Monday, 29 July 2013

Our garden

Although this is the shortest summer I have had in 5 years, it certainly feels like a summer well-deserved after a long, long year!

Having had to abandon all hobbies in favour of endless planning and resource-creating, I have already begun to make attempts to reclaim my pre-PGCE self. Yesterday, I finished the third book I have read since I finished the course, and the fourth book I have finished in 4 years whilst escapism into fiction has been replaced with endless academia. The book was Summer Book by Tove Jansson (author of the Moomin series – although this is one of her ten adult novels) and it was very idyllic and nostalgic with beautiful, simple imagery throughout. While summers for Sophia and her grandmother seem to be marked by events of interest, mine take a rather more habitual turn (particularly the parts of summer spent at home). Each year I seem to find myself doing the exact same things that I have done every year before. Already, having spent less than a week at home, this summer is no exception! 

Days will usually go in one of two directions (or, more often than not, consist of a combination of the two)

1.      A day spent in the garden 

2.       A day spent reminding myself how to play my instruments

As I write this, I am sat on the decking in the garden enjoying the sunshine, surrounded by an extraordinary amount of butterflies and buzzing things (I admit, the buzzing things are slightly off-putting, and slightly too close to my head, but it’s a comfort to know that they’re certainly not dying off in our garden)! Today the temperature is only in the low 20s, and there is a slight breeze rustling through the trees and tickling my neighbour’s wind chimes. To my right is brilliant blue sky, to my left the clouds are looming, but I’m convinced that the temperature won’t drop too far and the rain won't come and force me to move! Not quite the conditions to participate in my favourite garden pastime, a day like today is instead an opportunity to entertain my inner-middle-aged-lady and do a spot of gardening! Of course the hard graft is Dad’s responsibility, so I’m left in the fortunate position of being able to use the garden for a bit of horticultural therapy – if horticultural therapy isn’t a thing which someone is capitalising on, it most definitely should be!

When we first arrived at number 111 our garden was more like a jungle; overgrown, and overrun with brambles and stinging nettles. There was a ‘pond’, which was literally a washing up bowl sunk into the ground, and a stray kitten which had already claimed the jungle as its own. Over the years the garden has grown into what it is now, but throughout, one thing has been constant, and is the reason why I love it so much; the garden at number 111 is really just an extension of the house. Although perhaps whilst in its jungle-like state it was less accommodating, as we stripped away the interior of the house, so too was the exterior stripped back to discover what lay beneath. 

The top of the garden nearest the house; the washing up bowl/pond
was in amongst this somewhere
The bottom of the garden; this is where we now park our cars!
(I don't even know what the metal thing near the fencing post is?)
The first part of the garden to be uncovered was the small patch of grass which still remains today. In the early days we would sit out on the grass for lunch with the kitten (to whom the jungle really belonged).
Not the most attractive photo of any of us. Oh the 90's!
Nowadays there are also three patio areas and the decking to choose from and we’ve even upgraded from a picnic blanket to patio furniture where breakfast, lunch, and tea are consumed whenever possible! Al fresco dining is quite the luxurious experience in the Brockway household, although I do feel for my poor, unsuspecting neighbours who have had to bear witness to countless risqué conversation topics over the years whilst I have entertained my girl friends! Our patios have provided the perfect place for an over-spill of guests at parties thrown by my brother and I, whilst in my younger days and the beginnings of my ‘musical career’, the decking became a stage for concerts performed to my long-suffering parents (photos of which I am massively upset not to be able to locate)! Oh wait..

Year 6; this is what Laura the clarinettist looks like!
Throughout our childhood, the garden was brought alive by mine and my brother’s imagination. Our sheds lie between a cherry tree and a medlar, and when we were smaller, lighter and more limber (I say this, I may have to test the theory!), we had our own little treetop world to play in. We could easily spend hours up there, on look-out (or rather, spying on the neighbours), and pretending to be explorers. The beauty of our garden is that it is split into two. At one end lie the patios and the decking. At the other, secreted away by a Dogwood and various other tall and wide shrubs, is the lawn and our trees. We used to camp out for the day, making fires and sneaking to the house for provisions!

In the very early stages of stripping the interior of the house, lots of floorboards were kept outside providing excellent den-building materials! Suddenly the trees were exclusively our own as we built entrances at the bottom which only we were small enough to squeeze through. As exciting as these floorboards were, my favourite piece of abandoned furniture must have been the bath, which of course became a boat amongst other things and took us on many exciting adventures around the world! Unfortunately we couldn’t convince mum and dad to let us keep it.

Upon visiting friends, it often felt as though most gardens belonged to their parents, where they were expected to keep off the grass and away from the flower beds! Our garden has never been like that; it is a place for anyone who may come to be there. As a friend even said to me today, ‘your garden feels like you could be anywhere in the world when you’re sat in it’. I don’t think it will ever lose its magical qualities, even in adulthood. 
Food & wine on the decking this summer, bliss.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Today I climbed a hill

Today I climbed a hill. It’s a hill I’ve been wanting to climb(/drive to) since I moved to the city in 2009, and as my time in Norwich comes to an end, I’ve been attempting to tick off a few spots!

