Friday 29 January 2021

A touch of frost

Lately, these damp and dismal January days have been leeching what's left of my energy levels. I feel like I'm just going through the motions and, left to my own devices, my non-working days would be spent reading and what my lovely blogging friend Lynn delightfully calls fiffing and faffing. Nothing wrong with that, I can almost hear you think, but I absolutely hate not being my usual energetic self.

I often wonder how I managed to blog two times a week while working full-time, but perhaps having oodles of time is just counterproductive! Now don't get me wrong: I love blogging as much as I ever did and my blog has been more than a lifeline during the past 10 months. It's just a matter of serious amounts of procrastination! 

OK, that's quite enough of the latter. If I don't get my skates on, I'll still be blogging about these January days in Spring!

My journal has now reached the end of January's first full week and that Friday was just another one of those grey and rainy days. With the temperatures hovering between 5°C and freezing point, the day's precipitation briefly turned into melting snow.

The perfect weather for one of my wool blend skirts which, however, wasn't my first choice that day. 

I was determined to wear the Nordic style H&M cardigan I'd scored at the charity shop earlier that week, which I'd hung up ready for wear after its gentle cycle in the washing machine.

I'd already picked out the brown blouse as well, as it was long overdue an outing.  With the majority its biscuit and off-white print - which always puts me in mind of bullrushes - near the hemline, it was obviously meant to be worn on top rather than tucked in. However, it looked just awful worn with the skirt I'd originally earmarked, which was quite a bit wider than I'd remembered and made the proportions all wrong.

After a bit of trial and error, this rust brown skirt with its subtle burnt orange checks turned out to be perfect for the job. I paid homage to the checks by wearing a shiny burnt orange belt at my waist and did some secret matching with my opaques as well, offering you a sneaky peek of them in the first collage.

Here's a closer look at some of my stuff. Both the enamelled butterfly brooch and the tiger eye pendant were picked up at the sorely missed monthly indoor flea market. It saddens me to realize that its last edition was in the weekend of 7 and 8 March 2020. Will we ever be able to go back, I wonder.

Flea markets might be off-limits for now - and quite unimaginable too - but we are counting ourselves lucky that we can still go for a rummage in the charity shops, offering some well-needed diversion and change of scenery when the weather isn't on its best behaviour.

That day, we decided to widen our horizons and go to our favourite shop, the one in Duffel near the park, for the first time since February. We'd been avoiding it as it tends to be quite busy and as it is laid out on three floors, requires the use of narrow staircases or a rather cramped and excruciatingly slow lift.

Before we go in, here's a look at my outerwear. You've seen my green fur-collared wool jacket, multi-coloured knit scarf and purple mohair beret before, so that they need no further introduction.

The shop turned out to be reasonably quiet, the first indication of which was that we easily found space in their parking lot rather than having to use the car park at the edge of the park.

I found a pair of pristine brown boots, which I'm already wearing in the outfit photos we made after we got home. They are replacing the pair which have been downgraded to walking boots.

My other finds were a vintage pussy bow blouse (left) and another King Louie frock (right). You'll get to see me wearing both very soon, so that I'm limiting myself to the patterns here. Oh, and there's grumpy old Phoebe too, as I needed another photo to fill up the collage :-)

Saturday morning came with a surprise! I actually gasped when we raised the kitchen shutters and looked out on a garden which looked as if a pastry chef had come along and sprinkled it with icing sugar.

It was a gorgeously sunny day so, after our fruit and yoghurt breakfast, I hurriedly got dressed,  put on my new-to-me boots, grabbed my camera and dashed outside. 

Even with the temperature flirting around freezing point, there was no time to lose, as the relative warmth of the sun would soon do away with the frosty jewels adorning our garden.

My newly acquired King Louie dress got its first outing. It's a bit shorter than I usually wear, reaching to just above the knee, but I'm alright with that if I can wear it with opaques!

When I tried it on in the charity shop, I marvelled at how fabulous it looked with the burnt orange opaques I was wearing, so they were the obvious choice.  Then I layered it with a tangerine t-shirt, while a chunky long-line orange cardigan went on top.

Finding the dress too plain without accenting my waist, I wore a fabric covered sky-blue belt, which tied in with the blue beads joining the off-white, brown, yellow and orange ones in my favourite necklace. 

The shiny coral paste brooch is one of the oldest in my collection in terms of ownership. People are usually incredulous when I tell them it's H&M, and I've actually seen it being sold as vintage at the flea market! 

