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!)
Would you just look at that tulip! I've never seen anything like it - it looks like the edges have been dipped in iron filings. I love it.
I've been thinking about flowers this week, although I don't have any other pictures to show you. I've spent a bit of time pottering in the garden, preparing it for when we sell the house. I'm slowly removing things that are high maintenance (looking at you, willow hedge) and plonking in all manner of pretty flowers for a riotous display - all the time wondering why I didn't do this before.
'm most excited about my apple tree - I grafted it myself, and it lives in a pot, and so far it's only had a couple of flowers on each year, and I've never had an apple from it. This year there are lots of flowers, and I'm hoping for an apple or two...
This week I've added two different varieties of ox-eye daisy, and I've also bought one of those giant red poppies - I have no idea what they're called but they're so spectacular I always stand and stare when I see one in someone's garden. I must take a picture of the unopened buds - they look like giant strawberries.
Today has been a day of plastering, and I'm starting to realise why plasterers (and other traders I suppose) have apprentices. I could have done with one today to fetch water, clean trowels, mix plaster, run up and down stairs for things I've forgotten, move ladders, wash buckets, take things to the bin... Oh how lovely it would have been to have someone to order around to do all those things!
But sadly I don't have an apprentice, and Peter, for all his admirable qualities, has more interesting things to do than spend his days running around after me. So instead it's me running up and down the stairs, moving things then moving them back, knocking things over and cleaning them up.
I'm pretty sure I spend more time doing those things than actually plastering. This is how it goes.
However, we are making progress, and I'm writing this as I take a short break for a cuppa in between plaster coats. I'm off work until next Wednesday, and I'm hoping by then that much of the upstairs plastering will be done. After that upstairs is pretty straightforward (famous last words...).
Well, we'll see. As ever, as much as I try to concentrate on one thing, other thing sneak in.
Like this little trip out yesterday to one of my favourite cafes. I don't get out here very often as it's not that close, but I have a friend who is often there, so I occasionally pop out to meet him. It's in an old flour mill, and you can sit and watch the little river idling past while you drink your tea.
Tomorrow I'm meeting another friend in another cafe, and then another day of plastering before the half marathon.
That's how things are round here right now. Plaster, tea, run, repeat. Not a bad life.
Yesterday I did my 50th Parkrun in the sunshine, meaning I now qualify for a free t shirt. Hooray! It's only taken me since 2011...
Running, and exercise more generally, has meant different things to me over the years. When I was younger, it was something to be afraid of, something I couldn't do, something where people left me behind and I felt puffed out and embarrassed.
When I started running in my twenties, it became something I wanted to do, and enjoyed while I was actually doing it, but was always reluctant to go out and get started. I often abandoned it for long stretches, lost the small amount of fitness I'd gained, and became disheartened about starting again.
I had quite an active life at that point anyway. I didn't have a car, and regularly cycled 10, 15, even 20 miles to get to places I wanted to go. I was never fast, but I always got there in the end (although I did sometimes complain about it).
Later I got more sedentary, and running became something I felt I should do. I still enjoyed it when I did it, but again left long periods between bouts of enthusiasm, and never really built up much fitness. I sometimes entered races, but rarely trained for them, and usually came last.
In my thirties, I started taking things a little more seriously and found myself talked into a marathon. I'm no expert, but a marathon isn't just something you turn up and do on the day with no training. I started running more regularly, and found myself getting a lot fitter quite quickly. It was actually rather enjoyable. After race day though, I abandoned it again and didn't run for months.
At the minute I'm in a period of relative enthusiasm. I've got a few races coming up in the next few weeks, and while I'm hardly going to win any of them, and in fact it's likely that I'll come last, yet again, I'm enjoying the process. One of them is a triathlon, and I'm enjoying the variety of swimming, cycling, running that the training brings.
I've joined a gym - something I've done before, but rarely used. This one, however, is in the building I work in, and it's quite satisfying to finish work for the day and spend half an hour in the gym before walking home.
I think my attitude's changed lately. I've been listening to those little voices in my head, and trying to figure out those unwritten 'rules' that are in there about exercise.
You should be outside, why are you in the gym on a sunny day like this?
Well, how's about we just let those little voices fade into the background. Yes, it's pleasant to be outside on a sunny day, but sometimes getting half an hour in at the gym means exercise, whereas walking home, getting changed, getting the bike out and going back out again means I'm more likely to flop on the sofa with my tea. Yes, I could cycle to work, but it's only 1.5 miles away, and down a large hill - meaning it'd take longer to get the bike out of the house than to cycle there, but longer to cycle home than walk. Yes, I'd get fitter eventually, but I enjoy the walk and it's not really a pleasant bike ride. Yes, I've only run once, but it's better than nothing.
