Coldest day of the year

imgp8270 imgp8283 imgp8303 imgp8315 imgp8333 imgp8324 imgp8322 imgp8336 imgp8378 imgp8375 imgp8363 imgp8355 imgp8350Here is a second set of winter photos from Finland. After the New Year, the temperatures plummeted to blood-curdling -28°C – with the biting wind so cold that I got frostbite on my face. But I finally deemed the ice strong enough to walk on! Not many people around, just harsh, unforgiving beauty.

All photos were taken with Tamron 17-50mm wide angle lens, and scaled to 25% with a batch editing software, which has caused some sharpness to be lost. Click to view in full size.

Winter walks

I have been struck down by a writer’s block lately. More things than just this blog have been consequently neglected – letters have gone unanswered, and evenings have been spent watching TV and feeling slightly guilty. It’s the hardest stretch of spring. The evenings are longer, but not so much that it would make a difference yet, and so I havent’ quite come out of hibernation yet.

I’m also not entirely sure about what to write about these photos – even if I do look at some of them and think, “you know what, that’s not a bad photo”. In January and February, I went walking. Quite a lot, actually. January was mild (and sometimes sunny), February brought winter flowers. There was no snow, but the air was often crisp and the light beautiful. Just being outdoors has been a delight in itself. The glories of the English landscape is just a bonus.
IMGP2705IMGP2595IMGP2580IMGP2579IMGP2636The first stop: Blenheim Great Park (a photo set of my summertime visit to Blenheim is here). The house was closed for the winter, but there were still plenty of delights to have in the park, and we headed over the lake towards the Great Avenue and the Column of Victory. Sheep aplenty. Magnificent trees.
IMGP2790 IMGP2807 IMGP2811 IMGP2823 IMGP2830 IMGP2833I feel like I too rarely venture outside the Oxford/London axis these days so that this day trip to Great Malvern felt like a treat. The town isn’t perhaps as its best in February, nor is it consciously tourist-friendly, but it had its interesting corners. And the glorious backdrop of this range of hills! – I climbed the North Hill, saving the Worcestershire Beacon for the next visit; I am told that on a clear day one can see 13 counties, three cathedrals, Welsh mountains and the Bristol Channel from the Beacon, and the views from the North Hill are not too shabby either…
IMGP2918 IMGP2957 IMGP2940 IMGP2949The third field trip was to Welford Park in Berkshire, famous for the Great British Bake-Off and snowdrops. It’s a private house, very pretty, owned by a rather nice lady whom we talked to briefly at the gift shop, a bit far from everything, and the weather was not great, but the snowdrops! I have been to a bluebell forest, and have always wanted to see snowdrops like this, so this was really a dream come true.


2015/01/img_6680.jpgFirst snowdrops of the new year. I went looking for them, and came back with a cold. Such is January.
2015/01/img_6681.jpgAnd the first wild primroses too, oh my!
2015/01/img_6694.jpg2015/01/img_6695.jpgDrinks party in a yarn shop just might be my favourite kind drinks party. With all the stresses of the end of the year, I often found myself skipping non-compulsory social occasions, and so I’m now making a conscious effort to ignore rain and darkness and all that, and go where the people are.
2015/01/img_6700.jpg2015/01/img_6701.jpgI bought the ticket Mark Hayhurst’s new play Taken at midnight already in the autumn, keen to see Penelope Wilton (I love Penelope Wilton more than my luggage, so to speak) on stage. I was very impressed by her performance, but even more so of this play; it is funny and easy to watch, but also harrowing, shocking and topical, telling the story of a woman trying to get her son freed from concentration camp, where he’s kept in “protective custody” along with other enemies of the totalitarian state – satirists, journalists, anarchists, “socialists and communists, on the same side for the first time” – as Hitler strengthens his powers and Germany settles in to a new regime. While the play focuses on the mother and her struggle – universal and simple – it touches the themes of civil liberties, and how those are the first things to go when a totalitarian government moves in. It seems sometimes that it’s ridiculous that freedom of expression and equal rights would even need discussing in 21st century, but here we are – sometimes it almost feels as if the years from the end of the WWI had never happened.
2015/01/img_6712.jpgLittle bit of spring in my place. Actually, quite a lot of it.

Spring’s first whisper

Today I went looking for snowdrops. It’s actually too early in the year, and the day was freezing, the sky full of clouds and the light terrible. But, if you know where to look, the first signs of spring are already there – snowdrops, aconites, hellebores and primroses are starting to bloom, first tentative buds already open. By the end of January, they will be everywhere, and that is really the only good thing about this month.

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IMG_6650I have never been big on New Year’s resolutions – not on making them, and not on keeping them – but recently I’ve been through some difficult stuff, and taking stock on where I am and what needs improving (= most aspects of my life), so, Bridget Jones -style, I have drawn up a list for 2015:

  • Write more – creative, blog, diary, anything. I have an art journal of sorts, full of pictures of artwork I love, drawings (see above) and poems and whatnot – sort of collage of what inspires me or says something about my present mood – but I don’t work enough with my own words.
  • Read more. Because I work as a librarian, people assume I spend all my days reading. I don’t. I read shamefully little these days, and want to change that…
  • …which brings me to this: spend less time online, and particularly spend less time doing pointless stuff like reading about Downton Abbey on Tumblr.
  • Live more frugally. I suspect I’m spending a lot of money on nothing (i.e. on things like bottled water and Radio Times every week), and feel rather bad about it.
  • Become more socially active. I joined a knitting group couple of years ago, and have met some amazing people through it, but I think I’m still not doing enough, even if I do have some very good friends.
  • Volunteer/give money to charity. I decided this already a while ago, but as with most things in life, it takes some effort to overcome the inertia to actually do something, and I’m determined to look into charities helping the homeless.

Lately, or Waiting for spring

More January tulips.
A Sunday stroll with a friend.
Flood water on Christ Church Meadow, the spires of Oxford.

Late afternoon sun at the Magdalen College park.
Yellow daffodils – like a burst of sunshine.
I have been spending a lot of time drawing and dreaming about travel – India, California, Nile. Somewhere with sun and bright colours.