Thursday, 30 September 2010

a new exercise craze....

....is sweeping North Wiltshire....and beyond!

I've been going to Zumba with S and, more recently, K since before the summer holidays.  You can visit the website to find a class near you and for their distinctively branded T-shirts, hairbands, trackies and DVDs.

Despite their rampant marketing drive, I have to say Zumba is one of the best exercise classes I've ever been to:

- there are no floor-based, uncomfortable abdominal exercises

- it's 2.4 miles away from where we live

- S picks me up and delivers me to the door

- it's dance based so I can wiggle my ample behind

- I can do most of the steps

- our instructor, Becky, is unfailingly cheerful and enthusiastic

- it's the funniest exercise class I've ever been to.

I've always felt that exercising 'en masse' is a peculiar activity.  It reminds me of Korean State celebrations and dancing at home on carpets.  At Zumba we samba and grapevine and merengue our way through music from around the globe but the fact is we're in a slightly musty village hall in our random selection of sportswear, shaking our bosoms as if we were in carnival in Rio.  I just find it hilarious.  I know I shouldn't and I know I should take my fitness seriously and respect everybody's right to lycra but I just can't help wondering what the aliens will make of us if they land at about 8.45pm on a Wednesday night in North Wiltshire.  I imagine they'd think we were a slightly damp and quite co-ordinated species who liked loud noise.

This week the hall was divided into two distinct sections: by the door we had a gaggle of younger women all wearing copious amounts of eyeliner and barely breaking into a sweat.  The other half of the room was populated by we ladies d'un certain age.  Less makeup but clammier foreheads and, I have to say, better co-ordination and grander shimmies. 

Some of us dance the tunes confidently and almost in time, mimicking Becky's oomph and pzazz - others, well, don't.  What we all do, however, is have a fantastic time, whatever we take from it.  You don't often see that many glowing women, smiling all the way back to their 4x4s after a night out at the gym.  There must be something in it.  Now, if only Becky would run a class in our village hall....

Sunday, 26 September 2010

quango, mango, schwmango

I worked for a quango, the Health Education Authority, just before the last big government change.  I remember everyone being very excited about the prospect of funding for targeted health promotion work and evidence-based education around all aspects of health.  The Authority was also famous for the HIV/AIDS iceberg adverts and its wide range of leaflets.  I started work there just as email and the Internet were starting to make big in-roads into sharing information both public and otherwise.  I actually remember someone ordering flowers via the Tesco website for their mother and being very impressed.

I was shocked to see the HUGE list of quangos and organisations that will soon be disappearing from our lives and was struck by the notion of not missing them until they are gone.  Who else will monitor and evaluate some of the most important aspects of our lives?  Who will look after the waterways - surely there are an important environmental part of our lives if nothing else?  The things that those quangoes look after will not go away - someone, somewhere will have to pick up their work.  Will it be the local authorities facing a budget cut of 25%?  I'm not a politician, nor an economist but it seems to me that slicing swathes of both large and small will leave huge gaps that eventually will have to be re-established.

Perhaps that's the plan?  Take away the organisations that have sustained us and been developed for the last few years, wait until the pain has subsided and then somehow grow them again?  It's like emptying the house of food in the interests of a clear-out just to realise that everyone is still hungry and having to nip out to the shops again.

This little rant takes me to time travel - I do have a real sense of deja vu in all areas of life at the moment - for goodness sake, Supertramp are doing a huge tour this year and UB40 are out and about celebrating the 30th anniversary of their dole-queue-reggae.  I'm back at college and thinking about wearing leggings in public.  The unions are getting uppity and I think I saw a batwing mohair jumper in M&S last week.

We're on our way to the 80s.  It's inevitable.  Crack open the Liebraumilch and get the Black Forest Gateau out, Kajagoogoo have got a new single out.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

things I've been thinking about...

...and I promise to write about...

- quangos (the demise thereof)
- social networking (for and against)
- sketchbooks (decisions upon)
- autumn (merits and demerits)
- paper
- knitting
- time travel
- birthdays

Did anyone else see that amazing moooooooooooooooooon?!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

back to the future

That's it.  I'm a student again, twenty five years after my last attempt.  That number of years does nothing for my anti-ageing regime, I can tell you.  The fact that two of my fellow students have literally just left school and are younger than my youngest niece makes my head spin and my wrinkles deepen.

I'm having a great time though.  Three days in and I can't wait for the next three years.

I must explain that this adventure is taking part in Swindon.  Who knew you could have so much fun...in Swindon!  For those of you who don't know and may be interested, I've started a BA in Fine Art with Drawing Practice.  In some complicated college funding palaver, it's an Oxford Brookes degree but it's taught just up the road.  Apparently, this is one of the few art degrees that offers such a detailed analysis and pathway through drawing and its significance to all fine art practice.  Phew!  I know, sounds mightly grand to me too.

I did an Access to Art & Design course a couple of years ago after I'd finished a contract and was looking for something to do.  Little did I know that I would finally find something I wanted to do, really wanted to do.

I've been wanting to get a degree for years, just to prove I can, just to get that piece of paper and, especially, to wipe out that little pebble of irritation I've had with myself ever since I flunked out the first time.  I've spent years doing adult education courses, diplomas, every single work-based training course I could get my hands on.  I love to learn.  I love new things and there's nothing I like better than sitting about reading and thinking and pondering (except knitting).

