Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Getting it done!

I have been neglecting my admin! I always do this. Little jobs that need doing pile up, and I have them in the back of my mind, and they fester away and annoy me. Instead of just getting it all done when it first appears I put it off, and put it off, because there are more interesting things to do, such as Bob the Builder jigsaws, and Lego sets. But then I have a mad go at the admin stuff, and get it all done in one go, and find that it's all dealt with within half an hour and there really was no need to keep putting it off and putting it off.

So that's what I've done with the first part of this morning. I couldn't really find an excuse to do a jigsaw, what with all of the kids being out! So I got down to the phoning and form-filling jobs. I finally completed my passport application (now I just need to remember to post it, and not let it sit in the bottom of my bag for three months!). I also completed my replacement driving licence application form - which has been sitting on the kitchen worktop for over three months. I made us all an appointment at the dentist, made an appointment for a lens check for me, and booked the car in for its MOT and service (ouch, horrible expense - paying someone to tell you that your car is fine! Usually - oh dear, I've probably just cursed the poor car, and it will turn out to need some serious welding and a head gasket replacement!)
What else did I do? Oh yes, I sent an email to my old Human Physiology tutor to ask if he thought I would need to do the course again (as the qualification only lasts for five years - I can understand why, to be perfectly honest, because I can barely remember a thing that I learned), and if he thought that I didn't need to do it again, would he give me an academic reference :) My lovely doctor has already said that he will give me a super reference.
I also tried to print off a description and model number for the cooker that we need to ask Comet to order for us. I came across a stumbling block there, because I have no knowledge about things such as dimensions of housings, so I couldn't decide which cooker was the right size and spec. I could work it out, I'm sure, but I'd rather make absolutely sure that I'm right, and get Kev to confirm it for me, before getting it ordered only to have it be the wrong size. But this is the only thing on my list of jobs that has not been done, so I think I've done very well at motivating myself this morning.
It's Hoover's fault that I've neglected these little jobs for so long. We were without a washer for three months, until recently, and every few days I was on the phone, in queues, on hold, on edge, talking to someone at Hoover about getting my washer fixed or replaced. The whole experience was stupid. But I shouted in the end, and got it replaced. I've never been so happy to do washing! My poor dad has had it all for the last three months - thank you, Dad! :) But talking to someone in a call centre so often kind of puts you off using the phone at all for a while.

But I do like admin. I always have. I think that's probably why I'll get a place on the midwifery course, when I eventually apply!! I've heard tales of women getting onto the course and finding that it's not what they thought it was going to be because of all the paperwork. Excellent!! Bring it on. In seven years of working at the University, never once did I tire of filling in a form. Hell, I would fill in forms for other people because they hated doing it. It's in my blood, seemingly - my mum is the same. Give us a form and a nice, non-scratchy, non-blobbing pen, and we'll be happy. Of course, I will enjoy the delivering babies bit :) I wouldn't choose such a physically and emotionally demanding career just for the paperwork. I don't know what it is about this midwifery thing, but I just seem to have supreme confidence about it, like I just know that I'll be good at it, and that I'll be able to make the important people see that I am the best person for the job. I've NEVER felt so confident about anything before, in my life. I feel quite confident about my writing - about the novels that I'm working on anyway; my blog's probably a bit dull at times! - but not as confident as I feel about midwifery. I feel horribly arrogant saying it, but there it is.

Anyway, I'd better get to work on that novel before the morning's over. I've got a lot that I want to get done this week. I'm plugging away at the story, getting it down on paper (yes, by hand, with a pen). But this evening I want to work on some character cards and see if I can get more out of my peripheral characters - there are none that are really making the impact on the story that I'd like them to make. They need to work harder to keep their place in the book! Another Day Off on Saturday, so I'll get a lot of work done then :) I'll be having tea at Verdes with my mum, and she's hoping to see the staff ask me about my writing again. She's considering coming with some work of her own and sitting at a separate table to me to observe!

Monday, 24 May 2010

What can I do?

We did the camping thing this weekend. It was good. Yes, I think about the weekend, now, and have fond memories, despite the fact that there was much grumpiness and arguing (children and adults alike!), much sweating and melting, and much effort needed to put up and take down the massive tent in the sweltering heat. (Yes, I know that some readers - Jamie - experience temperatures like this in the winter probably, but it's sweltering for us! ;) ). Camping in a mini heatwave is not the best idea, for someone like me who really doesn't do well in temperatures over 20˚c. But we'd promised the kiddy-winks, so we had to do it - I can imagine them talking about us in years to come, saying 'yeah, our parents were quite nice, but they did make a lot of promises that they were too lazy to keep'! I'm not having that!
The boys were fantastic when they were not whining, and they made plenty of new friends. Thomas always does make friends, and James usually tags along being shy. But it was wonderful to see James make some friends of his own. There was Thomas on one side of the field playing football with some bigger boys, and there was James on the other side messing about by the water tap with some boys more his own age. Matthew didn't really seem inclined to be sociable this time. He was quite content to stay around our little camp when Kev and I were getting food ready and stuff. He did run off a few times, but it was cool, because the camp site is so secluded that he couldn't run off to anywhere dangerous. So he was able to run free, and I'd eventually go and get him when I'd finished what I was doing.
And dirt? Oh, well, there's nothing more beautiful than sitting down around the camp fire in the early evening, looking at three tired and filthy boys, and knowing that they've had a good time just running around and getting covered in dirt :) We all got pretty mucky - there's just no sense in trying to keep clean when you're camping.

