Wednesday 26 February 2020

Bruges wasn't built in a day

After a fitful night's sleep and another one of Veronique's seriously sustaining breakfasts, we were ready to embark on our next adventure.

It was the 4th of February, and the day of our Anniversary, but also our last full day at the B&B, as we would be travelling back home the next day.

The temperature had taken a dive, and at only about 5° Celsius, I needed to dress appropriately for a day of being out and about. Enter this dress, which combines the funkiest of prints with a polyester knit fabric warm enough to withstand the chilly wind which had reared its head overnight.

My legs were kept snuggly by my thick orange opaques and the insulating layer of wool inside my chocolate brown boots helped to keep my calves and feet warm as well.

You've seen all my accessories, from the tan leather belt to the ring and beaded necklace, before. That particular necklace is fast becoming a firm favourite, as I seem to be wearing it all the time.

I wore a cardigan on top, obviously, but we didn't take any outfit pictures beyond these, so that I can not even show you my outerwear, starring my beloved Princess coat.

Rain had been forecasted for the afternoon, and on top of that, an icy, eye-stinging wind was greeting us when we emerged from the car park, so that we shelved any outdoor plans for the day.

Making our way to the Burg, we thought it was about time we explored the inside of the splendid buildings lining this square, and which had stopped us in our tracks each time we passed through.

Tucked away in a corner of the square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, its dark Gothic façade richly decorated with gilded statuettes.

The basilica's flamboyant façade is actually a 16th century staircase which connects two chapels: the lower St. Basil Chapel and the upper Holy Blood Chapel, in which the relic of the holy blood is preserved. But more about that later.

The two chapels could not be more different: the Romanesque lower chapel, dating from the first half of the twelfth century, is austere with very little decoration (above), while the Gothic upper chapel is alive with colour and detail. 

The upper chapel was originally Romanesque as well, but was rebuilt during the 16th century as well as renovated multiple times during the 19th century in Neo-Gothic style.

It is lit by stained glass windows and covered with murals depicting the relic's journey to Bruges, but as these were being restored and thus covered in scaffolding, I had to resort to the almighty Internet for the photo on the top left of the below collage, as well as the one of the priest holding the relic on the bottom right.

The Holy Blood relic is embedded in a rock-crystal vial, which is placed inside a small glass cylinder capped with a golden crown at each end. The vial allegedly contains cloth stained with the actual blood of Christ.  Legend has it that following the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea wiped blood from the body of Christ and the cloth was preserved. It was then brought back by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders, in the 12th Century.

The chapel is open daily to visitors who wish to view the relic, and there are services for the veneration of the Holy Blood throughout the day, at the end of which the congregation are invited to file past the altar, look at the relic and touch it. This procession seemed to be going on while we were there, but we didn't feel the need to join in, so we turned heel and left.

Next door to the basilica is Bruges' City Hall, which was completed in 1421, one of the oldest in the Low Countries. The façade is richly decorated with Gothic windows, towers, statues and the coat of arms of subordinate towns. 

Inside, a ceremonial staircase leads from the entrance hall to the first floor, where you can visit the lavishly decorated Gothic Hall.

The impressive double vaulted timber ceiling is absolutely stunning, as are the walls, which are painted with scenes relating the history of the city. 

The medallions in the bosses show New Testament scenes, prophets, evangelists and saints, while the decoration of the corbels supporting the roof reflect natural and seasonal themes.

But don't be deceived as the so-called Gothic Hall actually isn't Gothic at all, but Neo-Gothic. After a fire turned the interior largely to rubble, it had to be refurbished, a project which started in 1890 and was finished in 1905. 

Included in the entry fee for the hall is a visit to next door's mansion, known as the Liberty of Bruges, from which the countryside in a wide area around the city was once governed. The building functioned as a court of justice between 1795 and 1984 and today houses the City Archives.

The gold-trimmed building is a real eye-catcher, with several gilded statues sparkling on its roof.

But its real jewel lies inside, in the Liberty's former court room, which has been restored to its original 16th-century condition.

It has a monumental timber, marble and alabaster fireplace dating from 1528, a tribute to Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), who visited Bruges in 1515.

Impressive though it was, I mostly had eyes for the enchanting wall paintings lining the room below the dado rail.

Our heads were reeling from all that splendour by now, so that lunch provided a more than welcome break.

