Friday, 27 January 2012

I owe it all to Madonna

I ran yesterday - for ten whole minutes - in a row.  Without stopping.  A total run of 27 minutes with 3 breaks of 1 minute in between each run.  I'm sorry I've gone all 'show and tell' about this but I'm amazed.

I was listening to 'Confessions on a Dance Floor' - do you remember that album?  I think it was the one where her-madgeness wore big knickers and leg warmers in most of the videos.  I may be wrong.

Anyway....CoaDF got me to the next village and back. 

I'm a little stuck now.  It seems silly to run to a village and run back again.  I have an urge to continue beyond but if I do that, I'll be out for a lot longer and I think I'll be over-extending myself somewhat.  I don't want to get carried away and ruin all my hard work by getting bored or, worse still, injured.

Little and often has worked so far.

Monday, 23 January 2012


Of course Birdsong won the competition and I stayed up till the wee small hours tweaking away at the essay.

The significant looks and moody stares of the former sent me scurrying for my laptop and I only saw the steamy bits out of the corner of my eye whilst contemplating Grayson Perry's pots. 

I thought Birdsong looked beautiful and I remember reading it but like many other novels, I can't for the life of me remember what happens.  I got a little bored with the romantic scenes of love and stifled romance but thought the scenes from the trenches were filmed beautifully.   I was amazed by the faces of the soldiers, particularly what's is name.  I could have looked at him for hours and not for all the wrong reasons thank you very much.

Whilst tapping away and pondering my punctuation, I half watched the programmes I'd taped about illuminated manuscripts.  I was surprised to see Malmesbury get a fair-sized mention although I was pleased to be only half concentrating as the presenter, as lovely and obviously intelligent as she was, drove me nuts.  I have a note in my diary to watch the programmes again, notepad in had so that I can count this as research but I think I may need to employ some judicious fast forwarding.

We've just had a delicious lasagne type meal made with rice by J.  A treat to come home and not have to think about dinner.  As the results of a home economics class it wasn't half bad and there were four clean plates.  G was given The World at War boxed set for Christmas so my essay will be completed with the sound of the Battle of the Britain in the background.  Military history documentaries are definitely a cure for procrastination.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

something old, something blue

I'm having a typewriter moment.  I used this machine and some carbon paper to make a few pieces of work last term.  I learned to type on a typewriter.   I think my first temp job in 1988/89 involved some kind of word processor but I learned to touchtype during my 'A' levels.  I don't know why.  I think it was some kind of displacement activity, much like this blog post is now.  There are many things I should be doing instead of posting about my typing history.

I used to love those scenes in films, when the writer would sit down at their typewriter and feed a sheet of crisp white paper into the roller and start to tap, tap, ting away.  There was something very romantic and exciting about someone sitting down and making stuff up. 

I got Series 1 of The Waltons on DVD for Christmas and the aspiring writer, John-Boy borrows a typewriter to submit his first piece of writing to a New York magazine.  What an event that must have been - however fictional.  A young man in rural America sending a manuscript to a publisher in the big city.  It made me think of how much I take this blogging malarkey for granted.

One of my occasional amusements is to make blog names up, just to see if they're available.  At one point I had 38 completely empty blogs, all with different names.  I deleted them, eventually, but they hang around.  I suppose because there's nothing to stop me making them, sometimes I have a little frenzy.  Again, a displacement activity.

On the running front - I can now run for seven minutes without stopping.  I think I could probably do ten if the right track came on my Ipod but I can't run and change a song at the same time yet.  That's my next target.

I had my first running etiquette quandary this morning.  I'd plodded off on my usual route and was on the return leg, back into the village.  I saw one of the Dads from school, a Dad who is known to do the odd marathon, purposefully running towards me in a very sensible high visibility running top, glancing at what I imagine was a proper running watch (I clutch my phone and use the stopwatch function). 

Now, should I have skipped across the road to run on the other side - or should he?  Should he have run around me or should I have run around him?  I was at the end of my allotted running time - I certainly couldn't stop for my walking section.  That would have been too embarassing.  I was embarassed enough to be seen lolopping along in the first place. 

In the end I did the running around.  It seemed the thing to do.  Perhaps that's how it works - maybe the slowest runner does the biggest detour...

Now, Birdsong or essay, Birdsong or essay....

Monday, 16 January 2012

on your marks....

Today has been a topsy turvy day...