Meanwhile, I kept snapping away in the garden as I couldn't get enough of its iced beauty.

How enchanting are the frosted remains of the honesty pennies! And I thought that the woolly lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) leaves on the top right looked uncannily like winged angels.

Look at that poor ivy leaf trapped in the solidly frozen water in our bird bath. Not that I've ever seen a bird bathing in it, its main function being Phoebe's outside drinking bowl!

By noon, most of the hoarfrost had gone, only leaving tiny patches in the shadiest spots, but for a brief couple of hours we enjoyed the winter wonderland which had descended on our garden.

Sunday was another gorgeously sunny but chilly day with highs of up to 3°C. 

The perfect day for our socially distanced walk and meet-up with Inneke and Maurice. We'd agreed to meet at the so-called Artist's Entrance of the sculpture park and although I'd brought my camera, not many photographs were taken as we were far too busy chatting. After all, we hadn't seen each other since ... July! Oh Corona, so much to answer for ...

We tried to stay off the well-beaten paths as it started getting more crowded as the morning proceeded towards noon. At one point, while we were already making our way back to our cars, a police car appeared on the main path as if out of nowhere. We presumed they were checking if it wasn't too busy and whether people were keeping to the rules. 

Who could ever have imagined such strange happenings this time last year?

We drove back home after saying goodbye to our friends, vowing to make this a regular thing. Now, all we need is a date and some decent weather!

As most of my outfit was covered by my bottle green, fur-collared Winter coat - only just visible in the collage - here is what I was wearing underneath.

I was wearing double wool to combat the chill, starting with a thick knit black vintage jumper embroidered with flowers along its square neckline.

The grey, white and black plaid skirt is vintage too. It is 100% wool and lined and weighs a ton. Some more secret matching went on underneath, as I was wearing 120 denier red opaques.

Again, I felt the jumper and skirt were too plain on their own, so I added a red elasticated belt with a plastic flower buckle, which came with a dress I no longer have. I donated the dress but naughtily kept the belt!  A string of swirly turquoise beads completed my outfit. 

Again, I wore a beret to hide my hair which looks a mess if I haven't washed it for two days. I'm not holding out much hope that our hairdressers will be allowed to re-open soon, but surely one is allowed to dream!

Meanwhile, haircut or not, I keep doing my best to stay safe, sane and fabulous, and I hope that you are all doing the same!

Monday 25 January 2021

Speed of light

I almost did a double take this morning when I switched on my computer at work and realized that the last week of January is already upon us. My mind boggles at the speed at which time is whizzing by.

One would think that the combined forces of the pandemic and the year's dreariest month in the northern hemisphere would make time appear to slow down to a snail's pace instead of defying the speed of light!

Still, my blog's journey is lagging behind as never before. We were only a few days into 2021 when these photos were taken. Oh dear, I really need to step up!

Sunday the 3rd of January was the last day of my 11-day holiday which, in spite of the day's sunny outlook, was making me feel a bit sorry for myself.  Even the fact that I was only looking at a two-day working week wasn't enough to lift my maudlin mood.

But once again, I found solace in dressing up, selecting this vintage flower and circle patterned frock from my wardrobe. You could be forgiven for thinking its main colour is black, but it's actually a delicious chocolate brown!

I took the lead from the turquoise in its flower clusters and selected opaques in the same shade. The dress came with its own tie belt, which I replaced with my zebra print belt to add more interest, and I wore a classic, gold tone and pearl vintage brooch pinned to its bodice.

Before stepping into the garden, I added a chunky knit longline cardigan and my beloved burgundy boots and hid my scarecrow hair under a black turban hat.

Speaking of hair, Jos's was even worse than mine, sticking out all over the place and making him look like something the cat dragged in. 

There was nothing for it but to bring out the hair clippers in a bid to try and make his hair look presentable again. We both agreed that I did a well enough job, although I'm not about to switch careers any time soon. Also, it was now so short that he needed to wear his one and only woolly hat outside in order not to catch a cold.

Monday was my first office day of the year but, in spite of my fears, it turned out not to be too hectic so that I was able to catch up in no time. 

Meanwhile, about 40000 people had returned from their red-zone Christmas holidays, so we were  holding our breaths. Apart from those arriving back by plane or train, a lot of the returning travellers were expected to slip through the net, and there was no guarantee that they would all be disciplined and responsible enough to get themselves tested and quarantined as required.