Throughout the year, I’m constantly in a slight predicament. I believe that the reason us Brits talk so much about the weather is because in our country, it’s actually really interesting! I love the seasons; and although I may moan about each one a little when it’s around, there’s certain things about Spring, Summer, Autumn, and actually probably mostly Winter, that I just can’t get enough of. As I began to write in Winter, I’m pretty sure I’ve already hinted at some of my cold weather loves (did somebody say CHRISTMAS and snuggly jumpers?). But finally the season of sunshine is upon us, and I don’t think I’m ever happier than when the sun is beating down on me and I’m lying outside without a care in the world.

Having been spoilt with ridiculously long summers for the past six years, I am very aware that this is my last one of such excessive length for the foreseeable future, so every bit of it is being made the most of! The main aim for the summer, as I’m sure I suggested when writing about the Gorillas, is to embrace my inner Norwich tourist and to explore some of the lesser known (to me) parts of the city. I have, of course, also been making frequent visits to my favourite parts and absolutely intend to continue to do so until someone finally drags me away...

The tourism began with a closer look inside the The Cathedral of St John The Baptist on Earlham Road. A massively impressive building which I have walked past at least every week if not every day on occasion, I had not ever taken a proper opportunity to look inside. I can safely say that the pews are highly uncomfortable, and that lots of ceiling gazing once occurred at a concert, but wandering around was much more pleasant. As Catholic Cathedrals go, it is not too expensive and covered in gold, but instead boasts bold and relatively modern architecture in the grand scheme of things (its building completed in 1910), and is just really very big! No matter where in the world, I like to step into churches and cathedrals – just another 30 to go in Norwich!

In the same day, we also stumbled upon Cow Tower whilst on the Gorilla Trail. Although not nearly as impressive, it made for a pretty picture or two, and I’m glad to have seen it having had it allude me for four years.

The beach of a Monday evening should happen every Monday evening was the decision made after a trip last week! I’m a little bit of a North-Norfolk-coast-snob, but I may have been persuaded that it’s not all bad in this direction after a trip to Winterton (where I had never ventured before) for an evening wander and some fish and chips. I say that I am never happier than when the sun is beating down on me and I’m lying outside without a care in the world, but actually, put me on a beach and it doesn’t matter what the weather! On this occasion we were actually very lucky, as even the sea was a highly acceptable temperature for a paddle – oh I do LOVE to be beside the seaside.

A day spent on Cromer beach yesterday, and I admit the hill (part of Mousehold Heath by the prison on Britannia Road) was a little exhausting as we were battered by winds whilst waiting for the sun to appear for the perfect picture. 
But I could happily sit and gaze at the view of the Norwich ‘skyline’ for a really, really long time.

P.S I know that most seem to go to Mousehold Heath with visions of the ‘romantic’ powers of a view leading to a spot of canoodling, but I’d recommend going with romantic intentions or otherwise! (The ‘awkward-situation-making’ powers, as loud conversation and your camera shutter snapping the view result in teenagers resembling meerkats in their startled state, are also quite the highlight)!

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Summer has finally reared its beautiful head, and upon completing my PGCE year, the time has come to make the most of Norwich before I disappear! Although I did have to return to school on Monday and Tuesday of this week, there was no need to prepare for the two days and so last weekend was well spent ‘relaxing’ in the only way I know how... by wandering for miles. A most exciting occurrence in the form of a friend returned from a year abroad in America meant that a very English weekend was in order; so we became tourists in our own county, and in what has been our own city for three and four fond years. 

The summer in Norwich is always full of surprises, and last week the gorillas descended! During one of my teaching practice placements, one of the teachers had been commissioned to paint a gorilla, so I’ve been very excited to see them, and my first weekend off seemed the perfect opportunity! GoGoGorillas! are a collection of sculptures painted by local and regional artists, community groups and schools. Each one is sponsored, and will eventually raise funds in an auction at the end of the event for Break charity and the Born Free Foundation. There are 53 large gorillas, and an additional 66 baby gorillas decorated by local schools across Norfolk; it is currently rather difficult to walk more than a few paces in the city centre without being accosted by one in a shop window, or bumping into one as you turn a corner!

As a self-confessed walkaholic, I didn’t think that 53 gorillas in a day would be too much of a challenge, but it turns out that Norwich isn’t the tiny city I think of it as, and the gorillas are pretty well spaced out! However we did manage a respectful 30ish, and many more babies! At this point I don’t feel that writing about them does them the best justice, so here are a few of my favourites to speak for themselves (absolutely, definitely worth doing the trail if I may say so - I am determined to finish it at the next opportunity)

(Claim to fame gorilla - saw him/her in the progressive stages)

More gorillas this way; possibly the most colourful of my Facebook albums!
Post gorillas there was recovery in the form of summer cocktails at The Assembly House (which I will miss HUGELY), and a very tasty macaroon selection from Macarons & More (which I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered)!

The next day we bounded off to the Sainsbury Centre and prompted by a staggering collection of artefacts from around the world, created a bucket list of countries to visit, before paying a visit nearer to home to the ponies and donkeys at the sanctuary behind the lake. A picnic on a jetty, and a good old fish and chip lunch the day before; I do believe I’m quite good at being typically English (particularly good at being stubborn in my determination to walk everywhere; our feet HURT by the end of the weekend - so much for 'relaxing').