Nobody's tracking my exercise, other than me. Right now I'd much rather do something I enjoy and increase my overall fitness than feel I had to be constantly running and more running, and starting to dread it and avoid it like I have done in the past, and if that means I'm going to be last, yet again, in the half marathon, then so be it. Running is a way to get out into the countryside, see more of the city, listen to a cheery podcast, and yes, sometimes unwind in the gym at the end of the day.
And it's a bonus if you sometimes get a free t shirt or a medal at the end of a race.
No running for me today though! I need a rest after yesterday's Parkrun efforts. The sun's shining, and I want to get something done in the house that will inch us towards our move. Watch this space...
I've gone back to work this week, and I'm trying to hold on to some sense of holiday.
One thing that means for me is noticing. Noticing the magnolia tree as I walk between buildings. Noticing the tea kitty has run out of milk, and popping to get some more even though it's not my job, because nobody should have to go without tea. Noticing the sunlight streaming through the office windows.
It's so easy to slip back into a spiral of head-down work, staring at the screen, dashing from one room to another. Mine is interesting work, and so it's easy to forget when I'm there that there's a life outside. But I'm noticing this new job has a seasonal quality I didn't have in my old job, that the pace and type of work changes with the seasons, and after a winter and early spring of frenetic activity, I'm looking forward to some long, lazy summer days of reading and working in the garden (maybe even a new garden).
(Having said that, there's plenty I don't know about this job yet, and chances are I'll be back in September, wondering where my long, lazy summer went).
Yesterday me and my foldy bike went off for a little ride, this time to the Monsal Trail - another one of those ex-railway cycle trails that criss cross the peak district. If you click on the link you can hear the voices of people who remember it as a railway before it closed in 1968, very interesting.
The sun was shining, and this trail is slightly prettier than the section of the high peak trail I was on last week, so it felt altogether more jolly.
The route passes through several tunnels, well enough lit that you can see people coming, but dark enough to be a little bit eerie when you're in the middle by yourself and can't see either end. Especially when someone starts making strange ghostly noises which echo around the walls. Ahem.
I cycled for just over five miles before reaching the tea van - the place we usually turn round when I cycle here with friends. It's an old station, and the platform makes a nice place for a picnic in the summer.
Not much of a picnic for me yesterday - I'm meant to be 'training' for this triathlon after all. So just a quick stop for a banana and I was on my way back again.
I enjoy these little cycling excursions. Obviously it would be quicker to cycle from my house, especially when I'm going on my own and just for an hour. But it's hilly where I live, and my 'proper' bike is in the cellar, and probably needs a bit of repairing. I'll have to do it before the triathlon of course, but for now, I prefer to just sling my foldy bike in the car and cycle up and down these trails.
I've usually got a Radio 4 podcast in one ear so I'm always learning something as I cycle along - for example yesterday I was listening to an interview with Helen Sherman, the first British person in space, who was apparently involved in designing and making the Mars ice cream (as in 'ice cream Mars bar', not 'ice cream from Mars'). Who knew?
The weather started to turn as I turned round, so I raced back to the car - fortunately this trail does slope slightly downhill on the way back so everything feels easier. Ten miles done, just over an hour. That'll do nicely. I might try and squeeze in another ride before I go back to work.
Today is a bit of a this-and-that day. I've got two very nice men here this morning, replacing the big panes of glass in the downstairs windows. They've done the kitchen already and I was quite startled when I walked back into the room - it's so clear, it looks like there's no glass there at all! (There is, I checked). I've got a couple of life admin things to do (an appointment to make, a couple of phone calls, an email to send) and then I plan to potter, knit, and spend a good long time in the swimming pool I think.
My time off work is coming to an end and finally I'm starting to feel properly relaxed. I just need to figure out how to keep hold of that feeling when I go back to work...
Finally I got my wish - a whole day of sunshine!
Out for a run first, I think.
This route takes me past some rather well-tended allotments, which makes me long to grow my own food again. Soon...
Across the fields and up to one of my favourite views.
I love the way this view changes with the seasons - one day I'll dig out all of my photos at different times of year to compare.
Through the woods, with occasional glimpses of slightly-less-well-tended allotments through the trees.
Up through the stables, over the field and home.
After a quick shower and second breakfast, the sun was still shining, so I headed out into the garden. It was the first day I've been out there this year, and it was looking a bit scruffy and bare, as it often does at this time of year.
