Sunday, 29 May 2011


I have two friends whom I have known since University.  I have celebrated - or not - turning 21, 30, 40 and this year 50 - with them both: I am a godmother to the younger son of one and the older son of the other; one is a godmother to my oldest son and the other a godmother to my daughter.  I don't see them that often and sometimes don't even communicate with them that frequently, but they are there, part of my life, and important to me.

So I make the effort to attend events which matter to them and they do the same for me.  This meant that this weekend I travelled down to just north of Cambridge for the 50th birthday party of Longtime Friend C.  Oldest Son had decided to come with me, which was nice because he was company to me on the trip which was 256 miles in each direction, and because he saw his godmother and was looked after by her two sons, both of whom he liked (so did I: I'm not one of those people who automatically likes the children of my friends but I do like these two).

However being a long distance and a night away from the Baby (in particular), Husband and Daughter, plus having a late night and a few more glasses of wine than I might normally have imbibed, got me into a philosophical mood - especially at 1 a.m. last night when I couldn't get to sleep!  I think there were 3 main trains of thought I started following.

Firstly, it was lovely to see my friend and her family, and indeed to catch up with other friends of hers, some of whom I probably haven't seen for somewhere between 5 and 10 years.  One hit the nail on the head when she commented on what a decade we've had: she turns 50 in July but like me had her children only once she was into her 40s.  But the best bit of the weekend was just seeing my friend and her family and catching up on what she's been up to.  Whilst the bare bones of what's happening can be laid out in an email or phone call, as can even the fundamental feelings of the time, the detail tends only to be discussed when you're sitting face-to-face and having a cup of tea or glass of wine, or going for a walk - and also perhaps have had time to reflect on things a bit as well.  So in fact whilst the party was an enormously enjoyable highlight for my friend, if I'm totally honest I would have enjoyed the weekend more if I'd just been able to see her and chat to her.  Don't get me wrong: I still fully intend to have a big 50th party myself and I hope all my long-term not-seen-very-often friends will make the effort to be there, but I'm conscious that whilst they may enjoy the party I shall probably enjoy it far more.  And after all that's how it should be: I was there yesterday to help my friend celebrate and have a fantastic time, not to please myself. 

However (and partly as I know she sometimes reads my blog), don't go thinking that I didn't enjoy myself, as I did - and in fact the other thing is that because I was on my own I did miss my children and husband.  After all, when you have a newish baby you want to show him off, and also I was worried about whether Oldest Son was enjoying himself left with a babysitter and two boys who were older and relative strangers just a few miles up the road.  I still can't quite work out whether he was happy or not as he'd been writing 'I miss Mummy and Daddy' in his book but then sent a text to his Dad this morning saying he had a great time, and was also loathe to come home as he wanted to stay and play!

It was great crossing the Cumbrian border high up along the A66 and almost immediately having a wide vista across to the Lake District in the distance.  We were home, even though there was another hour's drive ahead of us as Cumbria is such a big county and we're right up at the top.

How I felt about the party also made me question whether dashing off all over the country to parties is really what I want to do.  The other Longterm Friend I mentioned earlier is 50 in November, and her party is during termtime: I do very much want to go for the same reasons I went this weekend.  But other friends, such as an ante-natal friend in Bristol who is having a 40th this year, I wonder about.  It would be lovely to see my ante-natal 'bunch' but many of them don't make much effort to stay in touch with me, and in fact I think I'd rather spend a week down in the Bristol area - perhaps staying with my parents in the summer holidays - and catch up with them in a slightly more leisurely environment, where there is a chance to chat properly and where I'm just with people I know.  That makes me sound a bit anti-social perhaps but I've never liked large parties where I don't know people: a dinner party is a different kettle of fish.  It's not that I'm in the slightest bit scared of meeting people I don't know: I'd just rather do so in a setting where it's rather easier to talk, and also if I'm travelling a long way I want to talk to the people I know rather than have to shout at them or try to make small talk with people who I meet that evening and may possibly never see again.