But, oh! The best personal experience for me, by far, was this:
I didn't want to go into the shower block to have a shower because there was a gigantic beetle type thing in there. I was okay for the first day, I managed to go to the loo, to do some washing up in there and not run out screaming, because I saw the beetle, it wasn't moving and I could keep an eye on it. But the next day it had disappeared, and I just KNEW that if I went into the shower it would be waiting for me, and it would fall into my hair - just like that scene with Goldie Hawn in 'Bird on a Wire' when she gets landed on by a cockroach! But on Sunday morning my hair was so greasy, you could have rung it out and used the drippings to fry a plateful of chips. Something had to be done. The morning before I had seen someone brushing their teeth at the water tap in the corner of the field, so I decided that I was going to wash my hair there. I had two teeny travel bottles of Tresemme, so I stuffed them into the waistband of my pyjamas, and stomped over to the tap. I turned the tap on, and it was so lovely and cool - it wasn't freezing, because the pipe was above ground and the water in it was warmed just a little by the sun. Ordinarily I doubt I would dream of washing my hair in cold water, but the weather was scorchio, and I just didn't care. So I stuck my head under the tap, and my goodness, it was good. The best feeling I've experienced in a long time, and I felt a huge grin spread right across my face. I stayed there for as long as I could, washing, lathering, conditioning (yes, I even conditioned!), and washing my face and neck at the same time. I really did not want to turn the tap off, but had to eventually. Oh, just heavenly. Cold water, clean hair. It may be a little sad that this will be my abiding memory of the weekend, but I'm a woman of simple pleasures :D

So, next time we go camping, perhaps in a few weeks, it will hopefully not be quite so hot. But at least if it is hot I will have the hair washing to look forward to!

Anyway, as is usually the case when we've been somewhere, I start to wonder about what we can do next. Then I start to think 'sod the rest of my family, what can I do next?' because I am a very selfish being. And then I was reading one of the blogs that I follow, and the author takes trapeze lessons. So that's what I want to do - I had a look at some videos, and it looks fantastic. But then I have a Google, and find that the only place I could get lessons is in London, and that place doesn't even do catches, just swinging. So trapezing is out, for now - I'll bear it in mind for future achievements, say when I'm 60.
But what can I try instead? I like climbing and jumping off high things, so my mum has suggested this balancing on a telegraph pole type thing (can't remember what she called it). Will look into that. But I want more. I don't want to get into daft extreme sports, not parachute jumping for me. Not bungee jumping either. I guess I just like being in trees. Maybe I could find somewhere where I could get really high in the trees, like they do in the rainforests, with all those pulleys and harnesses and stuff. Do we have really high trees in the UK? Mmmm, possibly not. So, any ideas? We've got archery on the list of things to do, but there's not much adrenaline involved with that one. Skiing is also on the list - some adrenaline involved there. More tattoos too - lots of adrenaline for that one! No falling though - falling is needed. Anyone know of any activities that I could do that involve falling and leaving your stomach behind you when you drop? Maybe I need to take up Parkour ( - here's a site, with some videos on it). Yes, Parkour could be good. Noomski fancies it too.

Well, I'd best get on with some work before it's time to collect the two little guys from nursery :)

Have fun today.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Life is beautiful ... but I wouldn't read this post if I were you, Mum!

