The Aromatic Allotment

I had a wonderful day on Tuesday, with my good friend Anita, on her aromatic allotment in Somercotes. She gave us (my friend Barbara came too) a tour of the extensive plot where she grows all sorts of wonderful plants, some for their healing properties, some to use as cut flowers and some to eat.

Rosa Dascena ‘Kazanlak’

Her Damascena roses (Rosa Damascena ‘Kazanlak’) were blooming in full, beautiful flower, so we picked the petals to distill into rose water. Why haven’t humans invented a way to smell things through the internet yet?! If only you could, it was heavenly, sweet and floral and smooth and rounded and delicious. It’s like getting a hug from your favourite auntie, all encompassing and so comforting and uplifting.

Once we had picked the rose petals, Anita selected some cut flowers to make into a gorgeous hand-tied bouquet for me. Centred around a peony, she added different types of mint, geraniums, black currant stems, nigella, valerian and more, with vetch trailing around the edges. Again, I wish you could smell it as it just smells of summer. Light and fresh, floral and minty, green and bright and refreshing.

My beautiful, locally grown, hand-tied bouquet

With our arms full of fragrant loveliness, we took the short walk to Anita’s house where her still was set up on her hob awaiting the rose petals. They were packed into the bottom of the still with water added on top. The pump to circulate the cold water to cool the distillate was powered up and the gas was lighted below the still. I found the whole process fascinating, and it brought back fond memories for me of touring the Drôme Valley in France in 2008, where a lot of the essential oils I use are grown, harvested and distilled.

The copper still, with rose petals packed into the belly, and the cooling water pumped from the bucket

We watched, mesmerised, as the temperature in the still rose, and the condensed, perfumed water (known as a hydrolat or hydrosol) started to trickle out. As we waited for the process to finish, Anita gave us a yummy lunch of home-made sourdough french stick with a selection of cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber.

Rose petals, now drying in my airing cupboard

I was also given a bag of rose petals to take home, which are drying in my airing cupboard as I type. Every time I open it, I get the most amazing waft of rose. I’m wondering if I should put them into honey and have rose honey in a few weeks?

Anita and me. I’m sure I’m not that much taller than her!

Anita is a very talented florist, and if you’d like a beautiful bouquet (or wedding flowers, floral cake topper, or funeral tribute etc), that is locally grown with love and care, and arranged in the most stunning way, please contact her. You can see her designs on Instagram here and contact her via her website here

Stopping to smell the roses

Generous Gardener Rose

My beautiful rose, The Generous Gardener, has burst into full bloom in my front garden. Please stop on your way in to take a deep inhalation of it’s gorgeousness, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face!

I am enjoying getting back to normal, although restrictions are still in place for treatments. I am still offering appointments that last no longer than 1 hour, which includes Indian head massage, reflexology, back, neck & shoulder aromatherapy massage or a combination of any of the above! And I’m still keeping up with the hand washing as you enter, mask wearing and of course thorough cleaning and disinfecting between clients.

Hopefully when all restrictions are lifted I can offer 1.5 hour full-body aromatherapy massages again. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do, but I dare say my hands will remember and guide me through, as they have done many times before.

I feel very fortunate that I have been able to continue with my other jobs (at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, packing boxes for my sister’s mail order business and my voluntary work as a breastfeeding counsellor) throughout each lock down. They have given me time out of the house, social interaction, a purpose and reason to get out of bed in the morning. On the couple of occasions when I had to self-isolate (once because my son had scarlet fever – though I didn’t know it was that until the scarlet rash came out – and once because someone in his class at school tested positive for covid-19), it brought home (pun intended!) to me how much I needed that time out of the house and to feel part of a team with all my colleagues.

My office for the morning

I also feel very fortunate that all my jobs offer me flexibility, so that I can fit most of my work around childcare, lie in the sun on beautiful days like today (whilst pretending to work, or at least working on my vitamin D levels!), run errands for my neighbour who has been isolating for over a year and generally do what I want when I want.

Stopping to smell the roses, which is one of my favourite past-times, is included in this list of freedoms and flexibilities . I hope you enjoy the delicious fragrance next time you walk up to my front door on arrival to your appointment. The aromatherapy starts right there!

Open, closed, open, closed, open, closed. Opening soon?

Well my loves, are we coming out of our third and final lockdown? Is April 12th the date I can re-open for aromatherapy, Indian head massage and reflexology again? Will I have finished all the painting and decorating, spider evicting and deep cleaning?

I’m feeling optimistic and have already had enquiries about making appointments, so let’s open the diary and get you booked in! It is of course, subject to everything going according to the government’s plan, and we’ve already learnt that things can change overnight. So let’s get you pencilled in, with a caveat that it may have to change, at the last minute.

I will be continuing with the changes made between the lockdowns – ie limiting appointments to one hour, disinfecting, wearing masks, disinfecting, washing hands on entry, disinfecting, and errr, a bit more disinfecting. My washing machine will be groaning again! But I will be happy to be returning to one of my favourite jobs, catching up with you all and helping to soothe away all the stresses of the last year.