The weather had turned even colder by the time we left the restaurant, and rain clouds seemed to be gathering, but our next destination, the Gruuthusemuseum, was thankfully only a short walk away.

The museum, which has recently re-opened after five years of extensive renovations, is situated behind the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) which dominates the city's skyline.

The impressive city mansion the museum is housed in belonged to one of the richest families of the medieval city, the Gruuthuse family, who made their fortune with peeled barley or wheat, the main ingredient for beer-brewing in the Middle Ages. 

Originally built in 1425, it was later expanded under Lodewick van Gruuthuse, a high-ranking official at the Burgundian court and one of the richest men in Bruges. In the late 19th century, the centuries-old landmark was thoroughly restored, again in Neo-Gothic style, by city architect Louis Delacenserie. 

With its intricate stonework, decorative roof gables and belvedere tower, the museum is one of the most beautiful sites in Bruges.

On this quiet February day there was no need to queue for tickets, but I'm sure it would have been quite a different story at any other time of year. 

In fact, we were able to roam the museum's succession of rooms, laid out over three floors, at ease, and often had a room completely to ourselves. 

Our journey took us through three crucial periods in the rich history of Bruges, from the time of its Burgundian heyday, followed by the lesser known 17th and 18th centuries, to the historical reinvention of Bruges in the 19th century Neo-Gothic style that is so typical of the city today.

These three periods are brought to life with more than 600 exhibits, including tapestries, unique Gothic stained glass, elegant wooden sculptures, historical lace, paintings, Burgundian manuscripts, exquisite pieces of furniture, silver and porcelain.

During our explorations, we looked out for, and found, Bruges' smallest Gothic window, (above, top right) which can be spotted outside when looking up from the picturesque Bonifacius bridge in the courtyard behind the museum. The stained glass, however, was found to be in a bad state of repair and had to be replaced during the recent renovations.

At one point we came across a small side room, where a row of  wigs were displayed on an ornate mantelpiece, with an invitation to try them on if you wished to. This was obviously meant for visiting children, but - also obviously - there was no way I wasn't going to oblige!

The room also contained a contraption which offered silhouette portrait opportunities.

The museum's absolute highlight is probably the authentic late 15th century oratory on the first floor, which connects the mansion with the Church of Our Lady, and which offers a view of the Gothic chancel of the church. This prayer chapel gave the Lords of Gruuthuse direct access to the church, illuminating the privilege and power of the mansion's medieval occupants. 

On the top right you can see a view of the oratory's windows taken from inside the church.

There is access to a loggia on the third floor, an extension with a balcony added in the 19th century, with a splendid bird's eye view over Bruges, and the courtyard with the tiny Bonifacius bridge in particular. This would be inundated with tourists at any other time of year, but was now surprisingly - or not so surprisingly given the inclement weather - empty.

After admiring the treasures displayed in the third floor rooms, we made our way back downstairs to retrieve our stuff from the lockers. Then we ventured outside and around the corner for a visit to the Church of Our Lady, entrance to which was included in the museum ticket price.

But we'd had enough of sightseeing by then, so we dutifully dragged ourselves around the church, barely noticing the wealth of art treasures and the 15th and 16th century tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold.

Dodging the rain, which was falling steadily by now, we walked back to the car park, but not before treating ourselves to cappuccinos and apple and pears crumble in a cozy café.

So, that was it. Another travelogue finished. But do not despair as we've already got another little holiday up our sleeves. For this, however, you will have to wait until April!

Sunday 23 February 2020

What's new pussycat?

What's new indeed? We are well into February by now, with the month of March only a week away, and still this sorry excuse for a winter is dragging its heels.

The days, most of them dark and damp, keep chasing each other across the weeks. Sunny days are few and far between and have a knack to avoid the weekends, which have been filled with livid black clouds, ominously threatening stormy weather. On days like these, the world outside our window is looking wet and bedraggled, with any sudden and short-lived rays of sunshine to be treated as tiny miracles.

My thoughts keep returning to those blissful few days we spent in Bruges. How lucky we've been with the weather! I can only be thankful for this rare stroke of luck.

I find that coming down from holiday mode is becoming increasingly difficult as the years go by, so I usually allow myself a transitional day to come back to earth in a bid to keep the post-holiday blues at bay.

And what does one do on such a day, which once again proved to be of the interminably grey variety?  I'm sure you'll agree that only wearing colour would do the trick.

