Thursday, 30 December 2010

I have another place to vent my cycling fury on the public - the Rapha Festive 500 which you can find on google, but its a bit late now as it has finished. as usual, can't say too much in case my C plus blog is compromised by world leaders etc looking here first, instead of going to the C plus one and getting convinced on the way they want to subscribe. But the bare bones of it is this.

22 Dec I find out about the Rapha 500
23 Dec I start the Rapha 500
today I finish the Rapha 500.

What is it, I hear you cry? It is a challenge, for love, not charity or any other reason, apart from that 500 of the people who do it win a badge. I have cycled 500km since 23 Dec. That is this year, not last year. I did 485km without a puncture. I cycled to and from Granny Mary's house, from our house. I cycled all over the place in Surrey and Hampshire. I did a minimum of an hour and a half of cycling every day. I cycled when it was below freezing and there was ice on the roads and I cycled through fog. I am like a modern day Forrest Gump but on a bike. I also have very tight hamstrings and quads and thighs that would make a rugby prop's eyes water they are so muscle bound. I am thinking that the England rugby team might give me a call if they need any real clout in their forward line, or whatever you call it. Probably, I haven't tested this yet, my thighs are so muscley that my jeans won't fit. I have been wearing up to 5 layers to keep warm on all this cycling business, and have had to do a lot of washing to keep myself in clean ish cycling specific clothing. I finished today and am having a day off tomorrow. I did it all on my own, I was due to have a ride buddy today for the last push but she got tonsilitis and had to pull out. It has been quite a solitary experience, lots of thinking time. R and the girls have been fabulous as a support team, encouraging me on and meeting me half way on the long trips and telling me ' you can do it mummy!'

Now, an amazing thing about the puncture. I was not far from home, about 10k as the crow flies, and was checking out a lane that I had always wondered about, it turns out that it really is a dead end with a caravan park at the end of it and nothing else. Returning along it, I went too hard and fast over a speed bump and knew I would get a puncture. Although I do know in theory how to do it, and have even done it once at home, I thought that frankly I can't be bothered, so nearly there, I will call a man who can. No sooner had I finished the call to the lovely RJB cycle repair chap who was on his way faster than the RAC, I spotted runners coming along the lane. Now, what are the chances of them being someone I know AND someone who can do punctures? Well, after the event we can safely say 100%, as it was Lucy and Kev, swimmers and cyclists extraordinaire from Esporta gang. I felt that somehow God was watching over me and sent along someone to help - as it was, I turned down their kind offer and hung around for R to turn up a while later, rather than ruin their run regime - but I felt like they were angels sent to me.

Today I have eaten chilli for tea at the home of some friends from sailing, who had an open house - yum. Yesterday I ate curry and nachos at the home of Vicky with some of the old NCT gang in Netley. I am hoping that someone will invite me around for chinese tomorrow night as I am doing so well at eating out right now. We were really spoilt over Christmas, staying with Granny M who had done lots of organised cooking and had some really good food waiting for us in the freezer, she managed to knock up amazing tasty and healthy food without any effort at all. I was also delighted to be invited over to Little Bookham for Christmas day, so my bro and Angie cooked and hosted us, ma and pa and Angie's ma and pa too. All I have done in the cooking scene for weeks is wash up and make the odd hot chocolate. Our fridge is a little depleted at the moment, having been away for Christmas and not stocked up since returning ( no need as eating out every night with delightful and generous friends) and R asked if we had any yogurts. Yes, I answered, there is one that was best eaten before Christmas eve. Perfect, he said, and ate it. He is still with us as I write.

The other night I stayed up way too late reading a book called 'Left for Dead' by Nick Ward, as sailor in the 1979 Fastnet race, which, for those of you too young to remember, was a disaster as a huge freak storm swept the fleet away and lots of people died. Well, this book is unputdownable, I think the title tells you a fair bit of the plot and I won't be spoiling it by saying he was knocked unconscious in a capsize and then was abandoned by his fellow crew when they took to the life raft, but he wasn't dead, and has written a book about how it was to be not dead on a boat in a storm. R is reading it now, so he will be up till too late too, as you can't not find out what happens - he is rescued, btw, he is not still bobbing about on a broken boat off Ireland, 30 years later.

