Be like a train; go in the rain,

go in the sun, go in the storm,

go in the dark tunnels!

Be like a train;

concentrate on your road

and go with no hesitation!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

***Unfold your own myth.***

I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sunday, 9 June 2019

The End...For Now

Don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
***Unfold your own myth.***

For the past 11 years while Stuart and I have lived on Holywell Street, running our little B&B, we've led a bit of a public life. We've lived on a high profile street in Oxford's city centre, tourists photographing our home (and us) day and night, seven days a week. We've welcomed strangers into our home nearly every day and had active and successful social media accounts highlighting our life in Oxford. Being public with your life is all part of marketing these days, especially when running your own business.

But for us that business is now done. Someone may take it over, but the chapters of Holywell Bed and Breakfast in our life are closing permanently at the end of August. And at that point as well, the curtains into our private life are closing.  I've come to the end of wanting to share our life on public platforms like Twitter and Instagram, and even this blog. I crave privacy and feel absolutely no inclination to make our life least for now. That may change, once I've had my time away from Holywell Street and marketing and the cacophony of social media. Never say never. Besides, Jack & Tex may want to check in and say HI once in awhile.

This blog will stay up as an archive of my time in Oxford, but the curtains into our life will be closed...maybe for just awhile. Saying that, it's also important to say that we hold nothing but gratitude for all those who've come through our front door, or who I've befriended on social media, or who have enjoyed this blog. The gifts from these 11 years have been many, but now it's the gift of privacy that I crave. In this age of sharing every thought, every action, every nuance of our lives, keeping things treasured quietly in our hearts is almost a radical action. I've always loved the verse from Luke 2:19 after Mary is visited by an angel ...

But Mary treasured up all these things
And pondered them in her heart.
~New International Version

But Mary kept all these things,
Pondering them in her heart.
~ King James Bible

This is radical thinking in this time of social media and 24/7 sharing of 
e v e r y t h i n g. So I think of this as a little sabbatical, a time of pondering the past decade. It's been quite a ride these past 11 years, and our thoughts are of our future and living happily ever after in the Cotswolds...and of course our beloved Wales. Take care everyone and thank you for being here. Be happy. Fear not. Be well.
Love, Carrie

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Under Construction...Again

Life is a great big canvas, and you
should throw all the paint on it you can.
~ Danny Kaye

At the end of my 62nd year, I seem to have lived as many lives as I have shoes. And I have quite an array of shoes. I've reconstructed myself more times than I can even remember, and am about to do it again. After 11 years of providing a warm bed and a mouth-watering breakfast to travelers in Oxford, Holywell Bed and Breakfast will be closing it's doors at the end of August this year.

The reasons are many, and Stuart and I have been grappling with the decision for awhile now, but the simplest way to put it is that it feels like it's the end of the story of our life on Holywell Street. Even though my health has pushed us in this direction, it feels right, it feels good, and we have nothing but excitement for our future story. 

🦋 If nothing ever changed, 🦋
there'd be no butterflies.

I've always thought it's best to move toward something, rather than away, so once we had a picture in our mind that we could move forward into, the decision to close the B&B was an easy one.

Life was meant to be lived,
 and curiosity must be kept alive.
 One must never,
 for whatever reason,
 turn his back on life.
 ~  Eleanor Roosevelt

💛 And this is what 💛
we're moving toward.

Ever since Stuart and I fell in love in the Cotswolds 21 years ago this summer, we've dreampt of living in a golden cottage in a little Cotswold village. And that is what we're moving toward. We'll still have our cottage in Wales, but until Stuart can retire we'll live in the Cotswolds within an easy commute into Oxford. Right now we have the pure joy of searching for the perfect Cotswold home for us...the one above is in the village of Bibury, and the one below in a village just north of Oxford.

So this is a happy time, a good time for us, as we wind down the B&B and look to our future. Change is something I have never, ever been afraid of...especially when it means the realization of a twenty-one year dream. 

Two more of our cottage possibilities below,
and I have to say we're spoiled for choice.
Even though our future home for the next
ten years or so may not be one of these
four little gems, the perfect one is out
there, waiting for us.

Optimism is the foundation of courage.
~ Nicholas Murray Butler

Stuart and I have nothing but gratitude for the past 11 years together on Holywell Street. We spent the first 10 years of our marriage apart, with thousands of miles between us, so just being able to live together full time felt like an answer to prayer. I've learned so much as well, taking care of people in a way that was just a continuation of my nursing care.

Nothing that is can pause or stay;
 The moon will wax, 
the moon will wane,
 The mist and cloud will turn to rain, 
The rain to mist and cloud again, 
Tomorrow be today.
 ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In fact I've been taking care of people for a long, long time now and it's time to take care of myself, to closely guard the health I have left. I'm luckier than so many people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Chronic Fatigue). I can enjoy long walks with the boys, climbing hills in Wales and hopefully soon, in the Cotswolds. I plan on continuing to do that for a very long time which means the apron must be hung up, my spatula put away, and my bed making skills put to rest. Thinking of doing all of those things feels very, very good, which is how we know closing the B&B is the right thing to do. So goodbye Holywell Bed and Breakfast, hello whatever it is to come next. As long as it includes these boys below, I know it's going to be good. Full of joy. Full of happy.