It might be boring to read about, but our lives, at the moment, are just plodding along in a nice sort of way. Being happy doesn't tend to involve too much drama at times, and quite often there's nothing really to write about except a few nice things have happened in the day. So sorry about that! Just more dull photos of my garden, and my kids :)
The days are mostly about the garden at the moment, because we're in it all the time. The boys are really enjoying getting to do a bit of digging and planting (because I can't stay away from the garden centre at the moment - really have to stop buying, else I'm going to be going to Barbados in rags, and my children will be eating beans on toast for tea from now until Christmas; but at least they'll have a pretty garden to look at while they're eating!)
We were planting out the new bedding plants that I bought yesterday (erm, let me see, verbena, dianthus, lobelia, and ... something else; acanthus? Not sure), and we literally stumbled upon this little nest of spiders! Now, I am getting better and better all the time with creepy crawlies. At one time, not very long ago at all, I would run screaming from any sign of a spider, and I would certainly be very nervous about going into the garden when I knew it was big spider time. But I've been working on desensitising myself, because I absolutely will not allow my phobia to be passed onto my children if I can help it at all. So I've been allowing myself to be exposed to spiders to a small degree. I'm now very good at leaving them alone whenever they appear from under the couch in the living room - as long as I can see that they've skittered away to a nice dark and cool corner away from me, I can carry on with whatever I was doing without giving them a second thought. I can now also go to sleep if there's a little one on the ceiling of my room. And I can do the thing with the glass and the card if I need to remove one from the house. Still no go with moths, butterflies and crane flies - not sure I can ever get over those irrational, hysterical fears. I had the heeby-jeebies at Wildlife Oasis a few weeks ago because I had to walk past their enormous moth. I hyperventilated. Silly cow! It's very annoying, but I can't help it.
But anyway, here's the nest of spiders, which I can very happily look at - I even think they're cute :) They cluster together in a tight little spider bundle (for warmth, protection, what?), and when you agitate the grass next to them they instantly spread out, scurrying in all directions and looking as if they've been caught slacking on the job: 'quick, they've seen us having an unauthorised tea break, everyone, back to work!'. There are two little nests: one is right at the edge of the lawn, so they'd better have moved out by the time I need to cut the grass again! And the other is on our astilbe (which is just starting to flower, and is very beautiful, a rich dark pink). Anyway, so, part of the reason I am okay with these baby spiders is that we call them 'Charlotte's Babies', as in Charlotte's Web. And since I think that Charlotte is beautiful - both in the book, and in the film in which Julia Roberts provides the silky voiceover - Charlotte's Babies are also beautiful to me. Not so sure how I will feel when they get much bigger, but I will continue to visit them every day so that I'm not suddenly shocked when I see a garden full of ginormous eight-legged beasts. I absolutely could not kill them, since I know they will deal with the flies for us.

This is our new acer. We've got a thing for acers. They so very, very elegant. I would have a garden full of them if I could afford it. At the moment we have three. Two are in pots, and usually get eaten half to death by black fly before Summer has really arrived. They're not looking too bad this year though. But I thought I'd try planting one out and seeing if it fared better. I want to see how big it will get.

James playing football in the garden. He loves to play football. He's very easy to keep entertained in Spring and Summer :) We are going to let Thomas and James start football training on a Friday evening from September - they're very excited. Matthew will scream the place down because he's not old enough!

My beautiful middle son - who has in no way developed Middle Child Syndrome, I'm very pleased to report! Very happy and secure little boy, as you see. Does have an unfortunate habit of wearing his hat and sunglasses in such a way as to push his ears into a Shrek-like formation though, bless ;)

And just because we like to be fair, here is a picture of Matthew. At about 4am today Matthew woke up, heartbroken and complaining of a sore tummy. Matthew had been sent to bed without tea or pudding, because he had refused to eat anything for an hour. I guessed that he just wasn't particularly hungry yesterday. But he was starving at 4am! Having learnt from last time that he would whimper for the next two and a half hours if I didn't give him a little something, I let him have a piece of dry bread and a drink of water. It was very funny to watch - he kept dropping off with bits of bread sticking out of his mouth, and I had to keep nudging him awake so that he could finish it. I think he will eat his tea tonight though.

Fearless Thomas. Likes to spend quiet moments at the top of the climbing frame. I think he wishes that the climbing frame was a good bit higher, so that he could see over the rooftops. I'd love to take him for a proper scramble up some of the peaks in the Lakes some time.

The garden centre :) Our favourite place at the moment. I remember trips to garden centres being very dull when I was a kid. I don't think we spent a lot of time in them, but I remember the sinking feeling of being doomed to an afternoon of dullness whenever they were mentioned. I don't know why my children love them so much, but I don't think there are many children who will shout out 'yay, garden centre' whenever a trip to one is suggested as a fun way to spend an afternoon. They are actually, genuinely interested in the plants, and ask the names, and feel the leaves, and smell the flowers and the herbs. My kids are a little weird at times - I love that :)

So, that's what's going on here. Not much, same old. But having lots of fun family time. We're hopefully going off for a little camping trip this afternoon, and should be back on Sunday. We might be back tonight if the site is full! I phoned and left a message of enquiry about whether we needed to book, but I've not had a call back yet, so we'll just turn up and hope I think. Could have done with a better night's sleep last night, considering the fact that I don't get much sleep in a tent. But never mind - I'll get sleep next week. Pah! Who needs sleep anyway? Sleeps for wimps!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Garden birds, and how they're difficult to photograph when you don't have a telephoto lens

We've been enjoying watching the birds in our garden this week. There are masses of them around at the moment, and it's absolutely fascinating to watch them. They seem to have very definite patterns of feeding, and you could almost set your watch by some of them. It's worrying when you don't see a certain bird for a little while, and you start to assume that it's been eaten by a cat! But so far they've always made it back eventually. Mind you, we can't tag them so we can't be sure the same birds do come back. Here are some of them.

