Thursday, 15 October 2015

Tandem Triathlon

My little Addy goes to 'Magic Club' one evening a week at her new school. She loves it. She especially loves it because dad takes her to and from school on the back of our tandem bike, weather permitting. As I watched them ride off together this week, I was reminded that I never published the post I had written about the Tandem Triathlon I took part in with my husband during the summer before we moved.  It was a big deal for me so rather than deleting the draft, I have published it here for my benefit more than anything. If you choose to continue reading, be warned, it is a bit of a long one!  Alternatively, here is a little video of Addy practising her magic tricks.

Tandem Triathlon

We had a plan, my husband and I - a plan to find a moment of calm amidst the chaos. A weekend somewhere lovely away from the demands of the family and work - time for us - time to recharge and reconnect.

It didn't happen.

We did, however, have a date in the diary to compete in a Tandem Triathlon. For want of a better plan, that was to become the time for us.

We had not trained properly for this event.

My husband was to do the 1K swim. He is a strong swimmer. This was never going to be a  problem.

He is also a good cyclist but our trips out on the tandem to see what we could do have been few and far between. We hadn't even come close to attempting the 35km demanded by the triathlon and we were slightly concerned by a problem with the gears that may or may not have been sorted by the local bicycle shop.

The run was my responsiblity. My running training had been virtually non existent but I had completed a 5 mile fun run recently which gave me a bit of confidence. I have NEVER run after a bike ride of any length... let alone a 35km one! I was desperately in need of that confidence having suffered a nasty injury to my right leg in an oversized wellies and slippery deck related incident.

The bruise in its yellow phase!

Competitors were encouraged to dress up and decorate their tandems if they desired. We didn't have time to come up with an elaborate plan. I grabbed the artificial flowers that had been used to decorate my car on my wedding day (I could never quite bring myself to bin them) and hastily taped them to the handlebars. Perfect.

The triathlon took place in picturesque Bishops Castle in South Shropshire - picturesque and hilly. I don't know why but I had the impression that the competitors would be mostly long bearded, dressed in the style of Morris Dancers and possibly smelling slightly of incense. I couldn't have been more wrong. Admittedly there were a few couples who had embraced the dress up element of the competition but there were some serious looking lycra clad athletes too.

We signed in, wrestled the bike off the roof of the car and tried to organise everything we needed for the various stages of the event. It was warm and sunny so plenty of water and suntan lotion were among the necessities.

Before long, it was my husband's time in the water. I watched him for a while before going to the transition area to wait with the tandem. It was a very shallow pool. My 6' 4" husband looked quite ridiculous standing in it waiting for the cue to go. His swimming style did not have his usual effortless grace. This may have been attributed to the fact that his arms must have been scraping the bottom of the pool with each stroke!

It was a beautiful day and it was lovely chatting to the other competitors waiting for their partners to emerge from the pool complex ready for the second discipline. The transition was quite relaxed and then, we were off.

I love being on the back of the tandem. I can't see a great deal and have to have total trust in my husband but that isn't difficult at all. The countryside was whizzing past me and I was smiling at marshalls and other tandems coming back the other way. It was glorious. We were picking up a good head of speed going down the hills and  that gave us enough momentum to climb up the hills without too much of a problem.

Then the hill happened.

The hill that went on forever.

The hill that saw our speed drop so slow we were barely moving.

The hill that required every bit of effort we could muster just to stop ourselves from rolling backwards.

But we made it. Somehow, we made it.

The bad news was that we would have to climb that hill again. Not all the way to the top but about three quarters of the way up was the run transition. My leg muscles were screaming. The idea of getting off the bike and running after climbing that hill a second time seemed impossible. On top of that, after the run there would be a further 5km on the tandem to reach the final finish line. I didn't even want to think about it.

So I didn't.

We were on our way again in a landscape that rewarded you with some downhill for the uphill exertions. The sun shone, but not too much. It was wonderful. I was loving it again.