A rather nice conclusion of the weekend was how much I love my family: I mean Husband, Baby, Older Son and Daughter.  My friends have always been important to me and at one point where absolutely key in giving me support and affection: things I didn't feel I had within me and things which I didn't feel I'd got from my upbringing.  As I turned 40 I felt more self-confident than I had since being a child (and I do feel our basic nature, how we are as children, is our true self and what we ultimately return to after the experiments of teens and twenties and in my case thirties), but Husband and children and the move to Cumbria have boosted that further.  I wonder sometimes whether if I had remained single after 40, my confidence would have continued and increased in the same way, or whether I would have reverted to being a bit screwed-up.  At a friend's wedding years ago there was a brilliant sermon in which the priest said that marriage is about giving each other support and helping make up for the weaknesses in each other: well, whilst I don't adhere to the 'other half' theory (I'm quite whole on my own, thank you), I do think that my Husband has helped fulfil me in ways that perhaps wouldn't have happened if I had remained single.  But as I shall never know I don't tend to dwell on it!

That point in a sense brings me on to my final thought, or at least the only remaining one I can now remember.  And that is that I think I am mentally healthier because I am living in the present more: I think that is one of the gifts which babies and children bring with them.  In a way it's a problem because in the middle of August my income will reduce so that I have only £190 per calendar month to spend, and in January it will reduce further when the Child Tax Credits go down when the Baby turns one.  I should be worried about our future finances but somehow I don't seem to be able to motivate myself to get desperate, which means I'm not actually doing all that much about finding work!  I seem to be going along assuming that everything will be OK and that something will turn up from somewhere, which is somewhat naive in many ways: except that I'm trying to arrange to get some demo discs made, I do keep trying to get articles sold, I'm trying to motivate myself to do an aerobic class, and I've got a job interview coming up.... I'm not doing nothing but if I were single I'd be doing an awful lot more.  But again, as someone said at the party yesterday, whilst I've got less money, we also need less money living where we do.  In fact if I could earn even £100 per week (with no childcare costs), and if we sold one car, we'd be fine for a while.  No foreign holidays - and I do miss skiing - and no pension pot, but for a few years we'd be able to buy birthday presents for other people and new shoes for the children, and pay for swimming lessons (for example).  And again, recently a couple of people have commented on life in large cities for children.  They end up doing a different activity after school almost every day, and seem to be under constant pressure to perform and to learn: and I know if I lived in a city I would be one of those mothers who wanted my little darlings to be accomplished in foreign languages, music, dancing, acting, riding, swimming and various sports from an early age..... up here they get swimming lessons every-so-often and otherwise we're out walking or on bikes if the weather's fine.

I'm not sure whose children will achieve more in life: I'm not sure which is the best way (as they are, after all, little sponges): but I love living up here and whilst I wish I could afford to pay for a few more things for my children, I believe they are happy.  And as I've said many times before, if I can bring up my children to be happy, confident adults then I will have succeeded: and if I have good relationships with them that will be better still.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Hooray!  I can access my blog again!  It had gone through a phase of not asking me for my password, so then one day when it did ask me I had forgotten - only, once I had changed the password, not to let me in but just to go round in a loop and back to the sign in screen.  I had visions of all my hard work (ha!) over the last year+ just vanishing into virtual air (or even indeed into the real air).  But here I am.

I had a Board meeting this evening and came in to find all the children tucked up snugly in bed and asleep and Husband watching TV.  The fact that the children were in bed asleep was Very Good.  What was not so impressive were the dirty (and in some cases clean) clothes strewn around the floors and the kitchen still in a mess: having said that, I was happy to get on with that as Husband said he'd do the ironing.  So I got on with the Baby's bottles, hanging up the washing and putting the next load on, sorting out which clothes were dry... etc.  Husband asked why I didn't go and watch TV with him (it was that interesting series about the human body) and my reply was that I had too much I wanted to get done before I went to bed.  He also said he'd go up into the loft to get a mouse costume down for Daughter to wear to school tomorrow....

About 20 minutes later I had finished my jobs and wondered why I hadn't heard him go up into the loft.  I approached the TV room and noticed that the Human Body programme had finished.  I then noticed that Husband was sound asleep, fully dressed, on the sofa.  Hey ho!  He had been complaining that his eyes felt itchy and that he felt as if he was going down with a cold, but a woman would have carried on and done all her tasks anyway.... wouldn't she?  I remember the time I had chicken pox and still had the children and my parents to look after...

It's not a major complaint but it would be interesting to hear other people's views on the subject.  I do feel that men don't really pull their weight on the household front, sometimes just because they don't notice and/or don't care.

