Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Year That is To Be 2011

Next year represents another 12 months of fun exciting times and so I have been thinking recently about what it means for me and mine. I don't believe in resolutions and to that effect never make any as I have no intentions of keeping them. But what I have started to do is think about some things that I would like to do in the new year.

Some of these are within my control. Others are not. So to try and work some of them out I thought it might be an idea to throw a couple up here into blogland and see what happens.

Also I might have mentioned this before- I like lists. . .

  • Run a full marathon
 This is in my control and will be the peak of my running to date, possibly I can talk The Husband into doing one somewhere interesting, like Berlin or Norway. . .
  • Run a half marathon
 Again within my control and will form part of my full marathon training plan.
  • Move out of our flat and into a house
Hmm well. In my control?

I'll be starting a new job in January and with a little extra cash I will hopefully be able to help move us out of our small flat into a nice house. I, of course, will not be doing this alone but rather with Husband and then the plans for new additions to our family can start, like the cat (name still to be decided!) and dog (Italian Spinone called Brutus, we're far more specific about the dog details than the cat) we're really keen to have!
  • Welcome my new niece to the world
Littlest Sis and her husband are having a little girl in April. This is totally out with my control but having had the joys of feeling her kick and back flip around her Mummy's tummy I can't wait to meet her in July.
  • Watch my lil Sis get married
Again totally out with my control and having been married for 2 years I am still happy not to be planning or saving towards a wedding but still basking in the glow of being married to my lovely Husband.

In my control is going to be her Hen night though which is slightly scary but hopefully I'll be able to do her proud!!
  • Hit the big 3.0.
Again out with my control but being exactly 6 months yonger than my Husband I will be relishing the fact he hits his 30's ahead of me. I know of a few people who freak out about hitting this particular milestone. I am not sure why.

I am not. I am relishing the opportunity to welcome another year in my life. I have had some sadder and darker years in the past and welcome the chance to force some more time in between me and them. I plan to celebrate this birthday with close family and friends- a dinner, cooked from scratch by me!!!

The "sadder and darker years" on reflection sounds deeply melodramatic. It's not but they are a topic I think I will share with you fellow blogee's and readers perhaps in the next 12 months. I am not sure about revealing this Other Side to blog land given that I am not annonymous. So there maybe some people who know me that don't know this. . . oh the conflict and the drama that blogging brings!!
  • Reach my target weight
This in within my control and very easy to do.

I have just been pretty relaxed about it. In truth though I am hoping this will be a natural side effect of training for a full marathon. Ideally before Lil Sis' big wedding day!
  • Plan and book our 3rd year anniversary break
Husband has planned and booked the last two - this year it's my turn and I can't wait. In fact I think I already know where I am going to book, which is pretty exciting.

I will tell you more about it nearer the time. . . but this is definitely within my control!
  • Finish TBC
Again within my control. And don't forget there is £100.00 resting on my ability to complete the largest cross stitch I have ever had the guts to undertake.
  • Swim a mile
Also within my control. This year I signed up to swim a mile in Strathclyde country park but it was called off due to green algae. I can swim and if floating were an Olympic sport I would excel and would easily be a gold medal winner. However I have never had the confidence to swim any kind of distance so this event actually inspired a degree of fear that I might not be able to do it.

Swimming is very different to running. If and when it gets too tough because you haven't done enough training you can always walk. Swimming doesn't have he same get out clause. You drown. Or float. . . after a time!

Anyway having swum the distance (once and in a busy swimming pool) I am no longer scared but excited by the the whole thing. In fact I plan to do it in Windemere and make a weekend away of it for Husband and me. In fact if Husband decides to do his own challenge (an Ironman style event) then he might be able to do it with me!
  • Keep on Blogging
To maintain this piece of writting space and improve with practise and regular posting. To this effect I will take the bit between my teeth and attend a creative writting group and hope to be inspired and filled with confidence in what I do bare to blog about!!


These were a few of the things that I know and hope will be realised in the new year in the meantime all the best to you all for your next 12 months of fun and excitment.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

It's cold, it's white, IT'S BLLOOOMMING MARVELOUS.

There are sNoW many things to be excited about when it comes to winter!

SKI-ING
I am fairly new to the art of ski-ing and having been on 2 ski trips in my life I am hooked. We are already booked for 2011 and I have my helmet, gloves and salapets all out of The Grandparents loft already.

A bit pre-emptive you might say however this year has seen the worst/best levels of snow that I can ever remember. And I've lived in Aberdeenshire- we know about the cold! So having already had 2 days snowed in last week and a half day this week to make sure we got home alright I have had to wear the aforementioned ski gear.

The more it snows the closer to my ski holiday I feel. I am out of annual leave and have been for some months now. . . ROLL ON JANUARY. This is one annual leave deprived lady! I am also desperate to see how much I can improve on 2010's mad skills. The following may be some what intimidating for the lesser skier . . . my speed and agility are very impressive:


I am not sure if this link will work but you should see a video of a fantastic skier- this would be me!

DRIVING
We have also recently become a Volvo owning and driving family. Ideal weather you might think- Volvo, Sweden, Snow perfectly safe driving conditions. Perfect conditions (or not depending on your confidence at snow driving) I am not going to be driving Viego (the Volvo, yes we name our cars- or rather I do The Husband has vito rights). Although he (the car not The Husband) comes packed with numerous safety features but I'd rather walk to the train station to attempt to get to work, than feel Vieg's slip sliding away under neath us. Something he only does when the traction control is disengaged. . . Yes we are still learning how to work our new toy.

Apparently in heavy snow it needs to be disengaged otherwise its like car skating on tarmac. Something Husband can vouch for. He is definitely far braver than I - happy(ish) to drive. Well happier now we know about the traction control thing.

SNOW ANGELS/MEN/SLEDGING
I met up with an old friend at a pub the night the snow started.* And have to say had a lot much to drink. So when Husband picked me up, having already slid the car around the roundabout (this was before we knew about the traction control thing), he was not a happy bunny.

So to appease his drunken and excitable wife he came out for a walk with me in the snow. I was keen that we were the first ones out in the snow and that we were. I think its the sound of our boots creaking in the fresh snow and seeing these perfect foot prints on a blank canvas. Making snow angels, building a snow man and generally behaving like children in the snow at 1am in the morning. I think this is the only reason I survived the hangover that nearly hit on the Saturday morning.

*If ever there was an opening to a novel that is probably mine!!


 Geoff
 Angelic
Drunken Culprit

PHOTOGRAPHY

I don't think I need to say anything more that check out my pictures:

All available for a fee :o)

 

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cupcake'tastic

I've decided that this years Christmas presents are going to be of the home made variety. Specifically the cupcake variety.

This has come about as a result of getting the best possible recipe book for cupcakes. Usually my baking suffers from a bit of dryness, however the end result of these have been light and moist and delicious "bites of heaven"* The plan is to make 4 per family: 1 chocolate, 1 red velvet, 1 lemon and 1 vanilla.

This process hasn't been without its teething troubles. On my first batch of Red Velvet cupcakes I had in my enthusiasm burst in on them while they were trying to rise in the oven. I clearly caught them unawares and they reacted with a severe bout of shyness and promptly collapsed. The icing sugar wasn't any better- like white soup. I've never experienced cupcake collapse before and I've been quite traumatised by it so have been testing and practising like you wouldn't believe to make sure its avoided at all costs.



So according to my calculations I have about 100 cakes to make- there is room to keep some as moral boosters for the guys who are having to work the Christmas/New Year shift. . . fingers crossed I am up to the test of mass baking!!

I have persisted and tested each of the 4 flavours and hopefully I'll be as successful with the mass baking as I was with this little batch



* a direct quote from one of my work colleagues.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Retail Rage

I will be the first to admit that I am not a technical person.

Those around me will also be quick to agree. If they're ever heard the sharp in take of breath and witnessed a blank monitor, as I repeatedly bang my head on the desk, the recommended course of action is to evade. Maybe head out for an impromptu meeting, until the cloud of muttered curses passes.

So when, during the course of this blog evolution, it became apparent that one PC would not suffice our family of two we set about getting me hooked up with my own. It would not need to be powerful- lets face it the content of this blog is hardly highly demanding in terms of its technical requirements*. However it would need to be capable of dealing with a reasonable amount of imagery (for the blog), word style documents (for the blog) and accessing the Internet (for the blog). It would also be ideal if it could be small in size and lightweight (not blog specific, more aspiring writer specific). Regardless, this PC was clearly not going to require a high degree of spec.