Thank you for being here today and reading this. Because of this crazy, old world of ours right now, and some of the people in it, I've disabled comments for my blog for awhile. You can always find me on Twitter though @CarrieHerself.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Go Slow, My Life, Go Slow

March is a month of considerable
frustration. It is so near spring and 
yet across a great deal of the country
 the weather is still so violent and
changeable that outdoor activity in
 our yards seems light years away.
~ Thalassa Cruso

From Edith Holden's
Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady
March has come in like a
mighty lion, in Wales at least
And the dogs are more like cats,
in and out, in and out along with
the showers that come and go.

Rain pelts the kitchen window that
look out onto our narrow lane.

With winds & rains, we get skies
blown clear of fog and mists.
The sun and the rain conspire to
make a rainbow arcing over
Panpwnton Hill.

Our daily daffodil progress reports pay
off and we finally spy wild daffodils
beginning to bloom.

Daffy-down-dilly came
 up in the cold, 
Through the brown mould
 Although the March breeze blew
 keen on her face, 
Although the white snow
 lay in many a place.
~ Anna Warner

Our front door sentinals have been
blooming away for weeks. They 
withstand 40mph winds and lashing
rain, but still they persist.

They feed me courage.

I can't, and won't, complain about
the rain though, since it creates this.

And yet they’re not like, said Lucy.
They’re different. They have more
colours on them and they look
further away than I remembered
 and they’re more … more … oh,
 I don’t know …
. . . More like the real thing,
 said the Lord Digory softly.
~ C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle

I felt as though I stepped into
Narnia our entire walk.

I have come home at last!
This is my real country!
I belong here. This is the land
 I have been looking for all
 my life, though I never knew
 it till now...
Come further up, 
come further in!
~ C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle

At the top of the hill, right
where the arrow points, is
our destination . . .
climbing further up, further in.

The boys wait patiently for me while
 I catch my breath and let my heart
rate slow a with
 ME/Chronic Fatigue. But still I persist.

But courage, child: 
we are all between the paws
 of the true Aslan.
~ C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle

And there it is, Aslan's country,
laid out before me. I watch for
Him to come bounding like a
great cataract of power.

Who will tell whether one
 happy moment of love or
 the joy of breathing or walking
 on a bright morning & smelling
 the fresh air, is not worth all 
the suffering and effort
 which life implies. 
~ Erich Fromm

The past few weeks have 
been a bonus for the
boys and I. Walking,
watching the daffodils
begin to bloom.
Resting & reading.

I was going to be spending all of
spring in Oxford, but our bookings
at the B&B were quiet and a bonus
3 weeks opened up for me to spend
it my real home.

The best things in life aren't things,
and sometimes seeing daffodils in 
bloom is more important than
money in the bank. The busy
and the money will take care of
themselves in the days ahead,
but in the meantime, seeking
sanctuary and rest has been
just what my body & soul needed.

Go slow my life,
go slow.
Let me enjoy the beauty 
of silence, serenity & solitude.
~ Debasish Mridha

It's a funny old world we live in these days, so I've disabled comments for the moment. BUT thank you for being here today and visiting my blog.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Photo Album: Sweet Winter Dreams

Winter, a lingering season,
 golden moments, 
embark upon a 
sentimental journey, 
and enjoy every idle hour.
~ John Boswell

This was way back in January...
which in winter-time, feels like
months and months ago. We 
were all packed up again for
a drive back to Wales, and my
winter hibernation & rest.

The boys settled in quickly for
their three hour nap.

Jack always oversees the packing.

Thank goodness for our big
Land Rover, fitting all the
bits and bobs, dogs and us.
There are always plenty of
bits and bobs going back & 
forth between Wales & Oxford.

Driving through the Cotswold
town of Chipping Norton on
a late winter afternoon. Even
the winter light can't dull the
golden Cotswold limestone.

Chipping Norton has a lively
and bustling town centre.

More golden light,
even as the sun sets.

The sky was blue, the grass green,
and the roads clear, as we made
our way through Herefordshire,
chasing the last of the sun as we went.

Tractors increase and cars decrease
 as we put miles between us and Oxford.
Sheep outnumber people in Wales 2 to 1.
That's my kind of ratio.

And then we're home. Our little
cottage on the hill welcomes us
and we breathe a happy sigh of
relief the second we walk through
the door. First things first, bright
yellow tulips for the kitchen table.

I'm in comfy pjs and slippers in
two winks of a Welsh lambs-tail.
Between Christmas and March,
like a garden, I like to lie
fallow and recharge. Jack
likes it too.