Trying to be as zen as possible about the whole situation, my spirits were once again lifted by the contents of my wardrobe on Tuesday.

My outfit was based around the recently charity shopped brown velvet skirt with its diagonal trails of lacy flowers. Still in the mood for uplifting oranges, I combined it with this funky pussy bow blouse - a charity shop find just after the first lockdown - which connects to the skirt by containing a couple of brown swirls. 

On top came my fluffy greyish green cardigan, which was another charity shop find, while both the belt and orange felted flower corsage were retail buys. I was swayed by the belt's fabulous buckle when I came across it in a high street shop back in June.

Speaking of charity shops, the lure of them was once again too strong to resist on Tuesday morning. We try to visit them in rotation and this time it was the turn of a shop on the outskirts of the nearby town of Lier.

We were happy to find it reasonably quiet, so that we could browse at ease. Obviously, as befits any sensible and rule abiding citizens, we went browsing separately. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we are the only ones doing so, which isn't helped by the shop personnel turning a blind eye.

Pickings were meagre, but I still came away with a yellow, blue and purple skirt with a rather eye-confusing print. Yes, I am hearing you Sheila :-) 

The purple necklace, as well as another one which is not pictured, was also part of my finds.

After having avoided jumpers for years as they weren't doing my hot flushes any favours, I am now once again in the market for them.  The striped one with the mock turtleneck, originally from Etam, was a no-brainer. As was the H&M Nordic style cardigan!

Wednesday was another office day, which was quiet enough for me to pop out to Veritas, a haberdashery and accessories shop a stone's throw from my workplace, before the sales zombies hit the town. These four pairs of opaques landed in my shopping basket, as did the mustard coloured knit turban headband I was wearing on Thursday.

This vintage Lapidus of Sweden dress with its yellow and tan flower pattern had been patiently waiting its turn. The problem was that it was slightly wrinkled and needed a quick iron. As you'll probably know by now, ironing isn't one of my favourite pastimes, so that more often than not a pile of items in need of attention is building up for months.

That morning, while Jos was doing the twice-weekly food shop, I not only ironed the dress but everything else that was awaiting a once-over with the seldom seen household appliance.

Needless to say, I felt very smug afterwards!

Apart from my new turban headband, I was also wearing one of my new pairs of opaques - the brown snake print ones - for the occasion. I kept the rest of my accessories in brownish hues as well.

Both the brooch and the necklace, which reminded one of my Instagram followers of liquorice, were charity shopped fairly recently. My caramel hued ankle boots were bought from the high street last Winter, and while I don't remember the belt's exact origins, I think I can safely assume that it was another charity shop find, as is the majority of my belt collection. Why pay over the odds for a belt when there's a huge choice to be found for less than € 2 at the charity shops!

I'm including a bit of label porn here! 

The chunky, wide-collared, burnt orange cardigan was another pre-Covid charity shop find and was perfect to keep the chills at bay on a little foray into the garden.

What else did I do that day? Well, according to my journal, we stripped and changed the bed and washed the duvet cover and sheets.

I also pottered around upstairs, doing some dusting and continuing my eternal re-organizing, which is a bare necessity in a small house inhabited by hoarders.

These tapestry bags have been roped in as storage, holding things like belts, woollen tights and vintage slips.

Oh, and I started another book! I've been seriously getting into my reading stride lately, which often happens in the colder months. Apart from reading in bed - often nodding off mid-sentence - I have been taking my current read downstairs for afternoon reading sessions on the couch. I'm trying to remember to photograph the covers and share them on the blog for future reference.


So, that's it for now. Thank you for joining me on my little journey in time.

To be continued, as they say.

In the meantime, do stay safe, everyone!

Thursday 21 January 2021

Girls on the run

Before I plunge myself headfirst into January, starting with what I was wearing to welcome in 2021, I would like to thank you all for your comments and advice on the pale green, grey and off-white dress I wore on the last day of 2020. Although the outcome, both here and on Instagram, was indecisive, I'm going to go with my gut feeling and let it go.

A sales bargain from Think Twice a couple of years ago, it has never felt right, which is how it ended up in my flea market boxes in the first place. I dug it out again during a recent rummage in said boxes, thinking I would like to give it another go, but as it made me feel like Cinderella wearing one of her stepsisters' cast-offs, it has now been banished from my wardrobe for good!