I went for a run despite the terrifying possibility of being seen by the occupants of J's school bus just after 8am.  I ran for 27 minutes - 6 x 4 minutes, 1 x 3 minutes, all with a minute walk in between.  I can now run for the length of a whole song.  That's never happened before. 

It took me an hour and a half to get to Swindon.  Some sort of incident resulted in a tailback all the way to Brinkworth.  If I'd had my usual reaction and taken a short cut I would have just about got there in time but no, I didn't trust my instincts and sat in a line of traffic for nearly an hour.  Unheard of in these rural parts.

My other windscreen wiper's rubber blade fell off and my water was iced up until I reached Purton.  Interesting driving in the low winter sun.

The loo I had to visit as soon as I got to college had lost its flush.  Very unpleasant.

I tripped over the gap in the lift.

I carefully tipped my packet of sugar into the bin instead of my coffee.

I got a 2:1 for my first assessement (hurrah!)

I couldn't find a bank statement I need.  I found the online username and password so that I can retrieve it.  One of the finest uses of technology I can think of.

I put a chicken in the oven to roast after supper so that it would be cooked ready to make some chicken pie for supper tomorrow.  I left it in there for three and a half hours whilst trying to meet a deadline.  It looks a little sunburnt and is not as moist as it might be but with a bit of stock it will be fine (we hope).

So, a topsy turvy kind of day but not bad for the, allegedly, most depressing day of the year.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

my problem with the Olympics....

I've never considered myself sporty.

My Dad was quite sporty.  I remember a few occasions in my childhood when he 'coached' me in the art of athletics.  These occasions were infrequent and shortlived.  Our first session on running was followed by my falling over in the semi-final of the under 11s 100 yards dash on a chilly field somehwere near Garswood, Lancashire.  The other session that springs to mind is the time I was 'chosen' to do the javelin - I was chosen because I was sensible and gentle enough not to poke any other child with the javelin and I was rubbish at running.  Dad & I spent a pleasant afternoon in our usefully elongated backgarden throwing a broom handle.  I have a feeling he even sharpened one end.

The day of the athletics competition came and I threw my javelin about 150cm.  Not good.  This would have been in Bedfordshire, possibly at middle school.  By the time I reached secondary school proper, all sporting aptitudes had been thoroughly assessed and I was lacking in all of them.  My talent lay in being able to wear the most number of layers before waddling out to stand in the same rectangle as the hockey players and, of course, being able to roll my school socks down short enough so that I could get a proper tan on my legs during the hour or so tennis practice we had each week in the summer.

Since leaving school I've had a penchant for exercise classes and DVDs.  Step was a bit of a challenge.  I would take myself off to a hall in Forest Hill on Sunday mornings and come home with an injury from slipping off the step or being hit in the face as I was on the wrong side of mine as everyone was on the other side of theirs.

Bodycombat was a disaster - all that yelping.  I quite like Bodybalance - stretching, a few situps.  Bodypump is OK as long as you use little weights.  Spinning was a total nightmare - our local gym has the bikes arranged in a circle.  Why would I want to see anyone exercise, least of all have them see me?!  I think Spinning was my least favourite class - I went twice.  You  know I love Zumba.  Probably the best exercise class of all.  Organised dancing, good music and, crucially, no getting on a dirty, dusty floor to do horrible crunches.

I had one of the original Jane Fonda tapes.  I was very partial to Lorraine Kelly's  DVDs after I had the kids.  She had a South African trainer and I still do some of the arm exercises.  The music was pants though.  I've got Tracey Anderson on the DVD shelf.  She's fierce and I find her humourless and as for Davina - love the exercises but it gets to a point where I start pulling her faces and doing her little one-liners as well as the squats and lunges.

Since living in the country, I've walked a bit, cycled a bit.  Did a triathlon (badly) once.  There are a few useful loops - a walking one round the river and a couple of loops out to neighbouring villages and back which are good for bike riding.  A woman can get into quite a routine for a few weeks.

So you see, it's not as if I don't try.  I try lots of things.  I know I'm supposed to.  I enjoy my tries.  I get quite enthusiastic for a few weeks and then I get bored.  Deeply bored.  I also become slightly resentful and insubordinate.  A little voice starts in my head - "why should I involve myself in this exercise malarkey, yes I know I'll feel better and I might get a little slimmer but it makes me ache and I really couldn't bear to become some kind of exercise evangelist.  They're all scary and a little suspicious."