There's nothing new about the vintage Lapidus of Sweden dress I plucked from my wardrobe. An old Think Twice find, I fell in love with its yellow and tan floral print, even if it was missing one of its buttons and its previous owner had added a rather incongruous crocheted lace border at the hem. The latter was swiftly removed, and I was overjoyed to find the dress came with a spare button, solving the first problem in mere minutes.

No pockets though, just fake pocket tabs which, same as the collar, have a strip of plain yellow in the same fabric the buttons are covered with.

Both the multicoloured necklace and the belt with its tortoiseshell buckle were charity shop finds. The brooch is part of a haul from an antiques centre in Carmarthen, Wales, back in 2017, while the orange opaques were a gift from the lovely Kezzie. The chartreuse long-line cardigan is from Belgian brand Mayerline, by way of a charity shop. In fact, only my ring and boots were retail buys.

If we weren't none to pleased to be back home, our black furry monster could be heard meowing pitifully when we were unlocking our front door. 

Was she glad we were home or complaining that we'd left her in the first place? Look at that eternally grumpy face! Nothing new here either! 

While I was assembling this collage, it struck me that it must have been written in the stars that we were bound to have a black cat at some point, as all these objects firmly pre-date the arrival of Phoebe in our lives. We even owned a grumpy black cat mug!

We got home on Wednesday and taking Thursday off as well meant that I only had a one-day working week to slowly ease myself back into the daily grind.

Still, I wasn't sorry when another weekend rolled along, even if the weather forecast was looking pretty dire. It's no use having temperatures of around 13° Celsius when a storm is brewing!

Saturday was the proverbial calm before the storm but still a bit of a washout, so that a walk of any kind was out of the question. 

Nothing new about my outerwear, all of which you've seen before, but the dress I'm wearing is a recent acquisition, found at Think Twice on the same day as the navy and white houndstooth dress featuring in my previous post.

Zig-zags in lilac, cream and brown make up the print of this vintage shift dress. It's got a stand-up collar with a floppy side tie, which I fastened with a white on blue floral cameo scarf clip.

A vinyl, oval buckled belt in the palest of lilacs was added to accentuate my waist, while a sky blue long-line cardigan and opaques in a similar colour completed my outfit. 

I could have opted for tan or blue boots, but I thought my green ones made the outfit a bit less matchy-matchy. Also, they desparately needed breaking in, and I'm happy to report they did just fine!

The porcelain cameo brooch was a last-minute edition as I felt the dress needed another adornment. 

A closer look at the side tie is offered on the right, along with the ring I picked, which seems to reflect the dress's colours perfectly.

At first, it seemed that the charity shops were competing with the weather in utter blandness, but then I found this fabulous coat, new with tags, from the French L33 label. It was mine for just € 8. It's a Spring weight, so it's currently waiting in the sidelines.

On Sunday, we huddled inside Dove Cottage, while storm Ciara was raging outside. Before she arrived, though, we were able to briefly nip outside to show you what I was wearing.

I love this navy fit and flare dress, with its cheerful blue and green print, but for some reason it hadn't yet been worn this Winter. Well, I do know why, of course. I simply have too many dresses, which all have to wait their turn! But do I care? Not in the least!

Green seemed to be the perfect choice of colour for my belt, opaques and cardigan, to which I pinned the peacock feather brooch I bought in a Welsh charity shop last Summer.

My necklace with its filigree leaves is from Veritas, a well-known chain of Belgian haberdashery shops. I found it new on card in an Antwerp charity shop last year.

If the charity shops didn't deliver, the latest Think Twice sales certainly did. On the two days when everything was  € 4, I visited all four of their Antwerp shops during my lunch breaks and ended up with a more than decent haul.

The green crepe dress - the photographs do not do the actual colour justice at all - is waiting for replacement buttons as I don't like the ones it currently has. I'm thinking of pink but I haven't found what I'm looking for in my stash yet.

Initially, I thought this green, yellow and white plaid dress, with its ginormous sleeves hemmed with Broderie Anglaise, was a handmade affair, but then I found a factory label hidden inside. I can't wait to wear it in Spring!

I've always loved green and blue together and whoever said the colour combination shouldn't be seen need their heads checked, in my opinion.

I can't wait to wear this cotton Summer frock either!

Other finds were a bright blue floral maxi dress edged in yellow, a funky print shift dress (centre picture), three skirts and two blouses. Don't they make a cheerful collage?