Blackbird eating worms.
Not a bad picture of one of our goldfinches. We have lots, all day. They're costing me a fortune in thistle seeds! Love them though :) They shout at us at around tea time if we're still out in the garden making a lot of noise, because they want to come in for their tea. Recently they've been coming in anyway, even if we're still there! Wow! It's amazing, and we all sit very still and hold our breath while they eat. Sometimes Matthew forgets to be quiet, and he shouts something and they fly off. But they always seem to forgive him, and they come back the next day. Aren't they beautiful? I can recognise them when they're flying now, even though I can't see their colours. And I can recognise their calls too.
We're not sure if this is a female greenfinch or a siskin; both look similar in the book we have. I've not been able to get a clear enough picture to make out the colouring properly. It doesn't come to visit very often, but you can spot it easily when it does, because it's such a vivid green. The colour hasn't come out too well in this photo.
A goldfinch from the back. They always come in pairs, and this one's mate is on the other side of the feeder.
A blue tit in the tree behind our garden. This one used to just turn up very occasionally, but lately it's been coming every day. Yesterday, while we were out in the garden being very quiet, we were joined by this blue tit, a great tit, and a coal tit as well. When we see a new bird in the garden I get whopper goosebumps, it's so exciting. For next Spring we're going to move our bird box to a better place, and hopefully we'll get something to nest in it.
Another of the goldfinches. It's difficult to say how many pairs visit us, because they could just be one pair that comes several times a day. But there are always plenty of them around, and one of the trees behind our garden is packed full of them at around sunset.

So, apologies for the not-very-good photos of the birds that frequent our garden, but I'm working on it. I'd like to get a telephoto lens for my camera, but the adapter alone is more than I can afford, so I'm going to have to save up. After I've paid for the trip to Barbados for Noomski and Jessica's wedding, my savings account can be used for a new lens and adapter :) (No credit card for me, no way!)
It's not just the camera that's the problem, of course. The birds themselves are very difficult to photograph with just your ordinary digital camera with a 4x optical zoom! They don't stay for very long, so if you've left the camera upstairs you've no chance of retrieving it in time. The camera is always guaranteed to be handy when there are goldfinches in the garden, because although we love them dearly, we have plenty of photos of them. The camera will mysteriously disappear when there's an unidentified green bird in the garden, or an elusive coal tit. But I'm being very patient, and I'll get some good photos one day. Sometimes it's just nice to watch them, without getting snap happy :) Sometimes you have to stop photographing, and get on with doing.

Monday, 17 May 2010

I'm fighting!

I was all in the mood for writing a right good blog entry today, but I've been struck down, *raises hand to brow in dramatic gesture of woebegone-ness*. I'll try to make it still good, but please be aware that I can't hear properly, feel like I've got cotton wool stuffed in my ears, and said ears are starting to ache a lot. Think I might possibly have an ear infection. But I shall persevere - it's only a piddly little thing, and I shall be thankful I haven't got anything worse :) (Good excuse not to go for planned run!! Will go tomorrow instead if Sudafed works on the ears...)

So. Had a productive few days, particularly in the garden :) On Friday afternoon my dad came round for a cuppa, and we sat in the garden. I don't know what my dad was thinking, but I was thinking that it wasn't really all that pleasant to be sitting out in our garden, because it was such a state. The grass was starting to get noticeably overgrown, and there were masses of weeds in the borders, and the whole place was just strewned with toys. So I sat and made a list of jobs to be done outside. Well, yesterday I finished half of the jobs on the list! Yes, me! I did! Usually I am very lazy when it comes to getting jobs done that don't involve sitting down and doing some reading or writing. Essentially, all the hobbies and occupations that I indulge in require very little in the way of physical exertion, other than lifting a pen - though the very act of lifting a pen many times over can be quite dangerous, and I do suffer from repetitive strain injury in my wrist at times (but please, don't worry about me, I have glucosamine gel, and it's very effective).

So, I grafted yesterday afternoon: I mowed the lawn, after I'd strimmed its edges; I played with my new hoe, and tilled the soil in the borders (James, Matthew and Thomas were very helpful indeed, and took out all of the big stones for me - you'll see what they did with them later); I mulched, three big bags of compost all spread out over my old and sad looking top soil, now looking very neat; I watered everything, with much more water than was necessary, because nothing has been watered at all this year, and I have a terrible tendency to forget to do it; I fed-and-weeded the lawn, and then watered in the little granules, bless them. There is still much to do, but it was a good start. The rest of the jobs will take rather longer, because they're bigger jobs. We thought of a plan for our new fence panels - we're going to mural them, and I've had a wicked idea. Some may think that it's rather tasteless, but we think it will be well cool! I'll not say anything more about it until we've begun to implement the plan, except to say that it's going to take a lot of planning.