So - my problem with the Olympics is that for the best part of this year, we're all going to be subjected to incessant sportiness to, I think, the expense of all the other things that Britain and Britishers are great at.  Yes, we give sport a good go and yes, most of the Olympic facilities seem to be coming on very nicely and aren't we great at putting on a show but, really, does it all have to be about the fastest, the strongest, the highest, the longest, the biggest, the best?

What about the rest of us who just go about trying a few things and moving ourselves around a bit?  Isn't that good enough?  Apparently there are targets to inspire us all to take up sport.  If all we see all year are individuals who spend their entire lives moving about and running around so that they can be the best, some of us might be inspired NOT to take up sport.  If we're constantly celebrating the best - perhaps the rest of us will just think, what's the point, I won't be getting a medal?

I hope somewhere in this Olympic PR juggernaut are a few reminders that, actually, it's OK to do a bit of exercise.  That it doesn't have to be about winning or competing or shaving all your hair off so that you can go a bit faster.  Exercise is good for you and if you can swap some of your telly and pizza eating time for a few hours a week of running about or doing a class or walking to work or taking your kids to the park for a kick about, you'll feel a lot better.

My running?  I've become an addict.  I have a spreadsheet.  I've run for 68 minutes in 5 sessions over 9 days.  I have a horrible feeling that this is probably more than I've run (ever) in my entire adult life.  Why has this addiction suddenly gripped me?  My body aches and my knees feel dodgy already but it makes me feel fantastic for the rest of the day.  Why does no-one tell you this?  I feel as if someone has been keeping a very big secret from me and I'm very pleased to have been let in on it.

Monday, 9 January 2012

doing as I'm told...

...just not when I've been told to.

I have a deadline.  I've been aware of this deadline since the beginning of November.  It's not too close but it's close enough. 

The Worker reminded me about my new year's commitment to focus and concentration last night.  We'd gone to bed and I started to tell him about an advertisement I'd seen for a two day a week job, a contract for 7 months, working with schools, creative this and that, sounds ideal.  On and on I went until he kindly but firmly pointed out that, really, this degree malarkey should be my priority and did I really want to spend (at least) two days a week trying to convince myself that such a job had been a really good idea when I wasn't actually doing it and having to drive around South West England finding schools, trebling my carbon footprint, having to buy new workwear and squeeze everything else around two days a week which will definitely involve working during the summer holidays.  I'm glad he thinks things through....

As he was right, I woke relieved that I hadn't fired off an email requesting the job description.  Me and that gun jumping is a dangerous thing.

Instead, I spent the morning at Swindon hospital with J's suspected broken metatarsal.  It wasn't broken and it was quite pleasant for a trip to A&E.  The car park charging machines weren't working - a nice surprise.  I'd taken some sandwiches and a flask, packed my knitting (my new project is another story) and taken the brief for my 2nd year essay (see deadline above) so that I could put together an outline for my tutorial tomorrow.  A couple of hours with nothing else to do apart from knit, write, eat and drink was just what I needed.  They says there's always a silver lining...

I've written something that I'm quite pleased with although I have no idea whether it fits the brief or is detailed/ academic enough.  I'll take it tomorrow and see what happens. 

No run today - am just about to start dinner and do a bit of zumba on the wii while it's cooking.  Running tomorrow though.  A school run run - my least favourite.  I really don't like to be seen doing 'what I call' running!  Not yet anyway.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

let's do the time warp

I watched Jonathan Ross last night, mainly because I like John Bishop and his Scouse vowels (You can take the girl out of the north but you can't take etc....).

I preferred JR when he was on the radio for many reasons.  I watch him sometimes because he gets good guests.  Last night we were treated to John Bishop, Brian Cox (not sure about him on many levels) and three of our female Olympic athletes.

This is where my next rant begins.  It was as if feminism simply hadn't happened.

The athletes looked beautiful but were dressed as if they'd had second pick from the wardrobe of The Pussycat Dolls - all stacked platform stilletos and barely there dresses.  JR asked them about their relationships, their marital status and alluded to the fact that they were all so gorgeous the male guests on the show would be 'sorting themselves out' during the break. 

JR is probably old enough to be these girls' father, if not uncle.  Would he like it if a man of his age spoke to his daughter or his niece like that?  It's not big and it's not clever. 

Has the last hundred or so years of feminism simply become an amusing and ineffectual historical sidenote?

Friday, 6 January 2012

ups and downs....

My chickens have gone. Feathers strewn. I feel terrible. I checked to put them in last night and they were wandering about in the garden enjoying the chilly dusk. I went to pick up J, came home and didn't think about them again. how awful is that? I simply assumed that The Worker had done the honours. A bad start to the day. I've been giving them free rein of the garden for about a month so at least they were having a happy time. I just feel rotten.