Our Christmas family secret santa went well, the oldest 3 in the family all got swimming related presents (flippers, goggles, costumes, that kind of thing) and the youngest person got a paint your own tea set, her choice. The girls got lots of books and some money, and Granny M gave me a lawnmower! Hurrah! I will be able to mow the grass without killing myself/the lawnmower/someone else who gets in the way of the electric beast. Our current model was a dump rescue mision and is now really really broken, not just a bit broken but we will manage. So, Bosch super flyweight portable mega mower, mark 3, here I come. Granny M gave R some tri bars for his bike. I already have those but don't get much flat road time around here to use them.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Can you tell it's the holidays - I have time to breathe, bathe and blog. I am really into watching Miranda at the moment. I have just worked out how to use i player, I thought you had to pay for it a la i tunes, but it is completely different and is just like watching tv! Anyway, i am a complete Miranda groupie and even say 'bear with' when I answer my mobile. That is a rare thing to happen, it is usually lost, charging or on silent in my bag, and when it is on and rings I am never sure quite how you answer it.

Today we went to Romsey, which was as cold and bleak as everywhere else, but we were meeting Sandra, a very lovely relation ( my dad's cousin's wife) for lunch. She bravely came to watch R and I do the Salisbury triathlon last year, which I am bravely doing again this year. R is doing the Hart one, which we did the year before. We are doing one each in early May so that the girls can come and watch, having never been before. And then we are both doing a big one in late May. I have also signed up for the New Forest Rattler, a 89mile bike ride in August, although they do do a 49 mile option if its raining or something. Sandra was a great photographer, she kept jumping out of her car at different places on the route and taking photos. She is the only person yet to come and watch us compete, triathlon is not much of a spectator sport as you only get to watch people doing the stupid bits, like running across a shingle car park barefoot, putting wet feet into dry trainers, taking off sweaty clothes and limping out and then limping back over the finish line. However, if you would be interested in getting up early on a Sunday or bank holiday Monday to either look after our children or bring them with you to watch we would like to hear from you, CRB check or no. We had a cold and slow lunch in Romsey, at That Little Tea Room, which is cold and slow. Then we did a trawl of the charity shops ( there are 7, all selling Jaeger and Hilfiger, dahling) and then a sprint round Aldi. Today I also impressed myself by going to two classes at the club, dahling, I did spin this morning with Karl (white too tight trousers, difficult to know where to look, just keep my eyes on the RPM) and then went back this evening for a swim with girls followed by Pilates with a brilliant stand in teacher called Katie. I have not done Pilates for ages and really enjoyed it. Since then, R has gone swimming ( his turn for swimming club, hence my flurry of exercise earlier) and I have watched 3 episodes of miranda, eaten two of yesterday's mince pies and finished off a bottle of wine. Yesterday we had a mince pie making fest, with 7 children in the kitchen applying jam to pastry (a genius idea of Vicky's, who figured early on that children don't like mince meat) in a manner which is more Chuckle Brothers than Nigella. Anyhow, they loved their pastry products and all went home happy customers, whilst I have been trying to get encrusted jam off the floor for all of a minute since.

R told me that a good friend of his has handmade his wife a pair of shoes out of some old bike tyres for a Christmas present. I snorted 'God I am so glad I am not married to him, can you imagine being given an old inner tube fashioned into a flip flop for Christmas?' which R did not appreciate. He said he thought it was romantic. Romantic! who wants an old tyre shoe, even the eco crazies of Bitterne Park themselves!! It takes a rare woman to sound delighted at the prospect of wearing a punctured tyre as a fashion statement, and luckily the person in question has the poise and grace to probably genuinely be delighted. Which is why she is married to her R and I am married to mine. Who gave me a Mister Blobby car sponge. Once. Only once. R had a very generous moment in the gym shop and bought me a lovely top that I have been admiring all summer, it was £40 and has finally been reduced to £10, so R bought it for me, secretly! along with a rucsac (might he be fed up of me borrowing his?) and a more sensible sports T shirt for school wear.

I have wrapped up some more presents, but am bored of wrapping now and am thinking of doing the girls' secret ones in newspaper, to be more eco friendly and because I am annoyed at the fact that we had to buy wrapping paper this year, as usually I salvage enough off other people's presents. At least my recycled cracker gift tags were handy and well used. I left A to wrap up a box. It looks like some piece of modern art, all flourishes and swags of sellotape festooned about. She bought a sweet shop for £1 and now we are all buying sweets off her, and she also bought a book called 1000 things to do which she has not got all the way through. She reckoned about 3 hours would crack it but she only got about 15 minutes focus on it today. 1000 things to do sounds like a quiet day to me.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Having been overlooked once again for the sports personality of the year award from the BBC, I have relented to watching it from my sofa. Two women contenders, which is 20%, but that's still some way off my dream of 50%. Just watched the tribute to dead sports people, ALL of whom were men. So, either women who play sport at a high level are healthier than men, and don't die (although statistically, you would expect the rule of 50% to at least work in death, wouldn't you?) OR there are not the same number of women in sport, girls are not encouraged to take their bodies and their possiblity of sport played at a high level seriously, the financial backing for women in sport is not there and the world of sport needs me as an ambassador for females in sport. Well, a jockey and a darts player beat the heptathlete this year. I don't mind a jockey, but for heavens sake, a darts player? Even if he is the best in the world for a million years - darts is not a sport, it's a past time, and if most people who play it are tipsy there is room for improvement, just by sobering up.