Going up one hill, we were overtaken by a shiny red high performance sports car that made a throaty roar as it accelerated past us. This somehow added to my elation.

Unfortunately, my elation could not last forever. I had been worried about my injured right leg and had maybe been allowing my left leg to take on more of the strain for that reason. My left leg decided it had had enough. My knee started to hurt. My knee continued to hurt. The hurt intensified. I wanted to cry. Our dodgy gears were behaving fine but my knee was a different story.

I thought that if I was able to stretch my leg for a while it might ease the pain. I took my foot out of the toe strap, off the pedal and felt wonderful relief as I straightened my sorry limb. We also felt the disconcerting bumping of the toe strap hitting the road with every revolution of the pedals.  Vaguely reminiscent of my husbands awkward swimming style in the shallow pool, we were losing our rhythm  and at risk of coming off the bike. Lovely as it was to have relief from the pain, my leg had to go back on the pedal.

I was reassured that the pain had disappeared as soon as I had changed position. It was back now, with a vengeance, but I felt more confident that it was just muscle cramping and I could pedal through it. We free wheeled when we could so I had the chance to stretch it out again and it felt great. Mostly, I put up with the pain and prayed that I wasn't doing any actual damage.

When we got to the hill for the second time, my emotions were all over the place. I had the pleasure of knowing that this part of the bike ride was nearly over, the excitement of knowing that my leg was soon going to be free from the crippling constraint, fear that we still had to make it up the hill somehow and the absolute leap of faith that I would somehow still be able to run.

I could only push up the hill with my one good leg. Three legs pedalling failed to do what four legs had only just managed to do the first time. The bike did literally reach the point that the upward forces were less than the downward forces. We stopped. We walked the bike up the hill and I was hugely gratified that I could in fact walk! Maybe I'd be able to run. The gradient of the hill became slightly flatter at the turn off into the forest for the run transition so I bravely suggested getting back on the bike to ride in with dignity.

I made use of a portaloo. I gagged on a warm, gloopy energy gel. I grabbed a water bottle and I was off. I was running. Slowly, but I was running.

I knew the run was though forest trails which is my favourite kind of running. What I didn't know was that it was through forest trails up a mountain. (Maybe it wasn't exactly a mountain but it was a very big hill). My leg didn't feel too bad but my heart was pounding and I was so hot. I drank sips of water, ran when I felt able and walked (briskly) when I needed to. This was going to be a slow 10K but at least with all this uphill I was guaranteed some downhill where I could hopefully make up some time.

My run/brisk walk strategy degenerated into a slow walk/drag strategy. Even the feeding stations with their generous rations of jelly babies, crisps, biscuits and drinks could not energise me. But I was still standing and slowly making forward progress up the incline that just kept inclining!

Looking rough at the halfway point selfie

Eventually, and not a moment too soon,  the gradient flattened out. I had reached the top and saw before me a plateau. A gently undulating meadow plateau. It was what I had been working for and there it was. My slow walk/drag turned into a shuffling jog. I shuffled and I jogged and my heart sang. A short way further and I could see the inevitable downward gradient. All I had to do was let gravity carry me down the hill to the finish. I might even make up a bit of the time I had lost on my ascent. How could I have known that the pain I had felt climbing the hill would be insignificant compared with the pain of coming down?

As soon as the downward gradient became noticeable, my left leg seized up completely. Bearing in mind this happened mid stride and was as shocking as it was painful, I did well not to fall over. With a  series of comedy hops to keep upright, I managed to slow myself to a stop and then tentatively tried to take my weight on my left leg. It was having none of it. I was quite scared for two reasons: firstly, had I done some real damage here that I might never recover from and secondly HOW THE HELL WAS I GOING TO GET DOWN THIS BLOODY MOUNTAIN?

The limit to how many swimmers could fit into the pool at any one time meant that the race was organised with staggered start times over a long period of time. There was never much of a sense of competing with anyone other than yourself and the spread of other competitors throughout the entire course meant there was not a great deal of camaraderie or support available. I was pretty much alone up that mountain. Alone and in trouble. All I could do was man up and face the challenge of getting down. I rested. I massaged the offending limb. I eventually braved walking. It was an awkward walk but it sort of worked.

