Clearing with Sarah: Less not more

Some of the most popular posts I’ve written on here lately are the three linked ones called “The Clearing.” I’ve cleared books, activities and, since I wrote the posts, even a car over the past couple of months. And feel much better for it, thanks.

Well, there are two of us live here and Sarah’s been doing some deep and enthusiastic clearing herself. So here’s her take on the whys, wherefores and hows of living with less and how you get there.

Fair warning, fire is involved.


If you’re a regular blog reader then you’ll know that we’ve been busy here – busy ‘clearing’. Clearing is the term we use for ‘getting rid of stuff that we don’t use anymore’.

And that ‘stuff’ can be literally ‘things’ like books and possessions (as in The Clearing). It can also be people and activities, yes that’s a bit trickier (as in The Clearing 2). And it can be about time too, a sort of extension of people and activities (as in The Clearing 3). But the end result of all of this clearing is less ‘stuff’, less clutter, and more space and time for you.

For me that’s involved clearing knitting projects, giving me more time to concentrate on the ones that matter – fingerless gloves. It’s also meant that I’ve had time to (finally) re-cover some chairs in a fabric bought much earlier this year.

And I’ve cleared out my recipe folder – amazing the amount of recipes I’ve printed or kept from a magazine and will never make, or have tried and didn’t like. So this clearing has given me the space to concentrate on a couple of recipes that I have improved – like cheesecake and (finally) apple tart.

And just because we are ‘good’ at clearing it doesn’t mean that we don’t own ‘stuff’. I do have stuff – although when it comes to clothes I will almost certainly never match the effortless minimalism displayed by Ronnie in his wardrobe – but anyway this is not a competition. But the point of clearing for me is that the ‘stuff’ that I have is stuff that I want in my life. Continue reading “Clearing with Sarah: Less not more”

A tale of two ducts: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Cefn Bychan Viaduct

A ‘Letter from Sarah’ here with a slight difference. She’s put all the structure together, taken and selected all the photographs and will be the main writer. But I went on the day out in North Wales too, so we’re going to sit and write together. My occasional contributions in italics.


So… with one thing and another it’s been a while since me and Ronnie have had a day out together. Me being up in Knoydart, off in my kayak, and of course, Ronnie not being well from early August, have all meant that we’ve simply not had the time or wellness until now to pack our day bags and go off exploring.

I’ve suggested that we come to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct today, out of sheer curiosity. (For those of you not fluent in Welsh, a helpful sign tells us, ‘Pontcysyllte’ is prounounced Pont-ker-sulth-tay.)

We arrive at Trevor Basin, not far from Llangollen.

It’s the day the clocks have gone back so we’re a bit disoriented. And after an early start from home we eat much of our packed lunch as soon as we arrive. Though our watches are telling us it’s only 11am our bodies know full well it’s lunchtime.

We arrive here without a plan (for once), but knowing it’s a World Heritage Site expect good signage and obvious things laid out. Continue reading “A tale of two ducts: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Cefn Bychan Viaduct”

Sarah’s Hands and Gloves

A letter from Sarah, introduced by Ronnie.

Have you ever known anyone whose fingers were gradually curling up into the palms of their hands, couldn’t be fully straightened out and were getting worse over time? If you have they might have a disease called Dupuytrens Contracture. Actor Bill Nighy does, you may have noticed from his films, and so do a good many people over the age of 50, including, until recently, Sarah Horton. Here’s the story of her hands and what’s been happening to them.


Everyone likes a happy ending and some good news. So I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve now completed treatment – on the NHS – for my Dupuytrens Contracture, or DUPS (a benign but frustrating hand problem, which is often hereditary, as it is in my case).

This week I had my follow up appointment with my NHS Consultant Dr Syndikus and we both agreed that I have had a good result. Good news. It was not so easily achieved though.

This week I’ve been here in the Linda McCartney building, the cancer treatment building in Liverpool. I spent many hours of my life here between 2007 and 2010, and a few since, but mostly in those early years when I became a breast cancer patient.

In February this year I wrote a post on here called ‘Ten Years’. Ten years since my diagnosis of breast cancer, reflecting on the anniversary, and also because I was trying to get access to treatment for my hand condition, and was meeting some substantial barriers to that.