On a happier note, I ran for fifteen whole minutes this morning. Not consecutively, of course, two minutes six times with a minute walk in between and a last hurrah of three whole minutes. It didn't make me feel any better about the chickens, I'm just slightly surprised that I'm not an aching heap on the floor. I'm still not convinced this is the exercise that will stick with me but, as they say, so far so good.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

keeping abreast of the issues

I had an impromptu bra fitting the day before yesterday  at M&S in windswept Swindon.  I came away feeling a little shocked.  It appears I am a small B (possibly in some styles an A!).  I had always thought of myself as a B - C.  It appears not.  Is this an age thing?  Quite probably.  I lost a little weight last year and it must have dented my cleavage rather than other areas of my body.

Now, here comes the rant....

I will not, however, be rushing to a cosmetic enhancement clinic for a breast enlargement.  Recent news regarding implants and their safety hasn't influenced me.  I've always thought it was ill-advised and potentially damaging to consider major surgery to remedy some kind of bodily aesthetic fault.  I'd rather spend a few spare thousand pounds on a holiday or going to college, or even something useful like transport or paying off the mortgage.

I wouldn't want to make cosmetic surgery illegal and it's vital that people who require reconstructive surgery after illness, accident or in response to psychological trauma can access it with support of their GP and other health professionals. 

I've just always felt uneasy about the purely cosmetic, the quick nip and tuck, the injecting, the filling, the cutting and sewing up.  If that's how a person wants to spend their money then that's up to them but cosmetic surgery appears to have become much more accessible, much more mainstraim and it's the business element, the marketing element, the normalising of it and the identikit look it seems to produce in its customers that I don't like.  It's the fact that young women are portrayed as almost 'requiring' surgery if they don't conform to a particular beauty fashion.  The current vogue for the big breast, big lip look has transformed some of our most beautiful women into look-a-likes.  Where's the joy without difference, quirkiness and individual beauty?

Listening to the radio reports, there were discussions of how cosmetic surgery clinics, as businesses, were allegedly offering cheaper implants to make more money.  Now, what sort of business is it that not only cuts (let's face it) mostly women up, introduces various chemicals and substances to change / improve their body for large amounts of money and then tries to cut corners?

Cosmetic surgery procedures are usually elective but why are so many of us choosing to undergo surgery in an attempt to assuage our insecurities and worries about our physical appearance?  Surely those doctors and clinic managers are aware that huge, global, international marketing forces are constantly reinforcing the idea that our bodies are not worth it if they don't cost us a small fortune every month to primp, paint, de-fuzz and sculpt into one of their airbrushed specimens? 

Are they not profiteering from the insecurities created by our current cultural obsession with a certain kind of beauty?  Perhaps this crisis will be the beginning of a stocktake of what some of us are doing to ourselves in the name of beauty.

Monday, 2 January 2012

small steps, aching legs

I ran again this morning.  Second time.  That's almost a habit.  We're supposed to be going skiing at half term although there appears to be a distinct lack of snow (let's not think about that).  Whilst watching that rather racy episode of Sherlock last night, I worked out that my programme of running needs to be speeded up so that I can complete it before we go away.  This means squeezing 24 runs in total into 49 days.  I can feel a spreadsheet coming on.

This morning's run felt a little easier although I seem to have peculiar calves and have developed a nagging ache in my hip.  This running malarkey is making me feel old and decidedly creaky but, so I'm told, I need to keep going until running feels good.  By my calculations, this should  be by mid-February.  Let's hope so. 

Today is a gardening and menu planning day.  Tomorrow we start going back to school/work.  All plans will be thrown out of the window!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

things I might do in 2012

I'm not known for my perseverance. I'm interested in many things, too many sometimes. I've decided that 2012 is going to be a year of concentration. I need to focus on my degree, my family and developing my freelance work - writing and teaching. I'm going to think before I rush off to the next thing, the new thing, just because it catches my eye. I'm not going to have the luxury of studying forever. I need to make the most of the opportunities and resources at college.

I have got an urge, however, to start running. The Worker runs. I like the idea of running early in the morning. I started a beginner's programme yesterday. I have achy hips and calves today. Apparently, I need to talk to myself in a positive way and keep going. I hope to follow this very gentle programme for a couple of weeks, just to see if I can.

We shall see.

Got any unexpected activities on your list for 2012?