Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Review of the Year - one Monthly Resolution at a time

When I decided to abandon New Year's Resolutions in favour of 12 small monthly changes, I had no idea it would work so well or I'd enjoy it so much. This is a round up of the changes:

January To sort out and enjoy my haphazard collection of toiletries. I still don't make enough pamper time and I've still barely made a dent in some of those sweet smelling lotions, mousses, butters, scrubs and gels but at least I now have them organised and tempting me to open the lids and dip in rather than gathering dust, unloved and forgotten.

February Go the Extra Mile. This was a literal extra mile to build my comfortable running distance up from my usual 3 miles and it has been fantastic. I felt a huge sense of achievement when I completed my first Half Marathon  in October this year.

March Plank 40 minutes for Lent. The planking challenge was tough - really tough - but I did it and proved to myself that anything can be possible if you set your sights on it and put in the effort.

April To run with my husband. I mostly run with my daughters and I love it but running with my husband has now become something of a special time for both of us. Last weekend, we ran our local Xmas 5K fun run together in festive dress and I thoroughly enjoyed myself (especially when redeeming the free beer vouchers we were given at the finish)

Photograph by Duncan Murray

May The CHANGE It somehow seemed fitting to include the menopause in my monthly changes! Although my body is ardently hanging onto the last vestiges of fertility, I am still determined to power through and embrace the new challenges of a maturing body.

June Just Get on and Do It It is so easy to find a million reasons to not do something. I am getting very much better at ignoring those reasons. It is amazing how much you can achieve if you make the decision to just get on with it.

July Try new recipes I am really loving trying new recipes. I have perfected two of my favourite desserts - sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownies. I have made a Dundee cake for Xmas (all gone  already) and discovered a pear crumble cake that satisfies my dad's non-sweet tooth. I even had a go at making lemon curd when I had an unexpected glut of lemons.

August Forgive myself Sometimes, despite my very best intentions, I fail. This month I failed to implement a change and in doing so, inadvertantly made possibly the biggest and most important change I have made all year - that is to forgive myself when I  get things wrong or don't live up to my own expectations.

September Read More Books The literary part of me has received much enrichment from a whole range of books - trashy novels, classics, modern literature, misery memoirs and even a bit of non fiction. It can be frustrating sometimes if the light is not bright - even with my reading glasses I can struggle to focus on the text. For those occasions, there is always the kindle loaded with the Game of Thrones series - on the embarrassingly large font setting!

October Try Something Different I loved being part of a new initiative in our town - singing in a 'pop-up' choir to co-incide with the first local arts festival - and sharing the experience with my daughters. We are on the look out for more projects to get involved with.

November Pole dancing Many years ago, my husband surprised me with a gift of a pole after I expressed an interest in pole dancing. I think he had visions of being entertained with erotic dancing and would in all likelihood be happy if I simply walked around it in high heels and skimpy lingerie. For me it was more about fitness and strength and connecting with my sensuality. I practised in private and never offered to put on a show for his benefit. I might have been more inclined to treat him to a demonstration if I'd been any good at it! I quickly realised that it is physically challenging, it hurts when you get it wrong (I have had some impressive bruises!) and I am very aware that my face contorts with concentration and the sick feeling I get if I overdo the spinning. I am certainly not the effortlessly graceful dancer I once imagined I might be!

Not one to be put off, I thought it was about time to resurrect my ambition and dedicated my November change to doing just that. I found some instructional videos on YouTube and started again from an absolute beginner's perspective.

I have learned from my running the importance of technique and posture and applied this to the pole. I broke the simplest spin down into tiny steps and worked hard to master it. I also know from my running that if you keep trying, you are bound to improve. I did improve but realised that I am a long way from where I want to be.

Following on from the success of the 2014 monthly changes I decided that my 2015 resolution could be: Learn to Pole Dance - 1 move a month for 12 months. This time next year with 12 moves in the bag, I should be performance ready!

December To have a simple lovely Christmas For this I am taking inspiration from my 6 year old daughter who wrote a Christmas planning list for me:


She seems to have it all covered!




Monday, 8 December 2014

The first mince pie of Christmas

I felt justified wearing my Christmas socks this weekend as two excited children decorated our tree, an unexpected gift of home made mincemeat arrived and I had the pleasure of attending a Carol service and Charity concert both featuring the vocal talents of my amazing daughter Charis (along with a good injection of seasonal celebration).

My older daughters always remind me that I would not let them anywhere near the baubles and fairy lights in Christmases past. The tree had to be immaculately decorated with perfect symmetry and  adhere to a strict colour theme. Nowadays I am much more relaxed and enjoy watching my two little ones dive in and turn a plain conifer into a magical work of art. I admit to not being able to relinquish my control entirely - I provide the baubles I want hung rather than giving them a free choice of the countless decorations we have accumulated over the years and once they are in bed, I might just reposition the odd offending bauble (or two!)


It took a lot longer than usual to dress the tree this year. Addy was so excited that she literally jumped up and down after every successful positioning of a decoration and Dylan was intent on using his  remote control vehicle to transport baubles from box to tree. It was a delight to watch but not the most efficient use of time.

And time was tight.

On both Saturday and Sunday evenings, we had engagements at my daughter's boarding school.

Babysitters were organised, glad rags donned and we set off on the Saturday to see Charis perform with her chamber choir and an A Cappella quintet in a concert raising money for a charity whose aim is to provide loving, family based care for all children currently in institutionalised settings around the world.   Understanding the plight of the orphans and abandoned childen was heartbreaking and in stark contrast to the jollity of the evening's entertainment. Charis was superb as always, especially with the quintet, performing one of her own Xmas arrangements as well as a brilliant rendition of Hark Hear the Bells in which she was barely able to take a breath for more bars than I could count. In fact, she was so accomplished and confident you could be forgiven for mistaking her for one of the teachers rather than a student. She has come a long way from the odd little girl who wouldn't talk that she once was.