Still, there were some flowers starting to peek through.
When I'd had enough of working, I sat with a nice cup of tea and took in the sunshine. It's been a long time since I've done that, and it felt good.
When the sun had gone in, I came inside and made chocolate nests to take on a family visit tomorrow. Although I confess, the rate we're getting through them, I'm going to have to make some more before we set off. They're just so cheerful, I can't help myself.
And then the final job of the day - scraping wallpaper. What joy! What fun! Deep raptures!
Actually, it's not that bad - now I'm using the spray water bottle rather than the steamer it's a lot more pleasant.
Care to guess the name of Charles and Diana's first baby, anyone? Shouldn't be too difficult - he, like me, is rapidly approaching his 36th birthday...
We escaped for a pre-Christmas trip to the seaside.
We did the same thing a couple of years ago, to the same hotel in the same place - The Grand in Scarborough. I was convinced it was last year, but my own blog informs me otherwise. Time flies.
A love a seaside resort in the winter. Some things are closed, of course, but there's always an amusement arcade (I have a guilty love for 2p machines) and a cafe or two.
We had a wander along the beach, lunch in a cafe, and a bit of secret shopping, and the light was already starting to fade.
We went out for tea, watched Star Wars at the local cinema, then fell asleep with the balcony doors open and the sound of the sea drifting in.
I love the winter morning light at the seaside.
The breakfast room at The Grand is spectacular, with views right across the bay. In the winter, breakfast is just at the right time to see the sunrise.
I have a lot of fondness for this hotel. It sits at the top of the South Bay, and is a listed building now. It was built in 1867 and designed around a theme of time - so it has four towers (to represent the seasons), 12 floors (the months), and originally there were 365 bedrooms. It's a fascinating building - you can read more about it here (don't look too closely at the hygiene scandals!) It was quite posh in its day, but now mostly caters to budget coach tours. There's evening entertainment every day of the year - the night we were there was bingo and an Elvis impersonator (we went out, not that I'm averse to a bit of bingo...)
It's rough around the edges, with peeling paint, rolls of carpet stored in the lobby, and a ludicrous breakfast queuing system which seemed to necessitate either queuing three times, or putting a dollop of jam on the plate with your beans. But there's nowhere else I can be surrounded by such splendour (not for the amount of money I'm willing to pay, anyway), and for a night it makes me feel (a bit) like I'm living in the land of Bertie Wooster.
I'd forgotten quite how dreadful the tea in the hotel is. I have no idea what brand of teabags they use, but the tea is barely drinkable - and I'm not really that fussy. I managed one cup at breakfast (just to get me going) and then we ambled around the seafront in search of somewhere better. We found it, in the shape of the Harbour View cafe, which mostly seemed to be filled with fishermen (a good sign, I think).
A happy hour of eating, reading, staring at the sea, and then it started to rain, so we headed home.
So often I forget just how much it revives me to go away, even just overnight. I spend a lot of time feeling I live so very far from the sea, but it took us just over two hours to drive to Scarborough - I spend that long getting to the office! Much better to go to the seaside I think.
Speaking of which, I've now done my last day in my old job, and I'm feeling an odd mix of relief, sadness and slight apprehension about the new one. Running away to the seaside made me forget all about work, and now I'm feeling properly festive and am pleased to report that I have no concrete plans whatsoever for the next few days, and no Christmas preparations left to do. I intend to spend most of Christmas sitting around by the tree with a good book.
Hope you have something equally cheerful planned!
I've neglected a lot of things lately. This blog, for a start. The garden, running, any pretence at housework, my friends, knitting, eating properly.
This hasn't been just idle neglect though. I've spent much of the last few weeks writing a job application, preparing for an interview - and celebrating after being offered an exciting new job. I start in January, and I can't tell you how excited I am. It's full time, so I'll lose my beloved Fridays off (sob) but it's walking distance from home, so I'll regain my early mornings and evenings.
I've always thought of autumn as a time of change. I love the start of the new school year - always have, even when I've not been at school. There's a sense of possibility in the air - new stationery, a library full of new books, and the chance that this year might just be the one where you're organised and do all your homework on time.
My new job doesn't start until January, so this autumn for me is more of an ending. I've got nine weeks left at work, and I'll be finishing projects, sorting through papers, clearing out my office, collecting things and saying goodbye. Nine weeks feels like a long time to wait, and yet no time at all to do what needs to be done.
I've had a week now to get used to the idea of my new job, and so my attention is starting to turn back towards other things in my life that have taken a back seat. Today I answered the nagging voice in my head that has repeatedly been reminding me of the half marathon I'm doing in four weeks, and went for a run.