No such issues with what I wore on New Year's Day! The psychedelic sunburst print of this vintage maxi skirt is not for the faint-hearted and this modern day Cinderella would gladly wear it to the ball, if any such things were permitted in this day and age.

Snapped up at Think Twice (again) in August 2017, it initially was far too long for a vertically challenged girl like me, so it needed shortening and, as it is lined, I needed to shorten that as well. Quite a job for an unskilled sewer like yours truly, but I'm rather proud of my - quite literal - handiwork.

I was originally going to wear it with a cobalt blue polo neck, but as our plans for the day didn't involve leaving the confines of Dove Cottage, I thought this long-sleeved top in the same shade of blue would do. It's in a lovely thick fabric, quite tight-fitting, and zips up at the back. 

Both the top and the white felted flower corsage were old retail buys which have by now earned their keep, while the belt and the orange long-line cardigan were recent, post Lockdown 2.0, charity shop finds. 

The multi-coloured beaded necklace was charity shopped as well, serving as a holiday souvenir at the same time, as it was part of my haul from the little charity shop in Poperinge in September 2019.

We hung around not doing very much at all, although my journal insists that I washed my hair as well as a batch of face masks and caught up with blogland.

As the day was unexpectedly sunny - those bothersome weathermen had predicted rain! - I ventured out into the garden, noticing with delight that two of the Hellebores I planted in October have developed flower buds already. Here and there, early Spring bulbs are poking up, as if to test the weather. Apart from the snow drops - which I hope against hope will flower in their first year - I have little recollection of what I planted where, so I'm sure Spring will bring a couple of surprises!

As befits the first day of the year, we exchanged some New Year messages with friends and family. Here, Jos was calling his youngest daughter for a chat, with Phoebe being her usual grumpy self whatever the day of year!

The weather was a mixed bag on Saturday the 2nd of January, cloudy and dull, with some light rain in the morning and the odd ray of sunshine from midday onwards. It was quite chilly at only 3°C.

After breakfast, I scared away a whole army of dust bunnies when I treated the upstairs rooms to a long overdue vacuum cleaning session.

The sun put in a hesitant appearance while we were having lunch, so we thought we'd risk it and go for a walk. After tossing around some ideas, rejecting quite a few options due their muddy nature, we decided on the sculpture park, Middelheim. This was against our better judgment, as it tends to be quite busy with walkers and the inevitable Pokémon hunters on weekend afternoons. 

The weather not being at its best behaviour, however, played in our advantage, as it turned out to be not too crowded, especially when we kept well away from the main paths.

Our meanderings always seems to take us to the Braem Pavilion, to which we are drawn like moths to a flame. Designed by architect Renaat Braem (1910-2001) and completed in 1971, it merges organically with its natural surroundings.

The flying saucer in front of the pavillion is by legendary Belgian artist Panamarenko (1940-2019). 

Panamarenko is considered one of the greatest Belgian artists of the second half of the 20th century. Many of his works are based on the dream of flying and the mythical character of Icarus. 

When I was living in digs in the North of Antwerp in the early 1980s, I often passed the house he lived and worked in, which was at the opposite end of my street. In 2007, Panamarenko donated the house and its contents to Antwerp's Museum of Modern Art, who restored the building and reconstructed Panamarenko's life down to the smallest details. At the artist's request, a helicopter platform was constructed on its roof. The house is currently closed to visitors but I'd love to visit one day, combining it with a trip down memory lane.

The two ghost-like plaster figures are called Dialogue (1974) and are by the Antwerp-based but German-born sculptor Albert Szukalski (1945-2000).  He used living people as the models for plaster figures, laying lengths of fabric soaked in plaster over their bodies and allowing them to harden. The remaining husks of pale plaster were then coated in polyester to weatherproof them. 

The day's chilly temperatures prompted me to wear my beloved Princess coat for the first time this season. Thankful for its generous layer of fur at its collar and hem, I added additional warmth with my higgledy-piggledy striped knit scarf and woolly hat. I forgot to wear gloves, but regularly made use of  my coat's generous pockets.

Ah, look at those wonderful curves and flowing lines! The two curved screens at the back of the building serve as sun screens blocking direct sunlight and providing soft lighting within the exhibition space, while a large floor to ceiling glass wall with two doors connects it with the landscape the pavillion nestles in, linking them both visually and functionally. Organic Brutalism at its very best!