My GP, true to his word, followed up my request to access treatment, and spoke to Liverpool’s most respected hand surgeon, Mr Brown.

(Note – this was a surgeon I couldn’t get an appointment with as an NHS patient, as the not-a-doctor ‘decision maker’ had decided I wasn’t eligible for treatment until my condition got considerably worse, and required surgery. Whereas in early cases of DUPS radiotherapy is now considered a very effective treatment, especially beneficial for the patient as it avoids having surgery, as recurrence rates of DUPS after surgery are significant – about 40% after four years.)

Anyway my GP got in touch Mr Brown, who then advised my GP him I should be referred to Dr Syndikus at Clatterbridge Hospital on the Wirral. She’s an oncologist, and one of her tools is radiotherapy.

I was at first told that I wasn’t a priority and may have to wait to see her – but Dr Syndikus and her team worked swiftly, and by mid May I’ve seen her and most of the team at the radiotherapy department in Clatterbridge. They have very expertly made moulds of both of my hands, and by the end of June I’ve had my two sets of treatment, two series of five sessions of daily radiotherapy at Clatterbridge. All of this was arranged in a most patient-centred way, and allowed me to continue my work as a self-employed funeral celebrant.

I cannot speak highly enough of the whole process and everyone in the NHS teams who looked after me. An extra bonus by the way, and in contrast to all of my years of breast cancer treatment, is they also have a free car park at Clatterbridge for all patients. Proper and caring like.

After my treatment things happens without me noticing why. Continue reading “Sarah’s Hands and Gloves”

Exploring the littoral: On Sarah’s Birthday


“Although I am always happy to recognise that I have lived another year of my life (and there were times in the last decade when that was not always to be taken for granted), birthdays have now become a reminder of the ‘missing years’ as I now think of those years of treatment. And, I still find, I am surprised at my age, as most of those ten years seem to have simply vanished – some to treatment, some to depression. I am not ungrateful that I am still well, or for the treatment and care I received during that time, but the shadows of those days remain. The recovery was long and the impact on our lives lasted for years, for both me and Ronnie in so many ways.”

Sarah, on her birthday, 2017


I like it here, in the littoral zone. Always have. On childhood holidays the beach always had a special lure, a pull, whatever the weather. Whether it was paddling barefoot, swimming or exploring rock pools. I have always been happy in the littoral.

No surprise then to find that decades later I am still exploring rock pools and the shore, endlessly fascinated by what I can find here. One of the delights of my sea kayaking adventure is how close it brings me to nature, to the watery delights of the littoral. For my birthday weekend I am spending two days on a ‘Sea Kayak Sea Life’ course with Dr Lou Luddington (marine biologist) and Jonny Eldridge (sea kayaker and coach).


I am welcomed to my temporary home in Anglesey by my AirBnB host Caroline, staying in Menai Bridge this time.


Our group of nine meet on Saturday morning and spend some time discussing the littoral and strand line, and being in the marine environment. Lou also introduces us to her ‘top ten’ marine things, which is fascinating. She encourages us to think about our own ‘top ten’ after we’ve spent some more time exploring.

We then go down to the beach, at Porth Dafarch. Continue reading “Exploring the littoral: On Sarah’s Birthday”

To get to here: Knoydart and the Hebrides


“But really, I thought, to even want to do this? To get to here….”

A guest post with reflections, by Sarah, on her wilderness walking last week.

“‘Walking’ is an understatement I feel. To get to places like this”




As I sat on the shore of Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye, some 450 miles from home, having my lunch, I thought, ‘How long did it take to get to here?’ Loch Coruisk sits in heart of the Black Cuillin, it is surrounded by 22 peaks. It’s only accessible from the sea by boat, or on foot from two villages, both about eight miles away.

Today, the 15th of September 2017, it took nearly four hours from Doune on the Knoydart peninsula to get here. But including travel from home, more like two days. But really, I thought, to even want to do this? To get to here…. Continue reading “To get to here: Knoydart and the Hebrides”

Seals and swell

Sarah returns to Anglesey for some serious sea kayaking,  including dealing with some very big swells and only mildly interested seals!



I’m back in Anglesey – at last – for a few days, for my next immersion in sea kayaking. First up, two days on an improvers course, with Steve Miles, running this for my regular coach James Stevenson. We begin our first day up at Bull Bay.