What I have found this week is that I haven't done half the things I meant to, principally in terms of trying to drum up some work.  The Baby rolled over on to his front today (at one day short of 21 weeks - the others were 12 weeks and 17 weeks when they did so, so he's slow compared with them but also been sitting in a chair more than they did I think).  That was a very exciting first and I'm now just waiting for him to repeat it, but the downside of his being more active and alert is of course that I end up playing with him more.  I am enjoying him so much though, and I don't want to miss out on anything.  I've also found emotionally this time that I don't really want to hand him over to anyone else to look after, so I really do need to drum up some of that freelance work.  Maybe I'd cope with one day in nursery if I could get a job which paid me incredibly well for one day per week's work!  Perhaps I could even commute to London one day a week... though of course the cost of travelling down there would need to be covered as well, so I'd probably want to earn about £400 for that day's work.  Not far off what some consultants earn but they generally work full-time.

We definitely cannot afford any more children, even if we thought it was worth taking the risks of having more.  I was therefore a little concerned when, having gone for a coil fitting the other day, I found that even the expert at the Family Planning Clinic said she couldn't get one in.  So it's back to the pill - and her advice was that I should stay on it until I'm 55 by which time I 'should' have gone through the menopause, even if I haven't been aware of doing so.  Great!  No guarantee that I will have done and the last thing I want is a baby when I'm aged 55.  A 20-year old at 69/70 is one thing as he'll virtually be a grown-up, but a 15/16 year old would be awful.  So I shall pester the Doctors when I'm about 53 to do one of those hormone test things they can do, and to repeat it each year until they can be certain I'm no longer fertile.  I shouldn't complain as many women would love to be so easily fertile so old, but it's a bit of a mixed blessing.

Not that I would be without no.3 for the world.  He's such a gorgeous and giggly baby.  I was standing on the doorstep talking to one of Older Son's friend's Mums yesterday and the Baby just started giggling: it got us both laughing, it was so infectious.  He was then doing the same with my French teacher this morning during my lesson.  We saw Godmother L. on Sunday - we went to Dalemain - and she is definitely smitten.  She's going to make an excellent godparent because she loves him so much - and also because she's the type of person who makes the effort to stay in touch with people.

Dalemain was interesting not only for itself but for what it made me think about stately homes generally.  For years now I've thought that National Trust properties all get a bit boring after a while, unless they have something special about them (for example, Cragside in Northumberland was fascinating; Lanhydrock in Cornwall has the most fantastic gardens and grounds).  I've now come to the same conclusion about all stately homes.  Very often you see so little of them anyway, and at Dalemain the rooms were a bit small and pokey by stately home standard and not really desperately interesting.  The garden was quite pleasant but some of it wasn't accessible with the buggy.  Still, at least I've been there now.  It makes me question whether I really want to go to Hutton in the Forest - will it be that different?  I think I'd probably only go to one of these places again if there was some sort of event on that I wanted to see.

I must go as the normally happy Baby is crying: he seems a bit snuffly.  Do you think he's so happy because I was generally very happy and relaxed in my pregnancy and still am now, despite the lack of dosh?  Food for thought.  Good Night!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


I don't seem to do half the things I intend to: or if I do get around to doing them it's less frequently and more delayed than I would have wished.  Maybe I'm just not self-disciplined enough.

I had my first singing lesson in months a fortnight ago, and had done no practice and in fact hardly sung since the Carlisle Music Festival in March.  So starting lessons again I thought would be a kick up the backside to get me practicing again.  Have I?   No.  Having people to stay hasn't helped as I don't like practicing when there are other people in the house (other than the children and Husband, that is): but I've also had other things to do which I have let take a priority.

Husband also said that I should make a daily run with the buggy (and of course baby) a priority, but having felt keen when the weather was glorious, and also assuming I'd be able to get out while my parents were staying, the rainy weather and the fact that I didn't want to leave the baby with my parents unless he was asleep both served as rather feeble excuses not to go out running, and the five days or so when I was going to get fit again boiled down to one half-hour run, twice round Talkin Tarn.

Needless to say my weight loss has slowed down or stopped again.  I really thought last week was the week that I'd get down to something with a '9' at the beginning, but it hasn't.  The Baby brought milk up all over my trousers again today and my jeans were out to wash, so I resorted to a pair of jeans which are meant to be the same size as my normal ones but which were tight even before I got pregnant.  I just squeezed into them but after a few hours I decided they really weren't very comfortable and got my tracksuit bottoms out of the drawer.  My hips and stomach can now spread out at ease.

