Saturday, 24 January 2009

Gosh Sarah I am sorry my text about Dirty Dancing and Grease must have been a bit cryptic, they are all very much open to everyone, I just hoping people will telepathically hear my invitations. Anyway, Mama Mia was a hit, with a big crowd and an awful lot of alcohol and awful presents being swapped. Top Gun - had to get it from Blockbusters in the end - was just our housegroup femmes, and apart from Emma we talked throughout. Libby turned out to be our 'Top Gun' being a bit of a swot on the plot and finer details like that. Why was it a 15? It is so tame by today's standards! Not often you hear me questioning a BBFC decision in that direction! On a graph, the trend in numbers attending is taking a steady downward turn, so if I carried on until the end of Feb I would have to be slicing people into fractions and putting one fraction in front of the telly. Anna and Kelly joined me for Grease, a great film and an interesting combo of friends who would never have met were it not for their shared passions for me and John Travolta. So I am expecting about half a person next week for Dirty Dancing. Not one of my own personal favourites, it was voted for by our housegroup women over my preference of Moulin Rouge, deemed ' too sad'. So, Dirty Dancing it is. And all ladies are very welcome.

I would like to point out that, unlike Ang's upcoming women's quiet day, my girls' cinema nights really are what it says on the packet - NO MALES ALLOWED! So, I can only apologise if you are disappointed, gentlemen. But you can always come on the quiet day which is next Saturday, as long as you cover your head and don't speak in public. Seeing as none of us will be talking and its cold so I'll be wearing a hat, you'll not stand out.

On to the weightier issues. As an athlete, I train with rigour and determination in all weathers. Yesterday morning it was raining as we walked to school and I was gutted that I would have a good excuse not to go on my planned training ride. I was going to get the bus into town instead to get some triathlon books out of the library. Hardly the same, but I think it counts. But, when I came out from the family breakfast that Amy's class have once a fortnight, I found that the rain had stopped and I had no excuse for not getting out on the new 'slick' tyres R had lovingly spent Thursday evening putting on my cross training bike, or whatever you call it. Hybrid.

So, I zoomed through Hedge End to Botley, and armed with a very high spec map from Danny, on which the roads are nearly as big as in real life, I turned off down a farm track and across a stile to some lanes, and then via a main road and Curdridge to a lane towards Bishops Waltham. There was a flood and although Lou would have given it a go, I don't trust my undercarriage when its wet so I retraced my pedals, and cut off, intending to get to Wickham (in fact I thought I was nearly there) and found myself back at Botley station. So I headed past the YMCA and along a discouragingly major road to Curbridge, and then Burridge, then down to Swanick and up Tescos Hill to Burseldon and home. All in just over 2 hours, with many many map stops which did me no good at all. I was temptingly close to Whiteley but with my slick tyres I thought I was not best kitted out for a bridleway through woods on a day when roads were flooded, but will give that a go another day when I have my bobbles on.

So, that was a cheap morning of entertainment! Just a banana for company. Today with H and A, plus Joe and Bethanie in tow, we went to the central library, for me to get the aforementioned books to help me in my pursuit of a four minute mile. I also got out Paula Radcliffe's autobiography in the hope of some of her speed rubbing off the pages, I'm reading it with my feet. Interesting, isn't it, that defecating in public has entered the language as 'doing a Paula'? Or is that just me and Ang? Not that we do it regularly, you understand! After the library, the sports centre, where J and B gallantly fell off bikes many times in the pursuit of each other while A and H sweated it out on the ski slopes for their penultimate lesson before the big white trip! Exciting! Not long now! Then to the park at the sports centre, and more riding round a boating pond which would have had Kelly in palpatations as Joe skidded up to the edge. Lunch, then some fiddling around at home and then they all took off for a tour of the parks of Hedge End while I RAN to the gym, swam 20 lenghts front crawl in the outside pool, died in the sauna and then RAN home. Well, I ran the flat bits on the way home, but walked up the big hill of Telegraph road. But, even running there is a big achievement, its 1.5 miles and my first run outside apart from running club at school. I was invoking the power of postive thinking with my mantra 'I can do this!' which seems to work so far. When you swim in the outdoor pool with goggles on you get a much clearer view, the indoor pool is quite murky, and I was initially freaked by seeing so much underwater, and had to scan for dead bodies after watching that Jonathan Creek at Christmas. Luckily for them, no one else ventured outside so didn't have to share the pool with my flailing arms and panting. I have realised that with front crawl it is really important to get the breathing right, ie breathe in when your head is up in the air, not when its submerged. Could see myself floating around down there for years with a few mistimed inhales.
and as not many people head outside in January I could have been there till Easter! Actually, it seems that there is a relationship between percentage body fat and likelihood of going in the outside pool, I rarely see men heading out there, more stout ladies over 50 with plenty of buoyancy and insulation. The men are all in the sauna, I had to huddle in there with 5 of them, and none of them whippet shaped so it was a bit cosy.