So here is the garden, as it looks right now (whether it will stay looking so neat is another thing!):

This is the border on the left, the less well-stocked border, the one that needs some more plants.

This is the border on the right, the one that is a bit more established, on account of it being a year older than the other one. The tree closest to us is a ceanothus. The shrub furthest away is a spiraea, and it's also called a Bridal Wreath (I showed a picture of it in flower a couple of weeks ago, flowers all gone now :( )

The lawn, and the shed :) The lawn often has stripes on it, going in different directions, depending on what kind of shape the boys have been making out of decking boards on it.

The view from the shed. We built the patio, when Thomas was an only child. The patio is usually a mess, and could do with a good pressure-wash.

This is a little pine tree that we have in the left border. It's going to take many, many years to reach its full height, as it grows approximately 1cm a year! We've had it two years, and I only know that it's grown because I've seen its new growth appear in the spring, like in this photo.

A rhododendron that my grandma bought me last year. It's a dwarf rhododendron, and it's apparently lucky to have survived in our rubbish soil! And, best of all, I spelled rhododendron all by myself just now, without having to ask anyone, or look in a dictionary!

This is a pieris. We have three varieties of pieris in the garden, and they're all this variegated leaf, that begins life in this gorgeous ruby red colour. I love them, and I think the leaves at this stage look delicious.

This is the miraculous new growth on the broom that I thought I'd killed! I 'pruned' the broom a few months ago, and by pruned I mean that I looked at the bush that was almost as tall as me, and almost as wide as I am tall, and I thought that it could do with a trim, so I took my secateurs and I cut everything off it and left three or four naked woody branches at a new height of roughly twelve inches! I thought it had died. My dad looked at it and advised me to peel back a little bark, because it did look completely dead. I peeled back the bark, and there was green underneath, but I really thought that it was going to die. But lo! It has risen again, like a phoenix from the ashes, and a miracle has come to pass, in my very own back garden! Never again shall I doubt the power of the mighty broom :)

This is the weeny little greenhouse that I bought the other day. It's all nicely steamed up, and the plants that were dying of thirst on my kitchen windowsill may yet survive. It's a bit late for seeds now, but I've got a few more that I'd like to try (I'll just plant a few of them, and save the rest for next year, just incase it really is too late), and the heat in this little hot house is incredible so they may still work. It's not the prettiest thing in the garden, but it's practical.

Some pots. Hmm, you can see what we're trying to do here, on the patio, but I think we need more. You can never have enough potted plants on your patio. And probably a chimenea as well.

And this is where the stones from the borders went; along with the weeds, and some grass cuttings, and some bits of wood. And you can see, quite clearly, that the boys have created a veritable haven for the local wildlife, and I'm sure that in no time at all we will have a little family of newts, and maybe we might even attract some passing koi!

Here we have one of the messy areas of the garden, this is the sand pit, apparently ...
it's on the list, don't worry!

So, there you have it, our garden. Very, very pleasant to spend time in. And when we've finished making it completely beautiful we will be working on the front garden, which is rubbish. We wish that we could move to a new house, but take our garden with us.

The productive mood continued today, incidentally: I wrote another thousand words of my book :) Very pleased with myself this week. Now, if I can just drag my lazy butt out for a run tomorrow evening, I will consider myself worthy of canonisation after my death (I don't mean that I should be fired from a canon, of course).

Night all.

Ooh, I'm right in the mood for a couple of episodes of The Waltons now ...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Spending time

Mmm? Oh yes, cakes. We made them, me and the boys, a couple of days ago. What's that? Oh no, I'm sorry, they've all gone. If I'd known you liked cakes I could have saved one for you. Sorry. Maybe next time.
Sorry, what was that? Were they good, did you ask? Oh yes, they were delicious. Very light, and moist, with very fine frosting on top. And the Skittles were just the perfect fruity finish.
Pardon? Oh, how did we make them without the aid of a food processor, because our food processor is broken? Oh, well, we made them the way we usually make them because I don't like the food processor anyway. We made them the lovely old fashioned way, with a wooden spoon and a big ceramic mixing bowl. Good for the biceps. So you burn off some calories whilst mixing, and then you don't have to feel guilty about eating the cakes. Perfect.
We're going to make some more in a few days. If you pop in for a visit, you may get to sample one, with a cup of tea :)