With our boats ready to go – Steve, me, Neil and Rhys.


I’ve done this trip a few times now, so it’s along this fairly familiar north coast… stopping along the way to go into this cave. (I came here on my very first day in a sea kayak last May). Continue reading “Seals and swell”

Challenging is the new normal, at last


For the second part of her sea kayaking holiday Sarah heads south, from Mull to Anglesey, and finds she is now comfortable in challenging waters that would have terrified her even a few weeks ago. Well  done Sarah.



Having been back from Mull for a day, I’m off again to Anglesey. I arrive at Pobty Cottage for my two days here where I will be having coaching with James Stevenson, of Adventure Elements.


It is a delightful place, right on the beach.


And equally delightful inside, cosy and compact. Perfect. High tide is around 11pm, and it’s not often you can step outside in your pyjamas and wellies and go for a paddle. Which I do.


The next morning I meet my coach, James Stevenson. He has plans for us. Continue reading “Challenging is the new normal, at last”

Kayaking off Mull: Silver seas and golden skies

Sarah and her kayak head for the Hebrides this time. To the island that sits in my own memory as ‘the most beautiful place on earth.’ Other than Liverpool, obviously. Let’s see how she gets on?



So my last ‘four days on the water’ were not to be and tinged with sadness, and now I am off to Mull for another ‘four days on the water’. I hope it will be a better tale this time. I have driven up to Oban, and am catching the ferry across to Craignure, where I will be staying during my time on the Isle of Mull.

I haven’t been this far north since 2009, when Ronnie and I first came to Mull, twice in the same year, we loved it. As I drive north I have the sense of really getting away. Things slip into irrelevance. It is a good feeling.


Passing the lighthouse at the end of Lismore.


And I arrive at Pennygate Lodge, my home here on Mull.



The view from my window. Continue reading “Kayaking off Mull: Silver seas and golden skies”

Sarah goes sea kayaking: Four days that weren’t

The latest of Sarah’s sea kayaking posts. This one a gentle meditation on life and death. “A reminder that life doesn’t always go as planned, especially when we are living with nature, tides, and the natural cycles of life and death. This I know,” says Sarah, whose younger sister has just died.


Anglesey May_24

For several weeks now I have been looking forward to May, because May is such a beautiful month and I love the increasing light, the long evenings, the shift in the season to almost summer, the growth, the fresh green, in fact just everything about May is a delight. And I also have the prospect of four days ‘on the water’ to look forward to as well.

For my latest sea kayaking trip I am staying at Ty Cert near Rhoscolyn on Anglesey. It is a barn conversion next to this disused chapel, which is currently being converted into a tearoom and gallery.

Anglesey May_01

My room has its own outside area, a ‘kitchenette’, and bathroom. Cosy and compact.

Anglesey May_02

Anglesey May_03

It also has a graveyard through the blue gate, and a shared garden. It’s perfectly lovely. Continue reading “Sarah goes sea kayaking: Four days that weren’t”

Inner workings


Another post in Sarah’s sea kayaking adventure. In which she explores her ‘worry mind’ but gets out on the sea in Liverpool Bay and around Anglesey anyway. She says, “It’s a lesson in life, as an evolving human. And I am immensely grateful for that.”


It’s been two months since my last report of my kayaking activities – with James in Anglesey in the Menai Straits and up to North Stack. However, this doesn’t mean I’ve not been getting out on the water. In April I had a trip up to Anglesey, with a group from the Liverpool Canoe Club, and we did the classic north coast trip to the brickworks at Porth Wen.

17.05 brickworks
April 2017, Liverpool Canoe Club at Port Wen.

This was one of the first sea trips I did, that was last May on my beginners course – my post here.

Now, my lovely yellow boat and I are getting to really know each other.

17.05 north coast1
North coast of Anglesey and my boat.

But I have also been having regular weekly sessions with my new coach, Mark Mason. Mark runs Venture-7 with his partner Helen Mason – they are both passionate sea kayakers and coaches. This has been a great find for me, as they are local and I am able to have regular sessions, closer to home.

As a novice/improver kayaker, the things that I most need are time on the water, and guidance, so that I can build up my confidence. Continue reading “Inner workings”