Don't worry I am not about to launch into a sales pitch however I do love my new toy.

The process of acquiring said toy was not a straight forward one. It should have been. However it was filled with frustration and boughts of retailer rage. We, husband and I, agreed the spec before the visit to a hig street computer shop.

We went, we looked and we compared. I had my heart set on a pretty little red number with a 13 inch screen. The problems this would present should have been apparent when we looked to see what the available cases were like. There were none. They were either too big or two small, none the right size. This should have acted as a sign of things to come.

Not put off by this I was keen to take possession of this pretty little red number. So we set about trying to track down a sales person. This was not hard to do, we foolishly thought, having been approached at least 3 times in the space of 15 minutes. However when we turned around not one purple shirt could be seen. It was meerkat-esque the way they disappeared, sensing the pressure of having to enter the sale process they vanished into their various burrows. It appeared they were happy to give the suggestion of being attentive and available however when the moment presents itself they crumble and flee.

courtesy of www.weheartit.com

One poor meerkat wasn't quite quick enough and being the "patient" shopper I am I grabbed his attention with an assertive "Excuse Me"- as he tried desperately to scuttle past avoiding my eye contact.

"Yes?"

The charm was back on, hoping in vein that I was going to ask where the customer toilets were presumably.

"We'd like to buy this one, please" I point happily to my shiny little red number.

"I'll just get someone for you" and he ran like a man possessed into the Back Room.

Not to reappear in the next 5 minutes with someone in tow, but to come back out looking more nervous than ever. Clearly the burrow he had dived into wasn't yielding any brave meerkats specialising in PC sales.

He walked purposefully to the other end of the store and returned dragging a rather pathetic looking PC specialist meerkat before diving back into a near by burrow, not to be seen again.

As I said this should have been straight forward as we knew what we wanted (or rather I needed). And in terms of set up I had married a man who would be able to deal with all and any aspects of software installation that might arise during the course of my relationship with this toy. Certainly more than I could cope with!

"So, do you know what you're after then?" Him, looking directly at my Husband.

Slightly annoyed, I took a deep breath, pointed and said "This is the one, please Sean" I say nice and slowly reading his name badge.

"Ah" he says.

I note the raised eye brows and softening of his tone of voice.

I have clearly presented a problem. He is going to have to change tack as is clearly not dealing with the man but the small-lady-brained woman.

"O.K then, do you know what it does?" in an ever slower and more gentle tones of voice

"Yes" me, with about 3 seconds of patience left . . .

"What is it you need it to do?"

As if this were some kind of test!! Should I fail it then he would not be in a position to take money from us in some strange act of retail responsibility. This I understand with knives and alcohol etc. to under age children. But a PC to a couple in their late 20's?!!

"I need it to access the Internet, basics word documentation, ability to cope with imagery. Nothing significantly technical or high spec. Thank You"

Me, now down to about 2 seconds of patience remaining . . .toying with the idea of telling him I was planning on hacking into various government computers and banks or accessing indecent images.

"Right, well then lets see what we have in stock shall we"

Shoulders up to my ears and steam pouring out of them. I throw a look at my Husband. Who is slightly amused at this exchange of patronising conversation, where I have tried to out-patronise a sales man and failed. As he (meerkat not Husband) has absolutely maintained his Little Lady attitude throughout the course of this conversation.

We have been in the shop for about 20 minutes before getting to the point of confirming an available machine. It's incredibly warm and we are now being subjected to the sales pitch of insurance and
courtesy of www.weheartit.com
software etc. Which is now being delivered to my superior-man-brained husband rather than the feeble-little-lady-brained wife. Presumably he felt that this was going to be far too technical for me to cope with all together.

The shoe is now on the other foot from my perspective and I am now in a position to find the exchange quite amusing.

My Husband is taking on the look of a seriously angry snake ready to gobble up this stupid, insulting and patronising meerkat, who is rapidly taking his last second of patience.

courtesy of www.weheartit.com

We eventually get the PC home only to be faced with the blue screen of death.

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


It is rapidly returned to another store and exchanged for a sexy glossy, black, 10 inch screened machine which is standing up to the test of my little blogisphere adventure.






*
Although the thoughts of having some kind of magical glitter float its way through the pages of this blog have crossed my mind.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Waxing- Not for the feint of heart

I have had a glass of wine.

This is my disclaimer for what is about to follow.

About a fortnight ago I booked in for an overhaul. We had a 30th birthday party to go to in London and I was in need of a haircut and a wax. A mono-brow on a girl is not a good look and so its imperative if the fringe was getting trimmed back it couldn't leave one long furry caterpillar lounging above my baby blues!!

If, as a lady, you have never had the experience of a wax you haven't really lived. It's an experience, not necessarily a nice one but as a functional, longer lasting and minimal fuss its a good option. It does come with a degree of pain, which is why I strategically thought I would balance the good with the bad and added a body scrub to my lists of "needs".

The plan was to start with a top down approach.

Eyebrows
Beautician (B): And do you want me to shape them?
Me: Hmm, I think its more of a reclamation than a shaping that we* need.

Enter the application of warm wax, the soothing stroking of the cotton strip onto the offending area before... well a sharp tug and I have 2 independent eye brows. 

B: So, how do you feel about a little off the top
Me: Well if you could that would be great.

Now for some reason I felt the need to explain that for an unknown reason my eye brows were trying to migrate their way into my hair line! This brought a smile on the face of B. but then I thought that if I got her on side then the rest of it would be a breeze. Good theory.

Underarms
B. : If you could just hold yourself here

Me- Holding breast firmly out of the way I hold my breath and tense every muscle known to woman-kind.
B- SHARP tug
Me- having stopped holding my breath collapse. Which is an impressive achievement when you think that I am lying on a bed.

THE BIKINI


For your own interests you might want to stop reading now and skip to THE END which is handily marked as THE END

 Now there are various things I could probably point out about the standard of etiquette involved on the parts of the B and on the client. But I'm not going to bother, this is my wax story and I am going to tell in it my now two glasses of wine way!!

She first asked me to drop my leg off of the side of the bed. This was a problem from the point of view that it left me in the position that when she yanked that evil cotton strip off  I was going to kick her hard and fast in her bikini area. 

What caused this particular section of the booking was the discovery of a stray hair half way towards my hip! WHAT possible plans did that little hair have? That it was going to lead a revolution? A mass growth, a flurry of other hairs racing their way around my hips to form some kind of alternative, hippy style skirt?!!!

That was never going to happen.

With the mono-brow and its aspirations of domination in terms of taking over my hair line I had no option but to respond with strength.

I went super wax.

There is not enough there to hold a party let alone lead a pubic revolution!




THE END
I went to the 30th in a foxy black dress, with two very sexy looking eyebrows and the ability to throw my hands in the air like I just don't care.

It was a great wee party rescued the next day with an amazing cooked breakfast. Thanks Mr H. we appreciated it very much!!!


*we were a team, there was a lot to be done and I wasn't going to go down alone. 



Comment if you've had a wax or a stray rogue Che Guevara hair?! Or even to say you have read this and think I am ever so obviously un-hinged!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Touch Me

As it seems to have turned to that time of the year already I thought you might like to read about what happened to me this time last year.

I like to treat myself as it hits autumn to a nice new pair of cosy jammies. The weather is cold, its dark and miserable and snuggling up in some nice jammies when the weather has turned is perfect. Last year was no exception and off to Marks I went the day after payday. They had quite a lot to offer: different lengths, different patterns and different materials. Spoiled!

I opted for ones which were so soft that they had a sticker boasting the fact: "Touch Me"!

The next day at work, in a black dress, I was in the canteen getting a coffee when there was a hesitant tap on my shoulder. It was one of the catering ladies. . .

"Excuse me, but I think you have a sticker on your dress"

Yes, not just any sticker but the black sticker with "Touch Me" emblazoned on it with in white writing on the back of my dress. I was mortified. I had walked from my desk, across the office and across the canteen with possibly one of the most inappropriate statements I could. Talk about breaches of dignity at work!

