No more races for me now (not this year at least!)
At the weekend my sister and I did the Round Sheffield Run, a multi-stage trail run which isn't quite as serious as that makes it sound. Fifteen miles in total, through some of the prettiest bits of Sheffield. The sections in the parks and woods were timed, with the road sections being deemed 'recovery' (so no racing or overtaking or rushing).
We did it last year, and had a great time. This year we ran with a running friend I've known for yonks, and after around eleven miles we picked up a woman who was about to drop out and cajoled her along to the end.
This wasn't about winning (are they ever?), this was about a natter with friends and a nice bit of scenery. Somehow we managed to be even slower than last year (my fault, I suspect...)
But we didn't come last (surprisingly), and we even made it home before teatime. I came away with a large medal, a rather sore foot, and a load of angry insect bites that make me look like I have some kind of medieval plague.
No more races for me now (not this year at least!)
The garden is looking lush and green. A little too lush and green in places, if the truth be told.
Things are getting a bit out of hand. I wanted to spend today sorting things out, and taking rather a lot of greenery to the tip, but sadly the heavy showers thwarted my plans, and so today has largely involved tea. Still, I did get outside for a little while, and managed to finish a task that's been niggling me for a while - dismantling the compost bin.
I love this compost bin. I built it a few years ago out of cast off roof shingles and half of a front door. It sits quietly in the corner of the garden, near to the pavement (you can just see a car through the bushes there, that's how close the road is). It causes no trouble, and eats up all of our fruit and vegetable peelings and (many) teabags.
I've had a few compost bins in my time, and I've learned a few things. It's useful to have floor level access for removing compost when it's ready. It's also useful to be able to turn the compost at regular intervals, which makes it break down more quickly. And it's really useful for a compost bin to have two chambers, so you can fill one, then leave it to rot down while you fill the other, or turn the half-rotted stuff into the empty bin to make it work a bit more quickly.
Or, if you're feeling lazy and haven't turned it in a while, you can just fill one entirely with garden rubbish and forget to turn it with the rest, so it'll just be a pile of sticks when you eventually come to look after the winter. Hmm.
Still, as you can see, my home made compost bin was pretty cool, and fulfilled all my functions. The lids of both sides lifted independently, and both front sections came away easily to facilitate turning and compost removal. The problem is that the wood itself had started to rot, and the whole thing had started to lean precariously backwards. Not necessarily a problem in a normal garden, but this is right next to the pavement, and raised up around a metre, so any backwards collapse may well involve a damaged car or a very smelly passer-by.
Also, we're trying to sell the house, and while I love my wibbly wobbly compost bin, it's right by the back door and not the neatest of structures. So I'd decided it had to go.
First job - empty the compost. Underneath the top coating of recent peelings it was rich and dark, and teeming with worms.
A little bit soggy in places, but if I'd mixed it with the dry stuff in the other side as planned it would have been fine, and at the bottom was several tubs worth of beautifully formed, perfect compost.
Once it was all emptied, the bin started to collapse even more.
Bizarrely, I managed to fold the sides in - seems I've accidentally invented some kind of folding compost bin.
This bit was heavy, and covered in woodlice, slugs, spiders, centipedes and all manner of beasties. Good for a healthy compost heap, but I didn't really want them crawling around my clothes. I gingerly moved it out of the way...
Hmm, need to do a tiny bit of weeding there, and to replace that 'fence' with a better screen I think. Not a job for this afternoon though.
And there we are - new (to me) compost bin in situ. Not half so pretty as the old one - but also slightly more conventional, and far less likely to fall into the road. I do need to replace the screening, and I've bought woodchip to go around the bottom under the trees, so hopefully it will eventually not look quite so stark. I suppose I could even try to grow something up the sides, although it's very dark under all those leaves.
I've also got four buckets of compost to rehouse. Could do with a sieve, but it's not going to get one. It'll mostly end up in the bottom of containers anyway, topped off with a little peat-free compost from the garden centre.