All the way down the mountain I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to be running but was also grateful that I was at least moving in the right direction. I may have looked like an extra from a zombie apocalypse movie, I may have been grimacing, but I was making progress again. Dragging my bad leg painfully behind me, hop limping... I was making progress.

After a long, torturous time, my spirits lifted when I recognised the terrain that I had run through at the start of the ordeal which meant it was nearly over. My mind was taken off my trials when another struggling runner caught up with me and walked with me for a while. We chatted and commiserated with each other and then the finish line came into view. I encouraged him to go for it and do a good finish. As I watched him muster all his energy to pick up pace I decided to take a chance and do the same. The elation of seeing the finish line combined with the brief respite that the company had given me combined to give me super powers when I needed them most. By 'super powers' I do of course only mean coming back from the Walking Dead to the elevated status of Broken Runner... but I was mrunning. I felt amazing. I felt like that shiny red high performance sports car that had overtaken us on the cycle ride. I let out my own throaty roar and it was over. My husband waiting in the transition area was paying no attention. My triumph was mine alone.

We still had the 5km bike ride to the Final Finish before this triathlon over. There was no way that my leg was going to be fit to pedal. Using the tape we'd attached our 'fancy dress' flowers with (resourceful!), my husband fixed the toe strap so it would not hit the road with every revolution and I 'one-legged' cycled the final stretch.

I would love to say that crossing the final finish line was everything I dreamt it would be but I was in far too much pain. We did not stay for the celebrations which included a BBQ and a Ceilidh (which to my shame I had pronounced Sea-Lid anyway). All I wanted was to have a nice hot bath and to rest in the comfort of my own home... which we did.

This was supposed to be 'time for us', my husband and I... time to recharge and connect. My leg may have let me down badly but honestly, it ticked all the other boxes. Would I do it again? Definitely. But next time, I might just do the swim and let him take on the run!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Fat Balls and Tits

Since moving, I have had very little direct contact with my dad. My mum emails regularly, comments on Facebook statuses and reads this blog. Now I know that my parents share everything and communicating with mum is indirectly communicating with dad, but it can never be the same as direct contact. I will be visiting them shortly which will facilitate the sort of exchange that my dad does best: a hug that might be compared to the embrace of a boa constrictor, a chat about nothing and everything and probably a fiver slipped into my hand. This is how my dad communicates. It does not translate well into the sort of electronic communication that we have to resort to now I live too far away for the weekly visits we used to enjoy. Until I see him again, this post is dedicated to my dad.

When I first arrived at this house and my father in law came to have a look around, he commented that there were no birds in the garden.

It was true. For such a quiet, idyllic, woodland location there was a distinct lack of any sort of life in the garden apart from the massively overgrown hedges, shrubs and trees.

The neighbouring garden was beautifully neat and a bird feeding station was always busy with feathered visitors. Clearly, there were birds around somewhere... just not in my garden.

I bought a bag of bird nuts and a feeder which I hung in a tree near the kitchen window (after I'd pruned it to manageable proportions in scale with the setting and thus began the pile of trimmings that now occupies a sizeable portion of the bottom of the garden).

It did not take long for the first adventurers to discover the new food source. It was a delight to see the garden coming to life. What we were lacking in interest from good planting, we were making up for with an enchanting variety of little birds. I bought a second feeder for fat balls. (Fat balls! Really! Couldn't they have been called Energy Rich Bird Cakes or something. Fat balls just brings out the juvenile, too easily amused side of me!)

I wouldn't want anyone to think that this was becoming an obsession but a third bird feeder was purchased. In my defence, it was a matter of necessity because my father in law brought round a huge bag of bird seed and the feeders I already had were not suitable for seed. The three bird feeders hanging in one small tree were soon rarely free from hungry birds.