I am not sure how or when the sticker transferred from the PJ bottoms to the dress but The Husband assures me that it was nothing to do with him. Although he, along with my work mates, had a good laugh at another classic Cass moment!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Cross Stitch Challenge

 When I was younger about 12/13 years old I used to do cross striches.  There is something quite satisfying about the pattern and texture I think that pleased my inner OCD streak. Well having finished the MSc this year I thought with my life back I could see how I get on with it.

So a bit of on-line retail therapy I came across a website dealing in cross stiches of various sizes and patterns so I got two. One about the size of the palm of my hand . . . I've not loaded any pictures of Scruffy the puppy because, well I got board.

When I showed The Husband by two purchases he raised one eye brow, paused and threw down a challenge. £100 if by 2012 I have finished T.B.O. (The Big One). That would be this one:


Coutresy of me

I quite like a challenge and looking at this you might also think that my Husbands money is safe. Well, so do I but I am not going to admit it least of all to The Husband.

So one month later and this is my progress. Just so you are aware here is the comparison with the gauntlet. . .

Courtesy of me

Yes that is a standard biro pen in between the design and my month one progress shot. I will randomly post another progress shot in a couple of months. Hopefully I'll have the daning couple done and filled in!!
The challenge I actually have is finding the time and not ruining my eye sight at such a young and fragile age of 29 years. 

The challenge my Husband has taken on this year has been to build his own road bike. I thought I was quite quick with my thinking- the more he spends on his bike the more I get to spend on myself. Thankfully he didn't change the terms of our cross stitch challenge, otherwise he'd be getting my £10.00. . .

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A random day in the life of me

Hmm really struggling with getting back into the swing of this blogging malarkey. . . so thought I would tell you about my day today.

Husband had a stupidly early flight to London. When I say stupidly early I mean it. 6:30am. Which meant getting up at 5am. Yes, that's right folks 5am.

So I decided to piggy back on this early morning kick start and headed with him to the airport- to go to the gym. I was so early that I had to wait outside with 5 or 6 other sleepy looking gym members. 6k later, a lot sweaty grunting sit ups later and I decided to call it quits and head to the pool. For a sauna and steam. All before 8am. . .

At my desk for half past 8 I figured the safest thing to do would be coffee and a bacon roll. Well 6k is worthy of a bacon roll, and no I wont be judged on this one people. I got up at 5am this morning!! If you thought my day was going to go down hill at the alarm going off at 5am then this for me was the breaking point.

My purse was not in my hand bag. It was sitting on my microwave behind a cookie tub (or more specifically an empty crackers box that we're using to store our cookies in- ahh the life of a moderate environmentalist - perhaps more mentalist than environmental!). Great. I was going to starve. Not only had I run and sweated (a lot- I am not a pretty sight in the gym as my sister in law can confirm) I had also dehydrated myself with a 10 minute sit in a steam room. The very thought of not having a coffee and, a by now much longed for, bacon roll, was making me feel like passing out.

Then I remembered my stash of emergency locker money. £4.00 worth sitting innocently in my gym bag. I made it to 5pm with bus money, a fete practically unheard of in my particular office block with its over priced canteen. Truly a Thursday miracle.

I then headed for the safety of the flat. Only to grab my purse and head back out to grab some Presseco and icing sugar. I've been working on some cupcakes. . . they needed to be iced tonight. Because the Presseco and cupcakes would be heading to Stirling as part of a girls night. The cupcakes look good, really good. I'll have to blog about them soon. . .

Oh and husband, he is still in London. At a concert and wont be back until tomorrow, I am not going to see him until I get back from Stirling later tomorrow night. So this evening it's a glass of wine, a slice of pizza and you- my anonymous blog readers . . . a happy end to my rather random and uneventful day.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Hanging in there. . .

As I write this the palms of my hands are burning and my forearms are throbbing. All signs of a good climbing session. Even my fingers ache as I move, attempt to move, them across the keyboard.

I've been climbing for about a year now, on and off once a week, with the Husband and a couple of friends from work. I am the only girl and as such there aren't really any expectations that I have the same strength and reach as the boys but that doesn't mean I get let off lightly either.

I get half way, to three quarters, up a wall and my arms feel like lead. It's chalk and sweat holding me there and I slide. Swinging out and dangling like a spider hanging off a ceiling- although with slightly less grace. There is a safe feeling. I am going no where. I am high off the ground, the rope being held securely by my belay buddy. I can swing and dangle for as long as it takes for the blood to rush back to my finger tips. Before reaching out and trying again to reach the top. I wont get down unless they are truly convinced that I have given it my best shot.

Part of the enjoyment comes from the strategy that is demanded from you. Working routes out, where to place your feet, how best to grip the holds. And it's not necessarily about the speed, its about being able to reach and trust in your self that you have the ability to hold, push and pull yourself up. The only person your working against is yourself.

In my case this can prove to be quite an emotional experience. You see, although I have a love of climbing I also have a fear of heights. This seems in complete contraction- to love indoor climbing and yet fear heights. It is a fairly difficult contradiction to try and explain but I am going to give it a go.

When the fear starts I can feel my heart racing, like its trying to make a bid for freedom out of my chest and onto the solid ground. I don't feel like I am in control, I am completely helpless. It's not that I don't trust the belayer- they are well aware of my little freak outs and do keep a close eye on me when I am up there. But I can't catch my breath. Unable to breathe and heart pounding, my throat then decides to join in the climbing protest and close up. I can't swallow but it doesn't matter because I am struggling to breathe so it'll be over soon. I'll be lowered to the ground a still, blue corpse!

But of course this doesn't happen. When my heart feels like it can't possibly beat any faster it seems to realise that its pointless trying and slows down. My brain decides to re-engage and I start to climb, focusing on "The sooner you get to the top the sooner you can get down".

This feeling will happen at least once a week. So, why do I put myself through it? I enjoy the view at the top? I like the drama of the freak out because it makes me feel like I am alive (what with being so close to death)?

I can't really explain it. I take pride in the fact that when I reach the top its been under my own steam. I have done this! I love the feeling that there has been a hold that I didn't think I could make and I make it. That I have been able to pull myself up with a strength I didn't know I had.  I think perhaps it brings out my inner child (who was a tree climbing fanatic). The conflict is the adult and child trying to make their presence known at the same time.

The thing about climbing is that it is accessible to any-one. Tonight I watched a 7 year kid lead climb up 15 meters. We've been top rope climbing for a year, I still freak out and yet this little boy is totally without fear raced up a 15 meter wall. Weighing about 4 stone and without any muscle what so ever. On reflection it might not have been a child at all but a tiny climbing robot....

I ache in new and interesting ways, far more challenging to a legs, bums and tums class. Tomorrow I wont be able to take a shower or wash my hands without wincing at the incredible burning sensation. And from my finger tips to the back of my shoulders will be sure to let me know of all the various muscles involved in writing an email, making a phone call or moving a mouse.

But I will go again next week. To stand in a freezing quarry. Feel my neck stiffen as I watch Husband and friends climb up and remind my hands that skin will toughen up as I belay and climb my way to the top.

I have my own little walls that prove to be like fighting a dragon- horrific- but I will do them. I will push through the feel of fear that will flood through my body. I will wait and it will pass and I will keep climbing until it is defeated!!

Courtesy of www.eica-ratho.com*

* I would love to say this was us. But it's not. It's also lead climbing which we can't do, yet! We have reached this height though.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Keep on Running

A year ago I took part in my first 10k in years in Linlithgow and managed 1 hour 3 minutes. It's a course known to be a challenge for any pb aspiring runner and I took comfort in that. However it was also the kick that I needed to get my running going.

In the last 12 months I have participated in a number of 10ks getting faster each time. I even had the confidence to set a 55 minute target in order to raise money of Alzheimer Scotland.

Linlithgow
  • Not Chipped- but there is a klaxon, a stop watch and a lot of marshalls, so that has to be accurate, right?!
  • Hill Climb factor*: 8/10
  • Scenic
  • For the more serious of runners (no fun runners need apply)
  • Highlight- The first 10k in 5 or more years and my base line. There were no highlights to this other than the walk I needed to take to avoid having an ambulance called. I nearly cried when I saw Little Sis cheering me on at 9.5k a broken woman.