So, another job ticked off, and one (tiny, and possibly unnecessary) step closer to being ready. I still have to go to the tip (not today). And there is still FAR too much greenery in the garden, which looks as much like a jungle as it's possible for such a tiny space to look.
For now though, I've come inside. I treated myself to some (reduced) flowers, there is pizza dough in the bread machine, and my sister will be here shortly. We've got a race to prepare for. I hope it stops raining before then...
I've been away for a week for work. Not a usual occurrence for me, and while it was fun, it was also tiring. I didn't sleep well (also unusual for me), and it's hard work being 'on show' (even just some of the time).
I was glad to get home last night to familiar food, my own bed, and a nice cup of tea.
I'm not complaining, of course, oh no! It's a pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity to travel somewhere beautiful for a week, even if you do have to work while you're there. And I mustn't forget that this trip was, in fact, my idea. So no, no complaints. Just a bit of weariness. I'll post some pictures later.
And, of course, while I was away, there was the small matter of the referendum about whether we stay in the EU. That made me tired too, and sad. There were good arguments for both sides, but unfortunately these were mostly lost in a campaign that focused on stirring up divisions between neighbours, and unreasonable 'promises' based on lies. I'm depressed at the role the media played, and that the level of the debate descended into essentially playground name-calling.
I voted to stay in, as did many people I know, although not all. My personal disgruntlement with the political system lies largely with the leaders of this country, not with the European Union (although as an institution that is by no means perfect either). For me, therefore, voting to leave would have signalled my desire to put even more power into the hands of people I do not trust one tiny bit. I'm glad we have cross-nation rules about things like workers' rights and protections for the environment. Right now I don't trust those in charge of this country to keep to similar standards if they have the chance to lower them.
So yes, I'm a little sad that yesterday 52% of voters opted to leave. I hope it's because they can see, and are willing to work for, a viable, positive alternative. In the popular media, the argument for leaving doesn't seem to have extended beyond 'we want our country back' - with little idea of what we'll do once we've got it (or who, indeed, 'we' are, because those heading the leave campaign are every bit as much part of the political and financial elite as those heading the remain campaign).
The whole thing has created disharmony in the country, and I don't like it. I didn't like the vitriol from some in the leave camp around immigrants being to blame for all the country's problems, and I don't like the way some on the remain side are branding everyone who voted leave as a bigot. We're all as complicated as each other, and we all had our reasons for voting as we did.
So there is so much uncertainty about what happens now, and my head hurts with trying to see a way forward that isn't based on divisiveness and blame.
However, fortunately for us all, crafting and negotiating a way forwards isn't solely my responsibility (phew!) And I can only dwell for so long on gloomy thoughts. I woke at three this morning with my head spinning, and instead of reading more about politics, I read instead about other people's gardens. I looked started with Rhonda at Down to Earth, and she led me to Little Home in the Country, which made me long for our own moving day. I ended with Jan at The Snail of Happiness, who I have met in person and who is most lovely. I adore her limery - it's lodged in my head as something I'd love to have at our new house.
When I got back last night we walked to the local park, and took these pictures. I like it here. It's high on the hill, and gives a sense of perspective. The sun still rose this morning. My family and friends are mostly well. My house is still standing (hooray!) although it could do with a good clean. My garden is lush and growing. Nobody is stopping me from writing whatever I like here on my blog (although after this post I will be back to my usual cheerful ramblings with no politics or gloominess, I promise).
Today my sister arrives at teatime. The sun has just come out, and there is a sparrow preening itself in the garden. The gooseberries are ripening, which has reminded me to rescue the last of last year's gooseberries (and two boxes of redcurrants) from the freezer to turn into jam. I have a new (to me) compost bin to replace my rickety old home-made one. The garden is growing (and growing) and there is a car full of stuff to go to the tip. It's going to be a busy day, and I'd best get on.
Just as soon as I've had one more cup of tea.