And finally, this chiffon dress complete with pussy bow and pleated skirt made its way into my wardrobe. I fell head over heels for its white, blue and berry watercolour print.

But I've not only been buying things, I have done quite a bit of selling as well. Last weekend, a lady I met at our last flea market in July, came over especially from Holland for a rummage through my no-longer-loved and no-longer-fitting items, and I'm happy to report she bought more than half of my stock. 

That's not to say I wasn't a bit sad to see some of it go, but on the upside I'm definitely left with enough space to accomodate my new purchases.

I'll be back with the last episode of my Bruges travelogue soon.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

A medieval marvel

It was the morning of our first full day in Beernem near Bruges, and we were about to have breakfast at our lovely B&B. Oh dear, that's rather a lot of B's in one sentence, isn't it?

But before our host, Veronique, arrived bearing fresh fruit juice and coffee, we took a couple of minutes to take some outfit photos, as I was desperate to show you one of my latest Think Twice finds.

For once, I didn't wait for the next of their famous sales to roll along. Still, it may come as a surprise that I didn't buy the dress the first time I clapped eyes on it. I took it from the rail, noting its utter perfectness, then thought of all the long-sleeved dresses which were still waiting in the wings of my wardrobe for their turn to be worn. So I put it back and left the shop empty handed.

But once back at the office, my thoughts kept returning to that perfect harmony of navy and white houndstooth and plain navy collar, placket and pocket tabs, the latter two accented by pearly white buttons. A true classic, both in colour and in style.

Nevertheless, I didn't return to the shop until the next week when, much to my surprise, I found the dress still waiting for me. It must have been fate so, needless to say, this time I made sure not to leave the shop without it.

Who doesn't love a blue, white and red outfit? I certainly do, so accessorizing the dress was a doddle. I added red opaques, a red and white beaded necklace and a red plastic ring. More red appeared in some of the flowers on my carved wooden brooch. 

Finally, my red King Louie cardigan completed my outfit.

So, breakfast! We were certainly spoiled for choice. Starting with fresh fruit salad and yummy, creamy yogurt, we then indulged in freshly baked bread and a choice of rolls, accompanied by smoked salmon, a selection of cheeses and meats and, of course, Veronique's delicious home made jams, which came in tiny glass jars.

For those with a sweet tooth, there were croissants and chocolate buns, and there were a range of cereals to choose from if one was so inclined. 

In fact, there was such a glut of delicacies, that we had to decline Veronique's offer of boiled, fried or scrambled eggs.

After breakfast, it was time to start the day's adventure, so we instructed Marie-Jeanne, our long-suffering satnav, to take us to Bruges by way of her much-loved country lanes. Needless to say, she was happy enough to oblige!

After parking our car, we decided to walk into the direction of the main square, avoiding the shortest route which would take us along Bruges' main shopping street. Our route took us along a parallel street, which seemed to be home to the town's more exclusive shops. However, we soon veered off, arriving in a peaceful, small tree-lined square where modern and ancient architecture seemed to be living happily side by side.

The equestrian statue is called Flandria Nostra - the horse-riding lady is said to represent Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) - and was designed by sculptor Jules Lagae in 1901. 

From the square, a narrow street lead down to a canal, the Speelmansrei, which was crossed by a humpbacked stone bridge guarded by a pair of haughty lions.

As crossing the canal would have taken us too far from our intended destination, we retraced our steps and meandered through a maze of streets, taking in the abundant and often quirky architectural details until we spotted the tower of  the St. Jacobskerk (St. James Church). Having already visited the church itself on a previous visit, we skirted this until we arrived at the eponymous St. Jacobsstraat (St. James Street). 

At the end of this street, the market square, where we planned to have lunch, beckoned, but we met with one or two distractions, the first one being Think Twice, whose Bruges shop is about half-way down this street. 

It almost goes without saying that the shop couldn't be passed without going in for a little browse. And yes, I might even have made a purchase, which I'll be showing you later in this post.

By then it was noon and a faint rumble in our stomachs told us it was time for lunch.

Afterwards, we crossed the market square and made our way along a pedestrianized street lined with the inevitable tourist trap shops selling waffles, chocolates and all manner of lace, towards the Burg, undoubtedly Bruges' most impressive square.

Even the road works obstructing one side of the square couldn't detract from the splendour offered by the Brugse Vrije (Liberty of Bruges), the City Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. 