Strathclyde Country Park
  • Not Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 4/10
  • Scenic
  • Good support & atmosphere
  • Highlight- This was a Tesco "Run for Life" where the runners all had "I'm doing it for..." and I had mine filled out in memory of those who are no longer around because of cancer. On approaching my Husband he let out a supportive roar of "DO IT FOR ME!". While I slogged on I had a number of supportive runners pass me with comments and sympathetic smiles. I didn't have the heart or the breath in me to say "He's not got cancer, he just wants me to do a decent time"
Lincoln
  • Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 2/10
  • Residential
  • Poor support & lacking atmosphere
  • Highlight- While I shaved some more time off it was the people who over took me that stood out and spurred me on. A bare foot runner, an octogenarian celebrating his birthday, a couple of purple suited gimps - one fat and one thin- (obviously) and three super hero's. Thankfully no comedy fun running toilets passed me.
Edinburgh
  • Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 7/10
  • Scenic
  • Good support & atmosphere
  • Highlight- I can proudly say I ran with Ron Hill. For the uninitiated/uninterested he is Mr Running and while he is in his silver fox days he was still too quick for me to keep up. However coming round and down the Mound I managed a 100m run with my dear friend (a fundraiser for Marie Curie) and had a fantastic roaring cheer from my Husband at the foot of the Mound (despite his beer fest hangover he managed to find me and make sure I heard him) got me to the finish line. Where my little capped head can be seen on the corner of a TV interview! A celebrity at last.
Glasgow
  • Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 5/10
  • Fantastic support & atmosphere
  • Highlight-Watching some innocent park walkers get heckled by a bunch of red faced runners for not supporting and encouraging the Sunday morning female plight (it was a women only event). Only for my Husband to be cheered back loudly by said hecklers for cheering me on. He generated a lot of envious runners who then over took me. I was 5 seconds shy of my target time but I had the support of my Grandparents, Uni friend (who amusing mentioned a work nick name- The Princess of Darkness. She works in HR, self explanatory that one), Great Aunt M and as ever my number one fan - Husband
Linlithgow
  • Same format as last year.
  • Hill Climb factor: 9/10**
  • Scenic (as ever in sunny Linlithgow)
  • limited support in the sticks
  • Highlight- In a very un-lady like manger I have found that spitting, while not speeding me up, does make breathing a bit easier. The ettiquette is not to spit on another runner. So, when mid spit out of the corner of my eye I spied a fellow runner I quickly turned my head and let leash. Only to have a mouthful of my own gob make a half hearted attempt a leaving my mouth, dangle off my chin before hitting my leg. Its a popular run and I had this happen twice. You are not a proper runner unless you have had the indignity of spitting on yourself. . .
I suspect my time will not have improved having taken an unconventional approach to training. I didn't do any. Well, I tried to convince Husband that a series of LBT classes would give me the cardio I required to get through and maintain a good time (still sub 60 min). I can confirm that LBT isn't as effective as actually pulling on your trainers but I am not going to admit that yet. At least until the times are published.

There is a half marathon in about 7 weeks (7th Nov) and I am thinking my new challenge is not about time but about distance. So having completed the Linlithgow 10k on Sunday (26th Sept) and tucked another LBT today (27th Sept) I am planning on a run tomorrow. . .

As I write this the results are in and  I am nothing if not consistent (determined, neurotic and a number of various other descriptors!).

Linlithgow 2010: 1hr 3 min.




courtesy of me



* 10- a vertical climb, 1- a canal
** o.k so the route was unchanged from last year but I am certain that the hills were steeper this year than last.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Legs, Bums & Tums

I have been attending a legs, bums and tums class regularly for about 3 months now. I like it. It offers a number of insights and observations to the human condition. Specifically the female psyche.

We are mentally unbalanced. We must be.

Tonight I found myself jumping on and off of a mobile bench to a loud dance tune that had a military beat to it. If I had enough energy I would have thrown an arm into the air and shouted "Heil Frau Kelly". She was taking no prisoners tonight and the theme was death by military style circuits- it was scary how easy it was to fall into a rhythm and keep up with the pace. Brutal but possible. Well nearly possible.

In attending these classes I have come across a number of different types of aerobic "crazy".

  • The Vein One
In the 3 months I have been going to these classes I have participated in this madness on early on a Saturday morning. You get to know the regular faces. One such face attends not only LBT but the follow up Body Pump.

Last week she saw me, made eye contact and waved her arm. "Come to the front" she called out. I couldn't really ignore her but I thought it was just to fill the void she was currently standing on the edge of. By getting me to stand next to her I would then be helping to fill that void. I thought it would be good manners to introduce myself, so when I turned and said " My name is Cass, by the way" I was surprised to find I was being totally ignored.

The Vein One was standing looking at herself in the mirror with her top lifted so she could admire her stomach.

But my introduction had been said loud enough that others might have over heard. I was committed and in a louder voice I said "My name is Cass". That got a reaction. "Oh, sorry. I've been working on this stomach for the last 3 years and am really quite vein about it". So what I had thought was an introduction by a fellow LBTer was just an opportunity to for this girl to tell a random stranger about her abs. At least she was honest, she is vein!
  • The Novice
Really this person shouldn't be at the middle or the back of the class but right and centre at the front. This person was me last year.

Pre LBT I was a regular "stepper". Now with little co-ordination and a high degree of clumsiness what follows will not come as a surprise. These classes were eventually cancelled- not as a result of my clumsiness but as a result of poor attendance. I can only think it was because the routines became ever increasingly complex. To the point where during one lunch time class I tripped.

Not a quiet stumble that is discreetly recovered but a full blown throw yourself across the room trip. I was travelling across the top of the step when my left leg caught the back of my right knee (don't ask me how- I have no idea) but the next thing I knew was that I was flying. Across the room onto my bum with a thump. A soft landing, right enough, but not without the instructor loosing her own composure and laughing at my misfortune.

Un dettered I got up completed the routine and left. Very red faced.
  • The Posse
There may be comfort in numbers but I am not sure how much solace you can take when during the hour none of your group have the co-ordination to break a sweat. A group of 4 women nervously came in one Saturday morning (fortunately not the same day I was introduced to Vein ab girl) and spent the hour frowning as they tried to lunge, squat and sit up in time with the rest of the class.

It's not that I have superior co-ordination, anything but, however seeing that other women have similar issues brings nothing but a smile to my face. Unfortunately they didn't make it to any other classes, at least none that I have been to.

I can only guess that the morning after they were in too much pain to make it to the phone to book in for next week?!

Ever the optimist!





When the "crisis" comes I will be ready to lunge, squat and sit-up my way out of it. I am booked in for next week and will be attempting to distract myself from the pain by trying to understand what motivates a woman to inflict unspeakable pains on herself.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Chocolate & Orange Cake

This one deserves an entry of its own.

Please read first before attempting anything yourselves- there are valuable lessons to be learned here people!

Ingredients

• 115g unsalted butter, softened
• 115g caster sugar
• 4 large free-range or organic eggs
• 180g ground almonds
• 30g poppy seeds
Note: This is a nightmare to get hold of. Apparently Tescos et al believe we need it to make heroin. Us crazy home bakers!! Go to your local, organic, independent- they will be far friendlier and not question your drug taking habits when you ask them for poppy seeds
• zest and juice of 2 oranges
• 125g self-raising flour, sifted

for the orange syrup
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 freshly squeezed orange, for its juice

for the Chocolate Frosting
Note: This does make a lot so you might want to half these ingredients- this is a working creation, what can I tell you!

  • 600g icing sugar, sifted
  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 80g cocoa powder or drinking chocolate, sifted
  • 80ml Milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Grease and line the bottom and sides of two shallow 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

1. Using an electric whisk (or if you are space deprived a wooden spoon and a bored Husband are equally effective), beat the butter with the caster sugar until light and creamy.

2. Add the eggs one by one, beating each in well.

3. Fold in your ground almonds, poppy seeds, the orange zest and juice and the sifted flour.

4. Spoon the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until lightly golden.

5. You can check to see if the cake is cooked by poking a cocktail stick into the sponge. Remove it after 5 seconds and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked; if slightly sticky it needs a little longer, so put it back in the oven.

Note: If you use a knife be careful because it can look horrendous when you slide in a nice clean nice and it creates a HUGE tear in the middle of your cake when you try to pull it out if its not cooked in the centre.


6. Allow the cake to cool on a rack & move onto making the syrup.

7. Make your orange syrup by heating the sugar and orange juice in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. While your cake is still warm, make lots of little holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour your syrup over.