Well, it hasn't stopped raining, but I found these pictures I took from before we visited Fay, so these will have to do. As you can see, the willow hedge is getting nicely out of control and wild. Our little seating area is what you might describe as 'lush', but certainly not 'tamed'. There also seems to be a colander full of old broken mugs in the corner there.
Still, there are plenty of flowers around the place right now, which is pleasing me greatly, as I have planted precisely none this year, so these are all either perennial or self-seeded, which is just the type of flower I approve of in my garden. Independent, doesn't need mollycoddling. I'm much more inclined to sit about looking at pictures of other people's gardens.
I did buy these giant poppies. I'm pretty sure they have an actual name, but they've always been giant poppies to me. I've got a spot marked out in the garden for them, and will plant them if it ever stops raining (did I mention how much it's raining?)
Everything else in the garden has just arrived here all by itself this year.
I'm especially pleased with these alien flowers (again, I'm pretty sure they have a real name, but I can't quite remember what it is).
They're not quite flowering yet, but when they do, they're quite a sight. I bought them as seeds from the fabulous Higgledy Garden a couple of years ago, and now they're popping up all over the garden. Most pleasing. Hop over to the Higgledy Garden website to see what other people's flowers are doing, and maybe even order some of your own.
Oops, I'd forgotten I'd bought these jolly purple wallflowers too, nicely framing one side of the door. If you look closely, you'll see a rogue potato in there too. They seem to have sneaked in everywhere, possibly as a result of my lazy composting skills. Oh well, I'm never going to say no to an accidental harvest.
I'll be back with more garden pictures once I've actually done some gardening...
Ooh, I do like a bit of evening sunshine at the seaside.
This week we've been off visiting our friends Fay (of The Wind and The Wellies), her rock god husband, and of course our furry pals Peedie and Haggis.
Don't you go bothering yourself to get up now Peedie, don't mind us.
That's more like it Haggis. Fay's chickens were poking around in a slightly pesky fashion, always wanting in on the action.
Not that there was much action, of course. Not from me, anyway - I can't vouch for Fay, who never seems to sit still, and probably got up hours before us each day without us even noticing.
We spent quite a lot of time eating, or in tea shops (of course).
And personally, I spent a ridiculous amount of time admiring Fay's gardening abilities.
We've only been back two days and already I've been inspired to do some weeding. Pictures of my own garden to follow (if it ever stops raining that is, everything's just a bit too soggy out there right now).
We also did a bit of wandering about.
I was quite chuffed to discover, in an unpromising plastic shopping centre in Dundee, a vending machine selling potatoes.
Potatoes, and cabbage, eggs, raspberries, and all manner of other produce. I've never seen such a thing. It seems weirdly incongruous, but it's obviously being used. Good luck to them.
We came home via one of my favourite second hand bookshops - Barter Books in Alnwick. I love this place, and have great visions that this is what our new house is going to look like.
Oh, it was so very lovely to sneak away for a visit for a couple of days! I feel like I've been away for a fortnight, and it was so lovely to see Fay in her natural habitat, and see how much the garden has grown in the last year or so. Do pop over to Fay's blog to see her progress since she moved in, it really is a marvel.
I'm hoping a teensy bit of her plant-related magic will have rubbed off on me. Updates in a day or two...
I finally finished my sock!
Just the one so far, but I'm really rather pleased with it. It's the first one I've tried with a slightly fancier pattern, and I'm most excited with how it's turned out, although now I've started the second one it's dawned on me that the ruching effect might not have been an intentional part of the pattern...
Hmm. Looks like my second sock might not be quite the same as the first. Ho hum.
It's not really the weather for woolly socks right now, but it's taken me so long to finish this one, that by the time I finish the second we might be heading back towards winter again. What a thought!
I do love a bit of sock knitting though. It's the most portable of all knitting, especially if, like me, you often find yourself on a train. I love some on-train sock knitting, and had chance to indulge last weekend as I travelled to the latest race fiasco - the Rock n Roll Liverpool half marathon.
More silly running - will it never end? It was hot, and I was woefully undertrained, and my sister beat me by over half an hour. Still, we had a lot of fun, and I'm always impressed that I can manage to cajole myself round 13.1 miles of race under any circumstances.