Washing up takes much longer now. My attention is continuously drawn away from the dirty dishes and out of the window to see who is feeding. I have a Garden Bird Identifier book on my windowsill and often I will abandon the soapy suds, dry my hands and frantically search the pages trying to name an unfamiliar species. I am becoming quite the expert!

The most abundant variety is the dainty, delicately hued Blue Tit with the more thuggish Great Tit a close second. I had heard of Coal Tits but had never really understood the difference between them and the other Tits until my book helped me make a positive identification. How many times can I say 'tits' before the juvenile rears its mindlessly giggling head again?  I must say it one more time because today a pair of Marsh Tits came to see what was on offer. (Thanks again trusty book!)

A Nuthatch generated a bit of excitement. I'd never seen one before and it seemed very exotic to me. It is a greedy feeder, tugging at the nuts to pull them through the mesh. Chaffinches and Goldfinches wait their turn in the branches and a little Wren has not quite plucked up the courage to feed while I've been watching but hops about on the periphery.

Feeding on the ground below to pick up any dropped scraps are Dunnocks, a Robin and the occasional House Sparrow. Sparrows were always so abundant when I was a child growing up in the seventies. I don't know when or how those squabbling flocks of 'spuggies' disappeared.

As well as the small birds, I have seen Pigeons (which are somehow hard to get excited about - sorry pigeons), Jackdaws, Jays (love them) and for me, the Holy Grail of birdwatching.. a Woodpecker. This was a Green Woodpecker and I quite literally held my breath when it settled on the trunk of my apple tree. I have only seen it once but I can always hope that it will return.

I feel slightly guilty that I may have stolen some of the birds away from my neighbours' bird feeding station but the guilt is quickly buried under the glorious feeling of absolute pleasure it gives me every time I look out of the window.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Bonfire

Yesterday, I lit a bonfire.

I'm not sure what the rules and regulations around here are with regards to garden fires but the voice made by the primitive urge in me to be master of the raw power that is fire was considerably louder than the voice of the upstanding citizen wanting to abide by any rules.

I lit my fire.

There was plenty of fuel for my fire given the pile I have amassed from my mission to tame my wild garden with hedge trimmer, loppers, saw and secateurs. A few crumpled up A4 sheets drawn on by the kids, a handful of dry dead wood and one match was all it took to get things roaring in the incinerator.

I fed my fire. I fed my fire with hawthorn, brambles, apple tree and oak to name but a selection of the varied diet available. The fire responded accordingly.

Some of the trimmings fell into the flames as though returning home, giving themselves readily to be undone by the heat. Some hissed and screamed, resisting their undoing. Some burned with pure ferocity while others failed and billowed stinking clouds of smoke and ash. I think that amongst the assorted offerings dropping into the fiery pit there was a metaphor for every emotion I have been experiencing since my husband's words - I've been offered the job in Sussex - turned my life upside down.  Every emotion relived and dealt with.

I have barely made a dent in the pile of garden waste.

The lawn is scorched.

My eyes stung and I smelled of bonfires.

But my soul is cleansed.

Welcome to Night Vale

I've always loved having a long, relaxing soak in the bath: scented bath products, candle, glass of wine maybe and music. For a long time, my music of choice would be the album Come Away with Me by Norah Jones. For me it was perfect bath music. I listened to it so often that if I ever heard a track outside of my bath time, I would experience an echo of the feeling of nakedness and vulnerability that accompanies one's ablutions and was exploited to the extreme by Hitchcock in the shower scene of the classic movie Psycho.

I am now smiling as I remember a short video I made a long time ago for a competition to win a Macbook Pro. The brief was to recreate a scene from a movie using potatoes. (The competition must have been sponsored by a 'potato related' company, I can't quite remember). I attempted, with my limited editing skills and equally limited artistic ability, to recreate the famous shower scene. I did not win the Macbook but I did have a such a good time making "Psycho Potato".