There were mince pies and mulled wine during the interval. My first mince pie of the year is always a bit of an event for me and this was a lovely way to mark the occasion. The mulled wine had the right smell but looked muddy and tasted foul. I am looking forward to finding the right moment for mulled wine at home (a non muddy version) and mince pies made with my treasured little jar of home made mincemeat.

On the Sunday, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and White Christmas were swapped for Christmas Carols and Bible readings in the school chapel. It was a lovely service and the choir sang with haunting beauty. I had forgotten to take my reading glasses and didn't stand a chance in the dim light of seeing the tiny print on the order of service that would have helped me with the words of the carols that required participation from the congregation. I am always surprised by how many of the words I actually know anyway so I sang along in the glass shattering range I reserve for church and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Things got easier during the candlelit part of the service. My little candle shed enough bright light for a miraculous restoration of my sight (and dripped enough wax on my hand to be slightly disconcerting!)

The busy nature of the weekend meant that the kids missed out on their bathtime and I failed to get the costumes for their school play ready. It was a mad dash this morning trying to make them both look vaguely respectable and stuff suitably coloured clothes and tinsel into separate bags to transform them into a twinkling star and a snowflake. I had hardly finished congratulating myself for getting them to school before the bell when I noticed that one of the mothers had provided a shop purchased full star costume for her little thespian. I didn't even know such things existed! The bag I was about to hand over with a sad bit of gold tinsel started to seem a bit inadequate. Then I remembered Dylan telling me that he doesn't even want to be a twinkling star - he wants to be a twinkling shark.

It made me feel a bit better.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Brighton Brookes 10K - real women drink pints, eat cake and run a lot

I saw somebody recently wearing a pink hoodie that had the slogan "Real women drink pints, eat cake and run a lot"

I honestly believe that "Real Women" come in an infinite variety of guises that may or may not include all or none of the above. However, I am a woman who is proud to drink pints, eats cake and runs a lot.

On Sunday 16th of this month, I ran.

I was one of 3,196 runners that turned up on Brighton seafront at 9.30am to take part in the Brighton Brookes 10K. The weather conditions were perfect - cool, no wind and even the odd golden glow of sunlight breaking through the somewhat ominous black clouds that held onto their watery load until well into the afternoon.

The start of the race was near the pier. Competitors had to run 1.5km out towards the Marina and back with the remaining 7km being out and back in the other direction to finish where you started.


From my position near the rear of the throng, it took 4 minutes to actually cross the starting line which meant that the front runners were on their way back in what felt like no time. It was exciting to see the lead car clearing the way for the elite athletes and the fiercely competitive faces of the contenders for first place. In their wake was the seemingly endless stream of runners, amongst them my husband who shouted his encouragement to me as he passed.  I became a part of that stream as I reached the turning point and ran back against the people behind me. It was quite a novelty to see so many people behind me! I am usually plodding along at the back.

I felt really good running. I remember the first 10K I entered and being very nervous about the distance. The psychological boost of having achieved a half marathon is amazing. I know I have 13 miles my legs, so 10K? No problem!

As I passed under the inflatable finish arch and started the second out and back stretch of the course, I could see the Brighton traffic snarled up due to the road closure. There was a little bit of guilt but mostly I felt quite important. This busy road was closed for me (and the 3,195 other runners of course but at that moment I was only thinking of me!)

I took it upon myself to thank the marshals I passed. It helped to punctuate the long stretch of road ahead and it was nice too see their appreciation of the acknowledgment.

When I heard the familiar sound of the lead car, I got myself in a good position to check out the front runners. They were fierce and they were fast and they looked so angry. It was a stark contrast to myself  - slow but often unable to contain the grin on my face because I am loving it so much. Their world of running is so completely different to mine.



Hubby was looking good as he passed with a cheery wave for me. It gave me a little boost but it still looked an awfully long way to that second turning point.  As is if often the case when I'm running, I start worrying that I'll never make it and then suddenly I'm there. There was a significant psychological advantage  to be running back to the finish at last - add to that the slightly downhill nature of the course at  this point and I was away!


I was overtaking a few people and running against the flow of people behind me who were now widely spaced out and each fighting their own endurance battles. It felt great.

The pier came in sight. I tried to pick up my pace and maybe managed a fraction of an increase. I had already had a very busy start to the weekend and it was far from over with my father in law waiting for us to visit him and a 5 hour journey still to come. I couldn't find enough energy in my reserves for a fantastic finish and face what we still needed to achieve. I settled for just finishing.


I saw my husband coming back to run the end with me but I wanted to finish on my own. Shouting don't run with me made me lose the rhythm of my breathing and made me feel guilty that I had rejected his support. For the first time in the whole of the race I started to not enjoy myself but the finish arch was so close now that I quickly lost myself in the moment and my legs felt strong as they took the finish line in determined strides.



I was grateful for the banana and the water that were handed to me and collected my medal and a new personal best time for a 10K.

Reunited with my husband, who was not at all put out by my rejection, I watched the remaining runners finish.

In contrast to the half marathon I completed, I did not witness anyone running out of fuel and collapsing. The inflatable finish arch, however, did! It was comical to see the marshals desperately trying to hold the arch up high enough for runners to duck underneath to finish whilst another tried to refill the pump engine with petrol to get it blowing again.

It was a wonderful, well organised, well supported event. The winner finished in an amazing 30 minutes and 41 seconds - about the time it takes me to run half the distance on a good day. I finished with a big smile in position 2,862 with a time of 1hr 06minutes and 30seconds. Not a bad morning's work.

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