Ah September, How I Love Thee!


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I love this time of year. It has always been my favourite time, and even as I get older the pleasure and thrill of September hasn’t diminished one iota. 

When I was at primary school I loved September because I loved the newness of a different classroom, the stiffness of new shoes and school uniform, the fresh start with a new teacher all wrapped up with the security of being in a familiar and comforting school I had known all my life. I loved the chilly mornings with my new anorak keeping me warm that would quickly get turned into a cape on my head or wrapped round my waist, the arms tied together on the way home because it was baking hot in the Autumn sunshine.

When I moved to secondary school September brought another set of new things to savour: new timetable, new exercise books, even new subjects for us in the top set who got to learn German as well as French in the third year. There was the added buzz of new pens and notebooks – a lifelong love of new stationery was born during my time in secondary school – and every now and again there was the thrill of a new schoolbag too. The longer walk to school was lovely too and gave us kids more time to crunch through the leaves as they fell from the thousands of trees that lined our route to school and over the “backies” to the back gate. One of the best things about living in Blackley as I do is the trees – always has been.

After school came sixth form, and after those days and my very young marriage, another “new” hit me one September when I gave birth to my daughter Emma. Not only did the new identity of mother hit me with a big bang, but before too long I found myself repeating all those things I’d loved from my own childhood Septembers with her too. New uniforms being bought at the end of the summer holidays, new book bags and overcoats being bought, new shoes being polished, new stationery and new schoolbags….it was as fantastic to be on the giving end of those things as it was to be on the receiving end when I was a child.

My daughter is now about to start her third year at university and doesn’t need me to sort out her new shoes and stationery any more, and my son will be starting his final year at secondary school tomorrow. Boys are different to girls and he doesn’t want anything new, apart from bigger shirts and a blazer that fits him obviously! He didn’t want to go to W H Smith today for new pens and a notebook like Emma used to do, and as most of his schoolwork is done online now anyway, I would be just clogging up his pockets with pens and pencils when all he really needs is a pen-drive and his bus pass. 

Last September I restarted my studies for my degree with the Open University and I was able to indulge my passion for new pens and folders, something that I am looking forward to repeating before my next two courses start in a couple of weeks time. I am on a countdown if the truth be told. The courses are due to start on 5th October but I have already got my study materials through the post, and next Wednesday will see the online part of it being opened. That’s when I can really get to plan my studies – and my folders! – and perhaps even make an early start as well. 

I do love September. It’s like another chance at a fresh start and a clean slate again. It’s better than the one that we get at New Year, the one that turns up in the depths of Winter when everyone is dreary and miserable, when coughs and colds ruin most things for most people, and there are lashings of guilt from over-eating and over-spending at Christmas. The September New Year comes on the back of long hot carefree days of happiness and sunshine, and it signals the start of a lovely winding down for everyone. There are festivals and parties to come – Harvest, Halloween, Bonfire Night – and there is a sense of nature being in control. Leaves are changing into spectacular colours right before our eyes, conkers are already dropping from horse-chestnut trees in the park, the sky is a riot of sunsets and meteor showers and misty mornings are the stuff of dreams and legends. 

Ah September, how I love thee!!

autumn colours

 

Katie Hopkins Obesity Crusade


I have a fair bit of respect for the outspokenness of Katie Hopkins, and generally I tend to agree with the gist of what she says – more or less – but there is an issue that I just can’t agree with her on and that is the subject of obesity.

Those of you who know me in real life know that I am not exactly a wilting little flower and I am rather a “hefty” girl…ok, ok, I’m obese. There I’ve said it.

Now, according to Katie Hopkins the reason I am obese is because I stuff my face with the wrong type of food all day and I do no exercise. In her view, it’s all my own fault and all I have to do is simply stop stuffing my face and get off my lardy arse for the weight will disappear.

She is so certain of her opinion on obesity that she recently decided to prove her theory by demonstrating how straightforward it is to lose weight by doing precisely that herself. She has been purposely over-eating for the last few months to put on over 3 stone in weight, and she will begin an intensive programme of weight loss beginning on the 8th September to show fatties like me that losing weight is just a question of having the right attitude to food and exercise. She is on record as saying “fat people need to look in the mirror, look at themselves, and realise it’s their fault”. Thanks Katie.