The Baby isn't losing any weight either, not that he's meant to.  His appetite continues to be keen and he's now just about in 6-9 month clothes (at 4, nearly 5, months), as much for the width as the length.  They're not desperately over-long on him either, although maybe it's the fact that he fills them width-ways which makes them fit.  He has mostly taken to solid food like a duck to water, his favourites being the home-made ones (we tried him on a pot today but he didn't eat much and then proceeded to bring quite a bit of it back up).  Parsnip, butternut squash, pear (including pear and apple with cinnamon) and banana have all gone down well - carrot was not popular.  I have to say having tasted bits myself, they did all taste rather good.  The problem is trying to decide when to feed him and get him into some sort of mealtime routine, as if he's hungry and demanding a bottle all hell breaks loose.  I'm also trying to think what to give him for breakfast, as he didn't think much of the baby porridge: perhaps if I mix it with fruit puree he'll like it.

He generally continues to be an incredibly happy, smiley, giggly baby.  He was laughing at something in the kitchen earlier - possibly the smell of roast beef cooking - and then later at his Dad making funny faces at him.  His mecurial temperament means however that he'll be giggling away merrily one moment and then red in the face and crying his eyes out - usually with hunger  - the next.

Older son seems to be getting a lot of red cards at school, all for talking.  I sympathise with him (I only ever got into trouble for talking, although I can recall one other heinous crime which I never admitted to and which I feel embarrassed about when I remember (dropping gravel on a car roof)) but I also completely support the teacher trying to get the rather boisterous class to pay attention and listen to instructions.  I couldn't teach: not in a school classroom, anyway.

As usual the evening has rolled on and is rapidly disappearing and I really must get to bed soon.  I've been sitting up late reading as I have been enjoying The Russian Concubine (Kate Furnivall), recommended and lent to me by my mother-in-law who belongs to a book group.  I should be reading some French and will go to the library and get a French book out now I've finished this one, but just wanted to get this one finished first.  It's set in China around the time that the Communists were trying to take over, and like so many books I have read in the last couple of years which are set in foreign countries, has made me realise how little I know about the country and its history.  It didn't make me want to go to find out more with quite such a burning desire as I have felt from other novels, but it did make me think that at some point I should research a little into China's past.  I think what comes across well in the novel, although perhaps this is because I am a westerner, is the awareness and understanding of the Chinese traditions and way of life and how arrogant the British can be in other countries: but to counter that there is also the violence of Chinese society with the triads and rather brutal police.  If anything elements related to that can seem rather far-fetched and the book becomes possibly a bit melodramatic, but it kept me enthralled and wanting to know what happened next.  There is also some reference to Russian society and the upheavals in 1917 and the repercussions of that: in fact that is where the book begins.  I think that it was probably a good sign that at the final page I wanted to know whether the heroine achieved her next few goals and dreams, although I also found it rather frustrating: I hope the writer will produce a sequel.

Talking of dreams, I'm entering various competitions including one for Classic FM which is about making dreams come true.  I've won nothing in the last year or so but I'm sure I shall at some point: the odds are that I have to at some point, surely?!

Monday, 9 May 2011


Lanercost must be one of my favourite spots, though I have to admit I have many (you can't live somewhere as beautiful as Cumbria, and have relatives in somewhere as beautiful as Scotland, and not end up with a long list of favourite places).

The picnic we had there last week made me think about the footpaths around the area, and I wondered if I could work out a new off-road running route.  A perusal of the map once I got back home seemed to confirm that this might be the case, so all I had to do was wait for some reasonable weather (I'm rather a fair-weather runner unless I've entered a race and don't have the choice) and then head off, map in hand.

I parked at the picnic site near Lanercost Bridge.  For anyone who doesn't know this spot, there is a lovely old (medieval?) stone bridge, now only for use by foot traffic and cyclists, and then the road is taken over the River Irthing on a modern bridge.  Near the bridge was the first wooden footpath signpost which had tempted me to go exploring: 'to Burtholme'.  After a rainy morning - Husband had got quite damp on his run earlier - it was becoming a rather pleasant afternoon, but my run nearly ended very soon as I got to a barbed wire fence with no apparent way through.  Turning back however I noticed a gate into a field and a footpath symbol, so headed past the sheep and cows, along the side of a couple of fields and came out at Burtholme Bridge.