Last week Ang and I did one of our bike rides, near Broughton which is west of Romsey. We got badly lost in the car finding the start, and then Ang was really struggling, even on the flat tarmac. After a few miles we swapped bikes, as mine is good ( insurance claim when the old one got nicked from the shed) and her's is a handmedown from a neighbour (probably my old one nicked from my shed!). Immediately I got on her bike I went from heart at resting to serious aerobic activity, but it meant we were better matched, so I carried on, through some serious mud and big hills, only to find out on our return from bike mechanic extraordinaire that the hub was done up too tight, so the wheel did not spin freely, so effectively I did 7 miles with the brakes on.

I am realising the reality of the situation with this being a triathlete - there's no going back, and at the moment in one go I can swim just about the distance without dying and wrap that around with half the running. But how the hell am I going to swim, then get on a bike and do a big ride, and then, and then, oh damn it, go for a run? Just going for a run of 5k is beyond me at present, let alone doing it after the other bits! I need Daley Thompson or George Foreman and his grill or someone to turn up and give me a piggy back!

As you know, from my previous entries if no other more reliable source, our mother ship church are doing a Jubilee year, and particularly in February, are inviting each other to commit to spending the amount of money they would have if they were on benefits, and gfiving the surplus away. On lots of different levels we have had reactions to this, not less because we are no longer around the church, we have had everything second hand and its been a bit of a puzzle. But, we have talked about it at housegroup and actually this week's housegroup was FUN!!!! Haven't heard me say that for a while. The point of this exercise, as I understand it, is to have more money to give away, and to be able to empathise more with people who live on benefits. So, I have had SKY installed and been down the Coop 4 times today for Lucky Dips. HA HA! No, what I have done is look at all our incomes and outgoings and worked out some clever maths which says we have £84 a week to live on, after bills and costs associated with working, and current giving and a few other things. Which is a challenge for me, as I love frugal living anyway and am always eating leftovers. Things we will have to cut down on, bizzarely, include having people round for meals, which is one of the other objectives of the month - but I can't afford to feed 4 mouths, let alone some extras - or can I? The food always seems to stretch. It's made me think about giving, and how if R charged for his time as a bike mechanic and trainer at the bike project, and I charged as a tutor for Emma, we would see that as work, but actually it's kind of part of our giving, as we do it for free. Seeing what we can live on has made me think about all kinds of things about working less and being at home more, and how for me, work is a choice and not a necessity, and there are very few women in the world who are in the priveledged position of having a choice other than reproduction and domestic chores. I work for the my self esteem and happiness, not for the money.

Watching less TV is one of the things that is suggested as a way of redistributing our time. I only watched 1 hour this week anyway, which was Big Chef meets Little Chef, ( plus Grease) but the girls end up watching too much Cbeebies, so I am going to limit them to one pre chosen programme a day for the month. I talked about the reasons, for being together more as a family and playing games and stuff, and they were suprisingly up for it. Taught Hannah rudimentary rummy tonight.

Being members of the Hampshire Club, although its a big extravagance compared to Bitterne Leisure Centre, is actually going to come into its own in this month. Already I rarely shower at home, and the girls and I have not washed our hair anywhere other than at the Club for months, so our hot water bill won't show much of a dip, we could spend more time in the cafe, eating sneakily packed lunches and drinking tea from a thermos, thus using their heating and being able to turn ours off! Also, they take all the daily papers, so I can read there and save on the one I generally buy a week ( £1.50 - all helps!) and the girls can play in their soft play bit while I do the sudoku. And they have a big tv, which mainly shows sports and is wasted on me, but they have a smaller kids TV area and if we time it right we could watch the girls prechosen programme there! And we can cycle there, so free travel and entertainment. One of my neighbours, who is on benefits, was a member for several years, and I wondered at how these facts squared up, but now I know, its actually a money saving device to get all your entertainment, exercise, family time, hand cream, shower gel, hot water and heating in one lump payment. I could even start checking teapots left behind for residue to add to my thermos, but now I AM starting to sound like a character from The Streets of London - a song which is guaranteed to make me cry when I hear it sung in assembly. Gosh, what a humbling exercise this will be for those who choose to have a go and see how much we rely on money. Just to remind you, its a choice and not a cult. No one is telling us to do this or telling us what we do with our money we save - its just to help us think about how addicted we are to our culture, which tells us that we need more, and now! R and I are talking about banning internet purchases during this time too, well, we will have to as £84 will not leave much spare after food. This is a bit mean of me as nearly all our internet purchases are R buying nipples for wheels or spoke adjustors or little gear tweakers or new tyres for my bike(s) - he is doing well with building my road bike from scratch, last night he made the wheels. I am hideously ungrateful, feel like a twerp on a racer and would have a good excuse for coming last if I was doing the race on my normal bike, but as it is with the proper kit I can only blame my own body. Will have to stock up on fake tan if doing it in bikini is de rigeur. Will have to get that Avon order in and back and paid for quick!