I read almost a book a day,
 and watch for signs of spring...
like these snowdrops blooming
against an old iron fence.

And I walk.
Lots & lots of walking.
Every day, no matter the weather.

There's no such thing
 as bad weather,
 only unsuitable clothing.
~  Alfred Wainwright

Tex patiently waiting for
our first walk being back.
Our walking sticks wait
by the front door.

Jack and Tex take two steps for
every one of my steps, racing up 
the hill and back down again,
then playing tag among the trees.

The climb is arduous, but oh the views.

These beautiful days ... 
do not exist as mere pictures - 
maps hung upon the walls of 
memory to brighten at times
 when touched by association or will ... 
They saturate themselves into every
 part of the body and live always.
~  John Muir

Walking at the bright hem of God...

My 2 goofy travelling companions.

When it's time to come down
off the hill, Jack will hide. He'll
peer out at me thinking I don't
see him, hoping I don't spot him
so he'll have to go home. Even 
pretending to walk away doesn't
bring him out from hiding.
He's a cagey little character.

The rest of the time Tex & Jack
are bounding up and down the
hill. Ears flying.

They're never more than
a few steps away from
one another. Here they
are, exploring 
Offa's Dyke as it runs
through Shropshire.

 After walking, it's time for tea,
and usually cake too. Or sometimes
hot cross buns or bread & butter
pudding. Mostly the cup of tea is
at home, but sometimes it's at one
of our local tea rooms, all just
down the hill from us, only a
few steps away. Walking &
tearooms, our part of heaven.

We only had the barest skiff of snow
this year, which was perfect after
last year's week after week of heavy
snows. It was beautiful all morning
and then gone by lunchtime. My
kind of snow.

One of my weather forecasting outposts.

Looking down on our garden
from the weather chair.

And then before I knew it, snowdrops.
Millions of snowdrops began to bloom &
announce the end of winter was in sight.
Spring was close enough to smell
and almost taste.

Snowdrops bloom in the churchyard
of St. Mary's in Pilleth, Wales.

As if snowdrops weren't enough to make me sing,
I spotted the very first, wobbly spring lamb.
He or she was a little on the early side,
 but it meant cousins were close behind.

Inside spring blooms were in nearly
every jug I could find, big or small.

Blessed be the tiny things.

To celebrate snowdrops, lambs & the
promise of spring coming closer & closer,
I got out an old pair of Doc Martins that
had languished at the back of my closet
for awhile. They felt new & exciting,
and the vintage flowers definitely
put an extra spring in my step.

Even Jack has an extra spring in his
already bouncy cotton-ball self.

Then, always too soon, it's time to
return to Oxford. We'll still have our
get-aways to Wales, but the long &
extended time in winter is over for
this year. A busy spring & summer
at the B&B, and for the walking tours,
is ahead of us.

Once we're back in Oxford,
first things first, a long walk
in the University Parks. It helps
us all adjust to city life again.

Spring in Oxford is a few steps ahead of
Wales and the trifecta of February...
crocus, snowdrops, and aconites are
madly blooming. The world is in colour
again after the misty greys of winter.

Follow the path to spring!

Let me arise and open the gate,
 to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
 And to let in Love,
 and to let out Hate,
 And anger at living and scorn of Fate, 
To let in Life, and to let out Death.
~ Violet Fane

The spring light returned to
Oxford along with me.

As I walk the streets of Oxford again,
even though I'm missing Wales,
there's nothing but gratitude in my heart.
I'm grateful for a long & healthy winter,
 for a home in the country and in the city,
and to be able to experience both...
something my country-heart dreamed
of since moving to Oxford.

Life is like an onion.
You peel it off layer by layer 
and sometimes you cry.

It is possible to live our dreams & 
I'm living proof of that. But to get here,
to live out my dreams, I had to be
patient with the nightmares of life,
and I've had more than my share.
They will come, the nightmares,
but they aren't the end of the story.
Always remember that. We are constantly
writing & rewriting our stories...
the story of our life.

Dreams are illustrations...
 from the book your soul 
is writing about you. 
 ~ Marsha Norman

The last of the evening light,
on the last walk of the day.

Life isn't about finding yourself. 
 Life is about creating yourself. 
~ George Bernard Shaw

Back in Oxford for awhile now,
I feel new dreams stirring in my 
heart. Dreams that take me away from
Oxford, beyond the B&B, as that part
of my life comes to its natural conclusion.
In the next year it's time to move on
to something else, and I can feel the
something else growing inside me, like
the first fluttering of a fetus in a womb,
as it stretches and grows.

You're going to be Happy,
said Life.
But first I'll make you strong.

The inscription on the Harris Manchester
clock tower below says,
It's later than you think,
But it's never too late.
It feels as though I'm approximately on my
tenth or eleventh life, during my lifetime, with
another one waiting in the wings, and 
that's the best thing about the gift of our
life. It's never too late for a dream.

Why stay we on the earth except to grow? 
~ Robert Browning