Note: It's probably best to point out that the syrup needs to be applied to the sponge before the frosting. Otherwise you end up making a bit of a mess- perforating the sponge with a cocktail stick and saying a silent prayer that the syrup makes its way through to the bottom layer of sponge.

Also WAIT for the cakes to cool before applying the frosting otherwise the top layer makes a bid for freedom . . .


8. For the icing. Beat the icing sugar, cocoa and butter together gently (otherwise you're going to have to work in a very sugary tasting cloud).

9. Gradually add the milk and continue beating until light and fluffy (5 mins'ish) The more its beaten the more fluffy it gets. Use husband beating when your own arms start to ache- he'll appreciate it more having contributed to the "hard" work himself!!

Results

(or rather my results)

As you can see I was rather impatient and forgot to apply the orange syrup before I iced the centre and put the top half on!! I think it was also retaining some heat hence the icing didn't really hold up to the job of stick to two halves together.

It does taste delicious - even if I do say so myself!




Monday, 6 September 2010

The Lone Wanderer

Here is your follow up to The Human Toboggan. I know you'll have been holding your breath waiting to hear what happened next.



My sense of direction isn't great. However since meeting and marrying my Husband I have been taught how to map read (and am I am secretly quite proud of this). As a back up we also have a sat nav- which can at times be a bit temperamental. For example if it can get us to take the longer of two routes to get anywhere it will do! I wonder if it has been pre-programmed to make sure that we don't become 100% reliant on the technology and are capable of retaining some basic life skills like swearing and speed map reading.

Now, prior to the development of these particular skills I relied on signs. And believe it or not I got on fine. However every great hero has her nemesis and mine is Perth. I can get there no problem. I can find find Kinoull hill no problem but getting out of Perth is a nightmare. And in this particular case it was going to be a major problem.

I was, if you remember, sitting in a car park with my jeans on the passenger seat. I still had to get out of Perth. So I resigned myself to the fact I still had to get home some how and started the car up. Within 10 minutes I already knew that I had missed a turning. I'll be honest, I couldn't tell you which turning I had missed but I knew I had gone wrong when I hit a culdesac that was looking particularly residential and not at all like the motorway to Edinburgh that I was searching for.

After driving for a good 45 minutes it dawned on me that I had only one option.

Because I didn't know where in Perth I was, a map would be useless and that fact that I lacked the skills to read a map it would have been pointless to dig out the pristine map* that I did in fact own.

I had to ask for directions.

I had to stop someone in the near vicinity and ask for their help.

hmm.

In bare legs, in February. I had to ask for directions.

Now at the time I was a single lady and I can confirm the existence of Murphy's Law. In a very real way. The minute I reached the decision to ask for directions dozens of young, attractive men began to appear on the streets of this residential culdesac. So I drove on hoping that a sign saying Edinburgh would appear.

No road signs for Edinburgh but a little old lady dragging a tartan case on wheels made an appearance like a mirage in a desert. I thought she would be an ideal person to ask for help. I just had to be sure and not alarm her with my semi naked driving style.

I pulled over and rolled the passenger side window down and shouted a friendly "Excuse me"

I thought the best course of action was not to draw attention to the fact I was sitting in a jumper and pants with my wet jeans next to me. I was going to be completely relaxed, like it was perfectly normal to drive around in pants during winter. Her reaction was what I can only describe as strange. She lent into the window to find out what I was excusing myself for.

Then she lent in a bit further. And a bit further still. She very calmly gave me the directions I needed and made no comment what so ever about the absence of trousers of any sort. Maybe she was used to drivers not wearing trousers.

Perhaps there is an undergound driving-in-your-pants thing that is such common place in Perth that she wasn't surprised at my appearance. . .

I reached the motorway no problem and spent the next hour driving along doing my best to be a model motorist. The very last thing I wanted was to get pulled over by the police. Or get over-taken by a heavy goods vehicle, where the driver would be at such a height they could see into my little car.

Despite having the heating on full power my jeans were no drier than they had been when I walked across the car park in Perth. I wont say that I am faster than Usain Bolt but I can move quickly when I need to and I had called from the car to get my sister to keep the front door open. The sprint from the car to the house was the fastest move known to Bonnington.





*My Grampa in his wisdom knew that it would come in handy after I passed my test. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I couldn't read it properly. The shame.

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Human Taboggan

Sometimes my head feels like it gets too full.

When it gets to the stage where I am struggling to think straight I escape. My escape is one I have know since I was about 6 years old. We'd drive past it on the way to Ayrshire from Aberdeenshire. It is an incredibly beautiful landmark and would brake the journey up for about 5 minutes as we'd shoot past at 70 mph on the motorway.

It's called Kinnoull Hill.

Sitting above the motorway, it is covered in tree's that turn the most amazing shades of red and yellow and brown and orange during the autumn. And near the top a tower rises out like part of a castle watch tower guarding the motorway.

The view from the top is beautiful. There is a sleek, dark, wide river that winds its way through gentle sloping hills. And from every angle on this hill all you can see are trees of different shades. The cars glint like shiny beetles driving along the motorway.
courtesy of grampianhotel.

The silence and space and view let me pull these scattered thoughts together. To catch my breath and after a while head back down into the chaos, feeling re-charged and ready to carry on.

It wasn't until I was at uni and a friend told me that it was a notorious suicide spot. Trust me when I say that it's quite hard to explain and reassure people that your not suicidal. Particularly when you've left the flat quiet and in a bad mood. Only to return a couple of hours later relaxed and calm. . .

In my 4th year I was feeling the strain of exams and getting that first job, so I headed for my sanctionary.

It was February and the weather in Edinburgh was its usual grey, dreich self but there was no snow but I was wrapped up nice and warm. As I drove North bits of white made themselves apparent at the side of the road. I wasn't too concerned- I had a warm jumper and thick jacket I'd be fine. I drove on, incident free, and an hour later I pulled into the upper car park.

I took a deep breath and got out my little puddle jumper- a red ford fiesta called Elmo- zipped my jacket up and started my ascent. I didn't really think too much of it given that I had a pair of sturdy trainers and plenty of layers to get me to the top. There was a lot of snow around when I arrived, so it did occur to me that I would have to be s bit more careful and watch my step. But this would be the first time I would do this walk through a winter wonderland and i was looking forward to it.

That was until I was about 500 yards from the car park and I caught sight of another pair of walkers. Attaching spikes to their sturdy walking boots. Not trainer wearing walkers. Definitely sturdy walking boots walkers.

Experienced.

Walkers.

With spikes.

The cold trickling thought that maybe I was ill-prepared for what lay ahead seeped into my head. Like biscuit crumbs in a bed- irritatingly there and no matter how loud you think confident thoughts they just wont go away.

Step after careful step I made very slow progress but I stayed on my feet. Keeping off the main path, for extra grip, I slowly reached the top of Kinnoull Hill with my thighs burning! I'd never worked so hard in any fitness class- as I had to get up that hill.

At the top I stood and took the view in. Wrapped in my many layers and standing in my "sturdy" trainers I made for a seriously ill-equipped walker. But I could feel the contentment begin to settle on my mind.

It had taken so long to get to the top that it wasn't long before the sun was starting to set. I reasoned, sensibly I though, that I had better get a wriggle on, the decent was surely going to take as long- if not longer.

I had to stop every couple of feet to get my breath. In an effort to keep my balance I had my arms outstretched like a scarecrow and had stopped breathing, pulling my stomach muscles in a tightly as possible. It was far more exhausting and demanding than the climb up. Which, during the summer, would be considered a gentle walk!!

I was about 100 yards away from the car park and had Elmo is my sights when it happened. My foot slipped. I did the circular arm swinging that you see swimmers do before they dive in for their Olympic feat. My weight shifted rapidly from my right to my left. For a fraction of a second I thought, very foolishly, that I had recovered it.

Then I breathed. That was enough to throw my precariously held balance off and down I went.

Hard.

Bum first, onto wet snow. Not the nice kind of soft fluffy stuff that you see in Christmas cards and on American movies but dirty, wet snow.

Between my foot slipping and bum making contact with the ground, my jeans decide to act like a sponge and soak up as much water as they possibly could. That however was the least of my concerns because now my focus was on leaning.