My kettle. As some of you know, the Lakeland one ( version 2) developed the same fault as the first one, and the fantastic customer service people there send me a cheque for the purchase price which arrived the next day. It tooke me a while to get a new kettle, but while on the ethical superstore dot co dot uk, i found an ECO kettle which seemed to meet my criteria for eco friendly water boiling. It is not rocket science, I know, but boiling water in my kitchen comes close, after the last two disasters from Lakeland being preceeded by the disaster of the unrefined One Cup boiler. Well, this kettle is huge, you fill up the reservoir at the top, and then press a button to release the exact amount you need into the boiling chamber. So you never boil extra water, and it is really quick. In tests is shows people using it use 30% less energy, suggesting that the rest of the nation boil 30% extra, which I can understand. We will wait and see if we see any dramatic downward shift in our electricity bills, although I recently managed to reduce our bill from £82 to £58 a month ( that is gas and electric). I am sure they will just change the direct debit up again at some point. Still, maybe the kettle will keep us down there on a low monthy bill.

The competition we were part of through H at school has finished. We got a mention in the final report as we reduced our electricty consumption by 40% from the baseline week, but the team that won was from another school ( Thornhill) - the Whitmores got a special mention too for their reduction. One night we rang them and they were sitting in the dark, with candle light only. So H made us turn the lights off too.

School has also finished here. We are exhausted and relieved. My work do was at Botleigh Grange Hotel, and as social secretary, I was relieved to be taking people's compliments, not complaints, about the evening. I recommend it as a venue for anything, if I was getting married I would do it there, and we have been to a few of R's proms there. There was lots of tasty food, a nice classic disco that keeps all types happy - Bon Jovi to Cheryl Cole, you know the thing. And, dodgems! What fun! My pre evening out preparation had included an osteopath appointment and 10 minutes in Fareham buying a dress and accessories ( tried one on, bought it, kind shop assistant ran around finding necklace and ear rings). The osteopath had actually poked needles in my neck, ankle, knee and thigh ( I really am falling apart, due a lifetime achievement award not just sports personality of the year). The osteopath suggested that high heels and dodgems might not be the best post treatment option. Maybe she was right. Still struggling with sore ankle, thigh, knee and neck, in various combinations, all on left side, and the training slumped - what with icy roads, freezing temperatures and too much work, my training is not what it was. But I feel fine about that, I am not beating myself up, just admitting that December is a month for hibernating.

We had our messy Christmas church today. We made reindeer poo for pudding, and had an amazing story from the most brilliant godly player on our team, Libby. R and Ang cooked a full roast for 35 mouths to eat. There was nothing bad about it, I am enjoying our messy church a lot now, the girls adore it and the children are involved in the planning process - a different child over about 8 goes along to the monthly planning meetings, with a standing committee of 3 adults, and sometimes a swap in of another adult, so lots of people involved in the planning and have ownership of the whole thing. So, there is an idea for your church - get the children on the planning committee. A played the first two lines of Silent Night on her harmonica, which she got really worked up about, but she was fine, it looks really tricky to me, I am sure I would get it all wrong, sucking and blowing the wrong way round, she did really well and I was impressed, even if she got upset that she couldn't do line three.

I have finished reading A Christmas Carol. What wonderful prose, and such a moral tale. Really enjoyed it. Have also finished the most recent Mr Gum - Mr Gum and the Cherry Tree. Luckily for me, Lib is a big fan and actually spends money on buying books, so I get to borrow them from her. Which is better than the library, in that she has all the Mr Gum books. Talking of libraries, I have nominated one of the library ladies in Thornhill for a customer service award, again. There are two ladies in Thornhill library, chalk and cheese are closer relations than they are in terms of their ideas on customer service.