I hope that come the summer, we might not need to wear masks, and that I can offer longer appointments again. I’d also like to bring back my upholstered chairs as the wipe clean ones are embarrassingly squeaky. But this obviously all depends on the aforementioned government plan, and there are some actions that are best practice anyway, so I will be keeping them up (apologies once more to my washing machine!).

I’ll be contacting my existing clients over the next few weeks to see if they would like to book in again. There is absolutely no obligation to do so, if you would rather wait until further lockdown restrictions are lifted, that is absolutely fine and totally understandable. I can’t wait to welcome you back, whenever that may be.

And hugs. When can we start hugs again? How I’ve missed them!

On being anti-racist

In September last year I embarked on a course in breastfeeding cultural safety (for those who don’t know, I’ve been a volunteer breastfeeding supporter for nearly 5 years), which took me through the history of racism and colonialism in the US & UK, the current state of racism, inequalities in maternal and infant mortality and how best to support black and brown women with breastfeeding.

It has been a rollercoaster to say the least. I had to put it down in October as my trauma bucket was full. And most of it wasn’t my own trauma, it was learning about the appalling way black and brown people have been treated by white people over the centuries, and how this legacy still affects them, and is still perpetrated, today.

And then I had a word with myself at the beginning of this year, as I realised it was my white privilege that enabled me to put it down, to put it off, to not have to deal with it. How could I support these women, reach out to them and include them in the support I give, with my biases in check, my white saviour hat off and my comprehension of cultural differences without doing the work?

As I am nearing the end of the course, I am realising just how much there is left to do. That this isn’t a get the certificate, never look at the content again course, but that this work is a continual process of awareness, understanding, reflecting, refining and developing. That I will never be done with this work, that I will always be uncovering racism within myself and the people and organisations I am part of. I have to keep challenging what I find and calling myself and others out on it.

It has given me more confidence in being able to support black and brown women with breastfeeding, and the unique challenges they face. It has given me an awareness of the language I use when offering support and how to change my language so that it is inclusive and not assumptive, nor biased. It has given me the prompts I needed to reflect on my behaviour & attitudes and to keep myself accountable in all that I do.

Thank you to Ruth Dennison, of 1-2-1 Doula, for putting this course together. It is something that should be integrated in the learning of every health professional and breastfeeding supporter, be they hospital consultants, GPs, infant feeding leads, midwives, maternity assistants or volunteers.

Indulging my (our) inner crazy, part two

I didn’t anticipate there’d be a part two to the Indulging my inner crazy blog post when I wrote it in July. Going for a walk in the pouring rain in the summer when it’s relatively warm is one thing. Going for a walk in the pouring rain at the end of October is definitely taking it to the next level!

Walk, Derbyshire, walking, hiking, walking for wellbeing, wellbeing, mental health, rain, rainy day, weather, friends, Belper, aromatherapy, massage, health, dogs, dog walking
Me, Lucy and Laura

What you need, is friends like these, with dogs like these, who are all as crazy as you. I even offered them a way out by inviting them to lunch at my house instead but it was decided to head out to the Peaks regardless. And I’m so pleased we did. Even on the dullest of days, Mam Tor offers breathtaking views.

Walk, Derbyshire, walking, hiking, walking for wellbeing, wellbeing, mental health, rain, rainy day, weather, friends, Belper, aromatherapy, massage, health, dogs, dog walking

Walk, Derbyshire, walking, hiking, walking for wellbeing, wellbeing, mental health, rain, rainy day, weather, friends, Belper, aromatherapy, massage, health, dogs, dog walking

Walk, Derbyshire, walking, hiking, walking for wellbeing, wellbeing, mental health, rain, rainy day, weather, friends, Belper, aromatherapy, massage, health, dogs, dog walking, Mam Tor, view, panoramic
The view from Mam Tor

The walk was originally intended to be a 3 mile circular route that would take us just over an hour. We got carried away chatting and it ended up closer to 6 miles and took nearly 3 hours. We traversed bogs, rocky paths and helped each other down muddy, slippery, steep slopes. I wasn’t the only one to fall over!

Walk, Derbyshire, walking, hiking, walking for wellbeing, wellbeing, mental health, rain, rainy day, weather, friends, Belper, aromatherapy, massage, health, dogs, dog walking, Mam Tor, Peak District
Bogs, mud and slippery slopes

By the time we got back to the car park we’d all discovered what it really means to have waterproof clothing, as oppose to showerproof. Thankfully, most of us had taken a change of clothes and we piled our wet stuff in the car boot and headed off to the pub for much deserved refreshments. Low and behold, by the time we’d eaten, drunk and most importantly dried off/warmed up, by the time we left the pub, the sun was shining.

Walk, Derbyshire, walking, hiking, walking for wellbeing, wellbeing, mental health, rain, rainy day, weather, friends, Belper, aromatherapy, massage, health, dogs, dog walking, Mam Tor, Peak District
Great, bonkers friends 😍. Photo courtesy of Lucy Hobson

It was an experience I won’t forget and would definitely repeat, with great friends who are just as bonkers as I am 🤪🥰.