Spring Has Sprung!

Hello Everyone! How have you been? The past two weeks have flown by and I’m not sure what I’ve done at all. Work. I have done a lot of work. Although several interviews have been conducted we are still no closer to finding another part-timer and so the overtime continues. That is good from an “extra pennies in my pay-packet” point of view, but, as my company are tediously slow at paying overtime – seriously slow, the overtime I did in March won’t be paid until the end of June – I’m not feeling any benefits yet.

I’ve seen a few of the applicants and I can’t say too much about them, or indeed, anything at all, but I am wondering quite when dressing with some semblance of smartness for an interview became obsolete? Am I hopelessly old-fashioned, or is rocking up in skin-tight leggings, a t-shirt that doesn’t hide your muffin top, unbrushed hair, chipped nail varnish, scruffy trainers, and too much make-up now acceptable when you want to impress potential employers – and that was just the blokes!

I remember when I applied for this job I arrived for the interview on time, wearing smart black trousers, a grey blouse, a fitted grey jacket, and clean shoes. No wonder I was offered the job practically on the spot.

The weather has been a bit weird as well, veering from bitterly cold, grey, and raining, to gorgeous hot sunny days where you can taste the pollen as soon as you step outdoors. I think we’re heading in the general direction of summer, but it’s like Mother Nature is dragging her feet and looking longingly over her shoulder at winter.

I think the threat of frost is over though, so last week my mother and I went plant shopping for some pretties to go into the three beds on the right side of my garden. These beds are almost constantly in the sun or dappled shade so I can grow almost anything I want there. The beds were empty apart from a rose climbing up the pergola, a small clematis scrambling up a willow wigwam, and my wisteria that has decided to completely forgive my brutal treatment of it when relocating it and has burst into leaf and even dark purple buds!

Anyway, we trundled off to Dobies which is a large and well-stocked garden centre on the other side of town. There were a lot of lovely plants to look at, but I had to be sensible and not choose things that would establish world domination over the garden and bully the other plants. I needed perennials that would come back year after year, plants that would be self-sufficient, and I wanted pretty, long-flowering plants that were bee-friendly.

Trying to stick to the colour palette of lilac/purple, cream/white, and lemon/yellow, I threw in a couple of pops of orange to liven things up. A white bleeding heart was a definite, as were white daisies and yellow daisies. Purple clematis to climb the trellis panels, and a white passionflower to scramble up the pergola and keep the rose company. Three lupins – purple, white, and orange. Poppies, snapdragons, scabius, pennestons, verbena, and a few other things I can’t remember the names of but trust me, are pretty.

Although I was selective it was still £100 that first trip, and then I returned the following day and spent another £70 on plants plus potting compost ready for my pots and hanging basket. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but it’s the final push on a garden that has been fifteen years in the making. And, let’s face it, without plants there’s not much point to a garden. They are perennials so will return year after year, they will enrich my life, add value to my property, help the environment, and provide food for bees and other essential insects.

I must admit, buying the plants and seeing how good they look has fired me up to keep going. I’m now looking around the garden to see where else I can fit plants in. On the left side of my garden – the side that’s so permanently in shade it is a woodland environment – I’m planning to plant more ferns and other shade-loving plants. When we visited Ickworth Park last month, I was fascinated by the stumpery they had and although I can’t do anything on the scale they have, I may be able to replicate it in a mini form in my little patch of woodland.

Ideas are bursting in my head. I could create something magical in what I’d always dismissed as a rather boring part of the garden. I will keep you posted.

Talking of being creative. My latest book has now been to two of my beta readers, who couldn’t find anything wrong with it and both loved it. It’s now with my third and final beta reader, she of the eagle-eyes and ninja punctuation skills. I’m hoping she won’t find too much; I have done my best with this one, and I feel with every book I write I learn and improve. The covers have been made and when I get five minutes I will need to write the copy for the video trailer and think about how I want it to look.

I’ve written the blurb, which was done in under ten minutes when I received a message from Becky at Platform House Publishing saying James has a slot tomorrow morning to make your covers, if you want them done before next month get the blurb to us NOW! Gulp. Nothing like a deadline to make the ideas flow. So, everything is falling into place with this book and I’m hoping for a June launch date.

So much is happening in June. Not just the book being launched, but it is both my parents’ birthdays, and I will be driving back up North on the 16th to collect Miss F and Miss C from university. Regular readers will remember I said last time I would be booking a storage pod close to the university because Miss F must completely clear all her belongings from the campus for the long summer break. Not only could I not fit everything in my car but storing everything in our tiny house would also be a problem. I searched the area around the university and got a few quotes, then in the end settled with a local company offering a special student deal of £1 for the first month. For the three months, we need the storage unit it’s going to cost £205 plus £45 insurance. It sounds a lot, but when you factor in hiring a van or even paying my brother for his time and petrol to make the return journey twice, plus the sheer inconvenience of having everything piled up at home, it is the only solution.