Gosh, what a lot of challenges we face this year, but positive challenges for growth and development of us as a family, and me as I quest towards being BBC Sports personality of the year and a team leader on a Question of Sport. I was sad to see that the Jan Rik POOLievet guy had left Saints, I know nothing about football or Saints, except that they are always doing badly, but he seemed like a sweet guy and was making an effort. That's purely from seeing his face on the back of the Echo, I have no idea other than literal face value.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Jo and R have dragged me into the 21st century with my first purchase tonight on itunes. i have a shuffle, which you will recall I ' won' for taking r to the gym. Now, finally I have put some music on it. A rather odd combo, as its for school music lesson. so, my playlist is Radetzky march and Pomp and circumstance. If they try to do that ' People who bought this also bought....' kinda thing on me they are going to have me down as a military band freak! 

Had my very frustrating ski lesson today. 13 people in the group, R had 1:1 tuition, I have 12 other people, some of whom find standing up a challenge, let along skiing. Only had about 10 'goes' which is an expensive way to spend a Sunday. However, all my Pilates paid off with core stability meaning I could stay upright and just about got the turning thing by the end.  Found having a positive mindset helps - if you say 'I can do this' then you can.  Some of the remedial skiers in our group were saying to themselves - out loud! (god alone knows what they say in their heads) - 'I can't do this' ' I will fall over'. They need to read a book on being your own life coach! Your body does what your brain says. So, tell your body to be balanced and stay up and it will. Easy! Have booked my place in the Winter Olympic team next year, I am doing the slalom, biathlon and the rubbing a mop on the ice with a load of big Scottish lasses who shout to mop harder, in some weird northern mop game. Actually, put me down for ice hockey and the 4 man bob and the one where you go on your own on a tray as well. 

Chatted to a nice young guy called Anthony Cross who is a referee in the Conference league. I mention him because he is ambitious and wants to referee in the Premiership. Told him I would look out for him next time I watch football. So, if you are more of a footy fan than me (not hard) keep an eye out for him.

Started watching Mary Poppins, that is a film with some serious things to say about parenting and the role of women in family and society. I should do a sociology dissertation on it. There is a song about the suffragettes and it says your daughters' daughters will thank you, and I agree, and do thank you, and am sorry to say we still have a long way to go on this earth to have women perceived as they should be. So, my fellow females, makes sure you use your vote, on behalf of those who don't have one just because of their gender in many countries today. Don't get me started on this one... I have a hobby horse in the cupboard I use to bash over the heads of female non voters in my life.... they don't stay around for long, or they lie and pretend they give a damn and vote when they don't. 

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Well - sometimes there is so much to tell you I don't get on here, I am so busy doing the things, so I am taking a breath and telling you some news before it stacks up so much I don't have any room at all for it all. 

first things first! My job is finishing on 11 Feb, and I will have to say goodbye to the most adorable and brilliant bunch of Year 3s since the ones I had 2 years ago. Ha! I will really miss them, and as I have a student teacher in the class at the moment I will hardly teach them again after this week. I am sincere, i do adore them and am not being sarcastic, I love teaching Year 3.

Second thing second! I have a long held ambition to do a triathlon, and R and I are doing one, this year, on May 4th. I started training on Monday, and in 3 sessions have already gone from not running EVER to doing 10 mins, then 2 minute break then 3 more minutes on the treadmill running. Its a 5k race so should do it in 30 mins, however it is cross country, so need to get some practising up and down hills. Also, I have never done front crawl (well, not since my Brownie badge) and having got goggles and a swim hat for Christmas I am now in the realm of swimmers that other people nod through, a novelty. I did a few single lengths front crawl last week and thought I would die, but on Monday, and then again Wed and today, I have done 16 lengths, 400m, in 10 mins with only brief stops mid lane or at the end if I have swallowed too much water and am choking. Its fantastic! At the end, I have to stand still and breathe and concentrate on not fainting, but I am loving the challenge of having something to aim for in my training. R is chuffed that he gets to build me a bike from bits in the shed as I apparently 'need' a racer to do a triathlon, so he gets a project, and has said he will stick with me and not run off ahead, or cycle off ahead, so I feel like we are sharing quality time! I am not cycling in my swimming costume, I am going to ask R to track me down some good cycling shorts.  So, will be swimming in them! It says on the form that everyone gets a FREE t shirt, so if they hand them out at the start I will be fully kitted out. So far I have done all 3 disciplines, not full lengths, but not run from the gym to the changing rooms or anything like that, so it will be interesting on the day to see who bothers with moisturiser and hair straighteners after the swim. And do people wear a cagoule if its raining? Or one of those all over bike capes? And if so, do they swim in it?