Just one more race planned this summer - the Round Sheffield Run. This is one of my favourite races. It's basically a gentle trail run with legitimate walking breaks built into it. You have a small electronic tag, and run along sections of off-road trails. When you get to a road section, there's a swiping machine, so you swipe your tag - and then you're free to amble, dawdle and potter to the next trail section, where you swipe your tag and start running again. Excellent fun, and doesn't feel half as energetic as a normal half marathon, even though the running sections added together are around 12 miles and there's an extra 3 miles of walking on top.
After that I'm free of racing for the summer. I'm quite looking forward to doing some different types of exercise - cycling of course, the odd yoga class, maybe even a bit of weight lifting at the gym. And a teensy bit of running, of course, at the parkrun if nothing else.
But no more big races - I've got a house to plaster after all!
I'm quite taken with this little room in the cafe at the local botanical gardens. It feels calm, and I confess I've spent quite a few lunchtimes there lately with friends, idly looking out of the window.
Life does feel calm right now. Not lazing-around-doing-nothing calm, but settled-into-a-rhythm calm. Now we've accepted that we won't be moving any time soon, things seem easier, as we're not constantly pushing to get things finished. Yes, we're sleeping in the spare room, the living room is entirely filled with boxes, and you have to turn sideways to get through some of the doorways, but, well, this is just How Life Is Right Now. It's ok.
This acceptance means I occasionally stop to do something normal - a small thing that I would have done before all this decorating started. Last week, for example, I sat on this bench in the botanical gardens and read a book for a while. It wasn't warm, and I had to wear my coat, but it felt still.
On Saturday we went out for breakfast, and I was quite pleased with the new (to us) cafe we tried. It's a teensy little place out in the peak district, with the most enormous extravagant cakes I've seen in a long time. We didn't have cake though - this was breakfast, so we had breakfasty things. I chose porridge and fresh fruit, which is what I'd normally have for breakfast - but this was a whole new plane of porridgey luxury, a far cry from my normal oats-and-water-in-the-microwave combination. And there was so much! Even with both of us digging in we still couldn't finish it. Just looking at that picture makes me want to eat it all over again.
After stuffing our faces, we took our foldy bikes for a little pootle down one of the old railway lines. I love these trails that criss cross the peak district - flat, traffic free, and depending when you go you can often have them to yourself. On a sunny Saturday in June they weren't deserted of course, but it was a most cheerful ride nonetheless.
It was also the first day of the year that my feet have been out in public! It's hard to believe that this time last week I was wearing gloves.
But I've forgotten to tell you about the most exciting thing I did at the weekend!
I finally got round to going on the Star Flyer, two days before it packed up and left.
Sadly the day I went on it, the weather wasn't quite as nice as when I took this picture a couple of weeks ago. It was early evening, and the light was rather grey. Still, it was Most Cheerful Indeed.
It's a bit daunting at first, being sat in such a flimsy plastic chair, with barely anything holding you in, and what feel like tiny little chains holding your chair to the ride. The worst bit is rising into the air at the start.
But once you start going round, it's an absolute delight to be flying through the air, to see right across the city to the hills beyond.
My pictures aren't great - the sky was grey, and, well, I was holding tight to those flimsy chains and just pressing camera buttons quite randomly with one finger. I'm lucky I got any photographs at all.
The buildings felt so close you could almost reach out and touch them with your feet. I didn't try, of course, just in case.
The city looked different from up there. It was 7pm on a Friday night and I was surprised how deserted this main street looked. It's mostly shops, which were closed of course, but even so. And how square everything felt. One or two pretty buildings, but quite a lot of drab functional buildings too.
It was quite odd seeing the city stretching out that far.
I got off feeling slightly queasy and leaning over to one side. A ride home on the top of a double decker didn't help, and I had to have a lie down when I got back. All part of the fun. I'd go on it again in a jiffy if it hadn't packed up and gone. I wonder where it's going next?