The next bit was along the road but it's a very quiet road and there's a decent verge for running on.  The only problem with these quiet country roads of course is that they are all national speed limit, so potentially the few cars which go along there are going quite fast: my brother-in-law had in fact shown off his new fast Subaru to me only a few months ago along this very same bit of lane.  But on this afternoon I think I saw only one car, going along fairly sedately.

Round the corner and I was faced with two wooden signposts, one stating 'Howgill' and the other 'Low Wall'.  I didn't want to go to Low Wall, but I did want to go slightly further west than it looked as if the first one took me.  On the other hand, nor did I want to go miles out of my way so, as I could see the farm I was heading for next on top of the hill, I took the more obvious route.  The path was not clear at all and I ended up running over bumpy muddy ground and then following what looked like tractor tracks.  Arriving near the farmhouse (a very attractive one, I have to say - and it must have the most stunning view), three mother cows and their calves regarded me warily.  I gave them a wide berth and headed through the gate - at which the farm dog yapped loudly at me - and up the farm track for a few yards until I joined the Hadrian's Wall path.

I now felt I was on rather more 'official' footpath ground (I couldn't help feeling a bit like a trespasser going through farmland, even though I wasn't) and at times was rewarded with stone slabs to run on: though I couldn't help thinking that they'd be incredibly slippery when wet, or icy (Husband has run along the wall path in the snow to Walltown Crags..... maybe the snow was so heavy that it helped him grip).   I had also forgotten quite how high the hill was above Lanercost, but was rewarded by a stunning view across to the Lake District Hills, with artistic cloud formations overhead.....

As I ran up the hill, I glimpsed two walkers coming down.  I didn't want to lose face and walk so kept pushing myself up the hill.  As we passed each other they greeted me in a friendly fashion and said 'we won't stop you'.  I rather wished they had: I am very out of practice when it comes to running up hills!

I went past the places my 'team' had lit up torches and flares when the length of Hadrian's Wall was lit up a year or two ago, including 'my spot' at Banks where there is a sizeable chunk of wall in what used to be part of someone's garden.  The house there snuggles down against the hillside and the people had been very kind and had provided cups of tea and coffee and biscuits, and then later came out to talk to me and took some photos.  I was tempted to knock on their door to say 'hello' and relive the memories of that occasion, but I always worry that people aren't going to recognise me, especially when they've only met me once, so headed straight past.

I now had to get back on to road but again I knew it would be relatively quite road.  I hadn't gone far when I was tempted by a sign saying 'woodland walk'.  Looking at the map it looked as if it cut off a corner of the road and came out further down, in the direction I wanted to go in, so I climbed over the rather decrepit stile and entered the woods.

Wow!  I was in the most beautiful woods, full of wild garlic and bluebells and with a stream splashing over rocks down one side.  It looked as if someone had done a bit of maintenance so I headed through joyfully.

After a while though the route became a lot less clear, and the stream - which I needed ultimately to cross - seemed to be getting further and further below the level of the road, which I could tell was not far from the other bank.  I turned back, to find a footpath symbol which I had missed earlier, and which directed me down towards the stream but also sort of back the way I had come.  I decided it was perhaps a circular walk, and ended up on the bank of the stream with no clear way to go: or was that a path up the steep side opposite me?

The rocks around and in the stream were all very slippery, and I just thought how stupid it would be if I broke my leg or something, especially as the battery on my mobile was now getting low.  But I crossed the stream and started to climb up the other side, falling back, fortunately, just the once and not very far.  Thank goodness for trees: I love trees anyway but aren't they great to hold on to when you're trying to climb up or down a steep bank?!  I scrambled to the top, squeezed past the end of a wall and was back on the road: covered liberally in dead flies and with a far smattering of mud, and doubtless also stinking of wild garlic.

The final leg of the run took me on a footpath along the river Irthing and back to Lanercost Bridge.  There were more sheep with lambs in the field, which I steered well clear of, and cricketers in their whites doing their Sunday afternoon thing.  The river here is lovely, with stony beaches and pools which would be great for the children to play in: our next picnic at Lanercost will be here rather than near the medieval bridge.

