British weather

Everything is gray. Rain is pouring. Thunder is rolling. Lightning is flashing. Felt like it happened in a blink. One moment the sun was out and people were walking around in shorts and short-sleeve tops. Others wore flip flops. Teenage boys zoomed past in their skateboards and toddlers were running around trying to catch pigeons…

Then gray clouds descended and covered the sun. It’s as if someone said “cut, change scene” and it was one stormy afternoon in a flash. Just like that. There was no drizzle, it was literally the sky opening up and dumping buckets of cold water. The streets are suddenly clear. Most of them probably hurried home and some, like me, went to the nearest store. I’m currently in Bargain Buys writing this. I am going to The Works later to buy some canvas and paint. I am looking at putting glaze on my paintings to preserve them. I’ll see if they have some. I think I’ll go for the satin finish because I don’t want a highly glossy finish. So, I’ll just wait it out here. Usually the rain would stop after a few minutes. As suddenly as it started, it would stop just as abruptly…another one of those “cut, change scene” moment of the british weather. It’s crazy but there is comfort in its predictable unpredictability. Hmmm that doesn’t make sense when I say it (or in this case write it) but in my head it does.

Rain stopped. Later!

Note: Written a few months back. Currently 26°C. Zero percent chance of rain. We drove almost two hours to an outlet store. We found some great deals.. stayed out a bit to bask in the sun. Here’s our view.

Chitchat

I was general cleaning the other day and I found unused colored pencils in one of the plastic bags stashed on a random corner in our flat. I don’t remember buying it so it was probably my dad’s. He loves doodling, painting, taking pictures and lots of other things but he is the best at gardening. He actually has a big rice field where he now plants with corn, peanuts and honeydew. He also planted giant sunflowers (they were taller than him). My mom took these pictures and sent them to us. 

My dad is happiest when he can grow things. He actually has this tradition of planting at least five trees during our birthdays. He has planted hundreds of trees. Some of them we were able to use in building furniture, most were left to grow and flourish but a few were stolen, like my dad would arrive at his mini forest, as he calls it, and find the stump of the tree. He’s sad about it but it does not happen as much now.

I was just video calling with him and my mom earlier and I showed them the painting I did the other day. I got it from a youtube tutorial since until now I still can’t paint on my own. I proudly hung it in the living room and my sister asked if I could put it in my room instead. We all laughed. I told her it will go well with the black and white theme we are planning to do when we redecorate the place. Bless her indulgent heart. She has to put up with my enthusiastic endeavors. Reading my novelas, buying materials for a new found hobby, trying on or tasting stuff I made (which she claims she needs a hazard pay). 

Today, I tried drawing. The prompt said to draw an object that reminds me of a happy memory. That sewing machine does, not because of anything sewing related. I sometimes marvel at how well I could stitch a laceration closed but could never put clothes together. No, this happy memory is of my youngest sister and I squeezing ourselves underneath, perched on the seesawing pedal and pretending we were in a car. Our mom would find us giggling from trying not to topple over when the pedal moves. She had to chase us away everytime and would sometimes rant when she had to use the machine and had to put a block underneath the broken pedal. My mom learned to sew from her mom and she loved making dresses for us. And they were not just dresses, they were beautiful dresses. Like my dad, she can do many remarkable things. I live in a household with very talented individuals. This is probably why I’m proud to be a nurse. My only talent is the life-saving skill set of an angel of the sickroom honed for more than a decade.

Book Review: The Beekeeper’s Promise

My Book Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was horrified to be told that the last time I picked up a book was in 2018, which I have to emphasize is not true. It just so happened that I recently reactivated my Kindle account and the only record of my last reading streak was in 2018. Nevertheless, I was greatly unsettled by this so without even reading the book description, I opened the first recommendation in the store which was The Beekeeper’s Promise. Perhaps it was my lucky day because the book turned out really good. 

The book was written by a bestselling author, Fiona Valpy. It is a captivating book which entwined the stories of two enduring women from two different times- separated by decades. One lived in the chaos of war, a famous beekeeper who met the love of her life through it, fell in love and got separated but in its wake became a fighter on her own right for France’s liberty and the other in the 20th century, a heartbroken woman from London who came to France for a yoga retreat but ended up taking a summer job in the beautiful Château Bellevue, the place where both their stories connected.

It is considerably a light read despite being written against the backdrop of war. I prefer stories that do not involve the grotesque mistreatment and heartbreaking sufferings of people caught in the war but this book is an exception. The story was focused on the main character that the details about the war were just mentioned in passing. This way, I was spared from the usual gloom I feel when reading books on this subject. 

The book also depicted the soft tenacity of a woman’s fortitude amidst grief and hardship. Eliane in particular showed great dignity and confidence in the way she carried herself and when dealing with difficult situations. 

I also enjoyed the crash course on bees and their behavior, the different medicinal herbs and their uses and the grave cycle of abuse. I appreciate how much research has gone in this book because although it’s fictional, they offer factual information.