First left, then right. Trying to stay on the main foot path. The main foot path, which was tree free. The trees were a blur as I hurtled down this hill on my bum, using my hands as some sort of primitive steering. The trees petered out and I shot into a clearing. Coming to a stop just before the car park.

courtesy of gettyimages.

I took stock.

Everything was in tact. My bum was exceptionally wet however the silver lining was that no-one was in the car park. It was empty. Not a soul witnessed my speedy and unexpected arrival in the car park. So I stood and walked calmly back to the car. During this 3 minute human tobogganing experience I hadn't utter one squeak. No screams of terror echoing round the Perthshire countryside were heard. And in the end all I could do was marvel at the fact I had not killed myself by sliding 100 mph into a tree.

However now I had a dilemma. An hour to drive home in wet jeans. Given that there was no one in the car park, I got into the car and whipped the wet jeans off,,laying them on the passenger seat (wet side up) and whacked on the heating, praying that they would dry by the time I arrived in Edinburgh.

Now getting out of Perth isn't a straight forward process.

Which is why I am going to leave you hanging with a what happened next!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Other forms of klumsiness- A scald

This summer I had an accident.

I often have little accidents, not of the incontinent nature I'm just pretty clumsy, but this one involved a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I can already hear the intake of breadth as you read.

Similar to The Ketchup Story this is one to tell your kids. Show and warn them of the perils of not listening to their wise parents when practising the art of common sense.

I was curled up in the edge of a couch with a good book and was getting nice and comfy when my little sister came through with the offer of a coffee. Hmm sounds good, pl for a caffine addict,us I didn't need to get up for it. So I waited for the kettle to boil and duly my little sister made me a cup of coffee and brought it over.

I was positioned such that my feet were tucked up under me and my book was in my left hand. I reached with my right hand to take the cup - which my sister was holding by the handle.

I placed my hand over the top of the cup, feeling the steam of the coffee against the palm of my right hand. My first mistake. The temperature of the cup had not yet started to warm my finger tips. Before it did I decided it would be a good idea to move. My second and possibly biggest mistake.

To balance the book on the arm of the chair, lean my left elbow on the arm and pass the handle of the cup into my left hand from my right hand. That was the plan, simple hmm!

My fingers and palm started to sweat from the heat and the cup began to slide ever so slightly out of my grasp as I tried to speed up this maneuver. I lost it.

The cup dropped squarely onto my left knee and tumbled directly into my lap. Completely upside down resting against my body and the crook of the couch. Coffee completely decanted all over the top of my left leg.

For a fleeting moment I thought I might have gotten away with it. However the thick cotton joggers I was wearing only served to marginally delay the contact of coffee with skin.

I jumped up and with lightening speed ripped off my joggers, leaving me in standing in a t-shirt and pair of flattering bubblegum grey pants. My sister could only stand and watch in awe.

She told me later, as I sat with my ice pack on my leg, that I basically took the cup and the next thing she knew I was standing in the middle of the living room in my pants. She had no idea that I had dropped the cup on myself.

The pain was incredible and resulted in a scaled about the size of the palm of my hand. Which was fine however I had to wear a skirt and a lot of Vaseline on my burn.

I can, and will, no longer take a cup by the top. It gets put down on a table and I drink it like a grown up holding the handle. I don't fidget or fuss when I have a hot drink in my hands.

The rules of not shaking a ketchup bottle without checking the lid is on first and being sensible with hot drinks are ones that I was actually taught growing up but the complacency of adulthood would suggest that I might have forgotten some of the basics.

My little sister may no longer be capable of making me a hot drink without fear of me spontaneously stripping down to my pants. If it wasn't for her thoughtful packing I would have had to manage a week in jeans and trousers - not a good position to be in. So thank you little sister for the coffee (that I never drank) and for the dresses you let me wear all week.

The klumsiness would appear to be a gene that I alone have inherited because I don't believe you or littlest sister end up in these little episodes!!!

The following picture may be a little hard to take for the more delicate reader. . .











Courtesy of my little sister

Monday, 16 August 2010

Miss Daisy Drives

Courtesy of me!

My husband and I have been together for a number of years- exclusive of our marriage- and over that time I have transformed from single, independent driving lady to chauffeur driven wife. I'm not quite sure how this has happened however it appears that over time my default setting is to head for the passenger side of the car, as opposed to the drivers side.

It's not that I am actively avoiding driving its just a combination of splitting my concentration from that immediate post work haze to driving a car and navigating a conversation on our work related pet peeves is a level of multi tasking I do not enjoy. You'd be surprised at the number of pet peeves that can crop up working in analysis .

None the less its just easier and in the words of "Someone" if we're going to get home at a reasonable time then its probably best that he do the driving. I appreciate that this sounds incredibly sexist and old fashioned but it works for us. Certainly for me who can stare out the window and watch the world go by without raging at some idiot who has tried to cut me off.

Besides, strange things happen when I drive Charlie (the Corsa) despite the fact that I am a safe driver. I am not saying this out of some kind of misplaced arrogance surrounding my abilities behind the wheel, but I have no points on my licence and have not been involved in any accidents which have required the exchange of details. That is not to say that I have participated in the hit and run scenario but more that if your definitions of safe were legal and no accidents then I am your woman.

So what strange things might happen when I am behind the wheel? I hear you ask.

Well it would appear that other drivers are compelled to act recklessly and at times dangerously when they are within a relatively close proximity to my little car. It has resulted in incidents of "passenger rage" where my husband has been found to be dramatically gesticulating to other drivers. While I sit serenely behind the wheel driving in what would appear to be a calm and unaffected manner. As my passenger rants and raves and would take on the appearance of having some kind of episode involving loud uncontrolled swearing.

I seldom get further than "WHAT the . . .!!" before my husband has finished the sentence for me (in a more colourful way than I was thinking possible) complete with facial expressions and Italian style hand throwing.

Generally these events consist of people pulling out in front of me, without indicating, near junctions or lane conversions etc where an indicator is probably at its most crucial. At least that was what I was taught- signal, mirror, maneuver. However clearly there are drivers who have gone to the school of look, mirror, maneuver and are not too sure what the stick at the side of the steering wheel does. Having already established that its clearly not the windscreen wipers stick.*

At the height of Other Driver Madness I did, late one evening on the motorway heading to Stirling, have to say the fastest and loudest prayer to The Man Upstairs. Next to a roller coaster this particular strange event was a PB in uttering the Lords Prayer at speed. An American style truck/car thing shot past me in the outside lane carrying three IKEA looking arm chairs. When about 100 yards in front of me one of the chairs decided to make a bid for freedom.

Imagine.

My entire body broke out in a sweat and I started muttering as I watched this huge, white arm chair bounce across the motorway. Having rocketed out of the back of the truck it bounced once in my lane before shooting to the right (into the outside lane) then bouncing back into the left hand lane- now RIDICULOUSLY close to me- before bouncing right again and rolling back left onto the hard shoulder around me. It was a real finger of God moment directing that arm chair around my little puddle jumper (a real little banger of a ford fiesta, my first set of wheels) and not into me or any other car. ***

Anyway, in addition to being safe, and by implication slow, my music tastes have also resulted in the birth of a Car Rule. Which is simply "Drivers Prerogative". Another reason I don't do much driving, apparently my taste in music is far too suspect. Those friends of mine lucky enough to have heard my eclectic music collection will testify that is does hold some fairly questionable choices. In my own defence I believe that having a wide and varied taste in music makes for a more rounded individual.

Besides what is wrong with a bit of Meatloaf followed by some Kenny Rogers chased up with a bit of Basement Jaxx!?! On second thoughts don't answer that.

Regardless, presented with the opportunity of heading to the Lake District on my own (a girlie weekend away) I took the chance to pack for the car journey, as well as the weekend away. This included ensuring the sat nav was properly set up and the car had adequate chocolate, water, blankets and other essential supplies in case of a stranding (admittedly this was unlikely in the middle of June but I was a girl guide the motto "Be Prepared" has stuck with me**).

In amongst this planning was, at the top of the list, ensuring that my i-pod was loaded with all the latest 80's power ballads that I might need to belt out in the 3 hour car journey South. I am not too sure how relaxed my husband was with the prospect of me driving for that length of time without there being an incident and we agreed that a phone call would be made on arrival or impact- whichever came first.