The main aim for colleges running Access courses is to convert those students to BA students.  I signed up.  I was hooked.  Life decided to get in the way - big time - and I put that plan on the back burner, thinking that was it, I'd have to wait until the kids had done their stuff.

The thing is, it's now or never.  I've realised that I don't really need a degree, I've worked happily and successfully without one - I just want one. 

Meanwhile, as I'm swanning about in a fedora and smock, the garden is going mad.  Everywhere I look there are either vegetables to be eaten or hedges to be cut back or drooping plants, waiting to be chopped.  There's laundry to be done and dust to be removed.  It took G&J four hours to de-dust J's bedroom yesterday.  Looks lovely (especially as I didn't have to do it!).  It would appear that real-life must be managed throughout this process.  I'm looking forward to seeing how that works out. 

Well...I'm off to look at my sketchbook.  Happy Sunday!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

deep breaths...

Back to school, proper, tomorrow.  A full week, all clubs a-go-go, pick ups and timetables arranged and ready to be conformed to.  E's school is having a mini-clampdown on uniform.  Apparently, socks printed with russian dolls are no longer allowed.  Isn't there enough time in later life to conform.  There's not much of a space in a girl's life when she can wear socks printed with anything.  It seems such a shame.  Perhaps they are far too distracting for other children.  I think not.  We are often told that the attention span of our children is shrinking faster than Cheryl Cole.  If E's classmates noticed her socks, most likely they'd have noticed something else far more interesting thirty seconds later.  I know I should be toe-ing (ha ha!) the line but sometimes, I think, there are bigger things to think about. 

The Worker is very impressed with me today - not only have I completed our pre-visa waiver wotnot for our trip to the States, I now have a printed calendar on the fridge with all the clubs, pick ups (see above) listed.  I don't know whether he's more impressed that I've managed to print it out on THE WORST PRINTER I'VE EVER BOUGHT or that its typed or that its on the fridge.  I don't think it will help me be in any more organised but it makes me feel organised.  Perhaps that's the secret.

We had indoor barbecue for supper.  The sun was shining on Friday.  I have learnt this summer that sun on Friday prompts the 'why don't we do a barbecue' question at about 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.  This week I took the opportunity to pre-empt the question and took a trip to Sainsbugs to ship in a few marinated bits and bobs.  Needless to say, it's rained all day.  Reader, I grilled them. 

As I write the rest of my family are watching 'Invictus'.  I can't bear it as Morgan Freeman gets on my nerves and I've never warmed to Matt Damon.  Their presence combined with rousing, inspiring music has made me leave the bosom of my Sunday night, washed and fed family to blog a bit, about very little.

So...here are ten things to look forward to this week:

- getting some exercise every day (walking to school gets me out and about first thing, then there's swimming and Zumba later in the week)

- our monthly knitting meeting at our village pub

- buying my new supplies for college

- picking some of those lovely looking apples in the garden

- getting back to my knitting workshops and seeing who turns up

- promoting some beginners craft classes

- a girls get-together, probably on Thursday

- a trip to Bath for my birthday boots

- the anticipation of being back at college next week and starting a new endeavour

- getting some inspiration from someone who's on that road already

Enjoy the first week of September - get those pencils sharpened!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

ten good things today....

1. a sunny autumn morning walk with my dear friend, S

2. both kids back at school with shoes that fit and lunchboxes packed

3. lovely pair of new autumn brown boots promised for birthday by The Worker

4. off to artshop to buy new pencils and sketchbooks for college

5. haircut at 10.30am

6. toad in the hole for tea (with cauliflower cheese?)

7. reading Rose Prince's 'English Table' from the library and sticking post-its in my favourite recipes, am intrigued already by homemade barley water

8. almost at the end of the first half of  Veronik Avery's transitional scarf (v. 2), am going to knit these for nieces for Christmas

9. the weatherman says summer is back at the weekend with highs of 24 degrees

10. 6 more sleeps until the new series of Madmen

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

can I get my boots on now?

This is what I like to see - I'm an autumn girl.  Give me a conker and a rusty-looking tree and I'm happy.  I love the dew on the grass in the mornings, the drooping, drying herbaceous borders, the slowly shrinking days.  I've booked the annual woodburner sweep and I'm already looking forward to lighting that fire and enjoying some winter time.  We have three birthdays in the house before the end of November, a trip to Florida coming up and then it will be Christmas.  I will most likely be on a real-life rollercoaster during the week that makes me spin - my birthday followed by the anniversary of losing my Dad is a bit of a knuckle-ride.  I know he'll be cheering us all on from the designated smoking area in the sky as we spin on the teacups and scream down Thundermountain. 

I digress - back to the boots....my summer-stressed toes are ready to hibernate.  I need my stripy foot-tan to fade and despite my FitFlop conversion and this year's progress on the pedicure front, there's nothing quite like a pair of winter boots.  I've seen the perfect pair and am currently justifying their purchase - brown, mid-heel, a little bit Karen Carpenter. 

J has just gone back to school and E is still in bed.  We're under a little pressure to have a lovely day as it's the last day of the holidays and she has a TD day.  Various outings have been suggested, most of which seem to involve shopping.  Neither of us are particularly well-off but my suggestions of bike rides and picnics are shrugged off as dull, barely worth a thought.  

It could go either way...