Norah Jones no longer provides the soundtrack to my bath time. Instead, I listen to a podcast entitled Welcome to Night Vale. My daughters introduced me to this little gem. It is in the style of a community radio broadcast set in an unusual town where events such as a portal opening during  a PTA meeting to allow flesh eating dinosaurs to pass through and cause bloody mayhem, are not uncommon. It is entertaining but at the same time, gently challenges your belief in self, society and existence.  Welcome to Night Vale! The real magic of the show is the combination of clever scripting and the beautiful voice of Cecil Baldwin who narrates it... a voice more mellow even than Norah Jones singing Come Away with Me.

I used to listen to the podcast in bed but there were two problems with this: my husband hates it and the soothing tone of Cecil Baldwin sent me to sleep almost instantly. Listening in the bath is perfect. I don't generally tend to fall asleep but I can achieve a wonderful level of relaxation and enrichment (especially when the glass of wine option box is ticked). There is a segment during the show called 'The Weather' which consists of a song or instrumental piece (that usually has nothing do with the weather!) It is just the right length of time for me to wash my hair so I don't miss any of the main show. This makes me happy.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I put on the podcast hoping that Cecil could work his magic but he couldn't. I don't feel as frazzled as I thought I would this morning but I am weary. We only have this week to get through before our half term break begins. I am very ready for that break.

I feel that we have achieved a milestone having nearly completed the first half of our Michaelmas term. Now, we need some time to process all the changes that we have been dealing with since we first arrived here at the tail end of August. We need a quick life audit to see where we are and where we want to be. I am hoping for some 'two episode long' bath times.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

End of an Era

Yesterday, the sale of my house in Shropshire completed.

On one hand I am really pleased about this. The lawn does not stop growing because we are not there to mow it and who knows what problems we might have suffered if it had remained unoccupied through the cold winter months.

On the other hand it represents the end of an era and I have to let go of a house I loved.

It was not a perfect house. The rolling programme of maintenance and repairs took up a lot of our time and energy. The garage door was the bane of my life and pulling in and out of the drive could be tricky at times. It was not perfect but it was such a good home for us: the home that my husband and I made together, the threshold he carried me over after our wedding, every room echoing with wonderful memories.

We have a new home now. We don't own it but we will be here for the next three years at least so I am happy to invest time and energy to make it the best home it can be for us. It is much smaller than our old house so I was delighted that it managed to accommodate nearly all of the furniture I had collected over the years. Even my very large mirrors fit perfectly into their new settings. I had to get rid of two big comfy leather sofas (they were very old and tired anyway), a dining table and chairs (I had two sets and kept my favourite) and our Eminent Solina F225 (Charis made sure she had a farewell organ session while she still could). A super king sized bed that my husband had made was repurposed as shelving.

Being surrounded by familiar things is comforting and I am taking ownership of the garden by trimming, pruning and generally hacking at anything that looks even remotely overgrown.We may have downsized but I am determined to make that a positive force in our lives.. a way of living a simpler life free of clutter and confusion. It is almost working!

One thing I thought I would really miss from my old home was the greenhouse with its grape vine. It had become a bit of a tradition to harvest the grapes and make grape jelly for our Christmas day breakfast. The new house does not have a greenhouse but it does have a grape vine. Today, I made grape jelly.

I love that I can carry the good things from my old life into the new. I love the challenges that relocating and downsizing have forced us to face. Now that we are settilng into our routines and thinking about the future, I know that I am going to love discovering new traditions and ways of finding fulfilment.

The sale of my old house represents the end of an era but I am more than ready for the start of a new one.

Friday, 9 October 2015

A Minor Mishap

I feel so guilty.

My wonderful husband didn't bat an eyelid when he came home from work yesterday to find 'the little mess' I'd made earlier - the little mess that had actually doubled in size during the course of the afternoon after I had posted about it on my blog.

He set about taking all the hedge clippings, dead wood and other random garden debris through the side gate, up onto the raised deck, down the steps onto the lawn, over the somewhat water logged grass and finally onto an ever growing pile of similar waste waiting to be collected by a man with a trailer (I am hoping a very capacious trailer!)