Yes, I thought it was about time we stopped turning the telly on when the young ones come in from school and nursery, and actually do something productive and fun with our time. I've been in one of my lazy spells for a few weeks, letting the kids convince me that watching telly was a good idea on week days because they were too tired to do anything else, thus leaving me free to ignore them and read my book! Terrible, terrible! Guilt, guilt - I'll get over it quickly though, I'm not the type to dwell on my bad mothering :) Once I've realised that I'm not performing at my best, I much prefer to put my energy into getting on with something fun and educational to make up for being a lame mother, rather than wallowing in a slough of self-flagellation and still achieving nothing.
So this week has seen the return of Super-Mum. She hadn't gone as far away as she had when I was reading Twilight twice over for three weeks! She'd only really gone to the end of our road, so she was still really within earshot. I shouted her back on Monday morning, and she came quite willingly. Since she came back, James and Matthew have produced a whole gallery's worth of drawings. James has really got to grips with writing his name, and he's also able to write the numbers one to five, in figures. Matthew is trying to copy, which is just marvellous - he'll be writing his name way before he goes to school if he keeps up this level of interest. Super-Mum also made plans for beautifying the garden, with plenty of jobs to keep the kids interested and happy. She bought a little green house yesterday, and the kiddoes helped to assemble it, by running around the sunshiney garden with the poles, pretending to be skiing. Super-Mum still needs a little time to get going properly, as she's had to sit down for a few cups of tea (with cake!) this week. But next week should be great - there might even be some story time, and some time for playing games, and maybe even some going out on bikes time.

Have a good weekend, all.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A running post

11th May, 2010

Yes, I went for a run. I mean, I don't know why, because I hate running. It hurts. It hurts before you do it, because you get this dull feeling in the pit of your stomach in anticipation of the actual physical pain you're going to make yourself feel very soon. And then it hurts while you're doing it, 'pounding the pavement' as they say, feeling the impact on your joints - particularly the knees - feeling the burning in your chest, the stitch in your side because you didn't leave enough time between eating and running, the stiffness that threatens to turn into cramp in your calves. And it even hurts when you stop (though it's nice at the same time), and then you struggle to walk because your muscles have turned to jelly. Although, I don't stop once I've started, until I get to the end. This is because stopping is such a relief that it makes it harder to carry on, for me. If I stopped half way through a run I know that I would walk the rest of the way; therefore, I don't stop.

But do I really hate it as much as I say? Probably not. I do feel good about myself today. It was very satisfying to surprise Kev by coming downstairs in my running stuff and saying 'I'm just popping out, back in half an hour.' He was struck dumb! And then he was struck dumb once more when I did arrive back home less than half an hour later :) I did three miles in twenty-seven minutes. I was very pleased with that - when I was running four years ago I didn't go that fast. I think I was probably being too cautious four years ago. I was running with a heart rate monitor, and I was sticking to a certain rate as much as possible, the rate that was supposed to ensure optimum performance. But I think I will just use my lungs as a guide to how fast I can manage to go - if I get pain in them and start to struggle to breathe, I will slow down a little (not stop, never stop!); if my lungs are feeling fine, I'll carry on as I am.
Today I feel good. I know I will have pain tomorrow, but it'll be interesting to see how bad it is. I've got achiness in my legs, and they're a little wobbly when I've been kneeling on the floor, but nothing as bad as I expected.

12th May, 2010

The pain arrived in the thighs and the muscles around the hips at about 8.30pm last night, around the time that David Cameron was leaving Buckingham Palace after being offered a new job by the Queen. The pain was quite considerable, but I stretched my legs a good bit, and all was well. So I'm thinking that I might go for another run this evening. Ugh. The thought of that amount of physical exertion makes me feel a little sick. But I will keep the thought of the feeling at the finish in my mind and I will make myself do it. I have to get into it properly if I'm going to manage to run the Paras 10 in October.

This is the Paras 10. But I will certainly not be doing it with a pack on my back, and I certainlywill just be wearing normal running gear. Perhaps the sight of these strapping young men will spur me on to a faster time though :D

So I was thinking about having a bash at the London Marathon one year as well. I've been saying it for several years now, but have never actually tried to get in. Noomski would love to do as well, and so would Kev. And I think my mum would probably have a bash also. Of course, I'd love to get a good time as well, something under three hours would be nice - although, of course, completely unrealistic! Keeping up eight or nine minute miles for twenty-six of them is probably a bit of a tall order for a beginner. But under four hours should certainly be possible... err, but perhaps I should keep my mouth shut about that for now! Noomski would get a good time - he can run for miles and miles, could probably do two marathons back to back on the same day without too much trouble, after a bit of training. He once set off for a wee run one day and found that he'd done twenty-six miles by accident! Weirdo.

So, there's a new Conservative Prime Minister, and a coalition government, but we can still carry on with our lives as if the election never happened. It was exciting to watch, but now I'd like to get on with what I was doing before, which largely involved ignoring politicians and just doing what makes me and my family happy. Well, I've added running, which doesn't make me particularly happy - but it does make my body work more effectively, thus allowing me to achieve more happiness-inducing activities.

Back to work on the book now - ttfn.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Photos, as promised.