Miss F contacted me this morning – there’s an issue with the new mattress I bought her before Christmas! Two of the springs are broken and are poking through. She sent me a photo and it does look bad. They have punched holes in the mattress topper, the protector, and the sheet. There is nothing I can do about it until Monday when my boss is back from holiday, and he can advise me on the best way to go about getting it replaced.

Why is my life constantly one pain-in-the-arse issue after another?!

I’m currently looking after two kittens for my new American neighbours who live at the top of my road. They were let down at the last minute by their house sitter, so I offered to pop in night and morning to feed and clean out the critters for the ten days they’re away. I love cats so I’m happy to help, but they are sphinx cats which has taken a little getting used to. They’re sweet and very friendly, but there’s no denying they are odd little things. You don’t realise how small cats are under all that fluff so it’s strange seeing them naked. With their crinkled little faces and big floppy ears, there is a startling resemblance to Dobbie the house-elf from the Harry Potter films. They were wary of me when I first went in, but they quickly realised I was the bringer of food, and then last night I took them a few Dreamies cat treats and now I’m their favourite auntie.

Remember the building site at the bottom of my garden with the huge crane? Well, to add to our misery they have now closed off the street at the bottom of my road which means I can no longer get to work that way. Instead, I’m having to drive across town, get onto the A14, bypass town, get off the A14 and then head into work that way. I thought it would take me ages, but surprisingly I think it might be a quicker route. Going through town I hit a total of eleven traffic lights and if they are all against me it can add ten minutes to my commute. Going via the motorway there is only one set of pedestrian lights. The other night it took me six minutes to get home – I’m not going to grumble about that – and even when the road is opened again, I might stick to the new route. But still, my town is a nightmare right now. There is barely one road anywhere that doesn’t have roadworks, temporary traffic lights, single-lane traffic, or is closed completely. I honestly don’t know which braindead idiot oversees planning this, but I can only assume he or she does not live in town, work in town, nor have any reason to come to town at all, and dislikes the poor bloody residents of Bury St Edmunds!

I have good news regarding the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. Do you remember I told you that my street has been given permission to close on the Sunday and will be holding a street party? I feared I wouldn’t be able to attend because although Queenie has granted the nation a four-day weekend to help her celebrate the occasion, it only applies to schools and people who work in offices – so will cause mega childcare problems for parents who work in retail with school-age kids! Anyway, as my shop will be staying open for the whole weekend, it looked like we were all going to have to work despite the fact we don’t anticipate being very busy. None of us was happy about it and sat there kicking our chairs like petulant children and muttering under our breath how unfair it all was.

My boss spoke to our regional manager who shrugged his shoulders in a “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya” attitude because the whole “you have to work rule” only applies to us shop staff, not those at higher levels. Of course, it doesn’t.

Anyway, the upshot is the regional manager told my boss to rota his staff as he wished over the four-day weekend. There are four of us, so all of us will work two days and have two days off. My boss knew I wanted the Sunday and nobody else was that fussed about which days off they had – they just wanted some time off. So, the boss and I are having Thursday and Sunday off, and the other two are having Friday and Saturday. It does mean I have to sacrifice my local authors’ meeting that week, but as it’s a bank holiday and some people are away or doing other things, it might have been cancelled anyway. I don’t care. If it’s the price tag for having Sunday off then that’s fine.

I can’t believe how quickly this year is passing. There are only three weeks before Miss F will be home for the summer. It’s a long stay this time – three months in total – because they have such a long summer break. It will be nice to have so much time together. When she visited at Easter we were trying to cram so much into such a short period it was exhausting. With so many people to visit and trips and treats to fit in, it meant we never really had any downtime.

That doesn’t mean the summer won’t be busy though. Whilst Miss F is home we will be celebrating both my parents’ birthdays, my niece’s, Miss F’s, and mine. Miss F will still want to visit friends and family and go for outings, but because it will be spread out over three months it won’t be so frantic. I think that’s another reason why I’m determined to sort the garden out. It will be nice for us to have the outdoor space to chill out in, to be able to eat outside and to have games evenings under the pergola. That is if the British weather decides to be kind to us.

Miss C, Miss F’s girlfriend, will be coming home with us for the first couple of weeks of summer, before heading back to Wales to spend time with their own family. They will be returning for a long visit later in the summer before they head back to Chester to settle Miss C in their new student accommodation ready for the new academic year.

I think the plan may be for Miss F to pick up some shifts at her old place of employment. I know she vowed never to return there, but Miss F is sensible enough to realise that they need money and finding a temporary part-time job that pays as well as the restaurant does will be hard, if not impossible.