These two pictures show just how far she is prepared to go to prove her point. The “before” picture on the left and the “after” on the right show just what she looks like after piling on the weight. If you want to read more on her stunt, click here.

On the one hand I applaud her commitment to her view by doing that to herself but on the other, I’m hopping mad at her for her over-simplistic take on the causes and reasons for obesity. Katie Hopkins is an entrepreneur, not a medical expert and as far as I can ascertain she has no training in the field of diet and nutrition, and she certainly is not any sort of expert in exercise regimes, so how her opinion on this can be only that, an opinion and not a viable scientific study.

As any obese person will tell you, the path to their size and their weight won’t have ever been a simple one and therefore the pathway back to a “healthy” size won’t be simple either. Katie Hopkins is labouring under the illusion that weight gain is a result of a simple mathematical equation:

too much food + too little exercise = obesity

But that is far too simplistic and doesn’t take into consideration genetics, hormones, biological imbalances etc. My own pathway to obesity began when I went on the pill at the age of 17. The introduction of artificial hormones at that age and stage of my development has had a lifelong impact on my own hormones, and as well as weight gain I also have had other associated problems with too much/too little of the correct hormones washing around my body. I don’t want to go into details here, but weight gain has been only one of those side effects.

Coupled with that, my own genetics have had an impact on my weight. If you look at any of the women in my family – cousins, aunties etc – you will see that there is a common link between us all and that is that we all have weight issues. Some are better than others at controlling it, but generally we are all on the larger side.

Those two things are pretty well accepted in medical circles as being contributors to weight issues, but the third factor in my case is not something that is quantifiable, or even explainable, sometimes. Over the years whenever I have tried to diet, I have somehow managed to PUT ON weight every single time. I went to WeightWatchers in my early 20s and followed their diet plan to the absolute letter for about three months. I had to stop it because I’d put on a stone in that time. The experience then was repeated time and time again during my 20s and 30s, and the only time I have ever lost any significant amount of weight was, surprisingly, when I was carrying my second child. I ended that pregnancy weighing less than I did at the start. Weird eh?

I enjoy cycling and as a way to a) try to lose weight (again) and b) raise some money a couple of years ago, we decided as a family that we would cycle from Morecambe to Scarborough, a distance of about 120 miles over three days. Obviously it wasn’t something we could just do straight off, so we put miles and miles of training in. Personally I have never done so much exercise as I did in the 12 months or so before we did the big ride and I was cycling upwards of about 100 miles per week to try and build my stamina and my fitness levels. I managed to do that, and I managed to ride the Coast to Coast with my husband in the three days as planned. My fitness levels were great – I was recovering quickly from training rides, my breathing etc were fine and I felt fairly flexible. The trouble was that I did not lose a single pound during all that time and in actual fact I put more weight on. I didn’t do anything special with my eating habits – I neither dieted nor went mad with calorie intake, and yet I still put on weight.

Year on year my weight has crept up, and it was only when I became ill about 4 years ago that my weight stabilised. During the course of my illness I have seen quite a few doctors and they have all mentioned that my weight is an issue – as if I didn’t know that myself. In September last year the consultant I saw at the hospital suggested that I go on his “special” diet that would help me. It was a fairly restricted diet with only a few foods permitted on it and I followed it faithfully for about three months. Right through Christmas with no chocolate or anything and guess what the result was? Yes, that’s right, I put on yet more weight. A stone in three months on a hospital prescribed diet? There’s got to be something wrong somewhere.

I now weigh more than I have ever done in my life and I am at a loss as to what to do about it. But here’s the rub. Katie Hopkins reckons that I am the size and weight that I am simply because I stuff my face but as you can see from my story, that simply is not true. We are financially constrained at the moment and our food budget is tight to say the least. My doctor’s advice is for me to lose weight I should be eating three meals a day with three sensible snacks in between, and to take some moderate exercise. Which is great but we don’t have enough money for me to eat that much food every day. My typical day’s food intake at the moment is a slice of toast and marmite for breakfast, a snack for lunch (today it was an apple and a small piece of cheese) and then my tea, which is a meal I can cook for my boys to share. My weight is variable, by up to 10lbs either way depending on the time of the month (both hormonal and financial), yet according to Ms Hopkins the weight should be dropping off me.