As I've already blogged about these on a previous visit, I just snapped some of the details which caught my eye and made them into a collage.

We briefly entered the town hall, where I sat down beneath one of the huge portraits in the picture gallery which can be visited free of charge.

Then, with one backward glance towards the Belfry tower, we continued on our way to our ultimate destination for the day.

We strolled along the cobbled Groenerei (Green Quay), marvelling at the view, at this time of year unobstructed by the exuberant foliage of the trees and the throngs of people taking their turn at being photographed on the one of the bridges crossing this most picturesque of canals.

At the end of the canal, we emerged onto a busy street, which we needed to cross. Here, there was another distraction in the form of a second-hand clothing shop where I confess to having made another purchase.

Consulting our map to make sure we were on the right track, we rounded a corner and found ourselves in a quiet, back-of-beyond street, where time seemed to have come to a halt.

On and on we walked, with side turnings offering a glimpse of a wide canal running parallel to the street we were walking on.

Then, after a bend in the street, we could finally spot the eye-catching tower of the Jerusalem Chapel. Modelled after Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre, it is topped by the cross of Jerusalem, in its turn placed on top of a sphere representing the world.

The chapel is part of  the Adornes domain, an authentic medieval estate comprising a mansion and almshouses, where you can step into the world of one of the most prominent families of 15th Century Bruges. 

The Adornes family originates from the Italian city of Genoa, but came to Flanders in the 13th Century. 

Its best-known descendant is Anselm Adornes, who became an influential businessman, diplomat and knight in the 15th Century, when the estate was built. The chapel was consecrated in 1429

Anselm Adornes and his wife, Margareta van der Banck, are buried in the black marble tomb in the chapel, although in the case of Anselm Adornes, it is supposedly only his heart which is enshrined here, as these are the only remains that were able to be returned to Bruges after he was murdered in Scotland in 1483.

The architecture and layout of the chapel and its extraordinary relics are illustrations of the great reverence of the Adornes family for Jerusalem. 

It is, in fact, quite a macabre monument, with a gruesome altarpiece covered in skull motifs, as well as a rather creepy effigy of Christ’s corpse tucked away inside a miniature, low-ceilinged chapel at the rear.

The estate is still owned by the family today, which makes it quite exceptional. 

The family has always been very hospitable and the current descendants, who opened the domain to the public, are delighted to continue this tradition.

You can have coffee or tea and cakes in the so-called Scottish Lounge, a cosy room where you can rest your wary feet and reflect on your visit. Payment of any refreshments is by way of an honesty box.

It was well after 3 pm when we were finally able to tear ourselves away from those comfortable chesterfields, by which time a blanket of grey had done away with the blue skies which had accompanied us earlier that day.

Without the sun to aid their reflection, the monumental merchants' houses lining the Hansa Quarter's wide canals, seemed to be gazing out forlornly at their counterparts across the steel grey water.

It started raining lightly, and as we'd rather optimistically set out without our umbrellas, we thought it was time to call it a day. But not before ducking into a shop on our way back to the car park to purchase some prepared sandwiches for our evening meal, which we would have at our B&B.

Again, our way home was a lengthy one, courtesy of our satnav. Although we'd given her clear instructions before leaving the car park, the lack of satellite reception underground seemed to completely confuse her when we surfaced. Enough said!

I'm ending this post by showing you my purchases as promised. The Swiss made maxi skirt came from Think Twice, while the second hand shop we passed along the way to the Jerusalem chapel provided the salmon pink cardigan. I'd already taken off my make-up and Jos omitted to tell me that my hair was sticking up, so just look at the clothes please!

Thursday 13 February 2020

Psychedelic fur

Much as I would like to carry on with my latest travelogue, and relive the first full day of our little Bruges getaway in the process, there's something I need to get out of the way first.

I actually didn't quite finish the month of January yet, so before it totally slips into the mists of time, I am taking you back to last month's final weekend.

I'd been waiting for the temperature to drop into the low single figures - accompanied by a smidgen of frost overnight - to dig out my collection of fake fur.

In fact, I already wore this coat, which I charity shopped for a mere € 8 back in December 2016, in the early hours of this year, as it was the outerwear I wore over my New Year's Eve outfit. 