I have two full weeks’ holiday from work coming up in July – the two weeks over my birthday – which I’m very much looking forward to. I won’t be able to celebrate my birthday on the actual day though because I will be at a book fair in St Albans. But there are thirteen other days which I have no doubt will be filled with birthday shenanigans.

Hard to imagine I will be 55 this year. I don’t feel that old. Well, scratch that, some days I feel twice that age what with bits of me creaking when I bend and the fact I now make noises getting up. As for my memory … does anyone else have that weird thing when they walk into a room, stop, and then wonder why the heck you’ve gone in there? Mind you, I don’t want to boast, but the other day I did walk into a room and remember why I was there. It was the bathroom, but still …

This week has been a nice week – both from a weather and personal point of view. Monday I had to work, and it was so quiet it was a relief to get home with two days off to look forward to.

Tuesday a fellow author whom I’m following on Instagram contacted me to say they were visiting friends in a nearby town and would I be free to meet up that afternoon for coffee. He is new to the author world and would like to ask me some questions about indie publishing and the various forms that can take. I managed to round up a couple of my fellow local authors and we met him in the rather lovely cathedral garden café. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, so we sat outside for hours chatting about all things bookish. It’s great meeting fellow authors, there’s always so much to talk about.

On Wednesday I went to visit my bookish bestie, the lovely Becky Wright, at her charming little house in a tiny village about thirty minutes away. It was my turn to provide lunch, so I took some mozzarella stuffed meatballs in a cheesy, tomato sauce and some gnocchi and salad. Becky provided wonderful coffee and a box of eclairs. I am ashamed to say we scoffed the lot. I think her young son was hoping for a nibble of one when he got home from school. Sorry, Master A, but a pair of piggy authors ate every crumb.

The last time we met in person had been at the beginning of December, and regular readers will remember it was whilst I was parked outside Becky’s that an Amazon delivery driver threw up a stone which shattered my back windscreen. I will never forget that drive home as long as I live. With several binbags taped over the gaping hole where my windscreen used to be, in the dark, with the wind whistling through the car, an ever-increasing line of impatient traffic growing behind me because I dare not drive too fast, and the tinkle of broken glass falling playing on repeat in my ear, it was truly terrifying. This time I went prepared with a bamboo mat which I secured to my rear windscreen – just in case.

Thursday I had a short six-hour shift, during which I saw hardly anyone and only made one tiny sale. Business is a bit slow now, which makes for long boring days at work.

Friday (today) has been frantic – what with the video chat with Miss F about her mattress, going to pick up my shopping, feeding and cleaning out the cats, writing a couple of book reviews, phoning my pension company about possibly drawing down some of my pension this year, and going on Zoom with my local author group, there hasn’t been much time to do anything else other than try to prepare my blog. I’m working all weekend and know from experience that when I get home from work late Saturday evening, the last thing I will feel like doing is writing it.

And now it’s gone five. I will finish this, then pop over and make sure the cats are happy, clean, fed, and watered. After that, I will fix myself a sneaky gin and tonic and see if any of my neighbours are about for our usual happy hour chat. Then it will be dinner and Netflix before an early night ready for work tomorrow.

What an exciting life I live.

I guess that’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed the pictures of my new plants. I will try to take more later in the summer so you can see how much they’ve grown. Have a great weekend and I look forward to chatting with you in a fortnight.

Best Wishes.

Julia Blake


2 thoughts on “Spring Has Sprung!

  1. The garden looks beautiful and it will only get more so as it all grows in. How lovely it will be for you and your daughter and Ms.C to sit outside this summer.
    So glad the kitty sitting has worked out pleasant enough, and that the kitties are sweet natured.
    I can’t believe the mattress is already broken. It’s practically brand new. I hope they will replace it. And the storage for Frankie’s college stuff sounds reasonably priced and the only way to go.
    I’ll be checking in for your June release, and of course reading and still reviewing… just not posting on my account. Excited to see the cover and trailer as well.
    Sounds like you had a wonderful authors’ day and a special visit with Becky.
    A lovely rich blog. I think twice a month is working out nicely.
    It’s our Memorial Day weekend here next weekend and we’re going to the shore with the kids. Then the grands are out of school and here longer hours on Mondays and Thursday. Can’t believe the school year is ending. It should be a nice summer for you with time alone with your daughter and also a chance to get to know Ms.C more too.
    Have a good week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through the year already and that the girls will be home for the summer in a couple of weeks. Life is sure going by so fast, I wish it would slow down every now and then to let me catch my breath. I’m relieved I’m no longer responsible for the cats. I didn’t mind doing it, but two weeks was a long time and it’s quite a big responsibility.


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