The Beekeeper’s Promise is a beautiful story of love, loyalty, courage, resilience and healing which will be found enjoyable by everybody. 

In the midst of winter, I found that there was within me an invincible summer.-Retour à Tipasa, Albert Camus (1952)

Reading boot camp

Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

I am a voracious reader. Although, I was not always that way. My love for reading started when I was seven. It did not develop naturally as it would to those scholastic individuals, it was forced on me. I remember all too clearly the day the reading boot camp started. It was one sunny afternoon after lunch. I was in the backyard with my friends from the neighborhood, baking mud cake using empty milk cans. My oldest sister came out and said something along the lines of the day being too hot, we shouldn’t be outside, my friends should go home and maybe come back later and other similar things but I latched on to I must go inside and read. I remember whining and complaining but she just stood by the kitchen door waiting for me to move. My friends started leaving one by one and I was left staring at the watery mud cake with a small handprint on top. I recall being assaulted by a strong surge of annoyance to the point of throwing a tantrum but…I didn’t. Because it was my oldest sister and you just don’t throw a fit when you don’t get your way with “an oldest sister”. Oldest sisters are the law when parents are not around. Such was the case that fateful afternoon.

I wanted to think that I was a smart kid and during those weeks that I had to finish Sweet Valley Twin, I deeply believed I was. I pretended to read the book, counting enough days when I could safely declare that I was done. I read the first few pages to get to know the characters, the middle part to get what the story was about and of course the last few pages to see how the story ended. However, my sister was smarter. She sat me down in the living room and to my dismay started a question and answer review to find out whether I actually read the book. Needless to say, that same day of the Q and A, I re-read (if I can call it that) the book. I kept reading until I read the entire Sweet Valley Twin and Sweet Valley High series. Without me noticing it, I was enjoying reading and I was actually the one asking for more books to read. It came to the point when I have read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series in the House and I started reading A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey. My mom saw me with it and promptly confiscated the book saying it wasn’t for kids to read. What normal kid wouldn’t sneak it back after hearing that? I would hide in my room behind the bed and read it and hide it under my pillow every night so I could read it the moment I wake up. Then came the Mills and Boon pocketbooks which I realized were “not for kids” books as well so I read them all in secret.

Our sister showered us with books and they were a comfort when typhoons would hit us and there would be no electricity for days. When I was in college and couldn’t sleep, I would read under my blanket with a clip-on lamp so I didn’t disturb my roommate. When e-books became popular, I had about twenty in my phone each time and would read any chance I got. My eyes would be gritty and red from squinting at the tiny screen. 

These days, I am trying to teach myself to paint. I have been watching tutorials on painting for months now and have become a great fan of Bob Ross. So far, I have managed to paint (copied off the internet) three paintings. At the moment, however, my interest is in watercolor painting and I have been failing miserably. But I am not giving up because if there is anything I’ve learned from the reading boot camp, it is that we can learn anything. I think that if I paint enough times, doing it over and over again, just like reading, I’ll get the hang of it…or not. I am an optimist. If I have to put myself in a painting boot camp I’ll do it. I just need one good watercolor painting!

DIY bracelets and happy memories

Several months back, I was in this “jewelry-making-phase” that prompted me to take a one day silversmithing course in London. Growing up, I have always loved accessories. The traumatic experience of my mom piercing my ears when I was eight did not take away my love for it. I did remember the tremendous pain that made me cry for hours but I guess my eldest sister buying me one “Broadway” earrings after another made me decide that it was all worth it. No pain no gain as the saying goes. My very first pair of earrings was a gold flower with four tiny bars dangling from it. It was simple and elegant. I loved it. It was my elder sister’s first and our oldest sister’s before I had to wear it. Then I had to give it up when my youngest sister finally had her ears pierced. It was some sort of a tradition I guess. But ever since I was young, I know I have some form of jewelry. A ring, a clip on earring (before I had the piercing) or a bracelet. It was part of dressing up. It was the norm.

First silver ring I made .

I was not too impressed by the first silver ring I made even when our instructor cooed at how unique it was. But I am indeed proud that I was able to make one. It was not an easy process and sawing and polishing alone were delicate work. That class was worth every penny I paid because I went home with a new skill and an appreciation for all the brilliant and hardworking jewelers around the world. It takes real talent, considerable dexterity and patience to make one fine jewelry. 

Today, I decided to try my hand on beaded jewelry. The youtube tutorials I have been watching for almost a week now fueled my enthusiasm in making these gorgeous chandelier earrings inspired by a pin I saved on Pinterest. An hour and half and several failed attempts later, I ended up with these simple bracelets. Making this has brought back beautiful memories of my siblings and I, on those lovely afternoons in our living room. We would sit around a bowl of colorful beads and crystals and make ourselves some bracelets. I remember the laughter, the banters and the delight of having made beautiful accessories to wear and show our friends. Life then was simple and happiness was in abundance. 

This afternoon just made me miss them more.