Armed with post codes, bags and i-pod I jumped into the car got all the necessary gadgets hooked up and started driving- with a bit of Bruce Springsteen to get the party started (don't judge me). I had to spend just over an hour along country roads before I would be able to hit the motorway and could relax. That is not to say I was not relaxed on the pre motorway section just that I inevitably got stuck behind every truck and tractor going and had the young and arrogant teenage drivers shoot past me on dangerous bends to contend with first.

I reached the motorway in one piece and turned up the power ballads to sing my heart out. Cline Dion, Madonna, Alicia Keys- the Girls and I were in town & we were doing a show for the M74's benefit. At the national speed limit I doubt anyone could distinguish the loud warblings coming from my car as belonging to me or the sound of the wind whistling through the bike rack on top of Charlie.

We were as one- The Girls, Charlie & me- for the 2 1/2 hours that would be the motorway section before I was to come off and head for the Lakes. I can only assume that the sat nav was taking umbridge at having been subjected to a relentless singing session and was inclined to feel that its "human" rights were being seriously infringed. Because the route became decidedly more challenging for want of a better word. The sat nav is great for indicating which roads to take and can give you a good indication of where the bends ahead lie however it is totally rubbish at gradients.

The moment I left the motorway the bends became considerably sharper as did the inclines, which were short, sharp and on occasion made all the more interesting with a bend somewhere in the middle! The i-pod was turned off, the window rolled down and my posture changed from relaxed to up right, with my nose about an inch away from the windscreen. The atmosphere in the car became far more concentrated and less care-free with me talking to Charlie. Coaxing him around the roads in an effort to convince him as much as myself that we would be capable of reaching our destination in one piece and ahead of the other girls.

Not that we were racing but dinner was booked for 7pm and I had left the office at 3pm in an effort to be able to unpack for the break before heading to dinner.

45 minutes of concentration was leaving me fairly clammy and exhausted. Just as I was contemplating "retiring" the sat nav by giving it a first time swimming lesson by launching it into one of the many Lakes I was driving past, and resorting to the map the route took on a whole new level of challenge. By now if it had been possible I would have actually had my head through the windscreen my nose was firmly pressed against the window.

The weather had closed in, misty and wet. Not unfamiliar to a girl who has spent many summer holidays heading to the North of Scotland, which is not renowned for its sunny climate. The sat nav barked " in 100 yards take the next right". While my eyes were rapidly covering all the mirrors available and flicking to the sat nav I caught sight of the sign which indicated my right turn was present.

My heart sank. If I thought that the roads this far had been the equivalent of a tarmac roller coaster I was in for a surprise. This was going to be a real education in No Guts, No Glory. It read:

"Ambleside
Via The Struggle"

Somehow all I could read was the word "Struggle". If what the roads I had been on up until now had not signposted with a warning to all then this one road was designed to separate the men from the boys. Or in my case the woman from her sanity.

I carried on. If I had convinced Charlie to get me this far then I would be able to do it too, we weren't that far from our destination and we'd manage this last leg together- as a team. Car and driver as one unit.

The sweat was well and truly running as I took these sharp bends and tried to be relaxed at the 13% gradient signs and took the gear selection advice seriously. I couldn't have been going any more than 20 mph at the best sections and spent a majority of that last leg at a steady 10mph. No mucking around. I wanted to get there in one piece with Charlie intact.

Unfortunately I appeared to have collected a couple of cars on my journey through The Struggle. A BMW & a souped up Subaru being driven by a 12 year old. I did the only fair thing I could, at the safest point I pulled over and indicated for them to over take. Which they duly did and within a minute I had lost sight of both. Until I came around another bend and saw the BMW doing the same thing to the Subaru- pulling over to let him pass. Clearly I was not the only one not prepared to take any chances on this road by having a young, local in a powerful car drive up my backside.

Never the less I arrived, abandoned the car and on shaky legs went to get a large glass of wine to steady my nerves before proudly calling my husband to boast at my advanced driving skills. I did still have to get home- however there was a massage first and that would surely put me into the right frame of mind to face The Struggle on my homeward journey. . .


*
You'll have noticed by now I am not particularly technical or mechanical with my descriptions. For this I make no apologies, although I probably should. . .
**
Although give some previous postings you might have noticed this is not necessarily always been at the fore front of my planning and organising. I am considering getting this tattooed to the back of my hand. Not as some form of permanent dedication to Guiding but as a permanent reminder to check and recheck I have everything I might possibly need for my adventures.
***
Mercifully at that time of the night there was next to not traffic on the motorway.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Bike Ride: Loch Katerine


At the age of about 8 years I remember getting a bike. It was a bike that sticks in my memory because it meant I didn't have to share it with my little sister and it was purple. As a highly fashion conscious 8 year old this meant the world to me. It was a Raleigh and had a blue Tony the Tiger* reflector, which was fixed on the back wheel.

I would ride it up and down our short drive, by short I mean about 50 yards in length. But it was my bike and a bike that saw me through my cycling proficiency test in primary school. It taught me the art of re-attaching the chain to the gears when it regularly

courtesy of www.weheartit.com

and repeatedly came off during the 4 mile bike ride to school. A journey which had to be done over a fortnight until we passed our test.

I remember the feeling of freedom and independence that the bike and certificate gave me and for 3 months wore my cycling proficiency badge with pride. However as I grew up my biking and love of it fell by the way side and I did it less and less.

20 years after arrival of my purple Raleigh bike with the Tony the Tiger reflector I now have a new bike. It is silver and has black swooshy bits on the side- which are very important in terms of going fast. Bikes have long since evolved from my early days and this one comes with suspension built into the front forks. It would appear that I too have "evolved" in that I can no longer spend a whole day on my bike without knowing about it for a couple of days later. Sitting, standing, the transition between the two, walking and running all require a bit more thought and consideration following a bike ride.

My husband and I have done a couple of these and are starting to realise, painfully, that we might not be as prepared as we should be for these bike based outings! We are learning, although it would appear to be a gradual process.

On one particularly sunny weekend we decided to cycle around Loch Katerine, some exceptionally brief research indicated that it was possible to cycle close to the Loch's edge and has had positive reviews. So Loch Katerine it was. We packed light for a "couple of hours" bike ride.

Loch Katerine is roughly 17 miles in circumference (8 miles in length and 0.5 a mile wide**) and has a tarmacked road that runs alongside it. No real requirement for the in built suspension but that's not the point. I was going to break myself into this cycling malarkey gently and this looked like the ideal opportunity. . .

We set off at 9am and arrived at Loch Katerine at 10am hoping to home for a late lunch at 2pm. My husband had done the manly job of shoving the bikes in the boot while I was tasked with the job of packing our day sacks which I did with due care and attention making sure we had:

1 x map
1 x water bottle (filled)
2 x apples

We hit the road with enthusiasm and the first couple of hours ticked by easily, however we'd only cycled a half of the loch's length by this time and had another estimated 2 hours of cycling ahead of us. No problem, we were on plan. We pulled over and devoured our apples and water. Confident that in 2 hours we would be pulling into the car park and heading back to Linlithgow for lunch.

We cycled on and the tarmacked road came to an end. Our options were to head for Glasgow or to head back the way we came. We decided to persist with our original plan of doing the circuit. This would mean going off road, specifically onto a walking path. A chance to test the suspension fork things on my bike and get it a bit mucky I thought.

This particular adventure ended with a lot of frustration at a sign. A sign which read:

"Walkers only- cyclists prohibited!"

We had no option but to turn around and head back the way we came, in effect covering significantly more distance than we would have had we been able to continue. However we were now without any water and our apples had long since been scoffed. The shade of the trees had also disappeared as we set about our return journey.

Conversation between us was very quiet and what some might call tense.

Had "Someone" (Husband) done a bit more research they would have realised it would not be possible to complete a circular route around the Loch we might not be in this predicament. Had "Someone Else" (Wife) been more organised and less half job then we would have had more water and food for the journey. Also had "Someone Else" packed sunscreen, regardless of weather or available shade, "Someone" wouldn't be starting to turn a lobster red. Yes, it would be fair to say that tensions were running high and anger will only contribute so much energy to the cycling.

The 10% gradients that I had thoroughly enjoyed were now proving to be my Nemesis on the homeward journey. My hands, thighs, calves and bottom were now all conspiring against me by throwing waves of pain through my body on each rotation of the pedals.