Here are the photos of the weekends jollities :)

This is Thomas, being very daring, on a little ride. James didn't fancy it.
Matthew and Thomas enjoying a bit of trucking. James didn't fancy this one either.
James opted for a bit of 'Hook a Duck' - much safer (thought perhaps not for the poor goldfish! We did not take a goldfish, obviously.)
James did eventually decide to brave a ride on the little rollercoaster ... he loved it!
Thomas was very enthusiastic about the rollercoaster, but changed his mind once it set off ... he will not be going on it again!
Can you see my arm waving, up at the top there?
Matthew wanted to win a prize too.
Thomas, James and Matthew watching the sandmartins swooping in to the sandy bank.
Noomski running to greet the sheep and cows.
Trekking through the Amazonian Jungle!
There wasn't much to climb on our walk, so we just climbed or balanced on anything we could find :)
The boys reached their limit close to the end of the walk.
Matthew dropped something, so I had to crouch to pick it up!
Lots of fun :)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Does it really matter?

So we've had an election, and it's still going on, and we're all very excited, and I've been watching it avidly, and will continue to watch for as long as it takes for things to be resolved - which may be many months! Hmm. But apart from people who are actually genuinely interested in politics to the extent that they keep up to date with the broadsheets daily, and apart from politicians themselves, are the rest of us really that bothered what happens in a general election? Does it have such an impact on our lives that the possibility of a new government should have us seriously worried about how poor we're all suddenly going to become, or make us thoroughly overjoyed because things are suddenly going to get better for everyone and we'll all finally be very happy? In other words, does politics really matter? Do politicians ever really make a difference? Or is it possible, gasp, that we can in fact get on with our lives without having anything to do with the whole silly business?
To be perfectly honest with you, I've been watching it mostly for the entertainment factor. When the results came in I was glued to the news all day, because it was riveting. I had ummed and ahhed for a long time about who I was going to vote for, yes. I was mostly trying to decide who would help my grandparents to be more comfortable, and who would make schools better. But I went completely with my heart in the end - I voted for the Green party, and then I joined said party :) I knew when I placed my crosses in the boxes that neither of the Green candidates had a hope of being elected, but I knew that for me it was the right thing to do. And I was pleased and proud of myself, for not being swayed by anyone in my decision. We're all different, aren't we, and we all vote for different reasons? To me, my vote isn't about trying to get someone into office who will change my life - because that's an unrealistic expectation. Politics doesn't change our lives - we do. Politics might alter the amount of money we have, but it's still up to us what we do with it. So my vote is about who I am, and it's about what I believe in, and what I think is important (as I'm sure it is for everyone who doesn't vote tactically, of course!)
So, politics was soon forgotten about on Saturday, when we went to look at a beautiful house that we thought we might like to buy. We didn't even think about Mssrs Cameron, Brown and Clegg when we went to the fairground in the afternoon. And not a political thought flitted across our brains when we went for a long and leisurely walk in the countryside on Sunday. A very productive and fun-filled, politics-free weekend.
The house that we looked at was excellent. We cannot put an offer in though, because when we looked at it we realised what a state our own is! Purely cosmetic, but since first impressions matter enormously when selling a house, we need to sort it out. So we have plans to get it in a fit enough state to put on the market. We're going to have a few weeks of tidying and titivating, and then we'll give it a try - perhaps! Kev keeps having doubts - very valid doubts. He wonders whether we should stay where we are for another couple of years, at least until I'm bringing in some money. But we'll tidy the house up anyway, while we're still deciding - nothing wrong with a tidy house, whether you're selling it or not. It all just needs a good paint and a clean, lots of elbow-grease (whatever that actually is!) and love. And you never know, when it's looking beautiful again, we might actually decide to keep it. Oh, but I would love to buy the house we saw this weekend - it was ideal. Very big, lots of rooms, beautiful garden, nice location. Hmmmmm.
At the fairground we had a great time. I've never really been to the fairground at the park before, though it's been there every summer for decades. I guess it was because we were always too poor to be able to go on rides! The boys went on a few things, and we all went on the wee rollercoaster (Thomas hated it and felt sick). I went on the 'big' wheel with Kev's mum Jackie. It was quite lurchy! But fun :) Jackie clamped her hand on my arm and I think she was quite terrified at first, but she settled down after a couple of revolutions. I was a little disappointed that no-one would go on the ghost train with me, but I think James would have had nightmares for a few weeks if I'd dragged him on it. Maybe next year :) The boys were delighted with their prizes from the Hook-a-Duck stall - they all chose a very excellent archery set, which I have to say I'm most impressed with: not at all the usual tat you might expect to win at a fair. The boys were firing their arrows at shiny surfaces at every opportunity yesterday, and now the telly, a few pictures on the walls and some windows have nice squelchy marks on them from where the suckers stuck. Mmmm, that's nice.
Yesterday, Sunday, we went to the Crook o' Lune again. We decided to take the walk at a more leisurely pace this time - though we still didn't get to be as leisurely as we'd have liked, because we had Noomski and Jessica with us, and they seemed to get a little bored if we stayed still to watch birds or cows or anything for too long! I think they found our ways rather amusing, and were laughing every time I took my camera out to film some jumping fish, or some swooping herons. Noomski asked what had happened to me, and said that I used to be cool, but am not cool any longer because I know the names of some birds and about the habits of a little bit of wildlife! It's nice to be entertaining :D And it was nice having them along with us though, as they were good company, and it was more fun with a bigger party. I hope they will walk with us again - though I'm not sure they will, because they were very tired afterwards, and seemed to be lacking a bit of stamina!!! (I wonder if they will read this, *wicked laugh*.)
So, it's back to work on the book today. I've neglected it for a few days, and am rather behind schedule now, so I have some catching up to do. I needed to blog though - I have written four posts about the election over the last few days, and have deleted them all because they were too ... political (for 'political' read 'dull'!)