I wonder how it will work out for her in the next couple of months? She has the advantage of proper nutritional food to eat and will no doubt be undertaking a rigorous exercise regime to get rid of her excess weight. She also has the advantage of the unnatural weight gain in the first place. She has purposely eaten fattening food in order to put the weight on, so for her, reversing her weight gain will certainly be a simple process of reversing the pattern.

It bothers me that if she finds it easy to lose the weight again she will forever be convinced that us fatties are products of our own greed, and not the far more complex issues that have brought people like me to the size we are. I am not and have never been a big eater, and I don’t consider myself to be a greedy eater neither. Sadly though, Ms Hopkins would view me as someone who makes excuses and hides behind a hormonal shield to explain my excess weight but for me and for many other women like me, it’s not as simple as she is trying to make out.

So it will be interesting to see how things work out in the next couple of months for her. Will she struggle against her age and her own personal biology to lose the weight? Or will it drop off her as easily as it was put on? Will she ever see that being obese is not a simple equation and is quite often a result of many other factors? Will she ever be convinced that there are people like me out there who put weight on despite a starvation diet and quite hefty exercise regimes? Or will she forever be convinced that fat people are just greedy over-eaters who hold their own destinies on the end of their own forks? Time will tell.

 

 

Word Crimes


I suppose like most bloggers, I’m a bit of word enthusiast (understatement of the year), and grammar and spelling are important to me.

You might agree with me, and don’t you find that spelling and grammar seem to be way down the list of people’s priorities now, especially on social media? A quick example is yesterday I read a status that claimed that the prime minister had upped the terror alert level to server in the UK. I didn’t realise that our government servers were open to attack by terrorists – what would it mean, that our TV would go off? That our tax records would be hacked? That our bank accounts would all be drained by overseas terrorists who hack into our national servers??

It took me ages to work out that “server” was actually supposed to be “severe”…

Anyway, here’s a little video for you that my daughter shared with me this evening. I hope you like it. It kinda sums up evryfin i h8 abt online txtspk. U wiv me?

 

 

Daybook Entry – 29th August


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FOR TODAY
Outside my window… it is dark and windy. Rain is lashing the window panes and I am listening to the gutter overflowing past my bedroom window.

I am thinking… that it is a good time to be tucked up in bed!

I am thankful… that my bed is so comfy.

In the kitchen… is my airing rack with Ethan’s bedroom rug drying on it. It was handmade by his grandparents and is very thick wool, which is a nightmare to dry and takes a couple of days to do so. It has already been moved about half a dozen times in the last two days to capture the moving warm spots in the house.

I am wearing… I’m ready for bed so my sleep t-shirt and shorts.

I am creating… stock for a craft stall I am doing in about 6 weeks’ time. I am building up a supply of kiddies hats, cot blankets and small toys/key rings etc.

I am going… to conduct another performance by the Todmorden Community Brass Band tomorrow at Dobroyd Castle. I’m looking forward to it really. We have a great band at the moment and we are having a fab time in rehearsals which spills over into our performances. We’re providing background music tomorrow which is nice as I don’t have to think of any jokes to tell the audience!

I am wondering… what Terry the Terrapin is thinking most of the day. Is he happy? Is he bored? Does he dream of a life outside the aquarium? Does he recognise me because I’m the one who feeds him? Does he ever wish there was a Mrs Terry to play with?

I am reading… I am between novels at the minute but I have decided to make an effort to get through Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’m making headway and even though the language is antiquated and a bit heavy going, it’s surprisingly readable once you get into its rhythm.

I am hoping… I can earn some money from my craft stall. If this one is successful I’m hoping to repeat it before Christmas too.

I am praying for… I am giving thanks for Rita’s continuing recovery; I am praying for healing for my friend Jane who is going through chemo after a mastectomy; things are financially difficult for us at the moment so my prayers are for my little family, that we can weather this storm and God will look after us.

I am looking forward to… a time when I can earn properly again.

I am learning… my instincts about someone have been correct all this time, and whilst I have always made allowances and tried to explain/excuse their behaviour and attitude as being down to other things, all along the truth about them has been there in my face and I should have trusted my instinct about them.