I will keep you posted on my progress towards London 2012. Tomorrow is my ski crash course (no pun intended) so I will have to interrupt my top athlete training regime to get 'ski fit' and may have a stab at biathlon in the Winter Olympics. I watched it yesterday on the big screen at the gym and have to say that it looks exhausting having to lug a gun around with you on skis. I only popped to the gym to pick the rest of family bowen up yesterday, as i had girls god gang, which as it was only Emma I turned into tutoring her for her SATs, which is a free service I have provided over the years to all children in our neighbourhood in Year 6 at Kanes Hill. But Emma, bless her indeed, has a reading level coming near to A's and the chance of her getting a Level 2 is slim, let alone the all singing all dancing government required 4. I struggle a lot with Emma and family, as they have the odds so stacked against them by circumstance and it is hard to see how anything will make a difference, but as Rupert Bear or Ghandi said, 'Be the change you wish to see'. So, no point moaning about the shit parenting going on round the corner, might as well give her an hour a week of something resembling the family life God intends for all of us. But hey, if you want to gamble your money away on Scratch cards and then send your son round for a tenner for the electric, and can't heat your house and keep your kids warm, why not? I didn't give him any money, by the way, and R said if she had come and asked herself he would have done, but sending your kids begging is a bit low. At times like this (and there have been many) its when you have to decide in a split second how to help someone. I have made, for all kinds of reasons to do with my background and Protestant work ethic, the decision that I don't give money if people ask for it, but try to find other ways to give which I hope help people help themselves. But sometimes that is pious word code for turning a blind eye, and I have to examine my motives constantly. I hope you guys have the same problems, I would love to have someone to talk these things through with - anyone out there???

Today  we had S and D round for tea, and she really is blossoming, I can't say too much but she moved to Southampton to get out of a really shocking marriage, and has kept on meeting Christians and receiving unconditional love and friendship and is now saying she believes god is looking after her and she is not a bad person after all. The miracle of meeting her, of her coming on the weekend away with church and the continuing miracle of her life turning around are evidence that there is a god if you ever wanted any. Or if you don't want to see it like that, there are a lot of kind and good people in the world, which to my mind runs to the same thing. 

We had the pleasure of having Jo stay with us for the best part of this week, she seems to be back in top social form so was off catching up with people, including her dentist, but we still had lots of time to hang out, including a couple of post gym late nights, and a cold but fabulous 6 mile walk near Bishops Waltham, ending with lunch in a totally perfect, country lane, brews its own ale, big garden, pub. Called the Hampshire Bowman, its in the Good Pub Guide and the Good Beer Guide, and now makes an entry on the Bowen loves Bowman Guide! A 2 hour summer evening stroll would be fab out there and after our triathlon when are date nights are not consumed with training I am taking R. Although by then the House House will be stuffed to the gunnels with another baby so maybe our date nights will not be happening for a while... mmm - will have to think about that.

Every ounce counts when you are a top athlete like me, so I make sure most of the ounces I consume are chocolate ones. On Monday I unwrapped the presents from children at school which I had not managed to bring home before Christmas, so have a nice supply of chocs again. Last night was the first of my January cinema nights for the girls. Thats all girls, you included, it was Mamma Mia last night, Top Gun next week, but I don't have a copy. Anyone got one they can lend me? Else I shall have to get R and Duncan to act it out. Anyway, ended up with 8 or 9 of us last night and lots of random foods and drinks made for a good night. 

I saw Winnie  (the nun, not the pooh) yesterday, which is always a big blessing, as being with her and in the peace of the community in which she lives helps to see things as they really are, and it was a time to reflect on many and great blessings in my life. Also went for a dog walk with Lou and Maisy, which is brave of me as I don't think much of dogs, and although Maisy is pretty good (jumps up too much though) I struggle  with all the other dogs she attracts to her bottom, who then get all excited and scamper around and don't follow their owners away. But Lou, like Winnie, helps me count my blessings. Just to clarify, Lou is the owner and Maisy the dog. Not many people are attracted to Lou's derriere, although I guess her husband maybe. I don't know about the scampering around, though.