I took a detour across the golf course and through the woods, which were hilly and full of rocks, and slowed me down so much I had to take a detour home. But nothing beats the atmosphere of a misty run through the trees on an autumnal Sunday morning.
I feel mentally revived (and also a bit sleepy). The immediate sense of excitement and giddiness has passed, and I can think more clearly now about what needs to be done.
I have plenty of priorities at work, of course, but they stay within working hours. Outside of work, well, for a start, that half marathon won't run itself. There are people I'd like to visit while I still have all my Fridays free, so there are trips to organise, starting with a new passport.
And resting, of course. Most important. I don't want my last few weeks at work to be characterised by stress and grumpiness, and I want to start the new job feeling bright and lively, not harassed and worried.
I started knitting again yesterday too - prompted by being cold and not being able to find my shawl, and by being invited to a friend's house for a craft evening. I'm making, unsurprisingly, a shawl (and still hoping my old one will turn up eventually). This is alpaca wool - gorgeously soft, and, it turns out, very easy to tangle if you're not paying attention.
And for those of you wondering whether the house move will go ahead now I have a job round the corner from our current house, here's a picture of our kitchen.
Hmm. It'll be a long process, but yes, we will still be moving. Probably not in the first few months of my new job, but eventually.
I feel so much brighter with something new to look forward to. I do need some sense of stability, but there's also a part of me that thrives on novelty and change. I'm impatient to get started now, but know I need to s--l--o--w d--o--w--n and enjoy what I'm doing right now, rather than always reaching forwards to the next thing.
I've not long come back from spending a week at the International Permaculture Convergence. I slept in the car (more comfortable than it sounds), ate more good food than I've eaten in a long time, and spent most of the week outside.
And I felt refreshed.
When you're outside all the time, the weather seems strangely unimportant. Well, torrential rain makes a difference, but a grey sky doesn't, or a bit of drizzle, or a slight breeze. We ate outside in weather that, if I'd seen it out of the window, I'd have put the kettle on and stayed indoors.
I promised myself that when I got home, I'd spend more time outside. And so, last weekend, I took my camera and went for a wander.
I looked more closely than I would normally look.
It made me want to spend more time observing the changes of the seasons, which feels appropriate given that today is the autumn equinox.
I was lucky enough to be given both apples and damsons this week, by friends who had more than they knew what to do with.
The apples were chopped, stewed, and put in the freezer ready for crumble. The damsons, of course, were added to, well, it would normally have been gin, but I got a bit whimsical in the shop so we now have a few bottles of damson white rum on the go. Kind of tropical autumn, if you will.
I think autumn might just be my favourite season (but ask me again on New Years Eve when I'm sipping my damson rum and I might have changed my mind).
Holiday Three is proving to be quite jolly so far. We're treating our local area a little like we would treat a new holiday place - pottering around the charity shops, having tea and toast in a cafe (what do you mean that's what we'd normally be doing at the weekend anyway??)
This morning we went to the local Country Market, which we used to do every week and haven't done for months. I like the country market, they sell home made cakes, jam, bread, even home made ready meals, crafty things and plants, and you can sit and have a cup of tea with your cake. We went to the equivalent market in Holmfirth last weekend, and it was full to the brim of (mostly older) people eating bacon butties and cakes. Our market doesn't do bacon butties, and also isn't in a tourist hotspot, and this week was strangely empty.
Usually there's a bit of jostling for seats, but today we had our pick and had a leisurely cup of tea and a read of the local paper.
After ambling home, I decided we couldn't possibly sit inside on such a sunny day (and there was the distinct danger I'd start thinking about washing, or DIY, and this is supposed to be a holiday after all), so we rustled up a simple picnic and headed for the hills.
It was most pleasant eating our picnic out in the fields, even if we were just ten minutes walk from home, but the sun kept disappearing behind a cloud and after an hour or so we were feeling distinctly chilly.
We contemplated popping to a cafe on the way home, but fortunately we were hailed in the street by some friends who invited us in for tea and blueberry muffins.
Of course, as soon as we got home the sun came out again, so I gathered tea, books and blankets (not trusting those clouds after this morning) and sat out in the garden, trying to ignore the straggly pots and dying plants.
I do like the way the sunlight dapples through the willow, although I suspect I'm going to have to have a lopping session soon.
What's this on the ground though? Dead leaves - already? I'm blaming this on a lack of water while we were away, but I suspect autumn might not be quite as far away as I'd like it to be...