Around the house… is evidence of my extensive crocheting this week. Plastic boxes of yarn which are usually stacked neatly and out of sight are out for easy access, and the big box of stuffing I have for my toy filling is also out because I have made a few owls this week. Oh yes, and the little tail ends of yarn where I’ve snipped off the ends are ALL OVER the place. They stick to socks and everything so end up in the weirdest places…

I am pondering… how to go about marketing my craft stuff so that I can make some money but don’t overwhelm myself in the process.

A favourite quote for today: “I quite liked the music we played tonight, especially that Coronation Chicken” (from my friend Gill whose auto correct on her phone is almost as bad as mine and didn’t recognise “Coronation Scot” haha!)

One of my favourite things… is the sound of brass, especially playing hymn tunes.

A few plans for the rest of the next few days: gig tomorrow, church Sunday, back to school shopping for Ethan’s uniform and school supplies Monday or Tuesday, more crocheting and more reading.

A peek into my day… we played this tonight at band (see Gill’s text message above). This is a professional orchestra playing it and we are a community brass band, but this is Coronation Scot for you:

 

 

Come and join us at  http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/ and join in!!

Ear Worm!!


We had a band engagement this afternoon at Mercer Park in Accrington and we played a great programme, if I do say so myself. The mix of music was wide ranging in terms of styles, moods, tempos, audience participation and so on and I think we pretty much covered most things from big band (Hot Toddy) to film music (Themes from “Gladiator”), from marches (Aces High) to singalong/audience participation (Is This The Way To Amarillo) and from classic brass band “park-job” music (Floral Dance) to classic American folk songs (Appalachian Mountain Folk Song Suite).

Some of our younger players posing with some in the audience this afternoon. They were actually posing for the local press photographer but I sneaked in over her head and took this one myself. The kids have all swapped instruments - my son and the girl to his right have swapped, and the two girls on the right had swapped with each other too, just to confuse me!

Some of our younger players posing with some in the audience this afternoon. They were actually posing for the local press photographer but I sneaked in over her head and took this one myself. The kids have all swapped instruments – my son and the girl to his right have swapped, and the two girls on the right had swapped with each other too, just to confuse me!

You know by now that I love by band, and we have a few little in-jokes that have developed over the years I have been with them, which I also love. We have an ongoing in-joke about “ear worms” – those pieces that stay with you for the rest of the day and even interrupt your attempts at getting to sleep – which Swinging Safari is a good example of (we played that too).

I am delighted to announce that we have a new ear worm as of today and I couldn’t help but share it with you now. My friend Gill has threatened to string me up for this one, especially as we finished the concert with it so it was the last thing in our minds as we broke up and went our separate ways at the end.

Mwahahahahaaaaaaa I am an evil conductor!

Please enjoy Arthur Benjamin’s “Jamaican Rumba” as played by Mantovani and his orchestra. Not quite in the same league as Todmorden Community Brass playing it on a sunny Saturday afternoon in a leafy park in Lancashire, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for this “inferior” rendition.

 

Where’s the bottom??


I had a sensation the other day of not being able to find the bottom, even on tippy toes, and I panicked.

underwater legsYou must know that feeling? It’s like when you are learning to swim and you push yourself to go further and further down the pool, getting less and less brave as the water laps up against first your chin and then your nostrils, and then suddenly within half a step, there’s no bottom at all and the water is up over your eyes. There’s a momentary panic where you can’t see or hear or breathe or even THINK as you thrash and splutter and cough it all out, then suddenly, your toes stretch themselves to the limit and you can find the bottom again. More than that, you find that you’re really in that deep after all and if you just stop panicking and thrashing about and just stand upright for a minute, you’re safe after all and all that happened was that your footing slipped a little and you lost contact with the bottom of the pool.

It didn’t just come out of the blue, but had been a steady build up over a couple of weeks, with general and specific anxieties and worries piling on top of each other. I have been on holiday recently, and as much as I was anticipating the break away from routine and being with my family, underneath it all I was more than a little anxious about those very same things too. Any sort of change in my routine makes me anxious these days, which I cope with by forcing myself to accept small changes and even to embrace them when I can. I don’t know why I should be anxious about things like that, but that’s me I guess. I have always been the same, even as a child. Particularly as a child.

I remember the lead up to Christmas being hell for me and the same with anticipated trips to visit my Uncle David and his family, or just before we went on holiday. It used to hit me in my stomach and I would be sick – literally – for days or weeks beforehand in anticipation of the event, and even now as an adult, I get the same way.