About an hour from the car park we had stopped to have another "discussion" about whose fault/bright idea it was to go on this particular route and what we would do differently. When I heard some laughing, not at our argument I hasten to add. A group of English, female students who had rented a cottage were sitting out to enjoy the afternoon sun with a couple of drinks. By this time I could virtually smell H2O I was so thirsty.

After a quick conversation it was agreed that it would cause less alarm if I, a fellow female, approach the girls and asked for some water. We agreed the sight of a red faced, sweating man sticking his head over their gate into the back garden might result in us having to explain ourselves to a policeman. Although we did contemplate the idea that we might be able to get a lift back to the car park taking that approach. We decided I should be the one to say hello and go begging for some water!

They were very kind, and if by some chance one of these ladies happens to stumble across this particular story- thank you again. You saved a marriage!

We eventually got back to the car that evening having covered we guess about 40 miles***. We were sore, tired and strangely grateful at the sight of our bashed up old Nissan Sunny. We also have an agreed plan of attack when it comes to taking the bikes out on a "light ride":
  • more research
  • plenty of water
  • sun screen
  • maps (for escape routes)
  • more food

An emergency fish supper on the way home brought peace to our bickering and the aching muscles which presented themselves over the next couple of days put any ideas of going out on the bikes to rest for a wee while at least.

*
He was right "They're GRRRREAT!!". Sadly they probably no longer put these little treats into cereal packets for health and safety reasons. As an incentive to get us kids to sit and eat breakfast it probably worked a treat. But then again the associated e-numbers that would go with these often sugar loaded breakfasts was probably more trouble than they were worth!!

**
I currently make my living as an analyst and am the proud (though slightly geeky) owner of a maths degree hence the importance of explaining my calculations.

***
Again with the maths, here is the rational:
75% of 28 = 21 this took us 3/4's of the way around the Loch before we had to head back, which would be another 21 miles therefore we did about 40 miles in one day.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Ketchup Story

courtesy of www.weheartit.com

Shopping is not one of those skills I have mastered. As a woman I have come across the stereotype that I, by virtue of my gender, should thrive on it. And should particularly enjoy the throws of January sales shopping, a phenomenon that occurs but once a year.

As a student at Uni', I had heard many tales of the amazing bargains and incredible discounts that could be had. Voicing my concerns about being an inexperienced and intolerant shopper*, my friend assured me that this January we would exploit the sales- without the trauma. We were going to plan our attack with military precision like Retail Ninjas.

Plan we did.

We would get the train to arrive in Glasgow at 8.30am in time for the doors opening. We would then take a leisurely breakfast at starbucks before whipping out our student discount cards and hitting those shops with avengence. She would also provide me with the brutal honesty that I required when it came to the ultimate purchase questions: "what do you think? Do I look like Kylie in this?"

Carrying our bottles of water and student cards, we'd also agreed that after lunch we would re-assess the situation with respect to purchases, feet and credit cards and decide whether to call it quits or continue like some kind of shopping veterans.

It started well.

An early night on Friday meant that the Saturday morning train was caught easily with little fuss and lots of energy- excited at the prospect of picking up some smart and cheap clothes for interviews** and the like. The shops were quiet and tidy- what kind of hard core shoppers would be out in January at 8.30am? Extreme ones! - and many purchases were made.

At lunch time we made our way to a well known pub for some burgers & chips*** to re-assess.

Having sat our weary bodies down on some smart well upholstered couches, surrounded by our lovely bags of goodies we breathed a sigh of relief. My friend headed off to the bar to order a couple of burgers and chips while I guarded our bags. On her return we discussed heading home or continuing with more shopping- the decision was made to head home.

As she headed to the ladies our food arrived.

Next to being an intolerant shopper my second most irritating thing, an irrational one I admit, is the watery juice that you get from glass bottles of tomato ketchup.

Now, it had been a great morning shopping. I was feeling happy and confident at how well things had gone. I was not about to have this lovely plate of food ruined by tomato water! So I shook the bottle and I shook it hard. It was a full bottle so would require a good hard shake.

I wasn't in a rush to eat the food, my friend hadn't returned, so I kept shaking. Nice and hard. First left, then right, repeatedly.

. . .


. . .


. . .

until something wet hit the side of my face.

I stopped and looked around. . .


There were blobs of red across my legs, over a lovely skirt bought by my then boyfriend. There were blobs of red up the walls. The were blobs of red across the ceiling and over the carpet. The table next to me were sitting wide eyed and open jawed staring.

I put my hand to my head and realised that there was a lot of red in my hair that smelled suspiciously like tomato ketchup. I looked at the bottle. It had gone from full to half.

Standing up as I realised that I had just decanted half of bottle of ketchup across a bar restaurant. I decided the considerate thing to do would be to go to the ladies and try to tidy myself up. As I walked across the bar, with a lot of eyes on me, I saw my friend walk towards me. She smiled in recognition and as I got closer the smile stopped and froze on her face. As I passed her I heard "what happened to you?!" To which I could only respond- "Don't ask".

I got to the ladies head held high and looked in the mirror. I was covered in ketchup. With my hair down the sauce had pretty much soaked it. I had my head in the sink trying to rinse some of it out when the door opened and in walked my friend. She took one look at me and we started giggling and laughing to the point where I was concerned about her asthma.

"Is it bad?" I asked.

"You got it everywhere!"

"... but did I hit anyone?"

"No, but you've pretty much single handedly redecorated an entire pub!"

More laughing and trying to wash the ketchup out of clothes and hair happened for the next 15 minutes.

"Right, what do you want to do?!"

"Leave without being seen if we can!!"

No chance.

We got to our table to find one poor waitress with a basin of water and a cloth stretching as far as she could to wipe the ketchup off the walls. Presumably she had to start somewhere and the walls were going to be the quickest and easiest. . .

As we reached down to pick our bags up, preparing ourselves to make a run for it, the manager appeared. Squatting at my side and in a gentle, approaching-a-psychopath, tone he said:

" I hear we had a little accident. . ."

Now I am not sure what happened but the words were out my mouth before I could stop them.

"Yes, we did. And if you'll pay for the dry cleaning of my skirt we'll say no more about it"

The waitress froze and started shaking. I think more out of laughter than her muscles seizing as a result of the excessive stretching and wiping she was having to do. The manager looked at me slightly incredulously and raised an eye brow.

"Had the lid been properly secured on that bottle this (I gestured to my own devastation) would have never happened" I explained in a talking-to-a-small-child tone.

Two can play at the Patronising game.

His face twitched slightly and he smiled.

"Unfortunately (!) I can't authorise anything like that, as I am just the weekend manager and would need to get it approved by my boss. She'll be in on Monday- if you could come back then . . ."

Called my bluff, well two can play at that.

"I'll do that"

During this exchange my friends head was moving like she was watching Andy Murray play Nedal at Wimbledon. Her jaw opening slightly further at each come back. . .

We left.

That was over 6 years ago. I have never been back into said pub in all that time, and no I didn't go back that Monday. I have no intention of going back. Ever.

Since telling some near and dear friends of this incident I have been banned by them all by from shaking any ketchup. Plastic, sachet or glass bottle. My friend was offered counselling for her trauma. I am not sure she ever went January sales shopping again. Certainly not with me.

On the train on the way home that day she told me what her experience was.

On passing me she went to our table and saw the mess, looked around and approached the table with the stunned eaters.

"Sorry to disturb you, but can you tell me what happened to my friend?"

"I think she shook the bottle without the lid on"

At which point she went to the ladies to find me with my head in a sink.


*
Specifically when I am shopping for clothes for myself. A food shop is clinical and straight forward, no mucking around.

Clothes shopping is very different.

I have been known to walk out of messy and untidy shops. Not because I have a compulsion to clean them but the sight of all that chaos actually aggravates me. It should be easy to take my money in a shop - keep it tidy and I will spend. Similar to the "If you build it, they will come" Kevin Costner film.

If the shop is too hot I can't take it and leave as quickly as possible. If the sales assistants are too fussy and attentive I'll leave, if they ignore me I'll leave. I am a very fickle and picky shopper. I need a patient shopping assistant to get me through the process.

**
We had to justify spending potentially a lot of money (as a student anything more than £60 was a lot to me!) by saying we would be investing in our future post-uni-first-grown-up-job-success.

***
It's a well known fact that shopping burns a considerable amount of calories so junk food is well earned.