I stopped to take a photo of the Priory and then headed across the road and back into the car.  It wasn't a long run, but with trying to navigate, the time I spent in the woods and then also the fact that I walked a bit from time to time, I had been out for an hour and a half.  I headed home feeling hot and grubby but happy.  I now understand why some runners prefer running alone: and I loved exploring.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


The gorgeous weather continues unabated, but without being too hot, and today as we gave Husband a lift into work I suggested to everyone that we had a picnic after we fetched him this evening.  This met with approval all round.

Daughter was keen that we should go up to Bewcastle, as I had mentioned whilst on our magical mystery tour up there that it would be a good picnic spot: there's a stream and an open area which I assume one can sit on and share with the sheep.  I didn't really feel like going that far though and ideally wanted somewhere with a bit of a view: Heughscar Hill would have been great but there wasn't time to get there and do the walk, and in any case the buggy is awaiting new tyres and inner tubes having had yet another puncture.  I briefly considered Dalemain but didn't really want to drive that far, and ended up thinking that we should go up to the reservoir at Castle Carrock as we've only once, and very fleetingly, been up there.

In the end however, having driven via 'the scenic route' from Corby Hill via Talkin and Farlam en route to Hallbankgate, Husband then suggested we went down to the river at Lanercost.  There's not much of a view once you're down at river level, although the river itself and the location is lovely, but the view driving down past Naworth Castle was glorious.  I do so love living up in this part of the world, and moments like that remind me why!

Now, I still haven't learnt how to arrange photos nicely so this will look nothing like as beautiful as H's-beautiful-blog.....

Why is it that I can't put writing next to the photographs, or put the photos next to each other?

But isn't Lanercost Priory beautiful?  It looks even better when you're coming down one of the hills towards it and it's snugged there at the bottom of the valley, surrounded by trees and grass and with the river Irthing splashing past.

Suffice to say the picnic was a great success and as we got in the car to go home Daughter said 'Mummy....'  'yes?'  'I love you'.  Despite the number of times I lose my temper with them, they get upset and cross with me for not allowing them to do things, etc. etc., they still suddenly come out with that, and everything is blissful - for a few moments at least!  The other day however we had a moment I shall treasure for a long time.  I was kneeling in the kitchen to be at her height to talk to her and give her a cuddle, and the sun must have been shining in on my hair.  'Mummy, you've got SILVER hairs!  Can I have silver hair?'.

We like doing things as a family.  We've now achieved getting the entire family out to do some exercise: I take Daughter on the tag-along (she talks non-stop, and gets very competitive); Older Son cycles his bike; and Husband runs with the Baby in the buggy.  This was fine until the buggy developed yet another puncture, so we're now buggy-less until the three new tyres and inner tubes, which we decided it really needed, are delivered (tomorrow I hope).  And then I'm definitely, definitely, definitely going to start going running each day with the buggy.

Meanwhile the Baby continues to be happy and as he's now reached 17 weeks/4 months and is hugely hungry, we decided to tentatively try solids.  Baby Porridge was rather puzzling: his look said 'what's this stuff that's very like milk but thicker and fed to me on a spoon'; mashed banana went down rather better; but what, to my surprise, was a Big Hit: was orange.  I'm sure you're not meant to give babies orange as an early weaning food, but it happened by chance.  He was sitting on my lap at the picnic and I was peeling an orange, and he was reaching out for it.  Thinking that a little suck on a piece of orange probably wouldn't hurt and that in any case he probably wouldn't like it, I put a bit to his mouth.  He loved it!  So much so that he started crying every time I took each piece away.  I feel a little guilty as I'm sure it's really too acidic for him, but he didn't have a huge amount.  It was a rather nice sweet orange, of an overgrown satsuma type.  I do however feel less guilty about having started him on solid food (well, purees etc.), as he was definitely reaching out for the orange.  It reminded me of a photo I have of Daughter, a couple of months older than the Baby is at present, being fed a strawberry in much the same way: someone holding it and her sucking on it really hard and with strawberry juice all over her chin.

I guess the garden could do with some rain (I have a rather dead-looking fir tree outside the front door) but I love this weather.  It's not too hot, in fact sometimes it's quite chilly, but it's sunny and the sky is clear and blue.  How can anyone fail to feel optimistic?