This summer we were due to go on holiday straight after a memorial service for the 100th anniversary of Britain’s involvement in the First World War and I had been asked to provide music in the shape of a brass band for it. This was on the Sunday and we were due to go on holiday on the Monday. The weeks leading up to both these events was torture for me if I’m honest. It’s really difficult to explain how and why, and my nerves and anxiety were spilling over into all other areas of my life. I was so bad that my friend Gill brought me a bunch of flowers on the Saturday to cheer me up.

As it happened, the rehearsal for the service went fantastically well and the service itself was really, really good. Just the one slip up (from me) but it was easily covered up and nobody knew it had happened except me and the vicar who was leading the service. Our holiday was fantastic too so my anxiety and nerves were totally unfounded and as it turned out, there was nothing to fear. This is how it usually happens, but for some reason this time I was even more anxious about being home again and resuming my normal stuff last weekend.

I was anxious about going to church on Sunday, the day after we’d arrived back home, so much so that I was physically sick before I went out. Now, come on. WHO gets sick about going to church??! We had a fun day at church this Tuesday too, but by the time that came around I was at the “foot slipped off the bottom of the pool and water lapping at my nostrils” stage as described above. The daft thing is that there is absolutely nothing to be worried about, or fearful of, or even be the slightest bit anxious about and yet time and time again I find myself tied up in stupid nervy knots about THINGS THAT ARE ENJOYABLE AND FULFILLING!!

I have to admit that the flailing about and losing my footing is not the usual outcome of a period of extended anxiety like this, but when it happens I always feel so foolish when it has passed and I realise that things weren’t as out of control as they felt during it. I may well have felt like I’d lost contact with the bottom, but it wasn’t that far away after all and if I had just stopped worrying I wouldn’t have felt myself slip in the first place.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who suffers from anxiety and depression like this. Does it make you feel like you’re losing control and drowning too? Do you feel foolish that when you finally regain your footing, you realise that the bottom was always there just a few millimeters beyond where you thought you could reach?

 

A Day of Two Halves


It’s been a day of two halves today, literally poles apart. The day began beautifully with bright sunshine and some big fluffy clouds in the sky which was a godsend to us as we packed up to move on to the next stage in our holiday. As anyone who has ever been camping knows, it’s rotten to set up or strike camp in the wind and the rain as canvas tends to act as sails making folding tents a nightmare. We were fortunate this morning that the weather was in our favour.

But then we set off and things quickly changed. My dad developed an electrical problem on his car, which meant that he didn’t have a connection to his nearside indicator on his caravan. We usually lead and dad usually follows us, but because of this problem we went behind today because at least we knew where he was heading and the chances of annoying other motorists were reduced if it was us behind him.

If we hadn’t done that then what happened next might not have been quite so catastrophic…

We crossed the border into Scotland, and we met Weather with a capital “W”.

And unbeknown to us at this point we were developing our own mechanical fault of our own. We stopped for lunch at a service station and it was pouring down with rain so didn’t stop long, but when we set off again it was like armageddon out there.

We had a slight argument with the satnav as we wanted to follow the road signs to the Forth Bridge but Tom wanted to take us through Edinburgh City. Erm, no Tom, not a great idea when towing a couple of caravans in convoy, one of which can’t indicate left.
So we found ourselves on the M9 (which I thought was the M90) going round a huge left hand bend coming onto the main carriageway when we heard a big bang, and then a grinding noise from behind us. The car felt like we were dragging a dead weight behind us and so we pulled over onto the hard shoulder. We were just about at the end of the bit where we could have pulled over because there was another slip road coming in to our left. Not the best or the safest place to have an emergency stop!!

Still pouring down with torrential rain, the three of us got out to check what had happened and oh boy…

The nearside wheel had come OFF the van, breaking the wheel arch in the process and leaving the hub dragging into the tarmac. All four wheel bolts had come off (how, HOW?!?!) and the tyre had shredded inside the archway, giving off plumes of burnt rubber smoke inside and outside the van.

We rang for the RAC, but as the problem was the caravan and not the car, they told us they might not be able to help but would get someone to us within an hour. They told us to wait by the side of the carriageway away from the car. The weather was appalling and we got very wet very quickly, but we were “rescued” by two men in a BEAR Scotland truck after about 20 minutes.

