it.  I might not be an artist or even a highly talented craftsperson but I can produce garments for children and covers for cushions and lap rugs in both knitting and crochet which give me both pleasure in the making and satisfaction in the finished piece.  So there we are, I don't have to design my own patterns and spin and dye my own wool to regard myself as a knitter.  I can be good enough by being average, by being OK.

Where does it come from, this urge to be the best or to be nothing at all?  Not from my childhood, I don't think.  I remember encouragement to try things and a strong sense of being loved for being myself, not for what I did.  Possibly from my education which was fiercely academic and competitive.  Is it widespread?  I don't know.  I am not sure I have talked about it much with friends.   I have just lived a life where I do the things I can do and don't do the things for which I don't seem to have any existing talent or ability.

But slowly as I have grown older I have come to wonder if this urge for perfection is a destructive thing and if it kept me from messing about, paddling at the edges of things I would have enjoyed.  So back to singing.  I know I like to sing, that I have spent years singing in the car, especially with my children when they were young and my voice and theirs was the nearest we got to in-car entertainment.  When I started to learn Welsh I found I loved learning Welsh songs and singing, even in a group which was quite small.  So I have joined our parish choir, Cor y Llan Ysceifiog, and I like it very much indeed.  I still can't get the highest notes but I find just opening my mouth and making sure that no horrible noise comes out seems to be enough.  I love the focus and the energy.  I love it when the choir mistress, having let us sit down for a few minutes singing something in a scanty, inadequate way says laughingly "Let's stand up then" and makes us do some scales, and blow our breath out and shake our shoulders.  I love the harmonies and the mens' voices anchoring the sopranos and the soaring beauty of the voice of the young soloist.  I love the songs, both in English and in Welsh, and the sense when I get home of my body having been blown through by the winds of breath.

To be good enough is enough.  Is it just me or have you been caught by the perils of perfectionism?   I wonder if I should have another go at ice skating?