Next time I write it will be to report back on the panto at Ferneham hall, Fareham. It's Aladdin this year. I know I always tell you after it, and you miss out, so I am telling you now, so you still have a chance of getting tickets. I was delighted to find that my wonderful colleague Marie, my LSA who seriously is worth her weight in gold, also goes every year to the panto at Fareham. Thus proving my theory that all the best people to to Fareham for panto.

I found out a few weeks back that some people don't like musicals. Can you believe it - two of these weird types I count as friends. What's not to like about the genre of muscials? I bet they don't like panto either. I love both. I honestly can't see what you wouldn't like about musical theatre. All that energy and colour and sound and excitement. You don't get that at The Mousetrap do you? You do at Aladdin! It had better not let me down this year - at least I know all the jokes.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A letter came home from Rainbows tonight inviting us to come along next week to the Christmas sing a long, with home made mice pies being served. Sometimes, it pays to be a vegetarian. We often get letters from the school liaison person who runs a coffee morning once a month. They go like this:

Want to socialise and meet new people? ( why yes, I am an E)
Got piles of paperwork you need to get on top of? ( oh yes, despite being a J I have years worth of payslips etc that need filing properly, if you are offering)
Need help with benefits? ( ah, I see where you are going now. No, I just got a pay rise! Can you believe it!)

Another written offer which I find sweet but actually not very helpful is when you take cash out of a ATM and it says on the screen ' Would you like an advice slip?' I always think ' Why yes, what advice can you offer? How to hang clothes up so they don't need ironing? How to light a fire without any dry kindling? But when I do ask for an advice slip, it doesn't actually give me any advice on anything. It just tells me my bank balance ( no idea) and how much I just took out ( know that cos I have it in my hand).

Still, I live in hope. Yesterday I did a run for an hour, it was a slow run, but I kept going and managed 5.5 miles, which is fairly lousy pace but apparently the idea at the moment during the winter is to do everything slowly and keep my heart rate down. Then, apparently, I will reap the benefits come the spring when I am faster and fitter. We shall see.

Saturday, R and I were in the wonderful setting of the crypt of St Paul's for the Godly Play annual lecture. It was a lecture in the morning, but interesting, because it was about children's spirituality and given by Rebecca Nye. Then, the afternoon workshops, I went to a godly play of a new story and it was wonderful to be done to, rather than the do er, as it were, of godly play. Then for the closing worship we had the holy Family story godly play, and then we had time to sneak a peek at the main floor of the cathedral for free. Wow. What a building - you have to see it, incredible, beautiful, not be be missed.

As our lovely friend Elise is now living near St Pauls, we went back to her hall of residence for a cup of tea and a reminder of just how old we are and how glad we are not to be living in halls. Goodness, I could not do that again, I so admire Elise being so dedicated to becoming a doctor that she is cool living in a hall again. Brought back lots of memories, mainly of manky kitchen worktops and no milk in the fridge. And Nell, my next door neighbour in hall who had a mohican hair do and a lot of piercings, and a smell coming from her room which convinced the rest of us that she never had a bath. Now, I know my room mates have baths because I am their mother and wife and can legitimately check up on their personal hygiene.

We had the piste to ourselves on Friday, with day 2 of the snow and time off school meaning a later start for the sledgers, so it was just us 4 on the slopes at 9.30am. 4 snowboarders turned up, they can really get up a decent run down by being able to steer, whereas on the sledges ( we now have 2) steering is a bit limited. A described the experience as 'romantic'. Which was apt. She has a great word for dessicated coconut - she calls it disintegrated coconut, which works too. Amazingly, I went to the dodgy local shop ( Esgros) and they had two things I wanted to buy, dessicated coconut and baking powder. They must have been clapping their hands - hooray, someone has bought the two products that have been on the shelves since we opened. How many people in Thornhill buy baking powder? One, clearly. Actually, at my bus user group meeting on Wednesday I was speaking with Trixie about how much nicer Thornhill is since we moved in - not because we moved in, clearly, but just that the regeneration is working and it is just safer and better as a community. Or maybe it is because we moved in - the gentrification of the area, baking powder users are all creeping in at the edges. Before we know it we'll have sewing machine users and all sorts of low lifes.

The bus user group - I know, I hardly ever go on the bus, but I am on the group for historical reasons, and it is very little commitment being the secretary of a group that meets 4 times a year. The impact of our work is, I hope, great for the people in our area who most need public transport, and who are most powerless. And for very little effort on my part. I got the giggles, last time, cos one person reported that a lady who lives on a cul de sac needs the buses to go nearer her house. Maybe she could move on to a main road? It is funny how people expect bus companies to trail up and down all the streets on the estate on the off chance that someone wants to go somewhere.