They weren’t supposed to help us, but they were fantastic and got the caravan jacked up for us so we could get the weight off the hub. While they were doing that we saw that the bolt holes in the wheel had all become enlarged, possibly as the bolts had worked themselves loose, rendering the wheel useless.

Kevin had an amazing light bulb moment when he realised that as the car had 4 safety bolts on the wheels, we were carrying the extra “spare” ones, which we could use to attach the spare wheel. Hurrah!!  Problem solved!!

Looking forward to getting warm and dry and on the move again, once the spare wheel was attached with the spare wheel bolts, we got on with the job of rehitching the van,  lowering the legs, upping the jockey wheel and restarting the engine.

Only to find that the battery was dead because we’d followed the RAC ‘s instructions to leave the hazard warning lights on and the side lights on. Very embarrassing to have to ask the BEAR men to give us a jump start as well. Oops!

Those men were fantastic and really
helped us out, and although their advice to “get on a plane somewhere hot next time” might not be taken up, they were brilliant with us throughout it all.

Finally back on the road and we eventually found the campsite, getting the whole party back together again. Obviously, being stranded on a motorway, dad couldn’t stop to help us and had to carry on without us.

So here we are at the end of a difficult and very different day. What started out as beautiful weather, gorgeous driving conditions and a calm and peaceful camping party has turned out to be very very wet, dangerous, difficult and stressful journey and tetchy (!) campers at the end.

It is still torrential rain out there and we have not got a dry coat between us after the debacle on the road and setting up in the torrent, but we have had a great time in our awning this evening playing cards, telling daft jokes and having a sing song.

It’s great this camping lark isn’t it??!

Last Day of Northumberland


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This is my favourite picture from today. Taken this evening on Bamburgh beach, it shows my husband and my son flying a kite near the water’s edge. I have deliberately taken a wide shot so you can see the glorious blue sky above and the amazing colour of the sea beyond.

We have loved it here this week but we are moving on tomorrow morning and leaving this stunning part of the country behind…for now. We’ll definitely be returning, it is too beautiful to ignore.
We are heading north in the morning, and will be taking the high road into bonny Scotland. I’m looking forward to staying in Fife and doing some sightseeing up there. We might even get to see some dolphins if we’re lucky!

Northumberland Holiday, Part 3


Today we visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, making the crossing across the causeway with literally minutes to spare!

We have been there a couple of times before and each time we go we manage to see something different or to have a different experience of it. This time was no exception because we visited the oft photographed castle at the end of the island. It was a garrison from around 1500 and a coastguard lookout post until the turn of the 20th century when it was bought by an Edwardian gentleman who converted into a holiday home with the help of his friend Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the cenotaph in Whitehall in London.

We also visited the ruins of the abbey, founded as a monastic site of contemplation by St Cuthbert in the 7th Century. I managed to do a little sketching while the others toured the site, which was lovely and peaceful to enjoy.

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Here is my mum and dad in front of the recognisable ruins of the abbey, with a newly commissioned statue to St Cuthbert in the background.

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And here is the statue in close up. I love the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern in this picture. A tale of modern Christianity of ever there was one.

We are currently sitting out a storm and we are having to shout to each other to be heard over the noise of the rain on our caravan awning roof. Don’t you just love the Great British weather?!!

Northumberland Part Two


It has been a gloriously long day today, with our alarms going off at 3.30am for a 3.45am get up. I had planned to go and catch the sunrise on the beach at Bamburgh with Kevin this morning, and we were going to do a bit of experimental photography while we were there.

Oh boy!

We got some absolutely beautiful shots and I managed to get two decent time lapse sequences of the dawn breaking and the sunrise over the Farne Islands, just off the Northumberland coast. I have tried to upload them to share with you, but as wi-fi is a bit intermittent I might have to wait until I get home to share them properly.

For now though, here are some of my favourite shots taken this morning.

The sun rising over the Farne Islands

The sun rising over the Farne Islands

Our beach setup to take the time lapse video

Our beach setup to take the time lapse video

 

It was so worth the effort of getting up and out so early today. Not only for the photos but for the spiritual experience of sitting on a beach in the shadow of a 1200 year old fortress, with the tide coming in and the sun coming up. Priceless.