The first problem was the 'through the side gate' part.

I had helpfully placed the pile onto a large tarpaulin thinking that all he would need to do would be to wrap the tarp around and tie it up to create a draggable bundle. This he did. The bundle was indeed draggable (provided you had sufficient body weight and knew how to use it). Unfortunately, the bundle was not 'pass-through-side-gate-able'. A goodly portion of the tangled mass had to be transferred into an oversize bag and taken separately to the intended destination before the remainder could be re-bundled and dragged once more.

Through the gate, up onto the raised deck and ... oh dear. Disaster struck.

The deck is in desperate need of a good pressure wash and re-oil. In its current state it can be quite slippery... and when you are not wearing the most appropriate footwear and dragging a bundle that is at least as big as you are, you might expect the possibility of a mishap. Although I did not witness the mishap, from his description of it I can report that it was a dramatic, high speed, uncontrolled backward tumble flat onto his back with resultant bang to backside and head.

He did eventually succeed in his mission to clear up my mess. He sustained  no serious damage but had a tender spot on the back of his skull and the knowledge that he was a clumsy fool.

He felt tenderness and embarrassment... and I felt guilt.

My guilt dictated that today I would steer well clear of the garden and my tendency to get carried away with the task at hand.

I baked instead. I hope that the job of 'clearing up' apple cake and cookies will be more agreeable.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

I might have made a little mess

The moment I saw a photograph of the house that was to be our home in Sussex, I wanted to trim the hedges.

It was a neat, well proportioned little semi in a beautiful location but the unkempt, overgrown hedge running along the front boundary made it look totally unloved. I was determined to change that.

Today, the sun was shining in a glorious blue autumn sky and the hedge was calling to me.

Before we moved in, the house was cleaned, redecorated, new carpets were laid and the front hedge was trimmed in a fashion.  It was certainly tidier than it had been but this hedge needed more than tidying. It had been allowed to grow so wide that the front garden was engulfed by it. It was a solid, impenetrable wall of green but I had my trusty hedge trimmer and I was not going to be beaten by it.

I plugged in my Black and Decker and I attacked.

I have been doing a lot of cutting back and chopping down in the rear garden over the past weeks. There is much still to be done but I am definitely reclaiming a garden from the jungle. The previous occupant had a dog who was clearly fond of playing with (and hiding) balls. I have found and disposed of over fifty balls - mostly tennis balls, a few cricket balls, the odd golf ball. As my battle against the front hedge continued, I found two more tennis balls and a third more difficult to identify ball to add to my total count.

Dealing with the front hedge was no like ordinary hedge trimming. I felt more like a brave prince hacking through the dense forest shielding his Sleeping Beauty. Incidentally, I have been watching a lot of the wonderful series Once Upon a Time on Netflix. I thoroughly recommend it, if only for the gorgeous Colin O'Donoghue as Captain Hook.

In the contest between hedge and me, I was without doubt the victor but I like to think that the hedge has benefitted enormously. I've taken a lot of the weight away and it now has light and air to work its magic. I hope to see new (manageable) growth before too long. The front garden looks so much bigger and most importantly, cared for.

The only downside to my morning's activity is that I have created a small mountain of hedge trimmings to dispose of. I have piled them all onto a tarpaulin.

My husband is used to me getting carried away in the garden. This won't be the first time that he has come home from work and the first thing I say to him is, "Darling, I might have made a little mess".

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Same Desk - Different View

I had a wonderful life in Shropshire: great house and garden, friends and family, lovely little village school, everything I needed. However, it did not stop me feeling restless every time someone I knew moved house. There was a part of me that envied them. The process of clearing out the clutter, streamlining your way of living and starting over somewhere different is without doubt cathartic and renewing. I did not exactly need renewal but 'that part' of me craved it.

Then it happened. After half hearted complaining about his dissatisfaction with his career and equally half hearted attempts to remedy this, my husband found the door to a new future that had been eluding him and pretty much kicked it down and walked through in less time, it felt, than it took me to write this sentence.