As more and more people had started to arrive, and it became a pain to do what Vix is aptly calling the Covid Shuffle, we started making our way back to our car.

There was still time for a socially distanced meet-up with one of my favourite sculptures. No prizes for guessing her name as yes, it is Running Girl (Kurt Gebauer, 1976). For a moment, frozen in time by a click of the camera, she let me share her limelight.

She has always intrigued me, this running girl. I mean, what is she running for, and why is there such a look of fear in her eyes? Now, more than ever, I can relate with her, as like her, I am running on the spot, with nowhere to escape to. I am sure that sometimes the look in my eyes matches hers, too.

We said our goodbyes and drove home, where the only thing left on the agenda was showing you what I was wearing underneath the Princess coat.

If I seem to be drawn to orange lately, it is purely subconsciously. I have read that it offers emotional strength in difficult times, so perhaps that's the reason.

I certainly didn't set out to combine this grey and white patterned dress with orange. The outfit was built around the dress, which I was determined to wear. It's a double knit polyester which was perfect to combat the chill of the day, and I just love its wallpaper print. Then I started playing around with accessories, which is a game I love to play, its end result often surprising me.

After adding the belt and the opaques, the rest was a doddle. I wore the pink, purple and orange wooden beaded necklace again - last seen with the unfortunate pale green dress - and selected an orange enamel flower patterned brooch from my collection. Et voilà!

I'll be back with another installment of the Covid-19 diaries in a couple of days.

Until then, I am counting on you to remain as safe, sensible, sane, and sensational as possible!

Sunday 17 January 2021

All wrapped up

At long last, my blog has reached the final days of December, and the time has come to say goodbye to the annus horribilis that was 2020.

And about time too, I should think. The new year is marching along relentlessly and we're already more than halfway through its first month. Admittedly, nothing much has changed, and things will probably get worse before they get any better. Although the vaccine is offering us a ray of hope, it is still a feeble one, and it looks as if the pandemic will remain prominently on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

Still, there are good days as well as bad, and I keep trying to focus on the former!

But once again, I'm getting ahead of myself, as December's last three days are begging to be chronicled. So let's get that job done, shall we!

Talking of jobs, I needed to go into the office for a couple of hours on the year's last Tuesday. 

We drove into Antwerp by mid morning, parking our car in the multi-storey car park near my office building. Even at the early-ish hour of 10.30 am, there was a queue to get into the car park, and by the time we left in the early afternoon, the zombies had arrived in droves.

Watching from the office windows while I finished a couple of tasks, Jos couldn't help noticing that about every car in three was one with Dutch registration plates. The Netherlands are currently locked down, with non-essential shops closed, but it's all too easy for them to cross the border into Belgium to get their shopping fix, putting even more pressure on our already far too crowded shopping streets!

I was wearing a Belgian made vintage dress I picked up in a charity shop while out shopping with a friend many years ago. Although I was instantly smitten with its pink and purple flowers dancing across a criss-cross patterned background towards its hem, it was the Bakelite buckled belt which clinched the deal.

To its bodice, I pinned a burgundy ceramic leaping deer brooch (a close cousin of the green big-eyed Bambi brooch from my previous post). My other accessories were a chunky chartreuse, teal and burgundy beaded necklace and a teal plastic ring. Oh, and let's not forget the crochet flower corsage I pinned to my teal King Louie cardigan. 

Back at home, we just had time for some outfit photos before I crashed on the couch, where I spent the rest of the afternoon reading my latest book. 

Tell The Wolves I'm Home is the debut novel of American author Carol Rifka Brunt, published 2012. The novel's protagonist is a quirky 14-year-old girl in 1987, whose gay uncle has died of AIDS and who subsequently develops a friendship with his boyfriend. It is a compelling coming of age story which had me gripped until I turned its final page. Now, what to read next?


The next day, Wednesday, was mostly cloudy, with the odd ray of sunshine as well as the odd shower, and a fairly reasonable 6°C for the time of year.

While Jos did the final food shop of the year, I vacuumed the downstairs rooms, and then indulged in playing around with my wardrobe, composing an outfit for our New Year's Eve walking meet-up.

My outfit of the day was based around one of my all-time favourite dresses, a bottle green Diolen Delight with a funky yellow, orange, white and biscuit coloured geometric pattern.