Oh, apologies for the lack of photos of the weekend. I haven't got them on my computer yet, because they're on Kev's new camera, and I can't spare the time to download them just now. I will post some this evening - a separate photographic entry for you.

And oh, I caught myself moaning about the weather this morning, and then remembered that I had posted about enjoying the rain and cold, on account of it reminding a person that they are alive - so I gave myself a telling off and then pulled my hood down and let the rain get in my hair! Ooh, what a rebel!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Some changes, and tree climbing

I've changed my blog :) Sorry if you don't like it, but I was finding that the long thin layout was giving me repetitive strain in my wrist on account of having to scroll up and down all the time! So I fancied this more spacious layout, that gives a person a little room to breathe and stretch.

But I've a feeling that more changes are coming this year. I'm not actually going to say what they might be, because I'm not at liberty to do so yet (oooh, are you intrigued?!) - but I do think there's going to be a period of transition in the second half of this year. (I sound like I'm reading a horoscope! Sorry :D ) Lots of decisions to be made about books, careers, houses, college courses, and all kinds of things. And I'm looking forward to finding out what comes next. I think I've been getting a bit frustrated at life staying the same for a bit too long now. It's not good to stagnate, is it? I don't want things to change too much, because life is good, but I think things could just do with a bit of a shake up. It's time to start getting out into the world a bit more, at weekends, exploring and seeing the world properly. Whenever I think of my little family going walking I always imagine us high up, at the summit of a wee mountain, seeing the curve of the Earth on the horizon and getting a good sense of what's going on below us. It's like my dream flying, and I feel a bit like one of Terry Pratchett's small gods; I want to get up high so that I can evaluate my little patch of world, see what needs doing and then make plans to sort it out. (What am I on about?!) Anyway, big changes coming - I can taste them in the air!

Something I would really like to do more of is tree-climbing. I don't mean in the same way as we did at Go Ape, with harnesses and wires and all that gubbins. I mean just climbing trees, like kids used to be allowed to do in parks. I climb trees wherever I can. I can't help it. If I see a climbing tree I have to climb it, before my children even think of it. I get competitive about it too - if Thomas sets off up the tree, I have to climb it faster, and I have to get up higher. There's a nice tree to climb in the park, across the road from my grandma and grandad's house. It's not massive, but it's got thick, long branches that stretch right out to the side, and you can sit several people along them side by side. The tree in today's photos is at Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland. I can't remember the age of the tree, but it's very old; but also very beautiful, don't you think? Kev and I climbed it as high as we could. And then the thing about climbing a tree is that I don't really want to come down once I'm up there. I could just sit there, with a book, swinging my legs for hours on end. I could happily take a flask and a sandwich with me and spend one of my days off up there. I really don't know what it is about a tree, but it's absolutely one of my favourite places to be; perhaps actually even my No.1 favourite place to be. I didn't discover that I could climb trees until a couple of years ago. I thought I'd be rubbish at it, with my weedy arms and general lack of strength and fitness. But I found that I'm much stronger than I imagined - probably due to having been lifting and keeping up with three small children for the last six years running (who needs gym membership?!). I climbed a nice tree when we had our walk along the river the other day. The first branch was quite high up and I thought I was going to have to give up because my legs wouldn't quite stretch far enough. But in the end I used my arms to pull myself up just enough to get that first foothold and then I was away. I was very impressed with myself. Kev likes to climb as well, though I'm not sure he feels quite the same pull towards the tree as I do. It's a strange thing. Just a shame that there aren't more good climbing trees around here. I wish we had a good one in our garden. When I lived up the road at my dad's house our next door neighbours had a super climbing tree - it was an apple tree, with a tyre swing on it. And it had long branches that made really good seats, and there was a space for each of us four kids to sit on - me and Noomski, Caroline and Darren :) Ah, good times, good times...
If we ever do move house I think that a decent climbing tree in the garden will be a prerequisite - for the boys, for the boys, of course!