We had reached a fork in the road and we were taking the direction signposted '?'.

I would be giving up a lot to follow my husband down this unknown path but it is testament to my total trust in him that I never doubted (and of course there was 'that part' of me that was more than a little satisfied)

The new job was at an independent school and the deal was that we would be living in school owned accommodation and our two young children would be educated there. A huge focus of our life would be within the little bubble that is the school. I am the first to admit that this particular bubble is a very inspiring and exciting one but it would take a leap of faith to embrace it and make it work for all of us as a family.

My husband is totally committed to the school, its ethos, the people and the difference he feels he can make there. The children only really needed to put on their school uniforms to feel their sense of belonging and that sense has grown with each passing day as they make friends and achieve milestones in their education and development. I have been made welcome by the community and although I have yet to find a purpose for myself beyond supporting my husband and children (and that is a full time job as any mum knows!) I am happy here. We are making a life... and a good one.

I am sitting at the same desk I always sat at to compose my blog posts. I am surrounded by familiar things but  in new orientations and settings. The shape of my day is not as it was. I gaze out of a window that did not exist in my old office and I see a different view. Have I stayed the same or am I different?

I have shed so many layers: possessions, habits (good and bad), comfortable routines. I do feel lighter. This is a wonderful opportunity to live life the way we want to, to let the new layers settle with mindfulness and knowledge of past experience... to learn from old mistakes.

There was once a time, many years ago, when I thought all that was left for my future was to watch my little chicks fly away and wait patiently for death. How wrong I was.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


The day I moved from my much loved home in Shropshire to start a new life in Sussex, it rained. Not just drizzle, or showers.... torrential rain. Knowing that there was a deadline by which we had to return our rented removal vehicle, we did not have the luxury of waiting for the storm to pass. We battled on. Makeshift covered walkways fashioned from tarpaulins did not stop my new front garden turning into a quagmire and did little to actually shelter anything or anyone. They did serve to emphasise how ferocious the gusts of wind were at times as flapping, billowing sheets of plastic threw collected rainwater in random directions by the bucket load. Miraculously (and by 'miracle' I really mean foresight, care and diligence), my brand new carpets survived completely unscathed and bar a few knocks and bangs and complete exhaustion, so did we.

We have been settling into our new life now for the past month and a half. We have come a long way in that time. Much has happened and the speed at which changes are occurring and days are being ticked off on the calendar show no sign of slowing down.

Yesterday, I drove my daughter and a car load of possessions including a bicycle and a life sized human skeleton to Oxford. Oxford University terms start later than most others so we have only just joined that group of parents who have packed up their children and deposited them in various locations to begin exciting new academic adventures.

We arrived at the college in good time despite having to negotiate the M25 at rush hour. I drank much appreciated coffee as my daughter registered before being shown to the room she will call home (during term time at least!). The room was bare but lovely. I didn't have time to help her settle in and add some home comforts because I needed to get back to Sussex for the school pick up, but I did help transport her possessions up the inevitable flights of stairs ready to be unpacked. And... it rained.
This rain could not compete with the rain I had contended with during my own move but it was not rain that could be easily ignored. In the short walk (or run where we could manage it) from car park to hall of residence, plastic storage crate lids filled with water like little swimming pools. My hair was plastered to my face and dripping wet. I was soaked through.

I had a two hour drive home to dry off, grateful that the car heating system worked well.

So, I have one daughter at University about to embark on the challenge of becoming a medic. Another daughter, having graduated from her University in Warwick is working in London on a graduate training scheme. My other two grown up daughters still live and work in Shropshire and one of them is now engaged to be married. The family dynamic has changed dramatically and it is taking a bit of getting used to.

As I look out of my window today, I can see the leaves beginning to show their autumnal hues and some are floating gently earthwards . I have loved the long summer days and the unexpected late sunshine that has held the promise of winter at bay but autumn has most definitely arrived and it is beautiful. Change is good.

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