I couldn't believe my luck when I laid eyes on it in a charity shop in January 2017. The only thing I didn't like about it were its original buttons, but that was soon remedied by replacing them with vintage yellow ones from my stash.

I accessorized the dress with a tan leather belt and beaded necklace and a green, gold-tone and faux pearl brooch I charity shopped back in August.

After putting away the shopping and having a spot of lunch, we were gasping to escape for a breath of fresh air and, as we were having one of those sunny spells, we drove down to the water tower for yet another attempt to spot the Atomium in Brussels from its viewing platform.

My outerwear consisted of my plaid swing coat and green boots - both charity shop finds - and a green beret from Think Twice. My scarf was an old retail buy and the burnt orange opaques I'm wearing were a gift from the lovely Kezzie, who was kind enough to send me these and some other pairs she was no longer wearing about two years ago.

Much to our disappointment, the gated stairwell leading up to the water tower's viewing platform was locked so, in order not to have had a wasted journey, we stopped off at the nearby charity shop.

It's one of the smaller shops (but still bigger than the average UK charity shop) and can be very hit or miss. I was just about to write it off as a miss when I spotted this gorgeous butterscotch Astrakhan jacket. I have no idea whether it is the real thing or not but I was sold after I tried it on, so it came home with me.

That evening, with the weather forecast for New Year's Eve predicting a 90% chance of rain, we made the sensible decision to postpone the meet-up we'd planned with our friends Inneke and Maurice to a later date.

To say we were disappointed is quite an understatement. After not having seen each other for months, we had been very much looking forward to our get-together, which would have supplied a silver lining to the year's final day.

Feeling a bid subdued, I decided against wearing the outfit I'd lovingly put together and, perhaps driven by the mood of the day, wore a pale green, grey and off white vintage dress instead. 

I'd recently pulled it out of the flea market boxes, deciding to give it one more chance, as I cannot seem to decide whether I like it or not. Although it really is most delightful in person, I'm simply not feeling it. Pale colours like these are so not me, I think. I really need your honest opinions here!

In order to make it more me, I spruced it up by wearing it with a burgundy King Louie cardigan, the multi-coloured woven leather belt I'd recently charity shopped and my pink, purple and orange wooden beaded necklace. To the dress's bodice I pinned a burgundy orchid brooch and I added a pale green flower corsage to the cardigan.

I hadn't planned to wear this outfit outside the house at all, but then, after a rainy start, it suddenly started clearing up, the sun playing peek-a-boo with some drifting clouds.

Needless to say, I was in a foul mood, as it would have been the perfect day for our meet-up after all! 

I'd originally planned to vacuum the upstairs rooms - I was already imagining myself chasing dust bunnies with a vengeance - but as the sun was still out in full force after lunch, it would have been downright silly to spend the rest of the day inside.

Hoping that it wouldn't be too crowded, we selected one of Antwerp's edge of town parks, Den Brandt, for an afternoon stroll. 

Based around a romantic late classical castle surrounded by an English landscape style garden and undulating parkland interlaced with invitingly winding paths, it might well be one of  Antwerp's most picturesque parks.

With highs of only 5°C, it was of course the perfect opportunity to take my newly purchased jacket on its maiden voyage. Additional warmth was provided by a red and purple scarf, purple beret and a pair of fingerless gloves.

Note my tapestry panelled handbag, the broken strap of which Jos was able to repair, so that it can join me once more on our outings.

I always forget to mention my sturdy chocolate brown boots and floral walking stick, which are obvious essentials for possibly slippery Winter walks.

Although we obviously weren't the only people making the most of this unexpectedly sunny afternoon, there are plenty of opportunities to veer away from the well-trodden paths, indulge in some soggy leaf kicking and pretend there's only the raucously cawing crows for company.

After circuiting the park while trying to avoid the crowds which had suddenly appeared as if out of nowhere, a view towards the castle opened up, looking rather fetching framed by shrubs and trees and with the pale Winter sunshine reflecting in the murky pool on the bottom right.

People were queuing for take-away coffee at one of the castle's gatehouses, but however tempting it was, we just couldn't be bothered, preferring to have coffee and perhaps a warm waffle topped with cream in the safety of Dove Cottage.

But not before taking a final selfie, which for once didn't turn out too badly. 

So, that was it, that strangest of years, 2020, all wrapped up and packed away.

I'll be heading into 2021 from my next post onwards and cannot help but keep wondering what the journey will bring. 

Stay safe out there, wherever you are!