I've had the scarf, a retail buy, for much longer than that, but I have to admit I'd forgotten all about it until I found it lurking at the back of a drawer. It's been out and about a couple of times since, in spite of the fact that it is sporting two quite substantial holes where it got stuck in a zip many years ago.

My outerwear that day was completed with a pair of burgundy leather gloves, and a new-to-me burgundy beret, both complementing my burgundy boots from Think Twice.

Did I mention it was cold? Nevertheless, it had to be done: I had to remove my coat so that I could show you what I was wearing underneath.

The dress is a handmade vintage one. Or at least I always thought it was handmade until Vix told me she once sold its twin. Whatever the case, I love its psychedelic rust and brown print. Plus, what's not to like about a tie-collar? My blog tells me I last wore it in December 2018, so it was high time I took it for another spin. Incidentally, I wore exactly the same coat with it back then!

But I certainly didn't wear this cardigan, as it was only charity shopped a couple of months ago. I thought its bright neon green leafy pattern would work wonderfully with the dress, and it did, providing a touch of Spring at the same time. The darkest brown in the dress's pattern was repeated in my brooch's frame, while the lady's coppery hair complemented the rusty bits.

To break up the dress's print, I wore my zebra belt, a naughty retail buy a while ago, which has proved its merit several times over by now. The tie collar was tamed with another brooch, this one boasting multi-coloured stones in a star-like pattern.

It was Saturday, so I'm sure you know what we were up to. Yes, that's right, a good old rummage in the charity shops was on the menu.

And did we find anything? You bet we did! 

Two different shops came up trumps by contributing to this happy marriage of handbag and purse. Both are modern: the bag is Esprit and the purse is from an unkown-to-me label called CAS8, but I'm sure you'll agree they have my name written all over them. At € 4 and € 0,50 respectively, they didn't break the bank either, so that it would have been downright criminal not to give them a loving home.

Our chosen charity shops' book departments are usually well worth a browse too. This time my eye was caught by these two gems: a time travel trip back to the 60s on the left and a book on Holga photography on the right. For those are not familiar with Holga, it is the name of a camera, first manufactured in China in the 1980s. They are  made almost entirely of plastic and some even have plastic lenses. It was intended for the Chinese consumer as a low-budget camera, but has since gathered a cult following. It is even said to have inspired Instagram. For those who are interested, you can read up on it in this BBC article.

There's always room for more cheap 'n cheerful jewellery and why buy new when you can find it for less than € 2 in the charity shops. That is, if you are prepared to wade through a mountain of tat. For me, that is the thrill of the chase, finding that one piece of treasure that used to be someone else's trash.

Take my top find of the day, for instance. This orange leather C&A jacket looks virtually unworn, yet here it was, surrounded by and almost drowning in a sea of brown and black leather, most of which had clearly seen better days. While I was trying it on there and then, discovering that it fit me like a glove, people were casting admiring glances in my direction, one or two remarking that it seemed to made for me. On top of that, it complimented the dress I was wearing perfectly.

A slight increase in temperature on Sunday, which was mainly due to the fact that for once the sun had gained the upper hand that day.

I had a craving for green and, browsing my wardrobe, it was clear that this stripy dress, with its ombre effect, neat row of pleats and pussy bow, was trying to catch my attention.

OK, you will do, I told the dress: after all, I haven't worn you since ... oh, I don't know, it's been far too long anyway.

Accessorizing with pink was almost inevitable on this almost Springlike day, so I added a pink woven belt, a pink and green crocheted brooch, a pink plastic ring and bright pink tights!

A pink, lurex trimmed cardigan went on top, adorned with a posy of green flowers. Sadly one of the flowers' petals is missing, which is why I picked it up cheaply at the time.

The sun disappeared behind the clouds a couple of times, but then decided to stay with us for the afternoon. Perfect for a much needed top-up of the vitamin D levels, so we dragged ourselves out of the sofa, grabbed our coats and went outside.

Lacking the energy for a longer walk, we contented ourselves with a leisurely stroll around the site of the old fort in our neighbouring village. Perched on fallen tree branches suspended above the moat were a flight of gangly, pre-historic looking cormorants drying their wings.

Following the path skirting the moat eventually takes you into the creepily atmospheric remains of the fort, where mould and graffiti are vying for attention. 

And there's me, in my fake fur, trying to hide the bags under my eyes and pretending I wasn't feeling as tired as I did.

It's days like these, with their promise of Spring, that make me long for the real thing to come along soon.