The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I recently changed the look of my blog. Some of you may even have spotted that I've put a new picture at the top. I'd like to think that one or two of you might even have paused to wonder what the picture was, or where and when it was taken.
Well, hey I can answer all of those questions.
It was taken at precisely 9.55 am on 29th August this year. I know that because I took it, and for those of you who haven't already worked it out, it's a picture of the front room in our house in Shoreham. I took it on the day we decided to move the furniture around and swap our dining room for our living room. I wanted a reminder of how the room had looked before we changed it.
I liked how it looked - a bit old-fashioned, a bit friendly and a bit sunny and bright, so I added it to the blog. Then I took another, closer, look and I realised why it was so right to have this as my blog picture. There are one or two things pictured here that might seem a little bit familiar, and so with your kind indulgence, I'd like to take you on a walk around our front room.
The table is where we do all our writing. It's where Philip and I sit, laptop to laptop when we're blogging and tweeting and reading and commenting. If you look closely, you'll see a shiny bulldog clip - I manage to leave one lying around every time I work from home. It drives Philip mad. For once we've tidied away the laptops, but the piled up notebooks are a clue to what goes on and the scattered place-mats are my indispensable writing aids - there's very little I can do without regular cups of tea. I have absolutely no idea why there is a wooden clothes peg on the table.
The chairs don't match. We don't have any that do, just a penchant for collecting odd bentwood chairs from other people's houses. Philip's rucksack sits on the nearest one. It's been on a few journeys with us, most recently to Paris. Behind the other chair you can see a grey lever-arched file, stuffed full of papers. That's my mum's letters - I've mentioned them here before.
Just above the file of letters, there's a hook on the wall. It's supposed to hold tie-backs for the curtains. What it's actually holding is a string of red onions from our allotment. It's not easy, in a very small house, to find places to hang your onions...
If you could see out of the window, there's a beautiful white weather-boarded house just across the road, and behind that are the allotments, just a stone's throw away, close enough to nip home and collect a couple of mugs of tea to take back, reward for a hard hour's digging and weeding.
In the corner of the room is a white cupboard. It's where the electricity meter and the fuse box live, the place we go to, groping through the dark, when a light bulb blows and trips the safety switch. It's the 'safe place' where we pile up all our important papers, and it doubles up as the games cupboard - where the scrabble set is piled up with the old jigsaws and my dad's electronic chess game.
There are a number of pictures on top of the cupboard - one of me and Philip sitting on a bench on our wedding day, another of me with my daughters. Hanging on the wall above is a picture of a washing line. It's a photo Philip took in the garden of our last house - It was a strange place to live, an old gatekeepers lodge, which was awkwardly shaped and always freezing cold, but it was the house where Philip and I first lived together, so this photo is a fondly kept reminder. In the corner of the cupboard on the right-hand side is a small picture, taken over 20 years ago when Megan was a baby. It's too small for anyone to make anything out in it - but that's ok - I know how adorable Megan was and how very long my hair was then...
If you squint a bit you might be able to make out a shiny silver cup - that's the trophy we won last year from the Shoreham Allotments Association for 'most improved plot'. It's the only time in my life that my name has been engraved on a trophy. Behind that there's a small kettle. You might well ask why there's a kettle sitting among the wedding photo's and next to the allotment trophy. Well it's almost a trophy too. We found it while walking through the woods up on the hill. It was more than a bit black and dirty then, but we brought it home like treasure trove and it cleaned up a treat.
To the left of the white cupboard is the fireplace. On top of it you might just be able to make out some small white stones. Whenever we go to a beach I like to bring back a pebble or two - these were from our trip to Cyprus last year. I love that we can have real fires. The central heating is great when you get up for work in the morning, but the red glowing warmth, and the crackle and hiss of a log fire take some beating. Philip prides himself on the quality of his fire-making, a skill he learned from his Grandda, and I've been grateful for that skill many times.
There's probably not much else to tell you about the picture. We didn't choose the curtains, or the mirror above the fire - they came with the house, which we rent, but they are also very much part of the room and the house that we've grown to love. And of course, at the top of my blog you can only see half of the room. Until we swapped the rooms around, the opposite wall was the place for Philip's record cupboard - but that's another story all of its own.